I’m Back!

I have not a defined idea of what I’ll be writing today, I just felt like saying hi to all. These two months have been busy and hard, but hey, we’re in May, and life is getting back into a newer routine. Much has changed, in our family and out there. We’re adjusting to all the changes, and I am constantly finding joy in the small things that are so important in life. To me, there’s much to be thankful for, blessings abound.

At this challenging time, we’re some of the privileged ones. Our home is not small, we have open areas we can visit, my husband has a job, we’re all in good health, connected with our different technology, we have some interaction with others. I know this is not everyone’s situation. My family in Madrid is in a tighter predicament with a more challenging lock down, specially my parents due to age and risk, but my siblings, friends, and neighbors take great care of them.

I am also back to writing in my common place book, which I abandon for months if not years at a time, and I can’t explain why, since it’s so rewarding to add to it.

Maybe my Mother’s Day present inspired me to write again, since I received a wonderful loot of stationary, pens and mechanical pencil, and chocolates. (My apologies for the bad quality picture, it was a quick snapshot).

Among many things, earlier in March I took the plunge and purged my library in order to get ready to change all the upstairs flooring. We had 19 year old horrifying carpet that I used to call ‘foreclosure look’ carpet. We ordered this new vinyl plank, the unavoidable newish feature of middle class America. Price/durability/look + pets, makes this choice a great one. The books in the post are photographed on the new floor. But the filters don’t show the color properly. It’s a combination of lighter and darker gray.

At home, we started with two dogs, one of them died a few years ago a bit short of 20 years of age. The second dog we got 12 years ago from good friends who had a dog too many.

Two years ago, we added a cat we brought up by hand. Up to the day we found Missy the cat at our backyard, when she was barely a week old, I privately mocked cat owners and their puerile antics. As with Jane Austen fans, I ended up becoming one myself. Now I walk with the tail between my legs, -as we say in Spanish-, and I had to eat my words.

A few weeks ago, when PetCo reopened in our area, my youngest daughter bought the cutest miniature hamster, white and caramel color, and she named him Cheescake. Pictures coming soon.

My library was -and still is-, a mismatch of good books across the subjects (history, science, biography, geography, etc), which I used when I homeschooled the girls, and some I never used but I like having for myself in the future, children books I read to the girls, books in Spanish, classics, some books on language, poetry, and some theology/philosophy/worldview books such as the one you see, Total Truth, which I am slowly reading and which teaches me much and strengthens my faith in an honest and intellectually fecund way.

Last August, I started my yearly Bible reading plan. I’m a month behind, but if not by the end of August, by the end of September, I would have read the Bible once more. At times when life gets tough, and when reading is difficult, when the concentration is not there for different reasons, I try to up my Bible reading. That’s always a source of grounding, correction and not only, great comfort. To know that He Is real, and He is always with me, is what keeps me going at dark times.

Back to March, I sold many of those homeschooling books, donated and disposed of others. I even emptied two shelves and put them in the garage to get rid of them. My house still has many books, and all I have kept looks about right. I didn’t get rid of books under pressure, I let the moment dictate. I did two purges, one prior to the floor installers, a second unexpected one after they finished. I didn’t want to put those many books back for some reason.

In April, I finished the last pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I had read ahead of the read along with Ruth, but then I put the book to a halt until April, when I was able to finish it. I’d love writing about it, at least a final post. I do feel awful having left my partner to run the read along solo. But she’s such an amazing and understanding person, and I’m back to reading her posts, commenting a bit on this incredible book, and plotting to continue with another re-read of Love in the Times of Cholera.

Next title is The Glorious Adventure, by Richard Halliburton. In this travel log, he and his friend retrace Homer’s Odyssey’s route, not in the same sequence, but visiting the places in it mentioned.

I’ve read other books by Halliburton, and I always welcome his jovial tone, and his zest for hiking, climbing, retelling and reading stories while travelling. I specially enjoy his non conformist visits to monuments and places, always sneaking in at night, through closed gates, escaping the eyes of guards, and out of tourist hours. He had a night by himself at the Parthenon, and I felt the enchantment and peace he did while reading about it. It’s definitely a book that soothes me. It also fit the “abandoned classic” category, if ever I go back to continue reading from the Back to the Classics challenge, which is one I always meet if not in full in a good measure.

