Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Problems I have

toptentuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and while I don’t participate every week (as the last couple of weeks I have been doing other memes) this week’s topic was too good to refuse.

So here we go, my Top Ten Bookish Problems! Let me know in the comments if you relate to any of these or have any bookish problems of your own you’d like to share!

  1. My to-be-read pile is so high it’s beginning to interfere with flight paths of local aircraft. But seriously, it is pretty astronomical and shouldn’t be judged by my Goodreads account which I have never managed to update fully. What I do know is back in Australia in boxes are at least 200 unread books. Here in Sweden I have maybe a dozen unread books. And my wishlist on The Book Depository I believe is around 270 books. So…my TBR pile is actually 500 books? Oops.
  2. I buy books faster than I can read them, as my first point there illuminated. I don’t know what it is about buying books. Maybe it’s the desire to have a choice when I choose my next book – I do have a bad habit of reading several books simultaneously.
  3. I do have a bad habit of reading several books simultaneously and also I swear I won’t connect all my problems like this. But this can be an issue. Because what happens is I find myself “reading” five books at once, but only actually reading two of them. After a few months some of the others have been left for so long I forget what has happened and have to restart them or shelve them for later. This definitely isn’t good for my reading habits and goals, so I need to try and dedicate myself to ACTUALLY FINISHING MY BOOKS more.
  4. Chocolate and books are a match made in heaven until you drop a few chocolate crumbs on a page and then in a desperate but futile effort to remove said crumbs from the page you accidentally smush them into the paper, permanently leaving a stain that says “I’m such an idiot that I spilled chocolate on my book”. Having said that, it’s probably better than coffee, or in one quite weird instance blood (it was an unnoticed paper cut, okay?)!
  5. Books that have lots of really short chapters can be a total pain because when you really want to go to sleep the “just one more chapter” syndrome kicks in…over and over again. And then all of a sudden you have to wake up in three hours and you’re faced with that crucial decision: do I just shrug and do an all-nighter, or do I pretend to be an adult and sleep even though I know I’ll feel like rubbish anyway? Younger me would have certainly voted the former of these two options, but these days those lines around my face are suggestive of a man who would choose the latter.
  6. Books that have really long chapters can also be a nuisance, because I hate finishing mid-chapter. I’ll give you an example. I read Norwegian Wood by Murakami a couple of years ago (and utterly adored it). This novel has 11 chapters, most of which are between 20 and 40 pages. Except the middle chapter, which if I remember has a little over 100 pages. Was this length necessary? Actually, yes – it was the most poignant section of the entire book and the part I remember the most as it added a lot of beauty to a story that was otherwise quite devastating. But sometimes I’m dumb and I start a chapter without looking how long it is, and then I’m faced with that same decision from problem number 5…
  7. Where can I possibly fit all these books? At the moment, three bookcases (some 20 boxes) of my books sit in Australia, half the world away, inside a storage unit until the day I can ship them over to Europe. Back in Australia, I rented a nice big 2 bedroom town house with an enormous lounge. Now I rent a tiny one room studio apartment, meaning the bed takes up half of the living room. We barely have room for one bookcase and already we have piles of books sitting everywhere. There is a certain charm to it, for sure, but I fear that home will suddenly appear to be a bookshop, one of those old but charming second hand ones with piles of books everywhere. Or maybe the one from Black Books, although in that case I need to start drinking heavier…
  8. Just as I think I might like to try e-books I suspect my eyesight is going on me. Yes, at the ripe old age of nearly 29 I suddenly find I can’t look at a bright screen for more than a couple of hours without my eyes and head hurting immensely (how did I ever play video games for days on end when I was younger?). Of course, there is a good chance a pair of glasses will fix this, and considering my entire direct family wears glasses this fate was perhaps a little inevitable. Unfortunately, I’m also stubborn about silly things and this may be one of them.
  9. I really don’t read enough. I know a lot of people say this but I really don’t. It’s been quite a few years since I read over 50 books in a year and averaged a book a week. What kind of aspiring writer and English teacher am I? I mean, I know I’m busy and have been for a few years with the whole international relationship that turned into me moving across the world and all that jazz, but still! I see you bloggers out there, those of you that read over 100 books last year, or in some cases over 200! You’re amazing, and I’m sure not aiming that high, but I would like to do a little bit better. We’ll see what this year brings. It’s early days still.
  10. I am never going to read all the books I want to read. It’s a stark realisation, but it’s probably true. Even if I could hit 50 books a week, it would take me 10 years to finish off my TBR list. And considering that TBR list has been conjured up entirely in the last 3 years, logically this means that in 10 years time, another 1500 books will be added to it. Fast forward the next 30 years, and if I haven’t died from a caffeine overdose the TBR list will likely be in the realm of 5 digits and I will be a heaving weepy sack of word-hungry disappointment…or maybe I’ll find a way to freeze time and yes that is what I’ll do actually so don’t worry I only have 9 bookish problems it turns out. Excellent.

