[Not the] Sunday Salon

When is a Sunday Salon post not a Sunday Salon post? When it’s on a Tuesday, that’s when.

You know I had to check what day it is, right?

So here we are already in another week and I thought I’d round up what’s been going on since I last wrote here, not in the whole world because, let’s face it, there isn’t enough space in my wee blog to even begin to tackle what’s going on everywhere else. I’m just going to tackle my little bit of it.

image via Canva

This is not a summery illustration but it has been very oppressive and we have had quite a few thunderstorms around here over the past few days so this feels about right!

I haven’t finished any books in the past week, but I am still reading (almost) every day.

I’m happily making progress on my reading challenges, and so far:

  • PBB Book Club – I’m 64% of the way through Middlegame
  • 20 Books of Summer – I’m 15% through Gideon the Ninth

They are both really excellent and I would recommend.

New books this week (excluding any pre-orders which I mentioned in my May 31st post) – all links are to Goodreads:

  • Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri – I meant to buy this when it first came out as I have always enjoyed watching Emma on Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, but somehow forgot. But I have it now.
  • Where Are the Women by Sara Sheridan – a guide to an imagined Scotland, where women are commemorated in public spaces. Couldn’t resist.
  • Judas the Hero by Martin Davey – a recommendation by the Book God, which doesn’t happen often and is to be respected when it does, this is all about Judas Iscariot “cursed with immortality by a vengeful and angry God, [he] finds himself in present day London and head of the secret occult crime division known as the Black Museum at Scotland Yard.”
  • The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem – we watched Motherless Brooklyn this weekend and when I realised that it was based on a novel I went looking for the author, and this caught my eye, especially as one of the main characters has his pet opossum in his desk drawer
  • Devolution by Max Brooks – I adored World War Z so wasn’t going to miss this, an oral history of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. Bigfoot is real, people!

Hopefully I’ll have some finished reads to report on next time. Take care and stay safe.

Sunday Salon | 7 June

I wasn’t sure whether I was going to post today given everything that’s going on in the world and that I’m a Scottish white woman pushing 60, but keeping quiet is how the status quo is maintained even if what you say sounds trite.

We Are the Flowers of One Garden (c) Shayda Campbell

Black lives matter and anyone who has a problem with that needs to stop and take a look at themselves. Access to equal treatment for other doesn’t mean that you somehow lose out, and for too long people of colour have been disproportionately suffering at the hands of authority and a system that was stacked against them from the outset.

I developed a love of history when I was at school and went on to get my degree in that subject (early modern history in particular which explains my obsession with the sixteenth century) but as I got older it became abundantly clear that the history we are taught doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality experienced by many, many people. The racism inherent in the British colonial/imperial rule is rarely addressed in those terms. We talked about our role in ending the slave trade without acknowledging our heavy involvement in starting it. As a Scot, I learned about the wealth brought to our cities, especially Glasgow, by those trading tobacco and cotton but with only oblique references to the slaves and that even after abolition Glasgow shipyards were still building the ships that would end up carrying slaves. In the UK we have huge swathes of people who don’t realise that there have been people of colour in our country for centuries.

And we don’t talk about issues surrounding police behaviour. It isn’t a crime to be black. We don’t have the same tendency to militarise our police force here in the UK (though some politicians would very much like to) but that doesn’t mean we are free from police brutality, deaths in custody and racial profiling.

This needs to stop. I want to continue learning about this issue, speaking out where I can while knowing that I may get it wrong sometimes. Better to make the occasional mistake in trying to be an ally than to stay silent. I also know that I need to read more widely than I do now; my TBR pile doesn’t have as many works by people of colour as it should, and I’m going to try to improve.

And don’t get me started on JK Rowling and her latest anti-trans stuff. Just don’t.

But let’s talk about books.

It’s been a good reading week. I finished two books – The Deep by Nick Cutter and Transcription by Kate Atkinson – and reviews will follow. Honest.