Lastly, my only other book at the time is Death in Holy Orders, by the one and only P.D. James. I believe it was two people, Chris and Carol who recommended different books, Chris’s title was The Children of Men, and Carol reviewed a few titles by her, which sounded interesting.

I read The Children of Men, and also one of her short stories collection. I was impressed. P.D. James lived 94 years, her books span from 1962 to 2017, and her books are varied, but as Wikipedia says, She rose to fame for her series of detective novels starring police commander and poet Adam Dalgliesh. And this title, Death in Holy Orders, is one of those, #11 in #14 titles.

I do truly admire and relish reading all the superstitions, rituals, pet peeves and the like that all my reading friends have. At the moment, -and in general-, I do not care much about reading all the Dalgliesh books in order, or reading them all either. Although that may change in the future.

Right now, my taste is broad, and my options at my own library are plenty, (even though I’m dying to visit a book store as soon as that’s possible). For now, I declare myself content with this title. It’s a hardcover with dust jacket, published by Knopf, one of my favorite publishers, and the pages opposite the spine have that rough finish I appreciate much but don’t know what’s called. Do tell if you do, please. It costed me only one dollar at our local used store, and that makes it more special. The girls call my husband and I cheapskates when they aren’t happy about what we do or say about spending, and frugal when they try to get us on their side.

I have admitted to Brona, who lives in Australia, that the availability and low prices we enjoy in the States, has probably accentuated my tendency not to spend. At the same time, when I redid my book collection, I saw some waste due to book store sales and brown bag filling discarded library book days.

As I get older, I also notice I am more open to buy a few new and pretty books, why not? My 13 year old and I are buying the Hunger Games prequel that’s coming up soon. My dream of visiting some bookstores in Madrid on vacation is now distant, but I still am bent on adding more books in Spanish to my library.

P.D. James is solid, very classy and classic writer. There’s comfort and a sense of being in good hands from the first lines. Robust characters, a plot as rich as life itself, some wise comments interspersed by voices that ring real, and her appreciation of nature, the small things in life, that’s what she’s like to me. She engages the reader in an attentive way, not too demanding, but she commands.

I’m no mystery expert, but to me, this book with Dalgliesh has a great balance of psychological development of the characters, and mystery plot. I know it’s early, but it reminds me a tad of Auchincloss’s The Rector of Justin without the ambiguity. P.D. James is strait forward and poetic too, in a traditional way. And this is refreshing.

And just in time before I close the post, my husband came with this surprise. I had ordered this book in March. Actually, a few days ago I got a return for it and now I just sent an email to the seller through Abebooks asking them how to pay for it again. I saw the book reviewed by her, this is a quote of what she wrote about it,

The book is “Kallocain” by Karin Boye, here in a lovely Penguin Classics edition, rendered into a wonderful new English version by veteran translator David McDuff. It’s a fascinating read, and you can find my full review here at Shiny!

and I found a copy that I bought, when I realized it was the American published translation by Gustav Lannestock. I then ordered the Penguin one from a UK seller, -that’s why with the virus delays I thought it’d never come-.

I then cancelled the Lannestock’s translation purchase, only to realize that, it may have been interesting to read both books and do an exercise in comparing translations. The book-cover context is a no brainer. The book is obviously about a drug they give the population to avoid rebellious or discrepant behavior. But should we want to see that in the cover?

On further research, I’m learning that Kallocain is the second studio album of the Swedish art rock band Paatos, and there’s a miniseries based on the book that was made in 1981. And Lannestock was born in Halland, a province of Sweden, while David McDuff is a British translator, with renowned experience in Russian translations. This makes me extra curious, who is a better translator? Tough, I’m just going to make do with this copy, which I know it’ll be an interesting read. Hopefully I will come back to tell.

37 thoughts on “I’m Back!

  1. Silvia: Glad to see you’re surviving all these life changes; hope the closings are on track! I’ve been interested to see your reaction to Station Eleven, which I thought was great. The writer’s earlier books are good, but nowhere near the Station Eleven level; her subsequent novel (The Glass Hotel, I think), however, is almost, if not quite, as good. I think the themes (necessity of art to human survival, for one) aren’t present, but she has a lot to say about human nature, the story is gripping and she uses that same wonderful, fractured narrative technique. I mention this only to get it on your radar, for the (far) future when you have more time to read!

