RSS

Tag Archives: Italo Calvino

136. 2014 In (Book) Review…

136. 2014 In (Book) Review…

Blimey, writing a book takes time. Who knew?

It is the first week of March, 2015, and only now am I getting around to analysing the stats of my 2014 in books, with most of my spare time nowadays being dedicated to writing my tales of travel and trouble. (Copies of the book will be available for sale shortly, in case anyone is interested!)

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 11.11.10

My final tally for 2014?

229 books bought, 143 read:

a net annual LG (or Literature Gap, a measurement I have just invented), of 86.

As far as this book blog went, it had a fairly impressive 6,800 views, (impressive given that, with all my travels and sports writing, this has essentially been downgraded from a weekly blog to a monthly one…at best…), and featured 358 photos. Apparently, I also usually post on a Monday.

7491181bed4719ba23b7449501e3f19e

My most viewed blog was what i was reading in October… 2013!! I like to think it was the insightful reviews of David Foster Wallace and Italo Calvino that brought you there, but knowing the internet, it was probably the photo of Hitler-cat.

David-Foster-Wallace-235x300

Still, it made me happy that my third most popular release this year was my centennial effort, my interview with the wonderful Nick Hornby.

hornby-sketch

The blog had viewers from 111 different countries! I’m not even sure i can name that many countries! The USA took top spot, then then the UK and Portugal, which makes sense given my travels, living locations, and friendships.

11008632_10152701899898837_7959284909060077428_n

My new year’s blogging resolutions include: to add to my Top 10 blogs, for both authors and books…10 is a ridiculously small number anyway!

This being my third year of blogging, I could go back to my reviews of 2012 and 2013 and calculate some averages: I buy an average of 235 books each year, and manage to read almost 160 of them. And before you ask, no, I you can’t have my life: I’m using it.

Keep dropping by for monthly updates as I make my way further into the world of the writer, and feel free to subscribe to make sure you never miss one of these irregular posts again!

admin_1-asset-503651a71b465

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 5, 2015 in BOOKS

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

102. Books Bought & Read, January 2014…

102. Books Bought & Read, January 2014…

Books Bought, January 2014

Our Ancestors,’ Italo Calvino 

Writing Home,’ Alan Bennett  

The Brothers Karamazov,’ Fyodor Dostoevsky  

Oeuvres,’ Antoine de St.Exupéry  

Voo Nocturno,’ (Vol De Nuit), Antoine de St.Exupéry   

Figuras E Figurações,’ Octavio Paz & Marie José Paz  

A Viagem Do Elefante,’ (The Elephant’s Journey), José Saramago  

Small Memories,’ José Saramago  

O Pátio Maldito,’ (The Damned Yard), Ivo Andrić  

.

Books Read, January 2014

Cartas Da Inglaterra, (Letters From England), Eça de Queirós

Small Memories,’ José Saramago  

A Viagem Do Elefante,’ (The Elephant’s Journey), José Saramago  

The Cloven Viscount,’ Italo Calvino 

Baron In The Trees,’ Italo Calvino 

The Nonexistent Knight,’ Italo Calvino 

The Ayn Rand Reader,’ ed.Gary Hull  

Introducing Lévi-Strauss,’ Boris Wiseman & Judy Groves  

Beatrice And Virgil,’ Yann Martell  

Quartéis De Inverno’, (Winter Quarters), Osvaldo Soriano

‘Sobre A Republica,’ (On The Republic),  Fernando Pessoa

De Port Said A Suez,’ (From Port Said To Suez), Eça de Queirós

The Comfort Of Strangers,’ Ian McEwan

Gilbert And Sullivan: the story of the partnership,’ Hesketh Pearson

..

In my life, I have somehow never lost my house keys, a wallet, or a notebook, all of which is kind of astonishing.

Until now.

Whilst out on a work-based evening team building exercise, (i.e. visiting some bars in downtown Lisbon with some co-workers), I took out my faithful Lego-edition Moleskine notebook to take down some ideas…and when it came to writing this monthly Books Bought & Read blog entry, there it was: gone.