What are YOUR bookish problems?

Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey

Ayoade on AyoadeRichard Ayoade is a British writer, director, actor and comedian. He directed and co-wrote Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, as well as playing Dean Learner in that series, he was infamous as Maurice Moss in The IT Crowd (which was an award winning role for him), and he has also directed the films Submarine and The Double (the 2013 movie, not the 2011 one of the same name). At the end of last year, he published his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey. This honestly has to be one of the funniest books I have ever read, even if it is totally ridiculous.

Essentially Ayoade is poking fun at all those “Director on Director” type memoirs that exist, attacking the pomposity of it all by splitting himself into two persona – the pretentious director and the humble in-awe interviewer. The book contains ten interviews (kind of), as well as a section on his thoughts on writing and acting. But the real gems often are found in the 100 page long appendix, and, if you read in the way Ayoade intends by referring to the appendix when his footnotes tell you to do so, you’ll have read the entire appendix when you’re only halfway through the interviews. Though it sounds annoying, it is actually quite entertaining and fun to be flipping back and forth through the book and many of the footnotes contain the funniest moments. Just consider these two footnotes on his title page alone (a quick warning that there is a bit of swearing, if you’re easily offended):

Ayoade on Ayoade footnotes

Much of the humour is very niche – it probably helps to have some interest in films overall. But I don’t think you need to know everything about film to find the jokes funny, either, particular in the appendix that is filled with lots of short 2 and 3 page pieces, from fake emails and letters to draft scripts, essays and various manifestos regarding film. The topics range from the recent Disney purchase of Lucasfilm, making fun of reclusive director Terrence Malick, crowdsourcing and of course the press, among many others. My favourite section from the appendix though, without a doubt, is the new manifesto for film which he creates, which is focused around these 10 points:

A New Manifesto For Film

The interviews themselves are also brilliant and seem to serve as a sort of narrative thread which connects the book in a way the page order does not. The director persona is not only on an intense ego-trip but is also very surreal in thought. In the very first interview he explains how he spent his time in the womb contemplating how he wanted to escape and start making films. When later asked about his childhood, he says he didn’t have a childhood and then adds that he doesn’t believe in childhood. As the interviews continue, he becomes increasingly subversive as he deflects most of the questions to pursue his own agenda – something Ayoade has gained media attention for doing in real life recently, to mixed reactions (though I must say I find him more entertaining than others in this risky interview style).

Although the interviews overall run the risk of stretching the same joke a bit thin, the constant breaking up of flow by references to the appendix helps to keep the general feel of the book fresh. I wouldn’t say it’s a book that you could read in a single sitting – I took a couple of months slowly digesting it to enjoy it more. Overall though, the book made me laugh out loud which is something very few books have managed to achieve. If you like film, you might enjoy this book. If you like Ayoade, you might enjoy this book. If you like both – this book is definitely for you!

I’ll finish off with another one of my favourite passages, from one of the earlier interviews in which Ayoade discusses forming himself. If any of you have read this book I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

Ayoade Informing Himself

Teaser Tuesdays – More Fool Me

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted at Should Be Reading. To get involved, all you need to do is take the book you’re currently reading, open it to a random page and share two sentences from that page. No spoilers, of course.

