Tag Archives: Patrick Leigh Fermor

My favourite book

Sam "Remember the Alamo!" Houston - who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

Sam “Remember the Alamo!” Houston – who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

I think the sequence of my favourite books may have gone something like this…

The Biography volume of the Childcraft Encyclopedia (or was it Cyclopedia?) – the obscure pasts of famous Americans.

Followed by Ulster, A Sunday Times Insight Investigation – oh look, they’re writing about us.

For a while it was… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I found it in an odd place. “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard‘.”

Then it was… Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis – happy endings, but don’t read while hung over: “He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police.”

It is (and has been for a while)… A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor – robust and exquisite. (And I want part 3 for Christmas.)

But the best books I’ve read lately are The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I was late getting to both of them. Both arrestingly good. (Never mind the reviews to which I’ve linked.)

But if I really really have to choose one, from the very very many I value and return to, it would be Continue reading

Advertisements

29 Comments

Filed under D - Loose Bloggers Consortium, What I'm Reading

Portrait of the Artist (with credit cards)

This face caught my eye.  It’s a detail from the painting below. And the artist was larking around nearby so I was treated to both the faces he made and the one he wears.

There may well be meaning in the painting, but it just struck me as clever and imaginative. Which could also go towards summing up the area of London where it was hanging. I saw it inside Time for Tea on Shoreditch High Street.

Nearby was a big painted message urging passersby to – Let’s Adore and Endure Each Other. Yes. Let’s.

And there was a shop selling paramilitary teapots and facial decorations for your light switches. In other words, all the essentials.

Which got me thinking: Which rules – east or west?

East London (where I’ve been wandering of late) is clearly cooler, younger, livelier, edgier, more creative and more interesting than the leafier, more sedate west end of this world city. True – you can buy wine with Stalin’s picture on the bottle. But if you were an ineffably cool jazz singer, where would you choose to live? It’s obvious. In the EAST. Probably on a boat. (With or without a bookshop attached.)

But hang on. There’s more to the world than just London. Jim Morrison sang The West is the best. Was he right? Continue reading

27 Comments

Filed under art

Unfinished books

Paddy Leigh Fermor Paddy disguised as a German NCO during WWII, when he & fellow Special Operations soldiers kidnapped General Heinrich Kreipen.

This is about the books you will never finish reading. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under art, What I'm Reading

Blink… and you’ll miss it.

This year  – no resolutions. Just a wish – that the next twelve months are more mellow and less complicated than the past twelve.

It could be an epic year. But if you don’t pay attention, you could miss the best parts. Here’s a year in 120 seconds.

Continue reading

12 Comments

Filed under art, blogs, life

Congratulations – Marriage in China

Marriage Book - China

This is how you get married in China. Thanks to our newly married (Congratulations!) guest contributor who’s currently expat in Beijing. I’ll let M take up the story:

Last week I caught a sleeper train to Changchun on Monday night. I was in a room with 5 big fat Chinese men, one of whom snored like crazy. He was in the bunk above me, and I really thought it would collapse, he was so fat.

I got to Changchun, and remembered how cold it was. Warmer than January, but still around minus 12. Met LN and we went to the registry office, expecting to complete everything that day. China is drowning in official paperwork and red stamps. Turns out the red stamp on LN’s “Hukou” (family book that lists your parents, siblings, and crucially what province you ‘belong’ to) was not clear enough. Continue reading

5 Comments

Filed under friends, life

Favourite books (as of today)

If I thought too much about this my head would explode, so, as if leaping over the alley between two rooftops five floors up, I don’t pause and…

1. A Ride on the Whirlwind (African Writers Series)Sipho Sepamla (Fiction – tales of a revolutionary cell in apartheid South Africa.)

2. A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople – From the Hook of Holland to the Middle DanubePatrick Leigh Fermor (A memoir of his eighteen-year-old self walking from the Hook of Holland to a bridge over the Danube between Slovakia and Hungary in 1933. The next part of his journey to Constantinople is described in the sequel, Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople from the Hook of Holland – The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates.)

3. Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics)Kingsley Amis (Fiction – the funniest book ever)

4. E: A NovelMatt Beaumont (Fiction – a clever concept, written entirely in emails, very funny with it. Sequels include The e Before Christmas and E Squared – though the idea is getting less and less fresh.)

5. You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the ImaginationKatharine Harmon (A wonderful collection of maps of the mind, imagination, the world, heaven, hell and other points west. Just a gorgeous book to hold.)

6. The Forging of a Rebel – Arturo Barea (Autobiography – this is a trilogy, so is it cheating to include it? The three volumes are The Forge [ The Forging of a Rebel Book 1 ] (Flamingo), The Track (Flamingo) and The Forging of a Rebel – The Clash – childhood in Madrid and Castile, action with the Spanish army in the Rif War in Morocco, marriage and children, and finally his part in the Spanish Civil War.)

7. Ulster (A Penguin special) – The Sunday Times Insight Team (Reportage/History – an account of the outbreak in the late 1960s of the most recent “Troubles” in Ireland. As a “child of the Troubles”, this book made a big impression on me when I read it as a young ‘un. And while we’re on the subject, isn’t the “Troubles” an odd term to use to describe periods of general mayhem, localised civil war, military curfew, murder gangs roaming the streets, and widespread fear and loathing. It’s on a par with that other useful phrase – “a wee bit of bother” – as in: “Oh, I’d suggest you take the other road this evening, there’s been a wee bit of bother over beyond.” The WBB a euphemism for, say, the blowing into a ditch of a passing armoured personnel carrier and the killing of those inside. But moving right along…)

8. The Blue TangoEoin McNamee (His imagined version of the real life murder of Patricia Curran in 1952. It was the main pre-Troubles crime celebre in Northern Ireland, never satisfactorily solved. He’s done another interesting version of the death/killing of Princess Diana, called 12:23: Paris. 31st August 1997, but I prefer The Blue Tango.)

9. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945Tony Judt (History – Post World War Two history of Europe.)

9 1/2. For Whom the Bell TollsErnest Hemingway (Fiction – you may have heard of this Spanish Civil War tale.)

10. Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for AfricaDambisa Moyo (Well argued polemic – She lays out the reasons the West should suspend development aid to Africa, for the good of Africa. She’s Zambian. I bought the book in Durban, South Africa.)

Phew! I was worried for a moment that I wouldn’t fit it all into a top ten. And appallingly I have failed to include anything by Andrea Camillieri, Henning Mankell, Roddy Doyle, Maurice Leitch, Brian Moore, Chuck Palahniuk, MJ Hyland, Philip Kerr, Iain Banks, Michael Dibdin, Martin Cruz Smith, Andrew Marr or Ian Rankin. Or any poetry at all. Disgusting.

And that previous paragraph means I’ve cheated three times. Rubbish.

6 Comments

Filed under What I'm Reading