August Reading Notes

Went to the bookstore to buy a gift for my sister’s birthday, and wound up buying two books for myself: a Wordsworth edition of the selected works of Virginia Woolf (which if you can’t make out from the picture above, includes Jacob’s Room, Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, A Room of One’s Own, The Waves, Three Guineas and Between the Acts) and a brand new copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s a celebratory edition that’s been out for a few years now, I think, but it has shiny gold stars on the cover and I couldn’t resist!

Hm, and I finished Madame Bovary tonight. It’s a funny thing, procrastination. My desk is always a lot tidier when things are due, because I spend hours ‘cleaning’ before getting around to writing the damn things. Similarly, approaching deadlines produce in me a most wondrous desire to read. And since I have an essay due tomorrow, the natural thing for me to do is read the night away. Of course, now that I’ve completed Madame Bovary, I’ll have to get back to my essay – it would be impossible for me to pick up another book at this stage, with my head all muddled up from Emma’s sudden arsenic-induced death etc etc. (that’s a plot spoiler, in case you missed it). A break from reading is appropriate considering that my next read will be Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, a book I wish to relish and linger on.

For those of you who enjoy polls, or like dictating other people’s reading lists:

I’m afraid I’ve become very disorganized since I went into hibernation two months ago (or was it only one?), and I can no longer be decisive about what I want to read. All my projects have gone astray, and I completely missed the deadline of Rebecca’s pre-Shakespearian classics challenge. I didn’t even get to read half the books on my list – I have yet to find the right edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and obviously, I haven’t had the time to read Dante and More. Nevertheless, I’m quite optimistic about the remaining months of 2009. Although the quantity hasn’t been impressive (less than twenty, in fact), I’m all right with the quality of what I’ve been reading. In a lazy sort of way, I even challenged myself. Eleven of the eighteen books I’ve read have been by new authors (I particularly loved  Chaucer, Steinbeck, Adiga, Anne Bronte, Atwood and Wilde), and I finally conquered Anna Karenina.

It’s been a while since I’ve dreamt up a new project, but here is yet another ridiculously expensive and long-term one: the Persephone project! Of course, I’d heard all about Persephone books (as you only can, living in this particular  corner of blogland), but I’d never  given them much thought until now. This isn’t so much a reading project as a collecting project. I WANT TO COLLECT ALL OF THOSE BEAUTIFUL THINGS! Dove-grey covers, fabric endpapers and all that. How yummy.

But enough about me. What have you lovely people been reading lately?

p.s. Orientalism and The End of History arrived the other day!


21 thoughts on “August Reading Notes

  1. Tuesday, barely anyone did the Really Old Classics Challenge. You read more (and a greater percentage of your goal) than almost anybody! Don’t be hard on yourself.

    I do hope you enjoy what ever book you choose next. I have only read Northanger Abbey, which I didn’t like much. I voted for Marquez because I enjoyed 100 Years of Solitude (although it was confusing) and that’s one I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on!

    1. Hahah, thanks for the encouragement. Why is it, though, that I always bite off way more than I can chew and then get all strung up about it afterwards?

      Same here! As in, I’ve only read Northanger Abbey out of the books listed. I don’t think I enjoyed it much either. For some reason, I’ve always remembered it as a dark novel, but over the years I’ve come to realise it’s supposed to be a satire. Time for a re-reading, probably. Ooh, yes Marquez. Haven’t read anything by him yet.. I’ve been saving it for summer :)

  2. I picked Northanger Abbey, because it would be great to get your thoughts on it. I think it’s probably my least favourite Austen, but it’s still Austen! And really, she’s always the right choice when you don’t know what to read! ;)

    Also, I have a habit of accruing HP books too… I have something like 5 copies of Philosopher’s Stone or something insane! Also, I haven’t decided if I’m a Woolf fan (I’ve only tried Mrs. Dalloway and I really couldn’t get into it… I think stream of consciousness writing is really not my thing), but if I were, I would be very envious of your Selected Works. I’m kind of having book lust just looking at the cover! Help me before I sin again!