I made good progress on the two reading challenges/programmes in which I’m taking part, namely:

  • PBB Book Club – Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (I’m 30% in); and
  • Twenty Books of Summer – the two books I read this week were for that challenge, and I have just started the third, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.

My full currently reading list is on the sidebar.

Three new books arrived chez Bride this week:

  • Closure Limited (and other zombie tales) by Max Brooks of World War Z fame (I loved that book so much);
  • Putney by Sofka Zinovie; and
  • Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough, which was a pre-order that I thought wasn’t arriving until later in the summer but the Kindle edition was released and just appeared in my app the way ebooks just do.

And that’s it for this week. Please stay safe everyone.

#ReadingMuriel2018 : Update

IMG_1998As part of relaunching my blog I took some time to look at the various projects and challenges I’ve been involved in this year, and realised that not only had I not kept on top of writing up my thoughts on re-reading Muriel Spark, I had actually basically stopped taking part.

Thinking about it I realised that although I’ve been reading so much more this year (I’m now only one book away from my 2018 target) I’ve been feeling increasingly overwhelmed where I’m reading to a plan. This has been partly my own fault – instead of selecting one or two books from each phase of the project, I tried to read them all. And now I don’t want to read any more of them, at least for the foreseeable future.

I also wanted to close things off properly, so here are my thoughts on Phase 3

The Driver’s Seat (1970)

My edition is from 1974 (with Elizabeth Taylor on the cover); I first read this in 1981 and this is my third time of reading.

This is undoubtedly one of the strangest books I have read, focussing as it does on Lise, who (spoiler alert – not really, we find out what happens quite early on in the novel) heads off to an unnamed southern city to effect her own murder. It’s all presented matter-of-factly and we are given no idea as to why she is doing this, just that it seems to be what she wants, and all of her actions up to the point of her death are deliberate and designed to get her noticed. I found it more compelling on this third go round, and would love to see how they filmed it.

Not to Disturb (1971)

My copy is the 1981 Granada edition with a beautiful Atkinson Grimshaw cover. I bought this to complete my collection, given that I had first read this in a library copy back in (I think) 1978. This makes it the fourth time I’ve read the book, and you can tell by the fact I’ve included a quote above that it’s one of my favourites.

I think this is sort of a companion piece to The Driver’s Seat, inasmuch as it once again focuses on the steps leading up to a violent act, but this time from the perspective of onlookers. The staff of a wealthy family are busily preparing themselves for an event they know is coming but hasn’t happened yet, and they expect to do very well out of it having arranged interviews and film deals and new positions once the crime is discovered. How they knew this was all going to happen is of course a mystery – even if you could predict how events are likely to unfold, how would you know exactly when it was going to happen? once of her creepiest books, but in a good way.

The Hothouse by the East River (1973)

Again, read this for the first time in 1981, I have the 1977 edition and this was the third read.

I’ve always been slightly ambivalent about Hothouse, largely because I haven’t ever settled in my own mind what was actually going on. Still not sure, though i enjoyed reading it again.

The Abbess of Crewe (1974)

This is the fifth time I’ve read this book, and I read it first in the late seventies (before I started keeping records of my reading – yes I have a spreadsheet, no I’m not at all ashamed).

The Abbess is up there with Miss Brodie as a wonderful creation, mistress of her own fate. The novel is of course Watergate in a convent and it’s great fun (if you’re mildly obsessed with Watergate as I confess I am) trying to spot which nun/priest is based on which Nixon associate. It’s very funny and extremely sharp and again made into a film – I think with Glenda Jackson? One of the novels I keep coming back to because I enjoy it so much.

The Takeover (1976)

My copy is from 1978, this is the second time I read it.

It’s not one of my favourites though of course it’s beautifully written, I just didn’t really like any of the characters but didn’t dislike them enough to want to watch everything fall apart. If  I’m honest I’m not likely to return to this again.

Not only did I not finish the last book in Phase 3 (Territorial Rights, if you are interested), I didn’t even start it…….

So this was fun while it lasted but I don’t feel sad about putting the remaining books aside for now; it feels the right thing to do.

Still love her though 🙂