  2. I am loving Station Eleven, it’s a fast read but I am taking long cause I don’t have tons of time. I like the stories she weaves.

  3. I’ve never read Station Eleven. What do you think of it so far?

    I wonder why you couldn’t comment on my posts. I see that you were able to eventually and I’ll be getting to your comments shortly. But that’s weird you weren’t able to initially post a comment.

  4. Sounds like you are pretty busy! As I mentioned, I too have not been reading blogs much. So you are not alone! 🙂

    Congratulations on your new home! That must be exciting! But I’m sure it’s a lot of work with having to pack and move and all. Hope all goes smoothly for you and your family!

  5. Karen, how I share your reading slump experience. I am still in the middle of one, trying to get over it by reading Station Eleven.

    I can’t comment on your posts.

  6. Hi Karen. I have been absent from the blogs, not reading a lot and very busy with life. We’re selling our house and buying a new one. Actually we’re moving to the new one the 28th of this month and closing on our current house the 31st.
    I also am working as an aide and I started two Fridays ago, just staff. Students come September 8th.
    I enjoyed the HG prequel and 100 years was fabulous although by the end of it I was unable to post about it because the spring break merged into the COVID situation.
    I will try to stop by and read what you wrote. I think about you and hope you are doing well.

  7. Hi Silvia! I am trying to start catching up on some of my blog reading after quite a long absence. I just posted on my blog about how the pandemic affected my reading life. But I also didn’t do much blog reading at all as well….

    It was good to read your post here and hear how you are doing! I’m sorry I didn’t finish the read-along of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I will probably try to read it at a later time.

    I also pre-ordered the new Hunger Games book and it was delivered the day it released! I will be writing about it on my blog here soon! I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on my blog…..

    I know your post here is from May….so how have you been doing since that time?

  8. LOL, I just rescued this comment from spam and the other one where you say you finished the same PD James than I did.

  9. Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you Silvia, but since being back at work, I’ve really struggled with time management. I honestly don’t know how I used to fit everything in.
    But I am so glad to see you back. You were missed.
    Lovely post full of gratitude and the things that really matter xo

  10. Hi Silvia, I’ve been mostly missing in action from blogging in the past couple of months & I’m just catching up now. Good to hear you & your family are well. We’re slowly getting back to normal over here but it will take a little while, I think.
    I have one book on my shelves by P.D.James that I haven’t read yet & it’s the one you’re reading. I love your new blog header, btw. Just lovely. ❤️

  11. Lol, we talk to the animals and it’s satisfying.

    And enveloping is exactly what PD James books are. I am absorbed in this mystery. I like the books commentary, the characters read and she talks about some authors and mentions some titles and that’s so cool.

    It was excellent to hear from you. It’s so hard to work from home, isn’t it?

  12. Welcome back Silvia! Sorry I did not comment earlier. I am working from home and somehow after sitting at the computer all day, I just want to log off at 6:00 PM and not look at any more screens. It was different when I had my commute in between and went from office to home.

    I don’t think it matters if you read the Daglish books in any particular order. I’ve not read them all, but as I recall, there isn’t too much emphasize on his private life and how it develops from book to book. The most important thing is the mystery. What I like about the books is how enveloping they are. I read Devices and Desire last year or the year before that and just enjoyed being a fly on the wall, so to speak, in the investigation and in the lives of the suspects. And I agree with you that James has a wonderful way of exposing the psychology of the suspects but not in a lurid or exploitative way.

    Thank you for admitting you used to make fun of cat owners. I just to be that way about any animal when I would over hear/observe humans talking to them. I thought “how ridiculous, as if they understood or could talk back” and rolled my eyes. Now, after many years of living with cats and dogs, I talk to them all the time. They love it (I think) and it makes me feel happy to tell them what good dogs they are or to ask the cats if they are hungry, etc. Silly but satisfying.

  13. Yay for our shadow readings, and sure thing, Kallocain is short, and as soon as I finish one of my other books I will read it and blog about it.

  14. Silvia, my friend, so good to see you back again! I’ve been thinking about you and was close to sending a message to check on you!

    Okay, we must share part of a brain, or at least part of a book brain. I have Total Truth staring at me from on my shelf AND I just purchased a lovely hardcover of the Haliburton book. I should try to read it this summer, making my list 21 books instead of 20!

