The Bookish Time Travel Tag!


As I rule, I don’t often get tagged for memes and the like, but englishlitgeek mentioned me in connection with a rather nice bookish time travel tag and I really couldn’t resist. The tag is created by The Library Lizard and you can see their site here. Apparently all you have to do is answer the questions as best you can and suggest some other bloggers who might be interested in taking part – with no pressure and no obligation of course! So here goes with the questions!

1. What is your favourite historical setting for a book?


The most obvious setting that springs to mind for me is Russia – a country I have a great fondness for in the form of its culture, literature and art. Reading books set in either Tsarist or Soviet or modern Russia is one of my favourite things, and you can guarantee that I won’t go for long without reading a Russian! I still don’t quite know where the fascination comes from – maybe I have distant relations there…. J

2. What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Virginia Woolf

Well, how long is a piece of string? Some of my favourites will be obvious to readers of the Ramblings, and spending time with Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Mikhail Bulgakov, Mervyn Peake, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Colette and Georges Perec, to name but a few, would be such a wonderful experience. I’m the kind of reader who, when they really like an author’s books, feels they have a kind of personal relationship with that author so actually meeting them in real life would be kind of wonderful!

3.What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?


That’s a hard one, but I would probably pick out Georges Perec’s “Life: A User’s Manual”. I read this fairly recently and it engendered a huge obsession with Perec’s work. It’s a book I wish I’d discovered earlier in my life so I would definitely like to send it back to myself!

4.What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

I don’t think there are *any* books I would rather have read now than when I was younger; and I certainly revisit the ones which had the most impact on me at the time. That’s the joy of reading – you can go back to your favourites…

5.What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book?


Another tricky one… I’m very fond of M. John Harrison’s “Viriconium”; I read his novels and stories of the place back in the day and I’m intending a re-visit when I have the right reading moment. The sprawling, undefined and ever-changing city is endlessly fascinating and vividly created, and I can’t recommend these books strongly enough. Ballard’s futuristic settings are of course wonderful and I do need to get back to reading his short stories again.

6.What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period (can be historical or futuristic)?


I’m not going to be able to pick just one – impossible to pick favourites! – but I would like to mention Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books. As I’ve said before, I read these back in the late 1970s and was transfixed. The setting is nebulous, but obviously somewhere else and sometime else, the writing is glorious, the characters fantastic and larger than life, and it’s a series of books like no other. In fact, I suspect that a re-read might be due some time soon….

7.Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

Very rarely… I’d rather read the book through and watch what happens, because even if you read the end of a book, you don’t necessarily find out the complete solution. Fortunately, I’m a fairly fast reader so even if the book is very suspenseful and I’m desperate to get to the end, I can usually hold out until the last pages!

8.If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

break of day

Ooooh, so many temptations! I’d be very keen to visit the Cote D’Azur before it became what it is today – Colette’s “Break of Day’, possibly my favourite of her books, features the south of France before it became the commercialised millionaires’ playground it is today, and I would absolutely love to see that. Popping into post-revolutionary Russia to visit Mayakovsky and Bulgakov is tempting – as is visiting every single author I’ve ever liked, actually! I’ve always fancied early 20th century Britain, and in fact living through the 20th century from the very start must have been a fascinating experience. Choices, choices!

9.Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

half a life

Again, I don’t like to pick favourites; but I read Connie Willis’ “To say nothing of the Dog” pre-blog and liked it very much. Another work I like that straddles time periods is the short story “May I Please Speak to Nina” by Kirill Bulychev which I reviewed here and absolutely loved.

10. What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?


Well, the Gormenghast books and The Lord of the Rings are obvious choices – both are series I’ve read many times over the years and both have had a big effect on me. And I would like to encounter Italo Calvino’s “If on a winter night a traveler” for the first time again – it was one of those life-changing reads and I still love it to bits.

Phew! An interesting tag, which really made me think about some of the books I’ve read! As for other bloggers who might like to take the tag up, I’ll mention a few below who could well be interested – though as I said, no pressure and I don’t like to drop people into things they don’t want to do. But thanks to englishlitgeek for mentioning this tag to me – it’s been fun! 🙂

Annabel’s House of Books

Adventures in Reading, Writing and Working from Home

Beyond Eden Rock


JacquiWine’s Journal

… in which I exercise restraint in London bookshops….


Not a phrase that anyone who reads these ramblings would ever expect to hear, but I am proud to say I did just that thing!!

To clarify a little, I had a day out on Saturday, popping up to London to meet an old friend, H, who I’ve not seen for about 20 years. She was one of my posse of fellow spirits when we hung out a lot in the 1980s, together with J (who I met up with a little over a year ago) and G, who I’ve not heard from for some time. The four of us would hit theatres, art exhibitions, second-hand book stores, record shops – you name it, we were hungry for culture. Although we’ve drifted apart in our lives, with careers, families etc taking over a bit, we stayed in touch, and H passed through when Middle Child was young, on her way to live and work in Prague for a while (H, that is, not baby Middle Child!). H is an artist and so as she was involved in a Tate Britain exhibit, this seemed like a good time to meet up again!

The weather forecasts were a little alarming, but we’ve been fairly lucky in the east, and the trains were running ok on Saturday. Meeting up with H again at the Tate was lovely, and her mother B (who I knew from old times) and her sister R were also along. H gave us a lovely tour of the exhibit and we felt very privileged on having the artist give us a tour! There was also a *lot* of talking and catching up on old times – it was so lovely to find that we clicked straight back into the old times and were still on the same wavelength! It’s hard with all the hassles of daily life to keep in touch with old friends, especially when you’re geographically distant, but both J and H were at my wedding and I want to keep that contact going!

