I mentioned visiting a bunch of bookstores in London, and I spent a good bit of time in the two bookstores in Dingle, so I’d better tell you what I bought:
- Chet Raymo’s Climbing Brandon: Science and Faith on Ireland’s Holy Mountain. Hobgoblin has already read this one, and he told me it’s good. Mt. Brandon is on the Dingle Peninsula, and I climbed it while we were there. We had a gorgeous view of the summit and surrounding area until about 3/4 of the way to the top, when the fog moved in and we could no longer see anything. Still, it was a great experience. We went up the back side of the mountain, and on the way down the front side, the most commonly-climbed side, we saw crosses through the mist at regularly paced intervals to mark the path religious pilgrims take. This book tells the story of how it became a religious site. I picked it up in the shop specializing in all things Irish.
- At Dingle’s other shop, I bought Hermione Lee’s Body Parts: Essays on Life-writing. I already have the American version of this book, called Virginia Woolf’s Nose, but that one is a lot shorter than the British version, with many fewer essays. I liked the parts of Lee’s book I’ve read already, so I was glad to find the rest.
- The rest of the books come from London. Since I never find books by Jenny Diski in American stores, I brought home three of them, including her new one, What I Don’t Know About Animals. This is one of those books that I wouldn’t be interested in at all if knew only the title, but with Diski writing it, I’ll read it happily.
- Also, A View From the Bed and Other Observations, a collection of essays. I already read a few of them about moving to Cambridge that I thought were great.
- And one Diski novel, Apology for the Woman Writing, about Marie de Gournay, friend of Montaigne.
- Norma Clarke’s The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters, about eighteenth-century women writers and their changing fortunes throughout the century.
- Travel Writing, by Carl Thompson, kind of an overview of the history of travel writing and current critical debates about it. This will be useful for my class on literature and the journey this fall.
- Lila Azam Zanganeh’s The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness. I just heard an interview with Zanganeh on the radio yesterday, and it was great. This is a personal meditation on Nabokov and his writing.
- Daisy Hay’s Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry’s Greatest Generation. It’s about Byron and the Shelleys and other people in their circle. It will make a good addition to my collection of Romantic biographies, and it’s particularly appealing as a group biography.
- Monica Dickens’s Mariana. This was my selection from the Persephone shop. The only thing that kept me from buying more was fear that my suitcase would be too heavy.
- The Letters of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Selection. I’ve been reading this one slowly since the plane trip home. It’s fun to learn about her life and to get her perspective on what her brother William and his friends were up to.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to write detailed posts on what I read while I was traveling, but in case you’re curious, I started out with Edith Wharton’s Custom of the Country (read on my Nook), which was great. I loved returning to her; she is such a great chronicler of social ambition. Then I read the second Mary Russell novel, which I liked quite a lot, after not particularly liking the first one. A Monstrous Regiment of Women was much more focused and coherent than her first, and I liked the London setting. The Mary Russell put me in the mood to read a Dorothy Sayers, so I read Clouds of Witness, also on my Nook. Dorothy Sayers is so much fun! I suspect my favorite will remain Gaudy Night, but I liked this one a lot too.
At the same time, I was reading Geoff Dyer’s collection of essays Otherwise Known As the Human Condition (the first book I bought for my Nook), which was fabulous. This is one it would be worth writing more about, but in case I don’t, I was surprised at how much I loved the essays on photography with which the book begins. I know very little about photography, so these essays taught me a lot, and Dyer’s voice is so fabulously entertaining. His essays on literature were good, but I was less taken with those, perhaps because the subject matter was more familiar. The book ends with personal essays, almost all of which I loved.
I didn’t read much while we were in London, but I started Monique Roffey’s White Woman on the Green Bicycle, and I finished it on the plane home. That one I do want to write a full post on, so more on that later.
Since I’ve been home, I’ve had a little trouble concentrating on reading, but I did finish up the Dyer collection and read Willa Cather’s novel The Professor’s House. Perhaps more on that later. Just today I started Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time for my mystery book group meeting next week, and I’m still reading the Dorothy Wordsworth letters now and then.
And I think that catches you up on my bookish news. Have a great weekend everyone!