A Book Lover’s Tag

 

Diana Peach from Myths of the Mirror tagged all her followers (of which I am one!) in this exciting tag all about books! I don’t usually participate in tags (mostly because I am lazy and like to generate content the minute my fingers touch the keyboard with no prior thinking, planning or organising), but I could not pass this one up.

If you would like to take part, feel free to accept this tag!

 

Questions:

1. Do you have a specific place for reading?

I would usually say my go-to place is my bed, now that I don’t live at my family home anymore, where I would have to hunt all over the house for a quiet spot to read. My bed is comfortable and allows for any reading position, be in lying down, upside down or sitting up. I usually take a book with me wherever I go, two if I can squeeze them into my handbag, just ‘in case’.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?

Both! During my childhood years I was a serial dog-earer but since becoming an adult recently I discovered that dog-earing was a treacherous habit and must be nipped in the bud immediately. So I use old receipts and train tickets… anything I can find in my handbag, really!

3. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

I do, it’s antisocial I’m told, but I do. My whole family does, which is why some of our more loved books are a little sticky.

4. Music or TV whilst reading.

Neither, I can’t really focus with personal background noise, although I don’t mind it if I am in a public space – it’s psychological, somehow. If it isn’t my music it doesn’t bother me.

5. One book at a time or several?

Oh, several. I am very motivated by mood. I take two books with me when I go out, one serious, heavy one and one lighthearted or ‘much-read’ one in case I can’t mentally handle the more serious one. An example of this contrast would be Vanity Fair and What Katy Did – one is severely depressing while the other is more up-beat and hopeful.

6. Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I love to read at home, although I have enjoyed many a book on the bus or train during my countless long commutes. Nothing, however, beats reading at home by the soft, warm light of a bedside lamp, whilst being wrapped snugly in a comfortable blanket. Nothing.

7. Read out loud or silently?

Silently! Reading out loud would slow me down! Having said that, my husband who is dyslexic and despises reading, does read out loud, and I feel for the poor fellow because it does make for clunky reading. Sometimes I read for him, but it gets tiring for sure! It takes a great deal of patience to read aloud to someone. I also find that the act of reading aloud distracts me from the content that I am reading! I don’t take it in, and have to read it again to absorb it.

8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I have a terrible habit of being impatient whilst reading and reading ahead – I never skip pages, of course, that would be an absolute disgrace. Sometimes I spoil books on myself by reading the end. I always tell myself off about it but still carry on doing it, my curiosity is too strong. Sometimes I do it while telling myself that I won’t read far enough to actually ruin anything but it is a poor self-convincing tool, because what else can I expect from reading ahead!? It is a rude habit and must be stopped immediately – I need somebody to slap me on the wrist every time I do!

9. Break the spine or keep it like new.

Well, I like to keep my books as pristine as possible, lined up in my bookshelf in height order (I did this so well as a child, but now my husband does it for me because he thinks I am too messy – it is very surreal), so I like to keep the spine like new but when you read a book so many times, the spine is bound to break at some point. I am wonderful at mending and patching broken spines and ripped covers – I had to do it so much as a child, coming from a big family of book lovers and book-rippers. When I was smaller, I liked to think of myself as Mo from Inkheart, mending books and fixing spines.

10. Do you write in books?

Yes, sometimes. I don’t like to tarnish another work with my ‘lowly’ opinions, but I love reading comments other people leave in books! I always thought that it took a very confident, self assured and intellectual kind of personality to write in a book. My father, a collector of books, writes little notes in them. I revere my father; I think he is vastly intelligent and wonderfully talented; his work is on par with none I have ever seen before, and his meticulous skill is one which I can only dream of achieving, so maybe that is why I am loathe to think I have thoughts worthy enough to grace the pages of a printed book!

11. What books are you reading now? 

Currently I am reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time, a book which I discovered whilst listening to Jenni Murray’s ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women’. I don’t have much time for reading anymore, unfortunately, so it is taking me quite a while to get through it, usually on my lunch break. It has ensnared my curiosity, that’s for sure! I am also reading  Perfume Island by fellow blogger Curtis Bausse – I am halfway through it and thoroughly enjoying it. Curtis has a writing style which is reminiscent, to me, of that of William Golding – he has the marvellous ability to use few words to create crisp images and emotion even though the reader has never experienced these feelings themselves.

12. What is your childhood favourite book?

I really can’t choose, there were so many, and all dependant on my mood at the time! I will go by the most read book in my childhood.. or three books.. it was the Anne of Green Gables series, book 1 through to 3. I can still recite entire passages from Anne’s life, and her experiences and thoughts influenced much of my hopes, dreams, aspirations, language, preferences and thoughts even today. What sticks with me the most is her enchanting combination of the beauty in nature with a magical fairyland. She made it all so real – a tree wasn’t a tree but the home of a beautiful dryad, a lake wasn’t a lake but a bowl of glittering diamonds – and Paul Irving’s famous thought, ‘Do you know what I think about the new moon, teacher? I think it is a little golden boat full of dreams. And I think the violets are little snips of the sky that fell down when the angels cut out holes for the stars to shine through. And the buttercups are made out of old sunshine; and I think the sweet peas will be butterflies when they go to heaven.’

