Thursday, March 29, 2007

Moving Out

The Time is ripe, and rotten ripe, for change;
Then let it come ...

I deliberately moved away from my last blogging community. I do this, if not a lot, then perhaps more than most. I have been a 20sixer (for a very short time, the spam drove me away) and a platform27er, (the endless loveydovey matching twinned blogs drove me away from there). I have blogged on backside books' (see below) website, the nutty woman who owned that saw me off. So here I am again, moved back to blogspot. This is one I've had since April 12th 2004 - though the original posts have gone. The posts from then were moaning and sweary, much in the same vein as the one's I'm posting now. So, although I have moved ON in a way, I obviously haven't really moved on at all. At least, so my a little-bit-buddhist friend would say. She let me moan at her for 33 minutes tonight, as I wallowed in both the bath and my own misery. Been having a really crappy time at work recently. Yesterday it came to a pus filled pinnacle and I lost my temper with one of my bosses. I have three and would like to shoot two. My friend would be perfectly justified in yelling "get a GRIP" at me sometimes, but she never does. She laughs in the right places, makes soothing "oh Darl, they are vile" murmurs in other places, and generally makes me feel better.
She is the soothing balm to the whinging twat.
Anyway, best news - a phone call yesterday to tell me that I have an interview for a New Job. How thrilling.
New books today -Walter Greenwood's Love on the Dole (how ironic after castigating Backside Books for having an ancient reading list for their Radical Reading Group, that I buy a book originally published in 1933), and C.A. Brkic's The Stone Fields. And now, I'm off to bed with one of them. Which will make me sleep best, a tale of grinding poverty or a tale of mass grave excavation?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's gym life, but not as we know it.

Or, I should say, as I know it. Actually, I don't know it at all, and I'd prefer it to stay that way. I've been roped into accompanying my aged (but active) mother to the gym. She goes to Lanzarote in a month, and wants to tighten up. I too, could do with losing a few pounds, pointed out mum helpfully. She can fit in an hour this afternoon - other spare hours this week are for swimming club, line dancing or aerobics. Her not me, doh.

I looked at the brochure for the gym, and felt exhausted and not a little murderous already. There are Rules for the gym. Firstly, when in the fitness suite, do not chew. Pardon me? I can understand patrons not being encouraged to bring in gateaux, but do not chew? At all? I shall deliberately conceal a wodge of wrigleys betwixt tooth and cheek. My danders up already.
To annoy further, the price list is like one of those impossible mathematic questions about trains crossing at varying speeds en route to scotland and london.

Basic programme - £6.00
Basic Programme with Concession - £5.00
Basic Programme with Keycard - £5.00
Basic Programme with Concession AND keycard - £4.00

One on One Programme - £9.00
One on One Programme with Concession - £8.00
One on One Programme with Keycard - £8.00
One on One Programme with Concession AND Keycard - £7.00

Basic Programme with Shared Instructor - £10.00
Basic Programme with Shared Instructor and Concession - £9.00

And so on, and so on.

What do you have to have to get a concession I ask.
"A bus pass", smugged mother, patting her silver hair. "Or a disability"

I don't even have any trainers (rule two, trainers must be worn), or tracksuit bottoms (rule three, loose comfortable clothes. NONE of my clothes are bloody loose, I wouldnt be going at ALL if they were bloody loose). Apparently, it doesn't matter, as mum has a pair of tracksuit bottoms which are 'too big', and dad has the same size foot as me. I feel like pointing out that making ones daughter feel like a slightly less fashionable Andy Pipkin with breasts is probably not Good Mothering, but she has gone upstairs to collect together my gym attire. I can hear a bit of a scuffle at the top of the stairs, and my dad yelling "It's not a bloody fashion parade", and I am immediately transported to being 12 year old Pesk sneaking out to school in lipgloss with my skirt folded over at the waist three times.

Dad's trainers, as mum hands them over, shed bits of flokky pale grey fake suede. The hems of the tracksuit bottoms I hold against me flap just under my knees. Wearing this, I will be automatically entitled to a concession I suspect.

I leave, mum a helpless wreck of guffaws halfway up the stairs.

Later, as I drink coffee with a friend, I get a text from mum.

"Nice trainers in Lidls five quid."

However did my life come to this?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Book Clubs

Weird things. I think that there aren't any near where I live, and horribly stereotypist that I am, I might assume that if there were, I should be forced to suffer M******t D********'s Plough the strangled threads and that kind of thing. They say that you can't judge a book by the cover it shows, but a drawing of a delicate young lovely in red lipstick, rollers and landgirl style overalls standing by a tractor puffing a lovely white plume into a china blue sky full of seagulls isn't likely to make me pick it up.

I joined a bookshop community online. I shall call it Backside Books. Hurrah I thought, as it described itself as a 'bookshop of the future'. Though I am past the radical age, of course I still like to read fiction (and non fiction) which challenges me, makes me think, alters my opinions, stuns me into more research. Having a glimpse at the reading list for their 'radical fiction' reading group, makes me sigh though, especially (though not exclusively) the euro fiction section. Camus and Kafka... come on, Backside Books. Kafka may have been radical in the late 19th and early 20thC, but where is the stuff that challenges todays generation (and anyway, he doesnt work in translation, the verb placement is fucked in english)? What about the new modern classics in Europe? Where are the Slavenka Drakulics, the C. A. Brkics, where even, are the Kunderas? And if you want to hammer away at the old stuff, why such obvious books? Why not, instead of Kafka's Trial, Ivo Andric's Bridge on the Drina (nobel prize for literature,"for the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country."?
The list is described as being full of 'leftwing, progressive and revolutionary fiction'.