There it was...gone.

There it was…gone.

The first time in my life I have ever lost a notebook, and it was full with book ideas, notes on the history of Lisbon and Portugal, and a million other things from the past year or so of my life, from song ideas to my beloved ‘To Do’ lists.

I am taking it Stoically, Buddhistly, and as Zen as possible. I recently discovered a new a new place to get my notebook fix, and this gives me a chance to start using them: handmade, Japanese-influenced notebooks crafted by some nice young folk here in Lisboa. Best of all, they are named after the Portuguese who invaded in the 16th century, ‘Namban‘ or ‘Southern Barbarians’, also the name of my favourite band in Japan.

pormenor_11

Handmade notebooks…

bolso_2_foto_4_(media)

…made in Portugal, inspired by Japan.

All of this blatant advertising, (for my favourite brands of notebook and my friend’s band), is by way of explaining that this month’s totals of books purchased and devoured is being recorded largely by memory, and may not be 100% accurate.

Six of this month’s 14 books read were either Portuguese books, or in Portuguese, or both: I got through two Saramagosone of which was bought at the museum dedicated to him in central Lisbon and featuring the cutest cover I’ve seen on a book for a while, (see the book cover collage below); the other was the slightly underwhelming ‘The Elephant’s Voyage.’ 

In a newly-discovered second-hand bookshop here, I picked up a sweet trilogy of Italo Calvino fables, (bought as one book, but listed in the ‘Books Read’ section as three. Because I’m the boss), my favourite being the fairytale earliest one, ‘The Cloven Viscount,’ (about a fighter who is blown in half by a cannonball, his evil half returning to his home town to cause trouble, before the purely selfless, and kind of annoying, better half comes back to face his ‘other half’).

I learned a lot about anthropology and Ayn Rand’s fairly terrifying libertarian philosophy from books read at the recently stumbled-upon (and reviewed), Pois Café; read an Argentinian author in Portuguese, (and was disappointed by it); and most fun of all, honoured the memory of my grandfather who, years ago, had me as a five-year old singing along to 19th century comic opera, and I thoroughly enjoyed the history of Gilbert & Sullivan which I unearthed in a gorgeous old 1935 Penguin edition. It features not only the most 1930’s English name you could want from an author, but an author’s photo to match on the back jacket:

url-1

Hesketh Pearson: enough said!

.

I leave you with Namban Notebook’s promotional video, and the traditional monthly cover collage of books read.

Happy February to you all!

.

15741216 Fernando-Pessoa-Sobre-a-Republica-Lisboa_432407431_2 Penguin 6 070 books n949 images 00740 url 654663 q1bgtk42sdebed4 capa_elefante_blog6321371

 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 5, 2014 in BOOKS

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

89. Books Bought & Read, October 2013…

89. Books Bought & Read, October 2013…

Books Bought, October 2013

Willpower: why self-control is the secret to success,’ Roy.F.Baumeister & John Tierney

More Than This,’ Patrick Ness

The Book Of Penguin, Duncan Campbell-Smith

The Canon: the beautiful basics of science, Natalie Angier

Young Bysshe,’ Claire Tomalin (Penguin 70’s series)

Utopia,’ Thomas Moore

The Complete Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino

City Of God, Paolo Lins

Lord Malquist & Mr.Moon, Tom Stoppard

For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander

Delete This At Your Peril,’ Neil Ferguson

Hugo’s Spanish In Three Months. 

.