Living in the desert like I did, I was starving for this kind of beauty. How can words create images of lands so real, yet so intangible? It’s a stunning phenomenon.

13. What is your all-time favorite book?

I really, really cannot say. I love so many. So, so many. They are like my precious children, and to favour one over the other is to maim a heart or slight a soul. High up on the list are the Anne series, Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, all books by the wonderful James Herriot, Alcott, the What Katy Dids, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre et cetera. Don’t well-loved books make you feel like you have been given a literary hug?

 

What’s your favourite book? And why do you love it?

Advertisements

Wuthering Heights

What is a ‘wuther’ exactly, and why are these Heights Wuthering? Is it some kind of present-tense form of ‘wither’? Do the Heights of this home ‘wither’ in agony because of all the pain, heartbreak and madness that has taken place under its roof?

You need look no further, dear reader, for I have the answer right here, quoted from Emily Bronte herself, ‘Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliffe’s dwelling, “Wuthering” being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.” (Wuthering Heights)

I first read Wuthering Heights when I was a wee tot of ten years old. I was at the age where I had mercilessly devoured all the normal, nice children books my parents had bought in bulk from charity shops at 5p each and filled my bookshelves with. I was tired of goody two shoes Enid Blyton characters and children playing detective.

I was living in a country where English books were a rarity, and you could only find really expensive recent editions. I loved old editions. Recent editions do nothing for me. They look like they’re trying too hard to appeal to the children of today who care only for how a book looks, who are only interested in something if it matches the technicolour of the TV cartoons that a lot of them are constantly glued to.

I like my books with plain, faded covers and yellowed pages that are well loved and smell slightly musty.

My father had a bookshelf filled with classics that my parents were dubious about sharing with us children. William Golding was too deep for us. The Mill on the Floss was “not for your age, yet, Len”, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Grey was definitely not suitable subject matter for sensitive minds. And Wuthering Heights? Good fried grief.

I read all those titles and more hiding in the corner between my desk and the metal framed window, the heat of the sun beating outside and warming my bedroom walls, even though the air conditioning was on full blast. If there was somebody in my room, I snuck into my wardrobe (I was small then, I fit perfectly!) with my reading light (2 dirhams at a bazaar) and read till my eyes were sore.

It was in the wardrobe that I became acquainted with Emily Bronte’s Catherine and Heathcliff. It was wildly abhorrent, yet so enticing. I kept waiting for the redemption of the characters, for them to come together at last, in harmony, their misunderstandings put to rest. No such thing happened, and desolation began to peer at me through the final pages.

I thought their story was wildly romantic, and was devastated at the deterioration of Catherine and her thoughtless choices. The depth behind these choices were lost on me. I was only invested in the surface emotions. I didn’t understand why she was pulling all the feathers out of the pillow, I only knew that pulling feathers out of pillows was a fun pastime, and if Catherine did it, then my own secret pulling was justified.

Never mind I wouldn’t dream of justifying such a thing to dear Mother.

Love Letters #36

Dear Tom,

It was Anne Shirley who told her darling husband-to-be Gilbert that she was ‘alone but not lonely’ one beautiful evening whilst walking through the graveyard of Summerside, that year she was away teaching there. A mighty dreadful time she had with those Pringles, I tell you. I was reading of her walks on the train; the countless descriptions of wind surging through the tree lined avenues of the most wondrous places on P.E. Island, and I felt the cool breeze on my face, I saw the violets in their numerous beauty, I smelt the flowers in bloom and the voice of Rebecca Dew echoed uncomfortably close to my ear, that I looked up abruptly, only to see the heads of my fellow modern train passengers, oblivious to my rapture, in raptures (or otherwise) of their own. I laughed loudly at some point, her characters do come up with the most curious things! A rather stern Aunt Mouser told her niece to not quote the bible flippantly, and then turned to Anne and said, ‘You must excuse her, Miss Shirley, she just ain’t used to getting married.‘ Tom, forgive me when I tell you that I found this so funny that tears streamed down my face!

When I turned the book over, there was a little ode to Montgomery, saying that her work ‘continues to draw countless visitors to Prince Edward Island each year.’

I will be very frankly honest with you, dearest, when I say that my heart sank when I read that. I imagined the Prince Edward Island will not be as I imagined it if I ever do go. I made up my mind then and there to never go. I don’t want to see roaring cars and buses and city roads with white paint. I don’t want to see areas of desolation and corrugated iron roofs. I don’t even want to see people wearing modern clothes. I don’t want to see tourists. Granted, they may be like-minded tourists, but tourists they will be nonetheless. I want it to be just how Anne and Emily and Pat describe it, and my heart aches to know it will never be so. I was born too late, I suppose.

I last read Anne of the Island at the age of fifteen. I was reading the first three books over and over again, and only recently did I stumble upon the fourth book, all these years later.

I was trying to fault Anne, I found, whilst reading the fourth book of the Green Gables series. I was trying to fault her for being ‘too perfect’ or ‘too beautiful’ or ‘too well liked’. She is well liked enough, and is able to deftly turn everybody and make them adore her, sure. However, I couldn’t help but fall in love with her adult self again, all these years later as an adult myself and not a child.

