Bits & Pieces (Dec 2016)

Well first I would like to wish a Happy New Year to everyone! I hope that everyone is looking forward to some fun reading in 2017. I don’t feel like writing a retrospective of the books I read in 2016 but I thought that I would have a bit of a roundup of those I read in December. Since finishing German Literature Month (GLM) in November I haven’t posted too often but I have been reading, honest.

My Big Reading Task of 2016 was Anthony Powell’s twelve volume Dance to the Music of Time which I sort of ‘fell into’ really at the last minute as I read along with a GoodReads group; even when I started I wasn’t too sure if I’d stay to the end as I had intended in being free of any ‘Big Read Challenges’ for the year but I was soon hooked. I didn’t blog too much on the series as I found it a bit awkward to write Powell_Dance-04posts for separate books in the series where a knowledge of the characters’ antics in the previous volumes was really necessary. Each review would only have been of interest, I felt, to someone who was reading the same volumes at the same time as me. So, at one volume a month I got to the last volume, Hearing Secret Harmonies, in December; I was a little wary of this volume as I’d read quite a few negative comments on it but I found it to be one of my favourites of the series. It jumped forward to the early 1970s and almost brought events up to date as it was written in 1975. One of the joys of reading ‘Dance’ was that there were a whole host of characters, some of which appeared throughout the series, whilst others appeared and faded away. In later volumes we had X Trapnel who was based on the novelist Julian MacLaren-Ross and in this last volume we get the Manson-like hippy leader, Scorpio Murtlock, and the bizarre scenario of Widmerpool trying to join and take over the cult. It did seem a bit of an odd direction to take but I felt that Powell handled it brilliantly. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t read ‘Dance’ to consider reading it, although it’s twelve volumes it’s not as daunting as that sounds and each volume was a breeze to read.

After my reading for GLM I felt like reading something a bit ‘lighter’ and turned to an old favourite author of mine from the late ’80s, Martin Millar. He had a new book out called Kink Me Honey and where his previous book called The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies which was set in Ancient millar_kink-me-honey_amazonGreece hadn’t really appealed to me that much, this one did. Most of Millar’s books that I’d read had an urban setting and usually revolved around some kind of subculture, such as punks, travellers, etc. Kink Me Honey centres around an S&M club in London and whilst it is funny it is pretty raunchy as well. The book contains what are supposed to be posts and comments to the club’s website and through these we get a lot of subplots and diversions from the main plot; initially I thought that this part of the novel was a bit of a gimmick but I soon realised that Millar was using it to good effect by enabling him to poke fun at the way our online lives play out. Part of the humour is in the way that the cast of characters act just as they would in any other organisation or club and so there are feuds, bitching, funding problems, organisational problems, character clashes etc. Even though I finished it a month ago I still hope to write a longer review on it so I’ll not comment any further for now.

Theodor Storm is an author I only discovered from being a part of GLM and I had hoped to read another volume of his short stories/novellas for this year’s GLM but I ran out of time. Paul the Puppeteer and other Short Fiction consists of the three novellas all translated by Denis Jackson: The Village on the Moor, Paul the storm_paul-puppeteer-fcx-700pxPuppeteer and Renate. The title story is the best of the three as it is more immediate than the others; the main story is told to the narrator by the elderly Paul Paulsen and is basically a love story, even though it’s not really apparent until late on in the story. Paul is destined to become a master craftsman but he is fascinated with the puppetry of a travelling puppeteer and his daughter, Lisei. The puppeteers have to move on and Paul loses contact with them only to be reacquainted with them when he is older at a time when the elderly puppeteer has been falsely imprisoned for theft. The puppeteers are hounded by the authorities as if they’re vagrants and their form of entertainment is now falling out of fashion. It’s a sad, beautiful and uplifting story told in Storm’s unsentimental way. Renate takes place in the early eighteenth century and centres around the love of a Lutheran pastor for a girl who is subsequently accused of being a witch. As is usual with Storm the story is revealed from several incomplete sources. I feel that this one would benefit from another read.

I felt that overall my reading went quite well in 2016. Along with Powell’s ‘Dance’ I tackled Orlando Figes’s book on the Russian revolution, A People’s Tragedy. My GoodReads summary of the year (which can be viewed here if you’re interested in the details) shows that I read 45 books or 14,949 pages, which is paltry compared to some people but I’m quite happy with it. If I worried about such things I may mention that the Powell books only counted as four, rather than twelve, as I read them in the omnibus editions.