Books Read, October 2013

The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God and other stories, Etgar Keret

Martha And Hanwell, Zadie Smith (Penguin 70’s series)

The Snobs,’ Muriel Spark (Penguin 70’s series)

Stick Man,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

The Snail And The Whale,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

The Smartest Giant In Town,’ Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Boomerang,’ Michael Lewis 

Willpower: why self-control is the secret to success,’ Roy.F.Baumeister & John Tierney

Simpkin,’ Quentin Blake

Cockatoos,’ Quentin Blake

Angelica Sprocket’s Pockets,’ Quentin Blake

Secret Lives Of Great Authors,’ Robert Schnakenberg 

Young Bysshe,’ Claire Tomalin (Penguin 70’s series)

The Great Cheese Conspiracy,’ Jan Van Leeuwen & Imero Gobbato

Jerusalem,’ Simon Sebag-Montefiore

The Cherry Orchard,’ Anton Chekov

More Than This,’ Patrick Ness

‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,’ David Foster Wallace

Diary Of A Bad Year,’ J.M.Coetzee

The Bear,’ Anton Chekov

The Complete Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino

Foundation,’ Isaac Asimov 

For The Relief Of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander

Grantland,’ issue 3

The Believer,’ issue 101

Grantland,’ issue 4

.

Of the dozen books bought this month, the last two were presents, so all in all a massive contrast from last month’s ridiculosity. 26 read, including a couple of kids’ trilogies whilst staying with a friend and her rugrat, and the rest was a fun mix of science, history, economics, science fiction and, mainly, short fiction.

Most of the list were read whilst on a family holiday in sun-drenched Israel, the wonderful bustle of Tel Aviv limiting my intake somewhat, (although I did get halfway through my ‘Hugo’s Hebrew In Three Months’ book…again…).

Enjoy these extracts from this month’s paper consumption!

 61NUknIzZML

Secret Lives Of Great Authors,‘ Robert Schnakenberg

A fairly amusing compilation of life histories and little-known (to me, at least) facts about a few dozen famous authors down the ages, focusing on their foibles and (often sexual) bizarrities. What did I learn? I’m glad you asked…

“Fans of English football…can thank [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle] for helping found the Portsmouth Football Club in 1884. Doyle also served as the team’s first goalkeeper…”

W.B.Yeats subjected himself to a rudimentary form of Viagra, known as the Steinach Operation:

“The fifteen-minute operation, in which monkey glands were implanted into Yeats’s scrotum, went off without a hitch. Yeats got his groove back…”

This wonderfully led to Dubliners nicknaming him ‘the gland old man’!

Hitler Cat photo from Monster Island

Hitler Cat photo from Monster Island, used under Creative Commons license

.

Finally: Gertrude Stein owned a cat called ‘Hitler,’ due to its brush moustache. This may seem a strange pet name for a Jewish artist, until you learn that she also approved of the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy government in France, and apparently felt that Hitler “…should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for ridding Germany of its troublesome Jews.” That’s quite some self-hating!

a-supposedly-fun-thing

‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,’ David Foster Wallace
.
I am on a Foster Wallace binge right now, flying through every novel and essay collection of his I can find, (despite the fact that they are far from the easiest to read). This moderately slim collection of essays was everything I have come to expect from the sardonic, literate world-observer.
 .
“Third World rebels are great at exposing and overthrowing corrupt hypocritical regimes, but they seem noticeably less great at the mundane, non-negative task of then establishing a superior governing alternative. Victorious rebels, in fact, seem best at using their tough, cynical rebel-skills to avoid rebelled against themselves – in other words, they just became better tyrants…”
.
A fascinating and illuminating idea on the brain states of infants, and one which simply  explains why the world seems so much more fun when we’re younger:
.
“One of the few things I still miss from my midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakeable conviction that everything around me existed all and only For Me…this sense of the world as all and only For-Him is why special ritual public occasions drive a kid right out of his mind with excitement. Holidays, parades, summer trips, sporting events. Fairs. Here the child’s manic excitement is really excitation at his own power: the world will now not only exist For-Him but will present itself as a Special-For-Him…”
.
On roller coasters:
 .
“I do not find terror exciting. I find it terrifying. One of my basic life goals is to subject my nervous system to as little total terror as possible. The cruel paradox of course is that this kind of makeup usually goes hand in hand with delicate nervous system that’s extremely easy to terrify…”
.