More Fool Me A MemoirThis week my sentences come from More Fool Me, the third memoir of Stephen Fry. Yes, the third. Those who don’t know who Fry is probably don’t live in Britain (or Australia, to be honest) as he is constantly on television as the host of QI, presenter of various documentaries, comedian in classic comedies Blackadder, A Bit of Fry & Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster as well as writer of several novels and other books. He also does movies from time to time, most recently playing the rather gross mayor in the second and third Hobbit movies.

Anyway, back to the book. His first memoir, Moab Is My Washpot, focused on his childhood years. His second, The Fry Chronicles, looked at his years in Cambridge and his entry in the 1980s into the world of comedy and entertainment. This memoir, then, focuses on the aftermath of that – a period of Fry’s life altogether darker and more dangerous than he had lived before. Without further ado, here are my sentences:

  1. “As well as writing the official club rules I also coined one evening in the late eighties the ‘Groucho Rule’, which states that any remark, apophthegm, epigram, aphorism or observation, be it never so wise, well intentioned, profound or true, is instantly rendered ridiculous and nonsensical by the addition of the phrase ‘he said last night in the Groucho Club.'”
  2. “Every time I saw somebody in a restaurant rising from their table and moving towards the gents or the ladies I assumed they were off for an energising sniff.”

There we have it! So what are your teasers for today, if you’re participating? What are your thoughts on this teaser?

Teaser Tuesdays – Portrait of an artist, as an old man

Teaser Tuesdays is a bookish meme hosted at Should Be Reading. Getting involved in this one is quite simple – all you need to do is take a book you’re currently reading, open to any page randomly, and share two sentences from the page (being careful not to reveal any major spoilers, so, you know, don’t go to the last page and “randomly” share the final twist).

Portrait of an artist as an old manI’ve decided to share my two sentences from a book called Portrait of an artist, as an old man. The book was the final novel written by Joseph Heller, most famous for his classic novel (and my favourite ever work of fiction) Catch-22. I have had mixed feelings about Heller’s other works, as have most people, and he seems to address that here as he writes a story of a frustrated old writer who has never repeated the success of their earlier work trying to find the right subject for their final novel. Through this fictionalised version of himself, Heller also pays tribute to his favourite writers but also to other writers who never lived up to the success of their earlier work either, such as Joseph Conrad and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Anyway, here are the sentences:

They also parted friends, although his heart was filled with a galling sense of injury and of enmity toward her also.
Who the hell did they always think they were?

What book/s are you reading at the moment? I’d love to hear from you as always!

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Long-time readers of my blog will know that I have been an enormous fan of Patrick Rothfuss since his first book, The Name of The Wind, was published back in 2007. The first part of an epic fantasy trilogy, I was breath-taken by his beautiful and poetic way with words and the way he combined so many disciplines of thought in his writing to create a story which was genuinely unique – a rare feat in this day and age. The second book, the even more epic thousand pager The Wise Man’s Fear was at least as good as his first novel, achieved huge critical and commercial success and has for years left many of us patiently waiting for the final part of this story.

The Slow Regard of Silent ThingsIn the meantime, he has released a novella called The Slow Regard of Silent Things, based entirely around the character of Auri. Auri is an unusual and mysterious girl who lives deep below the University in the Underthing, a huge maze of ancient tunnels and rooms unknown to most. We met Auri in the main trilogy, but very little light was shed on her there and she remained an enigma. In this book, Rothfuss reveals the sort of person Auri is and the way she thinks by following her around over the course of a week as she prepares for a particular occasion about which she is very excited.

The funny thing is, that’s about as complex as it gets. The book generally lacks plot, and Rothfuss himself confessed his insecurities when he wrote the story in the author’s endnote, saying “It doesn’t do the things a story is supposed to do…a story should have dialogue, action, conflict. A story should have more than one character.” But it doesn’t, and for me that’s just fine. This story actually is 150 pages of pure character development, but the detail is so carefully revealed, the scenes so perfectly painted, the writing so playfully crafted, that reading it is not a challenge but frankly an almost hypnotic pleasure.

