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On My Book Table…6 – a bit of a shuffle!

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The world is a little bit scarier than usual at the moment, as we’re all quite aware, and so I’m trying personally to balance keeping my awareness of what’s happening at a sensible level and trying to keep myself on an even keel. Books have always been my go-to in times of stress and frankly are being a little bit of a lifeline right now. Anyway, after all the recent excitement of the #fitzcarraldofortnight, plus a number of new arrivals, I thought it was time to take stock and reorganise a little. Reading from one publisher is a lovely experience, but as I have so many other books lurking I wanted to try to clarify what I planned to pick up next. Of course, I never stick to reading plans, but it’s always fun to spend time shuffling books, as well as being very therapeutic… πŸ˜€

After spending some time digging among the stacks and moving books about, I ended up with a few piles I currently want to focus on and here’s the first:

This rather chunky pile has some of the weightier books (intellectually and literally!) that are calling right now. Some of these were in my last book table post, but some have snuck in when I wasn’t looking. There’s a lot of French writing there and both the Existentialist Cafe and Left Bank books sound excellent. Barthes is of course still hanging about in the wings even though I haven’t added him to the pile. I could go for a Barthes fortnight (or longer…) quite easily, but that might a bit brain-straining. Some of the volumes *are* reasonably slim so I might be able to slip them into my reading between bigger books – we shall see! πŸ˜€

Next up, some of the review books I have pending:

These are only *some* of the review books lurking, but if I put them all in a pile it looks scary and I panic, so I thought a modest selection would do. There are some beauties from the British Library Crime Classics and Science Fiction Classics range, as well as Camus and a classic Russian play and Frankenstein! They all sound so marvellous….

And this is the pile of recent finds or other titles I really want to read at the moment:

More French writing. The top two are books about French authors – I’ve read the start of each and they’re marvellous. The Queneau is short but essential (and another play! I’m reading more drama!!), the Hitchens and the Christiansen arrived recently, as did the beautiful Persephone (which I think I might well pick up soon). And the Makioka Sisters is there because there’s a readalong going on. I doubt I’ll get to it – I’ve failed every one so far this year, getting nowhere near either Proust or Musil. But it’s there just in case.

However, there *is* another pile of interest lurking. Coming up in April, Simon and I will be hosting the #1920club, the next in our themed weeks of reading from a particular year. I’ve been thinking ahead about which books I’d like to spend time with, and there really are some wonderful titles from 1920. I always try to read from the stacks and a quick dig revealed I had these books on the shelves:

All of them are beautiful titles, and most of them would be re-reads – which is not really what I want to do with the reading clubs. I have another new title lurking digitally which I am definitely going to overcome my aversion to e-reading and get to; but with the re-reads I shall have to be picky so that I can perhaps focus on unread books. Though it *would* be nice just to spend the week re-reading Agatha, Virginia and Colette…

And of course, just after I had finished writing this post, a lovely collection of review books popped through the door looking like this:

There are some wonderfully exciting titles there, including a new Crime Classic from the British Library; two editions from their new imprint focusing on Women Writers (which is being curated by Simon – well done, that man!); and a fascinating book on Artemisia Gentileschi with an introduction by Susan Sontag – how timely!

So there we go. The state of the books at the moment. I have just finished reading Lennie Goodings’ wonderful book about her life in the book trade and with Virago which I will eventually get to reviewing (I’m very behind…) – I highly recommend it. And I confess to being unsure as to what I’ll pick up next, although it may have to be escapism in the form of Golden Age crime. As usual, watch this space! πŸ˜€

“Nothing but cliches, cliches everywhere….” @seagullbooks

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Party Fun with Kant by Nicolas Mahler
Translated by James Reidel

I don’t as a rule read much in the way of graphic novels; in fact you could probably count them on one hand… (Having said that, one of the most memorable things I’ve ever read is “Maus” which was decades ago and still haunts me). However, when Lizzy very kindly sent me “Party Fun with Kant” recently, I couldn’t resist!

The book is a collection of cartoons by German artist and author Nicolas Mahler; and as you might guess from the title, the focus is on philosophers and their quirks and beliefs. So the book collects together four or five page sections with wonderful titles like “Plato’s Testimony” or “Society Reporter Jean-Jacques Rousseau” or indeed the titular “Party Fun with Kant”. In a few short panels, Mahler aims to pin down the worldview of each philospher as well as making you laugh – and he certainly does the latter!

Each philosopher has their own title page

To a certain extent, of course, your response to the cartoons will depend on how much you know about each philosopher and their theories; and to be honest, I have limited knowledge of some of them. So, for example, “Barthes the Bear” (yes, it’s That Man again!!) means a little more to me than “Epicurus’ Sex Education”. However, somehow that didn’t seem to matter, and I did find the book very entertaining!

Crabby Schopenhauer

Particular standouts were the Rousseau mentioned above; “A Dream Wedding with Simone de Beauvoir”, where her feminist theories destroy any ardour left in the couple; “Schopenhauer’s Driving School”, wherein the philosopher does indeed appear to be as grumpy as I’ve previously experienced; and “Camp Friedrich Nietzsche”, where someone has been mad enough to put old Fred in charge of a group of boy scouts! Interestingly, E.M. Cioran is a name I only came across recently, when reading “Essayism” for #fitzcarraldofortnight; but his cartoon entry is a hoot with his aphorisms appearing in fortune cookies!

Nietzsche out in the woods – no doubt a recipe for disaster!

I love Mahler’s drawing style (kind of a bit Tom Gauld, whom I also enjoy); and the text is ably translated by James Reidel. The book comes with a list of sources for the texts used in the cartoons, which leaves plenty of scope for future exploration too!

So although I’m not necessarily well versed in all the philosophers featured, I did have a great time with this book (only my second ever Seagull title, I think!) And inevitably, I’m afraid, it couldn’t help but send me off to YouTube to search out a couple of clips to share! The first is the wonderful Monty Python folks at the Hollywood Bowl doing the “Philosopher’s Song” – just hilarious!! (WARNING – there’s a bit of bad language lurking!)

What is possibly not so well know is that the often controversial author Christopher Hitchens (whose work I hope to get to soon…) was a huge Python fan, and there is a little clip of him very sweetly doing his own version of the song online too – which I share here for your amusement…

Who knew philosophy could be such a laugh? πŸ˜€

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