    1. Steph – My least favourite Austen would have to be Pride and Prejudice, but yes – Austen is still Austen, of course.
      Wow, five copies of Philosopher’s Stone?! I think I have three, including the newest shiny one. The other two were birthday presents … from when I was seven, hahah! (And I’m still reading them!)
      Book lust! I like that term. I get book lust a lot. Good thing you’re not a VW fan – I’m kind of dumb because I already have copies of Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse and I’ve already read A Room of One’s Own and Between the Acts. OH well! Hahah, if stream-of-consciousness isn’t your thing, I still thoroughly recommend her essays, particularly the ones on reading/writing. V. interesting woman :)

  3. I have a similar ability to come up with displacement activities when there’s something I really need to do (eg writing essays!) Finishing Madame Bovary is a worthwhile one though, I’ll be interested to hear what you thought.

    I love Virgina Woolf’s work, of what’s in your collected edition I must put a word in for A Room of One’s Own and its follow up Three Guineas- wonderful essays which make me nod in agreement and laugh out loud every time I read them.

    1. I never knew Three Guineas was a follow up of A Room of One’s Own (which I enjoyed reading, by the way). Always assumed it was a novel! I’m so looking forward to reading everything in there. Maybe I should just read the VW collection after Lighthouse – sort of like a Woolf marathon, hahah!

  4. I voted for Love in the Time of Cholera as you know it’s my most favourite book in the world. And, hoping you’ll like it, too. Doesn’t matter if not as much. :)

    Remember I told you about the To the Lighthouse edition I bought? I might purchase all Woolfs in the new Penguin Modern Classics, as they also have such beautiful covers of The Waves and Orlando. I don’t like their Mrs Dalloway cover as much, but it would be off if it’s the only one that isn’t in uniform with the rest, lol. How pathetic. What do you think of that particular Mrs Dalloway cover? (The fuzzy woman silhouette in green/blue.)

    I don’t own any Harry Potters because I’ve always been reading my sister’s copies hehehe.

    And the Persephones! Haha. I won’t go so far as to getting all of them, as there are a few that I’m not very interested in. But the endpapers are really gorgeous! Have you started collecting yet? Which is your first pick?? After Miss Pettigrew and Lady Rose, I want to get Leonard Woolf’s The Wise Virgins (and I haven’t even read any VW yet haha), as I sampled the writing and loved it. Also, it’s a little autobiographical, they say. I also want to get A Fortnight in September. And many more.. I agree, this will make us poor..

    1. Thanks, Claire :)
      And yes, I have guessed by now that you are a fan of Marquez, heheh. I haven’t seen the new covers of The Waves and Orlando, but I own the silver spine edition with the fuzzy woman silhouette and I actually love, love, love that cover! I’m not normally drawn towards abstract things, but I just find the colours so delightful. And to me, that photograph is a perfect embodiment of the themes and atmosphere of the novel itself, so perhaps that’s why I like it so much. But I can understand why you don’t like it if it doesn’t fit in with the rest of them…
      The Vintage classics (not the red-spine ones, but the normal type) covers are quite nice too, though in a different way. They’re sort of very classical and clean.

      Hmm, not sure which Persephones I’ll be buying first but Miss Pettigrew is definitely near the top of my list. I actually haven’t checked out the full list of titles they publish.. should do that sometime soon. Leonard Woolf?!?! Do they publish men’s work as well, hahah?? I thought they specialised in ‘forgotten womens’ fiction’ or something like that?

      1. They actually do publish men’s lit, but very few. I was surprised as well. I think you’ll like it, as VW has a counterpart in it.

        You know, as you say the fuzzy woman Mrs Dalloway is a perfect embodiment of the themes and atmosphere of the book, then I’m sold! Haha. That easily swayed. I like the clean white Vintage covers, too, but they’re not in stock in The Book Depository anymore. Also, it’s better to have all the same edition for each author, like a series. We’re OC that way haha.

        1. Ooh, yes I do like the look of it on shelves (i.e. having the same edition for each author), but until recently I just bought whatever was available in the bookstore. Australian bookstores are kind of pathetic in that they don’t offer a wide variety of classics. They’re mostly Penguin (but the newer type, not the silver spines i’m so fond of) and Wordsworth (which I’m growing to hate, b/c of the cheap quality).

  5. I love the book covers of the two books you’re reading. Can you give me the name of the publisher? It’s Penguin, but how do I find those particular covers? One thing I hate about bookstores is that they like to compete against Penguin and others and make their own, which are cheaper, but not as stylish as Penguin or Modern Library.

    1. Hi Zawan,

      As I mentioned above (to claire), I usually just buy whatever’s available in the bookstore. The one I visited the other week happened to have the cover that I liked, but that was pure luck. Usually, if you hunt around, some bookstores have older editions, but best try your luck on the Book Depository. That’s where I got my copy of Orientalism.