Photo used under Creative Commons License

 .
And finally a lovely turn of phrase on tennis, (a recurring theme for child player DFW):
 .
“The top seed this weekend is Richard Krajicek, a 6’5” Dutchman who wears a tiny white billed hat in the sun and rushes the net like it owes him money and in general plays like a rabid crane…”
.
jerusalem-book_SWBOTc4MTc4MDIyMDI1Mw==
Jerusalem: the biography‘ Simon Sebag Montefiore
.
I like to read about the places I am visiting whilst I am there, and whilst I didn’t make it to the thrice holy city this time round, this 650-page history lesson encompassed several millennia of details on the region and religions which I have always wondered about. A few gems I took from it began with the fact that:
 .
“Jewish spoils paid for the Colosseum…”
 .
Jerusalem at one point was wonderfully described by Chateaubriand as “…this deicidal city.” I love new/invented words…
 .
I learned of a fascinating church in this multi-faithed city:
 .
“Christ Church was – and remains – unique in the Protestant world: there was no cross, just a menorah; all the writing was in Hebrew, even the Lord’s prayer. It was a Protestant church designed for Jews…”
 .
Finally, an interesting statistic, given the often-quoted ‘fact’ of America having been founded as a religious state, (despite whatever the Founding Fathers actually, specifically started in the Constitution:
 .
“In 1776, some 10% of Americans were church-goers; by 1815, it was a quarter; by 1914 it was half…”
.
url-1
Foundation,’ Isaac Asimov
.
A single quote taken from what was (for the first two-thirds, at least), a wonderfully thought-provoking sci-fi classic, more a book of ideas than of memorable lines but this one tickled me:
 .
“It was childish to feel disappointed, but childishness comes almost as naturally to a man as to a child…”
.
9780141189680
.
A remarkably similar book to ‘Foundation‘ in many ways, this book by Italian genre-inventor/breaker also had similarities to his ‘Invisible Cities,’ which I quoted from a few weeks ago. Again, the only way to get across the beautiful, bizarre nature of these vignettes, (an omnipotent being who was present for every important event in galactic history, real or imagined), is to quote the start of one in full:
.
“One night I was, as usual, observing the sky with my telescope. I noticed that a sign was hanging from a galaxy a hundred million light-years away. On it was written : I SAW YOU. I made a quick calculation: the galaxy’s light had taken a hundred million years to reach me, and since they saw up there what was taking place here a hundred million years later, the moment when they had seen me must date back two hundred million years.
.
Even before I checked my diary to see what I had been doing that day, I was seized by a ghastly presentiment…”
the-bus-driver-who-wanted-to-be-god
 .
The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God: and other stories,’ Etgar Keret
.
To conclude this month’s summary, I was thrilled to uncover another collection of short stories from one of my favourite contemporary writers, (and one of Israel’s too, apparently). The partly-absurd, partly-disturbing tales are, each and every one of them, gems. One of them, for no reason I can discern, at one point states:
 .
“I gave him a name; I called him Margolis, after a man who used to live in our mailbox…”
 .
And finally, there is the conclusion to a wonderfully macabre, Grimm-esque short story, with seemingly little to no relation to the two-page fairy tale which had gone before, but beautifully put nonetheless:
 .

“There are two kinds of people, those who like to sleep next to the wall, and those who like to sleep next to the people who push them off the bed…”

.

the-bus-driver-who-wanted-to-be-god 316195 donaldson-stickman-new-pb-1 0141023147 More-Than-This-Patrick-Ness-628x1024 Angelica Sprocket images 9780802144096_p0_v1_s260x420 Willpower-jacket-jpg_161227 jerusalem-book_SWBOTc4MTc4MDIyMDI1Mw== 97094445 968665 Smartestgiant donaldson-snail-whale-pb-new-1 il_570xN.465709991_b9c3 9780141189680 61NUknIzZML url coetzee_diaryprfa-supposedly-fun-thing url-1 9780099302308-large young_bysshe.largegrantland_3coverhires5TB101_coverGL04_front_web

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 4, 2013 in BOOKS

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,