Auri herself is utterly charming. Her view of the world, and her duty within it, seems so pure and untainted from the world itself. Despite living virtually alone, each day has its purpose – the first day is a “finding day”, where she searches out and finds items that become useful throughout the story. The second day is a “doing day” – no surprises what this entails – while later days focus on thinking, fixing, and so on. She constantly obsesses over making sure everything is in its right place and everything is doing what it is supposed to be doing:

“The fireplace was empty. And above that was the mantelpiece: her yellow leaf, her box of stone, her grey glass jar with sweet dried lavender inside. Nothing was nothing else. Nothing was anything it shouldn’t be.”

She often personifies the world around her, describing pipes as rude, over-eager and embarrassing in one moment, while she later describes the huge brass gear that plays an important role in the story as “full of true answers and love and hearthlight…beautiful.” She names everything that she discovers, and sees an importance in having names – “It was one thing to be private. But to have no name at all? How horrible. How lonely.” When she wants something that she feels taking would upset the balance of her world, she chastises herself, “She was a greedy thing sometimes. Wanting for herself. Twisting the world all out of proper shape. Pushing everything about with the weight of her desire.” And there is the constant repetition of one of her key principles: “She knew better than anyone, it was worth doing things the proper way.”

All this behaviour can seem eccentric at best, or pure madness from another perspective. But there’s something about it that intrigues you as a reader, pulls you into her world and makes you want to know her more. She is a caring, loving being who just wants to keep her world the way it is supposed to be and who feels absolutely no sense of entitlement to anything whatsoever. She also retains the childlike curiosity that so many of us lose and long for the rest of our lives – there’s something about this setting that seems bizarrely appealing in its own way. Most particularly, she is clearly a broken girl. She can fix herself quite easily and copes overall, but there is a darkness in her life that she doesn’t fully explain or show but into which we do gain a small glimpse. The most devastating chapter in the entire book is the chapter titled Hollow, which consists of just six words: “On the third day, Auri wept.” Why did she weep? We don’t really find out, but it does affect her next day substantially (or possibly we do find out and I missed it…I feel there is a lot to be gained from reading this book a second time). But it is this constant trickling of information without a need to explain itself that pulls us along so willingly. Not knowing all the answers, knowing there are secrets still untold – this is part of the magic.

One other aspect of this novella I cannot ignore is the beautiful illustrations by Nate Taylor. The drawings themselves are dark and intriguing, painting the perfect picture of many of the key scenes and moments throughout the story. They add another dimension to Auri’s world, showing us how Rothfuss himself sees aspects of it. More than anything, the drawings of Auri herself depict this wispy, fairy-like girl who looks like she only exists from her sheer exertion and energy alone, as if she is defying the world through her very being in some odd way. There is a melancholy atmosphere throughout the book that is only intensified through these drawings and which make them vital to the story.

This bittersweet tale of one of the most memorable characters in recent fantasy fiction is not for everybody, and Rothfuss himself was the first to admit that. If you haven’t read his other books, start there first as they provide a bit of a context to this book. Even if you loved them, you still might not like this book because it is so different to anything he has written. In his own words, this book is “for all the slightly broken people out there.” If my review interests you, you might like the book, but if it sounds totally whacky and weird it might not be for you. And that’s okay too. For me personally, I adored this book – an instant favourite!

If you have read this book (or anything by Rothfuss) I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts?

What am I reading at the moment?

I felt like writing another book related post, but as yet I am two weeks behind schedule already and haven’t finished any books at all. I am, however, halfway through two books, so I thought I’d write very briefly about those (full reviews will come later).

Ayoade on AyoadeThe book I am closer to being finished with is Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey. Richard Ayoade is probably most well known for his work on British comedies such as The IT Crowd, Darkplace and The Mighty Boosh, but as well as being an actor and comedian on these and various panel shows he has also directed two critically acclaimed films, Submarine (2010) and The Double (2013), and now he can add author to his growing list of job titles.

