Reading first and housekeeping afterwards

Posted on June 17, 2012


Work first and wash afterwards – W H Auden

Avoid piles – T S Eliot

Today’s blog is going to be a bit of a hodgepodge.  I realise I need to do some housekeeping.  To bastardise Auden, I’ve been reading first and housekeeping afterwards – both literally and figuratively. The nerdle (Chad’s name for himself this week) is not impressed. Or maybe the downward dip of lip and outward flare of nostrils are because he can smell that ripe smell, a cross somewhere between feet and vomit with a tinge of natural yoghurt, but just hasn’t worked out where it’s coming from. I must put the compost out soon or he’ll be off to the doctor convinced he’s got a fungal toenail.

Because of this woeful lack of on-top-of-it keeping, I haven’t let you know the next books on the journey, and worse, although I’ve ordered the choice of books, they’ve turned up out of alphabetical order.  Bloody inconvenient of them and I’m still undecided whether I can read them out of order of whether that’s, well, out of order.  I also realise that I owe you a review of the book from Antigua. See? You didn’t even know I was reading something from Antigua.   So let’s get the list of books out of the way first. And then, maybe you can help me decide whether I can read Austria before Armenia.   While deciding, I may even get round to writing a review of the book from Antigua – after I’ve dealt with the compost.

Moving on through the As.

Antigua and Barbuda

Mr Potter – Jamaica Kincaid

Review to follow but if this were a relationship style update on Facebook it would read – ‘It’s irritating’.


Accursed Years: My Exile and Return from Der Zor – Yervant Odian

This was not a hard decision to make.  It was the only Armenian book I could get hold of in English. Most Armenian writers seem to specialise in lyric poetry. I’m not sure what any lyric poetry is let alone Armenian lyric poetry. I’m not sure I want to find out. As for Armenia itself/herself (is it a motherland or a fatherland?), I know nothing about it other than Cher’s father was Armenian. It would be tragic to judge a whole country by half of Cher’s genes alone, so perhaps an autobiography is the best choice anyway.


Women as Lovers – Elfriede Jelinek

Austria poses a bit of a problem.  Austria claims Kafka as a native son.  I have read Kafka. Quite a bit of it.  I didn’t like it.  Not a great critique to be sure, but there’s just no chemistry between Franz and me.   Anyway, I’m going to put Kafka in the Czech Republic. He was born in Prague which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but now isn’t.  I’ll ignore him again when I get to the ‘C’s.   I’ve also read Wittgenstein who was Austrian for twice as long as he was British. I like Wittgenstein, he believed in confession and did research near Glossop (such a plum of a name). However, I’d class him as a philosopher, and, when I say I’ve read Wittgenstein… I’ve read the words, that’s not to say I understood them.

So I’ve decided to choose something contentious.  Elfriede Jelinek (author of the Piano Teacher, but we won’t hold a bad film adaptation against her) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2004.  On winning, Jelinek said she was in despair at becoming known. Don’t think you need to worry, Elfriede, if the blessed (I want to accent the ‘e’ but it won’t let me) Doris Lessing cut her plaits off and went for a bubble-perm we wouldn’t recognise even her.  According to Dr. Wiki-so-it-must-be-true-pedia in ‘2005, Knut Ahnlund left the Swedish Academy in protest [over Jelinek’s prize], describing Jelinek’s work as “whining, unenjoyable public pornography”, as well as “a mass of text shovelled together without artistic structure”. He said later that her selection for the prize “has not only done irreparable damage to all progressive forces, it has also confused the general view of literature as an art”’.  You can see why I wanted to read something by her.

Azerbaijan  – HELP!

I can’t find anything from Azerbaijan other than more lyric poetry.  What is bloody lyric poetry? Please don’t answer.  I know more than I want to already. Tennyson, Coleridge and Walter bloody de la bloody Mare! Say no more. No, please. Say. No. More.  I’m being glib.  There are many fine lyric poems.  Just not the ones we were made to recite in speech training classes.

Argentina and Australia

The more observant among you will have noticed the absence of Argentina and Australia.   This is because I have read books from both these countries already.  If you haven’t, I would recommend Borges, Puig and Cortázar from Argentina, but not Sarmiento. Not that anyone other than students of Latin American studies would ever be made to read Sarmiento.  We were made to read his Facundo – add your own puns.   Whatever you decide to read, listen to Mercedes Sosa or any other of the Nueva Canción musicians and drink wine. Argentinian literature can make your head spin.  As for Australia, I wouldn’t know where to begin.  Peter Carey is perhaps the most obvious start. He’s one of only two writers to win the Booker Prize twice.  If you can’t face a novel, 30 Days in Sydney, is also very good.   Alex Miller is also worth tracking down. If you want your Australia more outback, I once picked up in a second hand bookshop a book by Tom Cole, Hell West and Crooked.  It’s a drover’s account of life in the 20s and 30s and, as I recall, a pretty fine read. And in a Backpackers, I swapped whatever trash I was reading for Terry Underwood’s In the Middle of Nowhere. I don’t remember much about it, but it was one of those first-hand, love conquers all, things.  If you like being kicked in the guts, Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, will leave you nicely pummelled.   I’d add Walkabout to this list but it’s written by an English author.

Now to return to my conundrum.   Can I read Austria before Armenia?  I’m inclined to follow T S Eliot’s advice and avoid piles (or stockpiles in this case) and sometimes on a journey, to get from A to B one has to take the bus to somewhere else.