Monday, December 30, 2013

reads #18: October 2013

I slacked on my reading between July and October and I think it's down to two things. First, I just wasn't in the mood, my mind felt very fidgety. And secondly, I had started London Fields by Martin Amis after going to London and it just wasn't happening. It is still not, to be fair, I'm still trying, but it is just a very confusing book and I think it makes me angry too. I don't like unfinished books so I'll power through and hopefully write up a review in the coming year... In the meantime, if you can handle the unbearable suspense, you can follow my slow progress on my very mount everest of a book on goodreads.

october read

Dracula (Bram Stoker, 1897)

I had to whip my mind back into reading shape and put Martin Amis aside, at the start of October, as I needed to get ready for the Bram Stoker Festival here in Dublin. I wanted to cover it for my travel blog and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to finally read the infamous vampire classic.
I was astonished how much of this book has seeped into the general conscience, to the point where when I was reading it, I felt like I had read it all before.
Something I didn't know was that Dracula was actually an anglophile and his dream was to colonise England. The story starts in Romania, where Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor travels to meet the Count in his isolated castle, to hand him the title of his property recently purchased in Essex.
Dracula proceeds to orchestrate his transit to England, where weird happenings ensue. Jonathan Harker and his friends realise the danger England is facing and they gather their forces to put a stop to his evil masterplan.
I hadn't read horror ever since my Stephen King phase as a teenager, and I had forgotten how wonderful it is sometimes to give oneself the heebie-jeebies, especially in the weeks running up to Halloween, when it's cold and windy outside and you're all bundled up in a duvet and a onesie, your book in one hand and a cup of hot beverage in the other. Pure shivering bliss.
One thing I'd like to add though, is I wasn't on board with the treatment of women in this particular read, and I strongly winced several times at their portrayals. It's the old good women versus bad women, the fragile hopeless species versus the evil sensual temptresses thing. Like they could be one thing or the other. Bram Stoker describes his women as something not quite on par with men, 'things' that should be kept away like delicate glass figures, very pretty but generally useless. And when a female protagonist display initiative and courage, they're perceived as extroardinary as if they're owning traits usually belonging to men. Heavy sigh.
I have to say I hadn't read pre-1920s literature in a long long time so my annoyance probably results from my lack of contact with Victorian culture. But if you can go past that, I think it's a fantastic read, if only for its iconic status as a foundation of the horror genre.

Favourite quote: These friends - and he [Dracula, ed.] laid his hand on some of the books - have been good friends to me, and for some years past, ever since I had the idea of going to London, have given me many, many hours of pleasure. Through them I have come to know your great England; and to know her is to love her. I long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is.

haruki murakami samsa in love

Samsa in Love (Haruki Murakami, 2013)

I think I let a little squeal of excitement out when Katie tweeted about the new Murakami's short story published online in The New Yorker, last October. I dropped any responsibilities and proceeded to read these 8 pages of joy immediately.
I didn't read Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis but from what I can gather this short story is its plot in reverse. George Samsa, formerly a cockroach, wakes up one morning as a human. He is lying on his back, in a bedroom he doesn't recognise. We then follow him for the duration of day, discovering his own new body and his surroundings. It all happens inside a house, during Prague Spring. We know that thanks to a little hunchback lady who came to repair a door's lock in the house. Through this encounter, George will make the most important discovery about being human...
This is a wonderful little read that will put chirpy cheers inside your ticker. Go read it!

Favourite quote: He was glad to be human. For sure, it was a great inconvenience to have to walk on two legs and wear clothes. There were so many things he didn’t know. Yet had he been a fish or a sunflower, and not a human being, he might never have experienced this emotion.


Stephanie Louise said...

I've finally been getting back into books and I've missed it so much! Shocked me how I got away from it, I guess life and stress takes your mind off the good things. Happy to hear about your 'rediscovering' of reading again. You will find a lot of fun books :)

Brittney said...

I haven't revisited Dracula in such a long time, but I remember reading it when I was younger and being so freaked out that I slept with a crucifix on. Now, mythical creatures don't seem as scary as real human monsters.