At first it can be easy to fear he has gone and written a memoir too soon in his career, but upon further inspection it becomes very clear very quickly that this is a spoof of all those director on director autobiographical books out there. About a third of the book is author-him interviewing a fake director-him, with his director persona being very exaggerated in his arrogance, surrealism and eccentricity. But within these interviews is footnotes that often link to the enormous appendix that takes up another third of the book – filled up with various essays, scripts, conversations and other silly writings. All of it is quite obscure and it does feel like there is a lot of in-jokes, but if you like Ayoade’s humour and if you’re a fan of film in general you might find it very funny. For me personally, I have not laughed this hard at a book for a long time.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe other book I have been reading is The Unexpected Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. I’m only about a third of the way through it, but I already love Harold even if I do feel sorry for him. Living in the south of England, he seems to be caught in a loveless marriage, with an estranged son, when he gets a letter informing him that an old acquaintance of his is dying in a hospital up north. Struggling with emotions as he always has, he writes a quick reply and goes to mail it. But as it’s a nice day, he keeps going to post it in the next box, and so on, until unexpectedly he decides to just keep walking all the way up England to visit this person. You’d think a book about walking would be dull, but much as we tend to think a lot and reminisce on life while walking (well, I do anyway) so does Harold. It is these ponderings which make the book so special, that bring the characters to life and keep the story surprisingly interesting.

I’m really enjoying both books at the moment, but for wildly different reasons. Joyce’s book is great to read for long periods, ploughing through a few chapters at a time, whereas I feel that Ayoade’s sharp and surreal humour is best enjoyed in short bursts (as continuity is not so important with that book either). I have a bunch of books borrowed out from the library as well so I may begin reading these soon too, so don’t be surprised if these two books are not the first two book reviews I post up, but they will come.

What are you reading right now? 

Would you or have you read either of these two books? What are your thoughts on them?

The Reader Who Forgot To Read

The title of this post, my first for the year (how did it get to the 13th already? Who let this happen? Was it YOU?), reflects the way I feel about myself over the last 12 months. I have considered myself a reader for most of my life, and while I have always been slightly too ambitious setting goals that I almost never quite make, last year is a bit of an exception. I lowered the goal (due to the whole moving abroad thing) to just 30 books – an easy goal, something I should have had no problems with achieving – and then instead of not quite making it I sort of just exploded upon lift off. I don’t even know what my total read books were for the year, but I’m guessing between 15 and 20 – I did not update my Goodreads account regularly enough to know this figure.

So you’ll notice this year if you look at my sidebar (or visit my GR account) that I have set my goal for 52. It is time to make amends for my severe lack of reading, because….because…well, because I miss it. I feel empty without it, and there are so many books I want to read and so many books constantly being released that I want to read as well as that list of old books that just keeps growing and there’s all my books in Australia I’m going to ship over soon and there’s lots of good books at the library I want to borrow and read and and and I might die soon or something (probably not, but you get my point).

Last year turned out quite different to what I expected (and I’ll explain about that in a later post), and while I had a great year it was also a mentally tiring year as I turned myself into a bit of a sponge, soaking up the culture, history and on occasion the language of this huge country of Sweden I now call home. This in itself gave me plenty of fuel for writing, and so although my writing was erratic I did churn out some 100 blog posts, about 25 short stories, two thirds of a really, really bad novel (which, on reflection, had some really good ideas I need to play with in a different context), and maybe 35 – 40 poems. But now I feel I need to get back to taking some inspiration from the written word again, getting my head into a big variety of different stories and writing styles while I determine where to take my own writing next and how to start pushing it up to the quality I want. After all, I did promise myself I’d publish one of my stories before I turned 30, which is sort of kind of in about 16 months.

So, onwards I march to a year of reading a book a week. I’m already a week behind, which sounds about right, although I am also halfway through two books. The upside of all this is that if I stay on track I’ll actually be able to write weekly book reviews again, something I suspect I haven’t managed to do successfully since my blog began back in 2012. As well as this I have a whole bunch of other blogging goals and projects to work on, and yes I will be adding more recipes to the food blog soon (also, I should properly introduce that blog).

What are your reading goals for the year? For those of you who are bloggers as well, what are your blogging plans?