And so on to 2017! I have few plans for this year other than to read as many books as I can that I already own as the number of physical books that I now own is starting to be unmanageable. I’m not going to try to quantify what I intend to get through as I will undoubtedly be diverted from this task throughout the year but I shall chip away at the pile. Here is a photo of what I have to get through…and there are quite a few on my kindle as well…

Physical TBR pile as of January 2017

Physical TBR pile as of January 2017

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26 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Millar, Martin, Powell, Anthony, Storm, Theodor

26 responses to “Bits & Pieces (Dec 2016)

  1. That’s an awfully appealing TBR pile! Many I’ve read and many I’d like to read! Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love seeing that big pile of books! Happy new year, Jonathan!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I spy a copy of The Spire! I am debating a reread of that one this year. One of my favourite books and an excellent example of the effect that can be created with the use of a very narrow 3rd person perspective. Hope you get to that one… And happy new year too!

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  4. Happy New Year to you too, Jonathan. And Happy Reading! I also have the Calvino on my TBR – hopefully I’ll get to it, but it keeps getting pushed aside by group reads and other reading priorities. I read some of Theodor Storm’s work a few years back when one of the 19th Century Literature members was reading German authors. Enjoyed them.

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    • Jonathan

      Thsnks and Happy New Year Dagny. I’ve had ‘The Leopard’ as #1 on my GoodReads ‘to read’ list all year but other books keep leapfrogging it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have The Leopard too, Jonathan! Bought it a while back for a certain read, but then it didn’t really appeal to me after reading the blurbs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jonathan

        I keep getting down to a choice between ‘The Leopard’ and another one and keep choosing the second. I AM GOING TO READ IT SOON. And you can quote me on that. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m hoping to focus on reading the books I already own as well, so many treats to look forward to. Happy New Year to you – wishing you all the best for 2017!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan

      Thanks Jacqui. It seems to be a popular goal so I wonder how many of us will be successful. I remember thinking the same last year and then being swamped with other reads. I hope to stay more focused on it this year but I don’t want it to be a chore.

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  6. I read and loved A Dance to the Music of Time too, and had exactly the same problem trying to blog it. My ‘review’ is utterly inadequate at explaining why readers should make it a must-read but I take comfort in knowing that everyone who has read it has passed the message on anyway!
    I hope that 2017 brings you hours of satisfying reading:)

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    • Jonathan

      Thanks Lisa. It’s nice having these Big Reading Projects but at the moment I’m enjoying being totally free to choose.

      It’s strange to think that I hadn’t heard of Powell or ‘Dance’ until a couple of years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that’s what I think. I flirted with challenges and whatnot, and now I just read whatever takes my fancy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jonathan

        Well, it’s nice doing the occasional challenge or readalong as a change but up until ‘the blogging years’ I had just read freely and I’ve missed that a little this year. Mind you, I only get involved in events that truly interest me.

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  7. Ah, if we all were to pile up our books physically, we might get discouraged rather than enthused… But yes, I too plan to read more of what I already own in 2017. Wishing you all the best in your endeavours!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan

      I was surprised to see how the pile had grown since I last did this. It is a bit daunting but as long as I chip away at it I’ll be ok.

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  8. Welcome to Books Anonymous….

    Liked by 1 person

  9. BTW Man of Straw is wunderbar

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I rather like Brideshead, and good to see a Green on your list (not that I’ve read him yet).

    Dance ended well for me too, the whole thing could have foundered on the ending but it didn’t. I did blog them as you know, individually as I went along, but I can’t say it was easy to do.

    Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan

      I haven’t read any Green either but it seems to be a natural book to follow the Powell books – likewise with Brideshead Revisited (a book I’ve been meaning to read for years now). At the beginning of 2016 I was going to concentrate on early 20thC British writers such as Waugh, Woolf, DH Lawrence, Galsworthy etc, but I got distracted by Powell’s ‘Dance’—which was a good distraction.

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  11. Sarah

    Nice TBR stack! I look forward to reading your thoughts on some of these. I’m planning on reading Dance this year, so I’ll be returning to your posts every month to compare notes once I’ve posted up my own! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan

      Yes, there’s quite a lot of reading to do. Luckily enough there’s enough variety to keep me interested and I am allowing myself to read others if I want to.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The Reading Bug

    Wonderfully eclectic mix in your TBR pile/library. Looking forward to your reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

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