    I’ll be interested to hear if you enjoy Kallocain. My library doesn’t stock it so I’ll have to live it through you!

    Happy reading!

  15. They have only the faintest resemblance, in that Don Winslow is able to create characters with integrity such as Dalgliesh possesses. But, there are plenty of characters with no morals at all!

  16. Oh, you are right. I feel bad sometimes, I don’t want to flaunt my ‘blessings’. I’m always thinking about those less fortunate. But, as you so wisely say, our most precious possession is free to anyone who wants to receive it.

    Your Big Mac sounds delicious, LOL. Sleeping through the real meal is a very relatable reality at home with two teens.

    You are classy! 🙂 Midori Notebook, Moleskine/bullet journal. I speak your language, my friend.

    Great connection, so that Don Winslow has some resemblance to what one finds in Dalgliesh? One more reason why I must check him up.

  17. Oh, Silvia, what a rich post of fabulous ideas. I find so many commonalities with you, from this line: “To me, there’s much to be thankful for, blessings abound,” and throughout. I haven’t wanted to say how blessed I feel, because I am quite humbled by His grace and mercy when there is suffering in many lives and homes. But, the fact remains that I believe that those who call upon His name and “run to the strong tower” are safe.

    I loved your Mother’s Day loot! What could be better than stationary? Perhaps a Big Mac meal which my son brought me yesterday for Mother’s Day, as he slept through the real one?😉 Writing in a journal, a commonplace book, is almost an essential practice for me, one which I am constantly adjusting from a Moleskine/bullet journal thing, to a Midori Traveler’s Notebook..I like recording the days, my goals, especially significant scripture.

    I remember how much I liked Adam Dalgliesh. I cannot say that the heroes in Don Winslow’s thrillers are like P. D. James’, but they do have a very appealing quality to me in their frailty (underneath all their supposed power as drug lords or policemen).

    So good to catch up with you, my friend. xo

  18. Excellent! I will look more into Halliburton. My dream is to pack up for a year and travel all over the United States, visiting all of the scenes of history and literature that my kids and I have studied through our homeschooling years. I will also look at Kallocain. I strangely enjoy some dystopian, especially 1984 and Brave New World. Thanks.

  19. I really like the Khan academy lessons; when I was studying for some of my art history courses I frequently used them as supplements. Totally agree with you about the necessity for art (in the broad sense; definitely encompasses literature) — why else would we all bother? Although I’m not really that visual (ultimately nothing surpasses books!) I do love the paintings. I’ve really missed my museum visits; although the internet is useful, nothing beats the real thing!

  20. Thanks Ruth. (I’m working on a final recap of OHYoS at the moment)

    Halliburton is full of zeal, he was a traveler extraordinaire, and lover of the classics, you won’t go wrong with any of his titles, The Royal Road to Romance is another book I enjoyed by him. And of the few travel books I’ve read, another favorite is After You, Marco Polo, by Jean Bowie Shor. But I understand your interest in The Glorious Adventure, because of the Odyssey ties.

    And yes, Kallocain is described on the blurb as the book between 1984 and Brave New World. I like to read some dystopian/philosophical books every now and then.

  21. I enjoyed reading your return post! So glad all is well and good with you and your family. Glad you had a yummy Mother’s Day. It’s funny…I always tell my husband NOT to buy me candy for MD, and he does. And it’s usually a family size portion! (Which is fine bc then I can share.)

    Purging our bookshelves is serious work, as well. And so rewarding, too. You should feel good about the end result.

    The Halliburton book is going on my wishlist. I think I’d like to live in his shoes for a time. Total Truth looks to be my kind of read. You wrote about this one before, I remember.

    I was wondering, is Kallocain a dystopian read? Sounds like it.

  22. I watched the Khan academy video. I love art, art talk. I am after Station Eleven, hopefully I will find/get the book this year.
    How necessary art is. I always like the paintings that are based on the Christian faith.

  23. I always love how varied your reading lists are 🙂 Always encourages me to branch out. I took a short break from Total Truth to focus on The Iliad so I can finish this month and will jump back to TT. It’s a good, necessary read. Hope to read more of it this summer!

