I'm still dipping into The Assassin's Cloak, the anthology of the world's greatest diarists, as the year progresses and always there seems to be a pertinent entry from say 1854 which seems as relevant today. I am however delighted that despite the onslaught of the Booker longlist, which but for a few notable exceptions seems to have been an energy-sapping event this year (and may become the short list only next year,) at least I don't feel quite as bad as Bertolt Brecht did on 24th August 1920,
'The rain rinses the last thoughts from one's head. Thoughts are impurities. That's why they start up in winter. Paper has lost its power to stimulate me. I hang like a bat in a turret of idleness: mouth downwards.'
Poor Bertolt, but oh for the luxury of a 'turret of idleness' except of course I'd want a pile of books in there too.
I could well have found myself hanging like a bat in the reading doldrums after just finishing the magnificent Sea of Poppies, becalmed in Booker waters and not an ounce of energy left to pick up another book. That voyage has taken my breath away, completely highjacked my imagination, so it was fortunate that I was already halfway through and loving Linda Grant's The Clothes on Their Backs.
As I opened the book again a moment of Ghosh-Grant synchronicity arced across the pages,
'I experienced the strange exhilaration of the sailor who has no home port, only the next landfall, wherever that may be, with all its dangers and possibilities. But the sea itself is home, the unsteady, unstable surface, always moving, drawn back and forth under a gravitational moon.'
I heard Linda Grant talk at Fowey earlier this year and now wish I'd paid more attention to the clothes,shoes and handbag elements because she's something of a fashion guru, as you can see for yourself at her blog The Thoughtful Dresser, and with Blog Beliefs as follows well, Linda and I have congruence,
'A good handbag makes the outfit.'
'Only the rich can afford cheap shoes'
'The only thing worse than being skint is looking as if you're skint.'
'A new dress is a great help in all circumstances.' (Noel Streatfeild)
'The only true and lasting meaning of the struggle for life lies in the individual, in his modest peculiarities and his right to these peculiarities.' ( Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate)
Linda has also discovered our lovely cuddly Imran Ahmad which will surely be to Imran's advantage after his meeting-the-Prime-Minister-in-shorts episode.
The comment has been made elsewhere that the order of reading this Booker longlist may well affect the impact of a book, and I can see the truth in that. My policy of overlapping reading seems to bypass the problem but I'm also wondering how the judges are faring with their supposed third reading of the books in order to choose the shortlist?
If they really actually do a third read that is.
Because truth be told, and it's the Booker so sadly I feel honour-bound to tell it as I see it, I'd willingly hang like a bat forever (in the piked position with a tariff of 3.8 even) before picking up a few of these books a second time, let alone a third.
Fortunately Sea of Poppies isn't one of them, nor is The Clothes on Their Backs and my thoughts on those once I have ironed them out.(sorry)
Coming tomorrow, at last, my final thoughts on The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher and yes, you haven't seen it for a while, that 1970's classic the 'dgr and bookhound clutching a bottle of Blue Nun' picture.