Anyway, after a delicious lunch stop in a nearby Greek cafe, H and R went off to visit more family and I had a little chance to pop into a couple of bookshops. With so many recent arrivals I really felt I must be selective and I actually walked out of Any Amount of Books and Henry Pordes having made *no* purchases (despite there being several Viragos on offer)!! However, I did cave in at the Bloomsbury Oxfam and picked up this:

The condition is lovely and the price (£3.50) excellent. I’ve loved every von Arnim I’ve read, and heard good things about this one too, so was obviously pleased.

Then I headed to Foyles, one of my favourite places nowadays, and a gallant survivor of the horrors going on in Charing Cross Road – the diminishing number of book shops, the knocking down of old buildings, the loss of the little bits of history that still peek through in London. As an aside, I’m pleased to read that the mosaics at Tottenham Court Road tube station will be retained – I was horrified at the thought they might be removed. Anyway, to Foyles…

As a rule I don’t buy many new books, but I could browse here for hours and hours (and I *did* spend quite a long time in there). In the end I treated myself to a couple of slim volumes:

I’m still being haunted by Perec’s “Life: A User’s Manual” and his “W” is very highly recommended so it came home with me; as did another Neversink volume, “Definitely Maybe” by the Strugatsky brothers. I had heard of the latter writers via their story “Roadside Picnic”, the basis for Tarkovsky’s movie “Stalker”. I loved “Stalker” and the premises of “Definitely Maybe” sounds intriguing so I thought I’d take a risk.That’s the joy of browsing a real bookshop like Foyles – the random finds, the staff recommendations, the unexpected juxtapositions on the displays.

So I think I *was* very restrained in London – I had a lovely day with old friends, some great browsing and brought home a few treats – what could be better? 🙂

(and I only got rained on once!)

from “Life: A User’s Manual” by Georges Perec

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“…and at the very bottom, a world of caverns whose walls are black with soot, a world of cesspools and sloughs, a world of grubs and beasts, of eyeless beings who drag animal carcasses behind them, of demoniacal monsters with bodies of birds, swine and fish, of dried-out corpses and yellow-skinned skeletons arrayed in attitudes of the living, of forges manned by dazed Cyclopses in black leather aprons, their single eyes shielded by metal-rimmed blue glass, hammering their brazen masses into dazzling shields”

(For no other reason than to show the intoxicating power of Perec’s writing – thanks to Bruce F for the suggestion)

Synchronicity, Serendipity – and *why* can’t I stop buying books!!


Despite all my wonderful resolutions to read from my stacks and not buy any more books for a while, things are not going to plan – well, they never do with me and books and reading, do they? I have had a couple of volumes arrive via ReadItSwapIt this week, but things complicated a little today when I popped into the Big Town. I hadn’t been round the charity shops much recently owing to Christmas, family illnesses and visiting offspring. However, I was resolved not to do a big sweep, and even popped into the library to return some volumes – and happened to catch sight of a copy of Stella Gibbons’ “Nightingale Wood” for sale – a Virago volume I don’t have and for 40p found impossible to resist….

Nestling next to it in this unpleasantly fuzzy picture (I really must get my camera sorted out!) is a very nice old Penguin of Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” – I’ve seen the film many times but never read the book and since I love classic sci-fi so much, I thought it was a must.

The Verne came from the Oxfam book shop, which has unfortunately had a bit of a re-stock in its Modern Classics and Classics section – so I had to exert quite a lot of will-power not to come out with a bag full of books. However, I *did* make an exception for “A Pound of Paper” – written by John Baxter, whose “The Most Beautiful Walk in the World” I just read and reviewed, and subtitled “Confessions of a Book Addict”. Maybe it will have some advice to help me deal with *my* addiction?

Today’s last acquisition “All Saints Eve” is a collection of stories billed as the precursor to Agatha Christie – and I confess to never having heard of or read Amelia B. Edwards, but for £1.75 I’m prepared to take a punt. This last book came from the lovely Samaritans book cave, where I dropped in for a browse and chat with the friendly staff.

Unfortunately, all this has messed with the plans for reading and the little shelf of books I notionally had put aside for current reading. I’ve already gone off at a bit of a tangent, as there are a couple of books I just read awaiting review which weren’t planned for, and I’m now 100 pages into this:

I picked up “Life: A User’s Manual” last year at the Oxfam and decided I needed something unusual and substantial recently – so far it fits the bill admirably!

So, now the current pile of possibles looks like this:

Top is the Perec I’m currently reading. Then we have today’s acquisitions, followed by MacLaren-Ross’s “Of Love and Hunger”, “The Leopard”, Compton Mackenzie’s “Sinister Street”, Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” (I’m thinking of a readalong with jackiemania), “Manon Lescaut” (RISI) and Chekhov’s “The Russian Master” (RISI). Phew!

I really must try to concentrate on one book at a time… :s

Time for a Chunkster – but which one…..?


I have decided, having read some fairly slim volumes recently, that it is definitely time for a chunkster again. The main problem I’m having at the moment is deciding which one to commit to, as it will be for some time….!

The two contenders are these lovelies:

chunkster 1

Both of these have been on the tbr for quite a long time, and I’m torn between them. “Anna Karenina” would probably be the easier read of the two, and has many fans out there; but conversely “The Brothers Karamazov” has rave reviews, with people claiming that it’s the best book ever written etc etc. High praise for both of them – so which one to choose?

Then there is the dark horse outside:

chunkster 2

Picked up in a charity shop and I’ve wanted to read Perec for some time. *Sigh* – any advice or opinions gratefully received……. 🙂

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