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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Booky meme

I have been tagged by Aw Diddums. I usually avoid memes like the plague, but this one appealed to me.

Total number of books owned

I don't know. Certainly far, far more than my flat was ever intended to house. There are piles of books on my window ledges; piles of books on the floor; and a huge stack of cookery books teetering on a chair in the hall. (And that's in addition to the three shelves of cookery books in the kitchen and the fact that my kitchen table disappeared under cookery books some years ago.)

Am I fit enough to cook these days? Er, no. But I still like to read recipe books.

Generally speaking, my philosophy has long been that I don't hang on to anything I'm unlikely to read twice, or to use for reference. Unfortunately, having been too decrepit even to limp as far as the library in 2004, I started to buy novels from Amazon. Having paid good money for them, I'm reluctant in most cases to send them straight to the charity shop.

Last book bought

Assuming this includes novels bought because they were 2 for £1 from the Barnado's shop whilst killing time waiting for Thursday's acupuncture appointment - pardon me while I go and rustle in a carrier bag - "The Christmas Train", by David Baldacci; and "Half Broken Things", by Morag Joss.

Last book read

This is hard work - having rustled in a carrier bag, I now have to furtle in the furthest reaches of my duvet to track down the latest.

Ok. Jeffery Deaver's "Garden of Beasts". Another charity shop buy. Oxfam, this time, I think. Something very unpleasant happens at the end of this novel. Something which stays with you. Worth reading, though, as Deaver always is.

Currently on the go, we have Robert Harris's "Imperium", with which I am really struggling. I may not even finish it, in fact, which is odd because I've enjoyed all his previous novels.

And Boris Starling's "Vodka", which I am finding strangely unconvincing. Not so much for its plot, as for the the emotional responses of its protagonists. I am, however, sorely tempted to buy myself a bottle of vodka. Which is a considerable testament to Starling's skill in describing its taste and effects, as I've always been a gin girl myself.

Five books which mean a lot to you

Precious Bane by Mary Webb

Way, way out at the top of my list this last thirty years, and unlikely to be toppled from that position any time soon, if ever. Also greatly beloved by my mother and her sisters, although possibly not with quite the same degree of fervour.

Forget your Mr D'Arcy and your Heathcliff: Kester Woodseaves is far, far more compelling as a romantic hero than either of them. And Pru Sarn is (or was when I was fifteen, and I have no power to change that perception now) a wholly-believable young woman. Shunned by society for the physical flaw of her hare lip - in a time and place in which such an impairment is believed to mark those who bear it as being in league with the devil - she falls in what she believes to be hopeless love with the weaver. He, of course, being made of sterner stuff than the majority of those with whom she comes into contact, looks past the hare lip and sees the woman behind it.

Now, see, I've managed to make it sound like overblown, melodramatic, sub-Mills & Boon tosh. I promise you it isn't. It's been hugely influential on me, as I have long identified with Pru given that - for reasons I needn't rehearse here - I believed myself for many years to be at least as physically undesirable as her. I've read Precious Bane at least once a year for thirty years, and I never tire of it.

"Kester Woodseaves is your friend 'til time stops." Where is your Mr D'Arcy now, huh?

Skallagrigg by William Horwood

A more recent discovery, and one that I devoured whole on first reading. It still makes me cry. A very difficult book to discuss without revealing the central mystery of who or what the Skallagrigg is.

Hugely important for its horrifying descriptions of the brutal and inhumane way in which disabled people were treated in institutions within living memory, it also contains one of the most joyful scenes ever portrayed in fiction.

All of Alan Garner's novels, but particularly The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

I've read The Weirdstone so many times I can quote great chunks of it from memory. It's responsible for my long-term ambition to visit Alderley Edge. (Although that would be rather pointless now because I wouldn't be able to climb it.)

Given the age-range for which this is written, it's really quite frightening. Which I think is no bad thing: it's entirely possible to be overly-protective of children's delicate sensibilities. The world is scary.

Garner has a tremendous skill with language. Like Kate, he can do the thing which I cannot and which I therefore envy beyond all else: he can be brief. None of his words is superfluous. Whether he naturally writes that sparely, or whether he edits his work viciously, I know not. But he can say more - and more memorably - in one sentence than many lesser writers can say in an entire chapter.

Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A A Milne.

Well, if the meme asks for books which mean a lot to people, then it's hardly surprising that children's books are going to figure high on most people's lists, is it? We can't remember a time when we weren't familiar with them, and they were a source of great comfort during childhood.

And Milne is just so damn quotable.

Who amongst us finds it easy to resist, when bid good morning by a colleague, replying, " 'If it is a good morning,' said Eeyore. 'Which I doubt', said Eeyore"?

(No? Just me?)

Absolutely and unforgivably ruined by Disney, but the books themselves are beautifully written and endlessly charming.

And finally, as I've mentioned before, anything by Tove Jansson. Yes, I'm with Aw Diddums on this one. Moomin Valley (Midwinter, or otherwise) was the place I wanted to be whenever the place I actually was seemed unbearable. Which was quite a lot of the time.

Now, do I really need to tag anyone? Won't this meme sell itself? Oh, well: without any obligation, and purely for appearances' sake...

I tag the Boy Marmite, Dame Honoria, Agent Fang and Marcelle P.

The Editor


Blogger fluttertongue said...

The Weirdstone is my basis for any fantastical imaginations. Wonderful book at any age I think.

5:17 pm  
Blogger Katie said...

Gosh. Thank you.

I should let it be known that my novel - and my writing in general - owes more to AA Milne than anyone else on that list, but the compliment is much appreciated.

PS - If it's brevity that floats your boat, I worship at the shrine of Grace Paley, who I discover with some saddness, died a few weeks ago.


11:43 pm  
Blogger Dame Honoria Glossop said...

We have just returned from a trip to the Scottish Highlands. I shall start counting the books straight away.

p.s. I love The Weirdstone too, it is truly terrifying in a delicious sort of way. It put me off potholing for life.

9:50 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

It's probably the fact that, even in my pre-crip days, I had the world's least impressive sense of balance, but that scene with the wobbly plank over the bottomless chasm always brings me out in a cold sweat...

I'll take svarts over a wobbly plank any time.

11:59 am  
Anonymous Diddums said...

Thanks for doing the meme. :-). When it comes to finding something appealing, I found this of many of the books you listed. Alan Garner, check; Winnie the Pooh, check; Skallagrig, check - and of course the Moomins. I must try 'Precious Bane'.

I haven't had that line pop up in my head when wished 'Good morning' - it might in future, but normally I get tied up in a knot thinking "what was that - 'good morning, good day, hello, good afternoon, nice day, or even 'love your trolley'?" So I just have to cross my fingers and hope my response is correct. Too often I gabble 'morning!' when it's teatime.

(Ticket to Moominvalley, please).

12:16 am  

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