Monday, 17 January 2011

My 1,500th book

It's been said that a keen reader will get through around 2,000 books in an average lifetime. Well, I lost a bit of time in being 24 before the reading bug really bit me. Now, as I'm about to reach a landmark number (excluding around 250 re-reads) I'm wondering if I will ever reach the 2K figure, but no matter. (By the way, I reckon that only about 100 of the total to date have been non-fiction).
So what's this particular next one going to be? Well, a book which not that many will have heard of - Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Wives and Daughters' dating from the 1860s. It's her last and unfinished novel, but still runs to 600+ pages. I hadn't read any Mrs Gaskell until a few years ago when I started with 'North and South' and followed it with 'Mary Barton', both very readable, and, like her contemporary, Dickens, very much creations concerning the social mores of their time.
The book I only finished just this morning was Garrison Keillor's quite entertaining 'Lake Wobegone Days'. (We can hear back-editions of 'Prairie Home Companion' on one of our digital radio channels, which I do occasionally listen to.)
After I've read the Gaskell, next on the list will be my (at least) 6th reading of Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' - in a different translation from my previous encounters with this masterpiece, so maybe it ought to be counted as a 'first read'! ' Expert' opnion is that 'Karenina' is superior to 'War and Peace'. That may well be so but it's actually the latter which for me is unparalleled in Western literature for sheer awesome range of imagination. Microcosm and macrocosm as never before or since in a single novel. But 'Karenina' (and 'Resurrection', especially) would be extraordinary works anyway in the canon of anyone who hadn't also written 'W & P'.

Right, enough chatting - let's get started on 'Wives and Daughters'.

Oh, as an add-on to this blog, and on a completely different subject, must say I'm totally flummoxed by 'The Social Network' winning the Golden Globe for 'Best Picture'. Did those voting for it really hear the dialogue, because, as I've said before, for 3/4 of the film I couldn't make out a single mumbled word! The award is a total mystery to me - and I fear that my perplexity will probably return at Oscar time. (I'm certainly not complaining about Colin Firth and Annette Bening winning their categories.)


  1. I went to see The King's Speecj the other day and that Colin Firth could hardly get his lines out :-p

  2. Ray, maybe you ought to rent Social Network when it comes out next month. Greg and I managed to not see it at the cinema, so we'll be watching it at home on DVD. Maybe you should come over that night.

    The 1500 books is so amazing to me, especially since I'm on about number 15. Tell me when you reach 2000 and I'll give you a special reward :-)

  3. Thanks, Cubby - though I don't think the 1,500 number is all that unusual for people who MAKE time to read because they derive such enormous pleasure from the activity. For one thing, I have no social life at all to impinge on such a pursuit. If I do reach 2,000, at my current average rate of around 70 books per year, I'll be 71, but when I do get there I'll remind you of what you said - and, maybe even come round to collect my 'prize'. :-)

    I can hardly wait to hear your opinion on 'The Social network'. The more I hear about the plaudits being heaped on this (to me) indecipherable film the more I'm exasperated by the thought that it was just ME who couldn't understand it. But then the question remains - why don't I have this problem with other films too? It does happen, yes, but it's a comparative rarity. Afraid I've never rented a film - if I did, not having a DVD player, I'd have to watch it on the computer - not very comfortable. Think I'll wait for it to come on TV, which should be in the next couple of years. (If I could pop over to watch it with you and Greg, believe me, I would!)

  4. A friend of mine just purchased "The Social Network DVD. I saw it at his house last night and I, sort of, have to agree and disagree with you. Had no problem comprehending the dialogue, but wondered what all the fuss was about. Sort of boring. The producers must have spent a goodly amount on promoting this film. Glad I didn't pay $10.00 to see it at the movies. As to rentals from Netflix, you don't need a DVD player. I saw a couple of your recommendations courtesy of Netflix and was able to view them streaming into my television. While I am thinking about it, I'd like to ask if you ever saw the film "Mao's Last Dancer" which was one of the most satisfying films I have seen.

  5. Paul, re 'The Social Network', with your comment I'm now wondering if my problem of non-comprehension was compounded by poor cinema sound equipment. Much as I'd rather not, I feel I ought to give the film a second chance - but, like you, I find the subject not particularly interesting. Although I'm on Facebook, the site doesn't interest me enough to use it more than very sporadically, and only then when there's a reason to do so. It's a big yawn for me anyway and to watch a whole film about it being set up, well, enough said.
    I've never even heard of 'Mao's Last Dancer'. I've just looked it up on IMDb and it looks quite intriguing. I'm pretty sure it didn't get a theatrical release in the UK. Pity, 'cos it's the sort of film I would have seen. I'll watch out for it coming on TV.
    Your suggestion about Netflix opens up possibilities I'd never seriously considered. I don't really care to watch entire films on the computer screen and I'm not able to route it to the TV, and being a bit of a dummy in computer matters I don't know how to do it or even know someone who can do it for me. But it's obviously something I'll have to face up to sometime.

  6. Ray, like you, reading is like drinking water. I have to read books. Reading many books each week really helped me get through my teen years. No matter how bad things were for me in real life, books could transport me somewhere else for a while. They gave me growing space and breathing space.