I had decided I daren't pick up anything new until I'd conquered my forthcoming litfest stack, but rules are made for a bit of easing and stretching here and there and then there's this book which gave me every excuse and is distracting me hopelessly along the way.
I saw it shrink-wrapped in a book shop window in Crediton, couldn't look at it so didn't buy it, but by the time I got home I knew I had to have it and quickly ordered it.
Women Who Read Are Dangerous by Stefan Bollmann and with a Foreword by Karen Joy Fowler.
A bigger diversion and a better book to leave lying around I'd be hard put to find and this one is being browsed endlessly.
There's something to be said about heading for visual respite after being as cod piece, doublet and hose-deep as I am in Henry VIII's wifely concerns this week (I seem to have been there for a very long time, Wolf Hall is a very long book) but as well as the beautiful pictures there is a fascinating commentary alongside.
A history of the reading lives of women down the ages and all transmitting a variety of attitudes, because if we're reading we're not being domestic and heaven forfend this could all lead to terrible trouble.
Much that I had been blissfully unaware of surrounding the growth and perceived dangers of silent reading, a relatively new practice but also a secret one, an act of 'friendly isolation' and one that makes the perfect artistic subject.
Many paintings of women reading that I had never seen before and many old favourites, this one especially because it arrived as a gift card years ago and now graces the cover of my Reading Journal.
Peder Severin Kroyer
Rose Garden (The Artist's Wife in the Garden at Skagen) 1893
There is a brief analysis of each painting alongside interesting observations such as here, suggesting what a pleasure it must be for Norwegians with their long winters to have warm summer days on which to sit out in the garden and read.
We know the feeling this year too.
Much summer garden reading in progress, squashed greenfly between the pages, Factor 20 foxing that will show up on the pages in twenty years' time.
The book is divided into categories of readers various, blessed , enchanted , self-confident, sentimental , passionate, solitary and as I turned the final pages, there was a burning recent question answered.
For the Team Ulysses assault on the summit a few of us will be using Declan Kiberd's book Ulysses and Me as a trusty guide and there will be helpful pdfs here from that book too.
On the cover a picture of...well we wondered in comments, was that Marilyn Monroe reading 'our' book too?
Could we legitimately install Marilyn as the posthumous patron of our expedition?
If it's good enough for Marilyn then it's fine for us too.
Well yes it was and Eve Arnold the photographer reveals that when she met Marilyn for this 1952 photo shoot she was already reading Ulysses so this was no posed moment and I think the photos reveal that clearly. Marilyn reported that she liked the style of the book and would often read it aloud to better understand it, utilising the Marilyn method which was to just open Ulysses anywhere and read it on short disorganised bursts.
Talking of Team Ulysses, how's everyone doing?
I think it might be the second, third, fourth etc sixty pages that are set to trip me up because I've really enjoyed the first sixty so that can't be right.