And yes I know these books are still relevant (ish), but so is Shakespeare in that way, but there is a huge GUSH of work coming out of formely repressed nations, the classics of the future are knocking at our door, yet Backside Books are still plugging away at Kafka. Hardly radical.

More so, it seems, is Richard and Judy's list. The poetically beautiful yet sharp as a tack The Girls from Lori Lansen, the shockingly intense Half of a Yellow Sun from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (an instant uni list of a book if ever I saw one and far better (imo) than the Ralph Ellison offered at Backside Books) and the fantastically bizarre This book will change your life from A. M. Holmes.

It's madness. Three years intensive study for my literature degree, leaves me sitting in front of a channel 4 teatime programme, waiting to find a decent read.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

What do you all do with your unwanted books?

I have just burnt one of mine. It has been in the toilet on my mini bookcase for at least three years, and though once I tried to read it, it was excruciatingly bad. The book was self published by an acquaintance, and I felt duty bound to buy it. I can't tell you how terrible this book was. Not only was it filled with grammatical errors and continuity gaffes, it had a ridiculously dull plot.

I'm trying to slim down my shelves. Books are shoving, pushing and slithering over each other each other in every room, and stupidly, I can't seem to bear the thought of throwing any away. Some I have taken to the hospital, my old uni books I have been selling on ebay. Others are stuffed under the bed, in the horror that someone I respect might spot them and Point and Laugh at me. Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic Abroad? Pesk, really! HAHAHAHA! How to Declutter Your House? It's not working. HAHAHA!

So, some have to go. But it's painful. Books I despise, well and truly, can go on the fire. Or can they? How on earth did I end up with Howard Stern's Private Parts under my bed?

I decide I will categorize before burning. Top shelf in the toilet will be Ted Hughes' domain. His collections and biographies, his books for children.

On the second shelf in toilet will go books that are too small to go onto the third shelf. Fuck, a useless categorization already. Ok, skinny or stunted ones which suit shelf number two.
Paula Fox, Nicholson Baker, Simon Armitage (how did I end up with two copies of Kid? And what do I do with the other?) Ancient hardback books of poetry and serious little Life and Times Of, in marbled red, green, black can fit on this shelf too. Beautifully earnest with gold lettered spines, Elizabeth Barrett pre Browning, Jane Austen, the Bronte's. I don't read them, any of them. Why are they here? Perhaps I bought them in a flurry of panic before starting university, as though the classics could seep in through some form of osmosis. Surely though, once they must've been savoured by someone. The tiny red bound copy of Austen's Emma has an important little stamp inside the cover, which declares it to have been sold by A.H.Wheeler and Co's Railway Bookstalls, for One Rupee and Eight Annas. I imagine some genteel lady half baked to death, clackety clackety clacking through 429 pages of tiny writing all the way to Jaipur, yearning for the tranquility of an English drawing room. However did they cope with print so microscopic in the days before Specsavers?

Anyway, third shelf - big boisterous books. The History of Kosovo, Legends of the Balkans, Ivo Andric's Bridge on the Drina, Vuk Draskovic's Knife all trumpet their status here - why do I have these? Because I once loved a Serb of course. They stay. Big, handsomely decorated, self important and clever, they are too like him to dispose of. A couple of Viz annuals sit next to them. He'd be so annoyed.

Bedroom now, two big bookcases. The top row of both, is purely for poetry. No idea why. Perhaps because poetry is my big love. Some of these though, like any other lover, are scandalously awful. The Portable Henry Rollins? Please. Can I throw it away? Of course not. Please Lord make me a Famous Poet, or at Least Less Fat. The book is bad, but the title resonates, and so it stays. Carol Ann Duffy, her entire output. Liz Lochead, nothing too ropey. Then we get to a chunky hardback Andrew Motion, won in a faber & faber competition. How embarrassing. Can I throw it? Nope. I won that when I could still write.

Middle and bottom shelves here map my past. I can look at the spine particular books and know exactly where I was when I was reading it - beach in Turkey (Margaret Atwood), coffee shop in Belgrade (David Lodge), lake in Prague (Jaroslav Seifert) flight to Norway (Toby Litt, Isabelle Allende). I can remember coming home to find one book on Serbia ripped into pieces and strewn across my bed. The replacement copy sits, pristine and unopened, reminding m oe why I left the jealous shredder. On my bedside table, a copy of the The Giant's House. I've finished it, so it should migrate somewhere (back to Ivoryfishbone's house?) but it's so beautifully written I keep picking it back up and reading parts over and over. She'll have to wrestle it from me.

Downstairs in the living room, a huge Victorian bookcase dominates the room. On three shelves are worthy books. Not to impress visitors (o.k, not only), but as a nod to the splendour of the shelves they inhabit. Tolstoy. Kundera. Chekhov. The resolve runs out by the bottom shelf though. A puppy chewed copy of Tell Me a Story, several jacketless Enid Blyton's. A GI diet book. An A to Z of Prague.
Stacked upwards on the microwave in the kitchen, balance approximately 30 cookbooks. Meals in Minutes, Fast Food, Quick and Easy Food, One Pot Dishes (can you spot a pattern?) with a copy of Colonial Discourse and Post Colonial Theory disconcertingly wedged in the middle. I don't use any of these. What is the point?

The fire spatters and coughs, waiting.