      I noticed BD often sells different editions from the same publisher, though I don’t know if that’s consistent with what they deliver, seeing as the books I’ve ordered have been either the latest editions (b/c I need them for uni, and not b/c I like the covers) or from publishers that don’t release multiple editions at a time.

  6. Ah, a fellow Woolf-fan!

    I was going to say what my favorite Woolf novel is, then realized I can’t choose between To The Lighthouse, Mrs. Dalloway & The Waves. I’m actually all about stream-of-consciousness, so maybe I like The Waves best? It is certainly the most experimental of her work, I think. Have you read that one?

    Of course maybe I would like To The Lighthouse best if my copy had the same cover as yours – that is just lovely!

    1. Hi Booksnob! I think my favourite Woolf is most definitely Mrs Dalloway, but only because I’m sentimentaliy attached to it, and certainly not because her other works are not as well-written :)
      I read a few pages of The Waves before I had to return it to the library, but I didn’t like it much. I think it’s more of an acquired taste than the others; it was almost too experimental for me. The he saids, she saids got to me a bit, to be honest.

      And yes, the cover is quite lovely, isn’t it?

      Today I borrowed my library’s copy of Hermione Lee’s biography of VW. Looks yummy, hahah!

  7. Just found your blog through Kiss A Cloud – the mention of Woolf sent me over here! I love VW so much, though haven’t blogged about her *that* often – when I do, the comments tend to fall silent… I’m never quite sure which my favourite is – between Mrs. Dalloway, Jacob’s Room, Between The Acts…

    Persephone – all I can say is Yay!

    1. Hi Simon :)

      I love VW too; you can rest assured that I’ll be ready to discuss anything even remotely Woolf-related when you’re in need of it. Hmm, for starters – out of the books you mentioned, my favourite would definitely have to be Mrs Dalloway, though Between the Acts follows close behind. Never read Jacob’s Room. The one I’m really intruiged by is Orlando. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of it; hopefully I’ll get around to actually reading it sometime soon.

      Thanks for dropping by!

      1. I’ve read Orlando three times now, maybe four, and I like it less every time I read it! Oh dear. I wrote my Masters dissertation on *clears throat* Domestic Space and The Fantastic in 1920s Novels, so Orlando was very helpful for that. The only Woolf novel I haven’t read is Night & Day… I read about 100pp once, and just wasn’t very excited…

        1. Oh no! I don’t think I’ve ever liked a book less every time I re-read it (probably because I’ve not bothered to re-read books I didn’t like the first time round). Except Dickens – I’m always trying to read him, but find I just hate him more the more I try.

          But I wonder – do you dislike Orlando because you’ve had to dissect it so much for your dissertation, or simply because? I always wonder how lit students can look at books without shuddering.
          I’m a politics/history student, and though I’ve not been at uni long, I already shudder every time I hear ‘international relations’.

          I think the one Woolf book which makes me shudder would have to be ‘The Waves’. The structure irritates me to no end. I reached the end of the first page, and was so exhausted I had to return the book to the library.

          1. That might be it… usually I’ve been lucky: I’m able to ‘turn off’ an analytical mind (not so good at turning it on…) and can still enjoy things I’ve studied. But maybe not Orlando… The first time I read it was just for pleasure, and all the times after that were for study, so I think you’re probably right.

            But I do love The Waves! I just read that for the beauty of the language. I’ve never really written on it, just bits and pieces here and there…

            I’m probably going to have to read them all over again as I start my doctorate!

  8. I agree with you that the language is beautiful (i.e. the language within the dialogue) but all the ‘he saids’ and ‘she saids’ are a bit ridiculous, IMO. Maybe they get less frequent as the book progresses (I never checked, to be honest) but the first page gave me a headache! Still, I’ll be giving it another go .. in the distant, long, far-away future. Hahah!

    Ooh, doctorate! That’s a PhD thesis, right? Err I’m a bit ignorant when it comes to all these academic things. Will it be a continuation of your masters work, or something different? Sorry about all the questions; I just find it interesting, esp. as you’re writing about Woolf and all :)

  9. Yes the distant future is probably the best time to try The Waves again!

    Yup, starting a PhD (except Oxford is awkward, so we call them DPhil) – it’s more or less a continuation, and broadening…. don’t really know yet, as I’m starting in three weeks time… But hoping to get plenty of Woolf in there!

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