Anne is timelessly incredible. She is not too beautiful, because she doesn’t see herself so, and many others pointedly tell her of her carroty hair. She is not too perfect, because she tells Gilbert in an epistolary fashion that she has to accept that not everybody will like her, when certain people very vehemently do not. She is not too anything, and yet she is perfect. She is who I aspire to be.

She is hopeful, she is resourceful. Her words dance with life and laughter, and I imagine her grey eyes to be starry and full of light. She talks to everybody, is friendly with everybody, tries to help all sorts of people. She even cancelled her trip back home to sit with forty year old Pauline Gibson because she knew Pauline was lonely and henpecked by her grumpy old mother. How selfless is that? I don’t doubt that a lot of people were like that at the time, and didn’t think twice of being so generous with themselves and their time. Nowadays everybody is so ‘busy’, so ‘private’, so ‘personal’; never talking to strangers or even trying to find out who one’s neighbours are! Nobody just calls on a newcomer anymore, nobody sends each other cake, nobody calls each other over for supper unless they know them very well, and that is why, I suppose, a lot of us are so lonely!

A little sprinkle of Anne makes any day brighter. I found my day to bloom after reading a few chapters of her, and my heart ached a little, because I would never be able to meet her or become chums with her or wonder the nooks and crannies of the Island with her. She makes a small town like a little heaven here on earth.

I learnt from her to find joy in every aspect of my life. I learnt that even though I don’t live in Avonlea with her, I can find my own little Avonlea just where I am.

I love Anne Shirley, and I can see why others do too; and I am excited to finish following her journey through the eight precious books penned by our very own Lucy Maud Montgomery. Over and over again, delving into the land of magic, spirits and the most eccentric little characters one could ever dream up. She makes my heart yearn for something I can’t quite touch.

Yours most truly,

Amelia.

anneandiana-Full-view1.jpg

James Hill

  

On Language

The word “bombdiggity” is such an American word, isn’t it?

Well I like it.

So I talk with an English accent, more Southern than Northern. I was born in London, in the same hospital my mother was born in. She has had the monopoly of the influence on my speech patterns as I grew up, so I speak more like her than my father.

My father taught himself English; he is a studious man. When people hear him speak, they think he must be a newscaster or something of that ilk. He is very meticulous and such a perfectionist when it comes to his speech and his work. In both Arabic and English, he will correct my grammar and sentences, even in speech! He maintains it is for my own benefit, since I am studying Language at university. I think he just likes to have people speak well.

He isn’t a newscaster, though. He is a professor of Linguistics and Phonetics, has published many books and is a renowned translator in his career circles. He was born in the mountains of North Morocco, and grew up on olive oil, mint tea, pomegranates and oranges, as he keeps telling us. As a child he was poor, and spent whatever money he earned on books. His clothing suffered as a result, but who wants a nice new shirt when you can have books? My father was always knowledge hungry. He would go to bed with a massive book on Biology one week and the next he would have a small booklet about the politics of language. His bookshelves contained a wild plethora of books on all subjects. I attribute much of my childhood learning to my father’s books. His love of books has translated on to his children, and we are all avid book collectors.

I did most of my growing up in a desert city on the Arabian peninsula. It was hot and humid, and in some places hot and dry. I knew only sunshine, dust and curly heat waves. And books, of course. I devoured books because there was precious little else to do, other than shop, and what child likes to shop? My parents tried their best to make our lives more eventful. We had seven bookshelves in our house, all crammed with books. The books we couldn’t fit onto the shelves were tucked away under beds and on top of wardrobes and in stacked on bedside tables. We had swimming lessons, we went to many events, my mother created a club in which a group of people like us did activities together, cooking, sewing, swimming (lots of swimming in the heat), day trips to the desert, renting out villas where lots of families would just hang out and swim and barbecue, day trips to the beach). We had quite the community of friends, and thus we did have a great time.

However, my linguistic experience was mostly pushed forward by my love of words. Growing up, I mispronounced a lot of words. I tended to use words I came across in books, and when I pronounced them, I would misjudge where the stress on the word would lie, and so it would sound funny. My parents would laugh at us, and other people would look at us funny. I do it to this day, folks. So do most of my siblings.

I don’t really know why. So I think I talk funny. I pronounce all my letters, except sometimes for the ‘t’ in water. I sometimes make the word ‘food’ sound like ‘feud’. I talk very fast so sometimes my words run into each other. I think that is the influence of speaking Arabic with my father. Being bilingual is fantastic, but sometimes if I forget a word in either language I will substitute it with a word from the other language.

For example, the Arabic word for ‘stick’ is ‘lasaq’ (in some dialects), and I might say, “It’s not lassiq-ing!” if the word ‘stick’ doesn’t come into my head fast enough. Similarly, I might say to my father “Al-miftah laysa fee al–cabinet!” (The key isn’t in the cabinet)

How do you speak? And how has your language been influenced as you have grown up?

new-painting.jpg