Genius is of small use to a woman who does not know how to do her hair.

I think it would be fun, especially for my own archival cravings, to recount my favourite escapist things of 2011. I might only leave it at books and music, because I’m finding it hard to remember anything else but that. However, if you are left wondering of anything random that enchanted me this past year please ask away! Let’s also share some things you loved.

Anyway, I really want to talk about books! I hardly read anything new because I am too out of touch of this world so I discovered a couple of beautiful old books this year.

My number one literary crush this year was no one other than Edith Wharton. I started with some ghost stories of her (ghost dogs!) because I felt a craving for them but soon moved on to The Descent of Man, and Other Stories (available at gutenberg, of course) and fell in love with her sharp wit and poignant writing. So naturally one of my main goals in life is now to read all Edith Wharton has ever written. I started with The House of Mirth next, which starred Lily Bart as a terribly flawed heroin; she doesn’t know what she wants, she is extrutiatingly indecisive and spoiled. Naturally this leads her to a gloriously written downfall. I have a weakness for books with flawed characters and a sad ending so this was perfect in my eyes. Wharton’s commentary and writing wasn’t as sharp as in her short stories but this was an amazing read regardless. Next up is The Age of Innocence!

Anna Kavan, my dark princess. I have previously written about her here. Since then I also read Ice and naturally I am doing an illustration project about it in school right now because she is the best.

(from the movie adaptation, which I didn’t enjoy but for the fabulous outfits)
Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham, a bildingsroman about a man with a club foot was amazing. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s a novel perfect for people who are slowly taking steps away from their teenage reverie. It’s the best recount of ordinary life I’ve ever read despite the fact that its set over a hundred years ago. I found this painfully poignant:

“It was one of the queer things of life that you saw a person every day for months and were so intimate with him that you could not imagine existence without him; then separation came, and everything went on in the same way, and the companion who had seemed essential proved unnecessary. Your life proceeded and you did not even miss him.”

(via)
The best poetry I’ve read was so good that I am not even going to bother including other poetry. If Not, Winter, a translation of Sappho’s poems by Anne Carson was so enjoyable that I’m afraid I might never love another poetry book as much as this one. Sappho’s poems are largely lost so in the past many translators have liberally used their own imagination to “finish” Sappho’s poems which often lead to embellished and drastically different poems. Carson instead left the blanks and even made it one of the strongest feats of what is leftover from Sappho’s legacy. It makes for poems that call to the reader’s imagination, yet still Sappho’s own lyrical voice shines through powerfully. This is one of my favourites:

        ]
]
]pity
]trembling
]
]flesh by now old age
]covers
]flies in pursuit
]
]noble
]taking
]sing to us
the one with violets in her lap
]mostly
]goes astray

Last but not least Tongkat (Tonguecat in English) was the best Dutch novel I’ve read in possibly ever? A story in magic-realism style with crazy beautiful writing that is strangely visually inspiring. I loved it so much that I endured sitting in between rowdy poetry lovers for hours till 4AM to hear some of his poems even though I prefer his prose.

8 Comments

  • Aah the rowdy poetry lovers. Still so weird! I probably should’ve stuck with it until Verhelst came on too, alas I am weak XD.

    I obviously have to read all of these! So looking forward to next year when I won’t have as much uni reading to do *___* (as much as I like uni reading because it has introduced me to some fab things that I would have never read otherwise).

    Btw, Verhelst’s Huis van de Aanrakingen (I have a feeling it’s probably not as good as Tongkat) has a lot of Sappho inserted into the story ^^.

    • I think as you left they got more rowdy so you hardly got to hear the poetry D; You also missed Eva Gerlach who was really nice, but you were totally falling asleep on the spot (adorably so) :’D

      MORE REASON FOR VERHELST READING OMG

  • Aww i love this idea for posts, i want to write a little list of things i’ve escaped in to this year. I hardly ever read now (ok, this should definitely be a new years resolution to take it up again), i will definitely look these up! The idea of Ghost dogs and the first photo are pulling me in, haha. Happy new years by the way!!!
    xxxx

    • That Edith Wharton ghost dog story is called Kerfol and is available online everywhere :D. Actually, though I think with mentioning ghost dogs I probably revealed the clue already so sorry about that :’D

      But yes please share some escapism!

      Happy New Year to you too, babe 😀

  • lol What is this poetry reading going on till 4am?! I sometimes fantasize about the “readings” I’m supposed to give when I become famous, but I always imagine them being over at a very reasonable hour, and long before my auditors can get sleepy or drunk!

    “The House of Mirth” is magnificent: I identify a great deal with Lily Bart, actually; we share some of the same problems. “The Age of Innocence” is more tightly-focused and dramatic, very pleasurable to read.

    I don’t know the Anne Carson version of Sappho, though she’s not quite the 1st to leave blank the interstices. There are many English versions, but I wouldn’t know which ones to recommend besides hers. The American poet H.D. [Hilda Doolittle] wrote in a style heavily influenced by her; I don’t know if her work is well known on your side of “the Pond” but you might be interested in checking her out sometime.

    I’m collecting English translations of Horace myself; I studied Latin but was never terribly good, and his style is too dense for me to untangle unless I greatly improved my Latin. But I love comparing the little permutations of word and structure between this translation and that. I steal little bits for inspiration too.

  • Ooh I love this post! I always think it is so fun to look over what you really loved in the year, and equally fun to see what other people were loving to! This post definitely makes me want to read Edith Wharton, btw!

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