Just reread Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

I made a very stupid mistake over Easter and rented Anna Karenina DVD. Beloved wasn’t particularly interested in watching it and I’d read the reviews when the film came out, by all accounts it was terrible. Still, there wasn’t much of interest at the Film Shop so Anna Karenina it was. Within minutes, as the clerks in Oblonsky’s office started pirouetting about, my jaw hit the floor. It stayed there for the duration. The thought of it, even now, makes me quite furious. What were all these people involved in making it thinking? No need to go into details of what made me so furious (everything) but I was particularly shocked by Tom Stoppard’s script. It’s been a long time since I read the book at an impressionable age back in school, it’s never been a personal favourite and I’d forgotten a lot of detail so as soon as the film finished, I downloaded the book on my kindle and have been reading it since.

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It was longer than I remembered and it took me a while to finish it – namely because I also decided to reread most of A Song of Ice and Fire books since Game of Thrones was back on telly… Anyway, finish it I did and it’s been a wonderfully rewarding experience. I remembered some of my original impressions of the characters and now I have a deeper understanding of them. What I don’t quite understand is how that film managed to be quite so misconceived when everything is right there on the page. Well, I’m glad that a bad film gave me the opportunity to read the book again. Perhaps I might even give War and Peace another go, first attempt was a major failure but I do have a soft spot for classic Russian novels. Am already thinking of where my Dostoyevskys are…

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Just re-read, Excession, Iain M. Banks

I planned a ten mile walk yesterday, worked out the route and transport to and from and then it rained, rained, rained. So instead, I spent the day on the sofa re-reading Excession by Iain M. Banks.

 Why Excession when there’s a new Culture novel out? Well, to be honest, I looked up the new novel on Amazon and the reviews and, some Banks fans posted that Excession was one of their favourites and I knew I’d read it before but could not remember what happened in it at all. So I read it again. Getting yourself lost in a Banks Culture novel is a very indulgent way of spending a Sunday, I love the worlds, the various creatures/ life forms and their ways of life but I think, above all, I love the imagination and the eccentric ship Minds. So, Excession was fun to read again.

Over the years, I’ve read most Culture novels, now I buy them pretty much as soon as they come out in hardback for the sheer joy in being immersed in these alien worlds. Can’t quite decide whether to get hardback or kindle version of the new one though and, it turns out that there is one other Culture novel I’ve never even read… Not quite sure how that happened and will have to be corrected. At the same time, my rather large ‘pile of shame’ (books it’s taken me ages and ages to read) is only being reduced at a very slow rate even though I’ve been reading loads over the past few months. This is what always happens, I show best intentions to get through all these books but am very easily distracted into making yet more lists of books I ‘need’. Guess I better make a deal with self – if I can read a Penelope Fitzgerald (have 2 waiting) and the Kate Summerscale divorce scandal one along with finishing Niall Ferguson and at least getting through some of of Michael Wood’s Conquistadores (both of these are ‘helpful uni reading’) then I can do an Amazon order at the end of the month and get lost in another Culture novel. Ambitious…

Just read, The Power of Ideas, Isaiah Berlin

This isn’t really my usual reading material but was on a recommended reading list for a course I was quite interested in last year on cultural history/ history of ideas. Bought it last summer alongside a Michel Foucault book that I never finished (a bit pretentious I thought) and it’s been in the loo library since. It was a pretty easy and quick read, a collection of essays that I rather enjoyed. More so as quite a few were dealing with Enlightenment, Romanticism, Marx, writing of history and so on, things I have some knowledge of and reference points that I could understand. Even though the majority of essays were written about 60 or so years ago and thinking has changed since, found it pretty useful for an amateur like me.

Good building site

Took some pictures of a building site near Old Street roundabout 3 weeks ago and was back in the area the other day. Haven’t really noticed any progress but the building-to-be still looks kinda menacing, very tall and out of character with what’s around it. Wander if it’s going to be the usual ‘offices and retail’ and then it’ll sit empty because nobody’s got any money to move offices and open retail.

Week 3.5 of orchid watch

The orchid watch continues. No flowers yet on either but they are coming. Must say, I am growing very excited with anticipation and there has definitely been ‘growth’ this week, see here the ‘Columbia Road’ orchid:

That’s excellent, had to move it around in order to photograph. Have another:

And, not forgetting the ‘baby IKEA’ orchid:

And another, showing the stem tiny bit better:

Chances are, these two are going to flower at the same time. Totally beyond exciting! I wander, what is the most difficult flower you can grow in a pot? If the ‘Columbia Road’ is about to flower after about 8 years, I’m ready to take anything else on! Somebody gimme an allotment and a hothouse now pls. Thanks.

Balancing it out

What possessed me? I don’t know.

I came across Michel Foucault in one of my course books, remembered I had The Order of Things which I still haven’t read so I thought I’d give it a go. I am not very far into it for reasons that shall become clear shortly and so far, it has been a lot of things at the same time: poetic with some absolutely beautiful sentences and phrases; inspirational as it makes me think outside familiar and comfort zone; educational, I guess this almost goes without saying; extremely frustrating as it starts off with a very detailed consideration of Las Meninas by Velasquez which the publishers did not see fit to include and just a little pretentious maybe – not sure if that’s the translator or the author. Here is what I mean by ‘pretension’:

– propinquity, exegesis, agglutinate, adumbrate, concatenation, sagittal, volute

or:

– proximity, explanation, glue, shade, link, arrow-like, spiral/ twist

I don’t mind looking up words I don’t know but some of these are quite unnecessary. There are lots more and on one hand, I am happy to look things up if I feel I am learning something or, if a word sounds particularly good – like ‘pernicious’ for example, but on the other, is it a requirement of being an intellectual to use words that a great number of people don’t know the meaning of?

So, I thought I’d balance reading of The Order of Things with this:

This is very bad – I have never read complete Brothers Grimm before!! It is quite good reading in bed and again, not very far into it yet. What can I say about it so far – it is not as light as you’d think and some of these are not really children’s stories, some are a bit ambiguous and the morals are not as clear as you’d expect. So far, I don’t think the stories have started entering my dreams but I hope they will. This book is a lot more intriguing and unexpected than I thought it would be.

So, what possessed me? I thought it would be a nice contrast between hard = Foucault and easy = Brothers Grimm but it is not so clear cut as that. I love it already (with hundreds of pages to go)!

Back to the ‘time portal’

Back in the general direction of Moorgate today, this is becoming a regular haunt now and will be for a while. Took some more photos of the ‘gateway to another dimension’ with more or less success:

It’s the ruin bit surrounded by other buildings. Think I’d need to hire a helicopter or something to capture this properly but am trying, am trying…

Here it is from the opposite direction, building site fenced off and really makes me wander why they left this entrance standing? Must be a gateway to another dimension!!

Bit further down the road, builders working on scaffolding… clearly becoming obsessed with scaffolding…

Perhaps I should have asked them if they’d been through the gateway? Or perhaps I should have asked the occupiers:

On Finsbury Square, have to say, the square looks a lot more interesting now there are loads of tents and people around. But something is very, very wrong in this picture, capitalism working?? No, no, no, that is not the message:

Much better now that capitalism is not working! That’s quite clear.