  24. I hope to read a collection of some Gabriel García Márquez short stories this summer but otherwise using lockdown to get through books already on my shelves. Given your love of Austen and P D James I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned Death Comes to Pemberley, James’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice (my review here https://wp.me/s2oNj1-death). Worth a try?

  25. It’s always nice to hear from you! Your reading list is impressive. I still hope to gear up to read Garcia Marquez sometime.

    I believe the rough-edged paper is called a deckle edge.

  26. Thanks to you in return. Please, never apologize for your comments on paintings and art. I DO love art and I am going to follow all these alluring rabbit trails you left for us.
    I love your bible and art connections, such a rich heritage we all have.

  27. Silvia: thanks for the link! I checked it out & it really does look very interesting — such a refreshing approach to bible reading. Believe it or not, little old agnostic me has read big chunks of the Protestant King James version. I agree with you that it’s beautifully poetic — after all, this is Shakespeare’s lingo; I also agree with you that reading chronologically is really deadening.
    When I clicked on the link, one of the selections was Christ hanging around with Levi and the publicans (from Luke, I believe?). It made me think of Caravaggio’s great paintings of St. Matthew. Are you familiar with them? (they’re in Rome, so I’ve only seen them online). I’m not a big fan of Caravaggio (prefer my art more restrained) but his “Christ Calling St Matthew” is one of my very favorite paintings: Christ walks into the counting house, stretches out his hand and summons Matthew to a lifetime of hardship & toil, which will end only with Matthew’s gruesome martyrdom. Matthew’s reaction is priceless — “who, me?” As for the onlookers, well, God is literally present, standing right in front of them and what’s the reaction? One guy doesn’t look up from counting money, another guy half-rises, ready to throw Christ out of the room and the rest are supremely indifferent. I suspect that’s how we modern folk would react today, under similar circumstances. I love it! The Khan academy has a great little piece on it. https://youtu.be/SZF5K8epWko
    Sorry to rattle on but I’m having art history withdrawal — I REALLY need to get to a museum!
    Can’t wait to read your next post!

  28. Welcome back Silvia! We do indeed live in such strange times but we have to adjust, and we always do. I’m just glad you and yours are staying safe. And stationery – yes, lovely stationery is always a motivating factor. I’m so glad your copy of Kallocain finally arrived and I do hope you enjoy it. And I agree about the covers – the US one I think is a little misleading and although the book is about the drug it’s also about the humans involved, the metaphorical masks they wear to hide from each other and what chance there is for humanity. So the drug is important but that cover gives it perhaps too much prominence. Anyway – happy reading! 😀

  29. It doesn’t surprise me to hear you knew and appreciate PD James. I like when people are genuinely spiritual but I dislike the authors that force the hand, no matter the ideology. A keen sense of time and place is a great description.
    I believe there’s a lot of different reasons for reading the Bible with a help of a plan. It’s convenient and doable. I said I have no pet peeves, but for Bible reading I do loath chronological reading, it’s stagnating. I have the YouVersion app, and every year I read a different translation. King James is the most poetic, English Standard Version I appreciate it a lot too. This is the plan

    I’m reading the @YouVersion plan ‘The Bible in a Year’. Check it out here: https://www.bible.com/en/reading-plans/158

    It gives you 4 or 5 different readings. It’s much more dynamic to read from different places in the Bible.

    If you ever decide on it, I assure you that you will be surprised by how many times what the program picks is something of relevance or encouragement for your life.

    Another plan I have done sometimes is reading just from the Psalms and Proverbs.

    At YouVersion there’s different plans, all free. You can change Bible translation at any point too.

  30. Silvia: welcome back! I’ve missed you! I’ve not read anything by Halliburton, who sounds most interesting. Perhaps time to add him to my TBR list? Regarding Ms. James: I’m a huge admirer of the great P.D.; I discovered her work in grad school and read every novel until, for some weird reason I stopped reading her about half-way through her career. Isn’t she one of the best? Her novels were my first exposure to the traditional mystery format that she ehanced by a marvelous psychological insight. I also found her pretty spiritual — she has a sense of sin, suffering and redemption quite rare in most writers. And then, on top of it all, her work is so atmospheric, with such a keen sense of time and place. I really must go back and re-read some of her stuff.
    Your program of bible reading sounds very grounding and renewing. What version do you read; do you start at the beginning or do you skip around?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s