Tag Archives: Jeanette Winterson

On book collecting, and other ailments

16 Jul

Jeanette Winterson on collecting books:

“book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, an absurdity, a fate. it is not a hobby. those who do it must do it. those who do not do it, think of it as a cousin of stamp collecting, a sister of the trophy cabinet, bastard of a sound bank account and a weak mind.”

Just in case some of you unfortunate readers do not yet know: Jeanette Winterson is God. Whatever she says goes, and is ordained by her deft way of mastering language. Go read Written on the Body or Oranges are not the Only Fruit — both slim, powerful volumes — and you will be converted.

I put this up partly as justification to all those friends of mine who shake their head knowingly when I suggest a trip to the book store. Look here: it is more than just a craze, a little habit gone awry. It’s a way of life that I can’t quite explain. But also, it’s a reminder for me. Even when my not-so-sound bank account is suffering, there are worse things I could do, as Rizzo would say.

In regards to other ailments, read this post by line break:

“As a reader and writer of poems, it’s difficult not to feel like a member of an endangered species– and even more difficult, perhaps, to remember it hasn’t always been this way.  I started Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey while bored in Massachusetts, and laughed out loud on reading this:

“[T]hey were still resolute in meeting, in defiance of wet and dirt, and shut themselves up to read novels together.  Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom, so common with novel-writers, of degrading, by their contemptuous censure, the very performances to the number of which they are themselves adding; joining with their greatest enemies to bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up with a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust.  Alas! if the heroine of one novel not be patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard?   I cannot approve of it.  Let us leave to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another: we are an injured body.”

“Poor Austen.  She was double damned– a woman in a male-dominated profession and sad step-cousin to the good old boys of poetry who made the new so-called “novels” look so shoddy.  Sure, Northanger Abbey is a send-up of the crappy Gothic novel, but I can’t help but hear the author grinding her teeth.

How things have changed!  Sometimes, it seems we’re living in a novelists’ world (Novelists: wouldn’t you love to have us think this is true?) and good old Dryden and Pope don’t have the cachet they once had.  Is poetry the new “injured body?”

Don’t answer that.”

Firstly, I love Northanger Abbey. As damn annoying as Catherine Morland can be during just about every scene in the novel, the book sends an important message about novels in general, and the Gothic novel in particular. This passage is one of my favorites in the book. However, I would disagree though with Jennifer Jabaily’s projection that she has drawn from this passage: that poetry is, or has ever been, “an injured body.”

As far as I know, while poetry has fallen from popularity, it has never lost its status as a respectable art. And that’s what Austen is focusing on: not popularity, but the status of reading novels. Even as she was writing this, novels were widely popular; as discussed in Northanger Abbey, while Miss Morland and Henry Tilney feel as though they should be reading histories and the like, they find themselves drawn to novels. What Jane Austen is fighting against, when she calls the novel “an injured body,” is the sentiment that women have that reading novels is a silly hobby, one marked with shame, and therefore they should not embrace their novel-reading. And when they are asked what the book in their hand is, they should reply, “Oh, just a novel.” (I remember her saying something along those lines in the book.)

Poetry is misunderstood and unpopular to the general public, but it still commands respect. There is a certain status connected to one being a poet; I cannot yet admit that this status has disappeared. Poetry has not been afflicted by this ailment just yet.

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Summer Reading List

11 Jun

Bleh… that used to be the dreaded three-word phrase of my high school summers. Not because I don’t like to read; rather, because I had a whole list of books I wanted to read instead of my “assigned” books. As a result, I spent most of June hardly reading anything — one of my assigned books if I was lucky — July giving up my assignment and reading a handful of my chosen books, and the first two weeks of August reading the rest of my assigned books in a frenzied panic.

Ah, the joys of college life. An entire three month period entirely devoted to reading… well, I am supposedly doing research at school this summer, but that involves reading, too. Reading that I actually want to do. And so, inspired by a post that the Poets & Writers website  just posted (see below), I’ve decided to share my own summer reading list — divided, of course, into their own little categories just for your entertainment.

Poets & Writers Summer Reading List

What I have to read for my research (AKA books I really wanted to read anyways that the school pays for…):

– Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson (actually, I had read this before this summer and it’s one of my favorite books… READ IT)
– The World and Other Places: Stories by Jeanette Winterson
– The Book of Not by Tsitsi Dangarembga
– Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi (have finished: very good, quick read — powerful novel)
– Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih (have finished: a piece of African literature I would highly recommend)
– Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera
– In Another Place, Not Here by Dionne Brand (very poetic writing)

Books I want to read because I’ve read something else I’ve liked by the author:
– A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (I read his book of short stories How We Are Hungry and could hardly get enough)
– Numbers in the Dark: And Other Stories by Italo Calvino (I read If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler — a wonderful book about the art of reading with many twists and turns)
– Serena by Ron Rash (This is his fourth book, the first of which he’s getting a lot of publicity, but he’s been around a long time and from what I’ve read — The World Made Straight — this guy knows how to write. Also, I very fortunately got the chance to meet him and he’s pretty much the nicest guy ever.)

Classics I haven’t read and feel as though I cannot graduate as an English major without reading:
– Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (I know, I’m horrible…)
– Middlemarch by George Elliot (The likelihood of my finishing this before the summer’s end: not very strong)
– On the Road by Jack Kerouac (Okay, I think I could graduate without reading this… but I’d rather tackle this before Middlemarch.)
– East of Eden by John Steinbeck (My friend Jane almost choked on her lunch when I told her I haven’t read this. Therefore, I will read this for you, Jane.)

Purely cover-shopping:
– The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen (Apparently it has cool pictures inside… I’m in.)

– Little Bee by Chris Cleave

– Fire to Fire by Mark Doty (Actually just finished this and it blew my mind. BLEW MY MIND. Will be revisiting for years to come.)

Books I’m waiting to come out in paperback (because I can’t afford hardback):
– Yellowrocket by Todd Boss
– The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (Oprah’s freaking out about it so I guess it’s worth a read… maybe…)

Alright, that’s it. I probably go on forever, or at least twenty more books, but my iced coffee is starting to look a lot more interesting. Besides, aren’t I supposed to be researching? Actually, I think I’ll break open one of these books instead…