Another Beautiful Thing

moira said...

@Stephanie Louise: i hate when it happens, don't feel quite myself without a book on the go :) what have you been reading at the moment? hope you'll have a fantastic nye tonight xx

@Brittney: haha the crucifix in bed is so cute :D and i totally agree with you, there are some effed up people out there... On this cheerful note... I hope you'll have a glittery nye :D xx

Extra Solar said...

Have to read the Murakami story! Aside from loving Murakami, I studied the Metamorphosis in college and tend to like Kafka's work ad well. Glad to see some new posts here!!

moira said...

@Kelli: haha thanks. really need to read some kafka, i've a feeling i'd like his stuff. maybe a resolution for 2014 :)
happy new year xx

little henry lee said...

i wouldn't worry too much about your mind feeling fidgety, it happens to me too and sometimes i just don't feel like reading for a bit but it always comes back again. i really don't like not finishing books either but i find that sometimes it's just not the right book for you at that time, and there's nothing wrong with that. if you try to force yourself to read something you're not enjoying that much you're not going to love it in the end and it might even put you off giving it another chance later on in life when you might really connect with it.

i read a quote a while ago by alain de botton that was something like "most of what makes a book so good is that we are reading it at the right time for us" and i like to keep that in mind. it annoys me too when i don't really get into a book and don't find myself enjoying it that much so i think it's best to just put it down and start it over again later when it feels right.

also thank you for the link to the murakami story! i have read metamorphosis so i'm really interested to read this story!

little henry lee

Rine said...

I can't wait for the English translation of Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which should be coming out this year!

Emily Peebles said...

I've always wanted to read Dracula, just haven't gotten around to it. I took a Victorian Literature class last year, and the portrayal of women you're describing in those novels is spot on. It's kind of exhausting, but if you take the novel in its context I feel like it's not quite so obnoxious.

As for the Murakami short story, thank you so much! I'm subscribed to the New Yorker but must have accidentally skipped over it. I really liked The Metamorphosis and of course am a huge fan of Murakami. Hope you had a lovely holiday! x

moira said...

@little henry lee: i totally agree with you, some of the enjoyment coming from reading has to do with the timing, i actually get pretty obsessive which is annoying at times as i will snob my pile to read for some book i *need* to buy. I feel that in the case of martin amis' london fields, there will never be a good time as i am afraid i dont speak the same 'language' as the author. with that being said, i have an inkling that if there's something rewarding in this book it wont be given easily so i feel i need to insist. i'm reading books in between now to make it less painful ;)
thank you for your thoughtful comment, jolie jessica xx

@Rine: feeling the excitement too! although slightly worried as i haven't heard/read any raving reviews yet :/

@Emily P: my boyfriend said i basically vomited a lot of cliches re: victorian lit in this post, felt a bit dumb haha. I think I definitely need more of the genre and get a bit educated as well as immune to victorian misoginy ;) hope you enjoyed the short story xx

Nancy Wilde said...

The garlic detail OMG :)
Needless to say, your book reviews are always beyond brilliant.
"And when a female protagonist display initiative and courage, they're perceived as extroardinary as if they're owning traits usually belonging to men. Heavy sigh." - I guess things haven't changed that much about this topic, really :/
I feel ashamed that I haven't read that book yet... The romantic factor plays a major role in my imagination...

moira said...

@Nancy Wilde: haha glad you appreciate it, spent quite some time in the supermarket inspecting garlic's shapes & sizes ;)
you're right still a lot of work to do for women, i sometimes forget as i tend to block out assholes
and you shouldnt feel ashamed at all, you dedicated your time to other awesome books, judging by your goodreads profile!
thank you for the compliment, means a lot as they're the most daunting posts for me to write xx

Jane said...

Dracula is one of my favourite books! I agree with you re: the misogyny, it is a frustrating insight into how women were perceived in Victorian times (I'm not sure if things have changed much really!). It does seem cliched because it has permeated our culture so much but I found there is some good writing in it which makes it really spooky at times.

Rita Scamander said...

A classic :)

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