Posts in Reading

Cultural Time Zones and the Global City

What is a cultural time zone? Think of tennis, says Melissa Tandiwe Myambo in a fascinating essay in New Left Review. On the international tennis circuit, all the courts and facilities must meet certain standards, with only minor local variations. “Thus, the tennis tour allows professional players to circulate globally while remaining inside a specific cultural time zone that is more or less the same everywhere.” Much the same thing is happening to our cities, Myambo argues, especially those that, like Johannesburg, are pursuing “global city” status. Shoreditch is to… Read More

Chernobyl Prayer: Svetlana Alexievich’s Heart-Breaking Oral History

When I visited Belarus last year, I thought I’d read some Belarusian literature, and what better writer to start with than Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. Alexievich’s Nobel win was unexpected because her books are non-fiction, a kind of oral history (although as this New Republic article points out, she takes considerable liberties with the testimonies she collects). After reading Chernobyl Prayer, though, I can see exactly why she won. I don’t think I’ve ever come away from a single book with such a comprehensive… Read More

April Reading Roundup

Time for another roundup. My month was consumed on the blog with the Radetzky March readalong, but in between that, I also read some other great books. Read on to get my reading recommendations, and let me know how your month went in the comments below. Scattered Sand: The Story of China’s Rural Migrants by Hsiao-Hung Pai Wow, this one was powerful. I had no idea that the recent movement of 200 million Chinese peasants is the “biggest mass migration in history”. Hsiao-Hung Pai tells their stories in this book,… Read More

The Radetzky March Readalong: Part 3

Welcome to the third and final part of The Radetzky Mach Readalong, kindly hosted by Caroline and Lizzy. We’re reading Joseph Roth’s famous novel about the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire as seen through the eyes of the Trotta family. This post discusses key plot points from towards the end of the book, so if you don’t want to know the score, look away now. Or if you want to begin at the beginning, you can find the earlier parts of the readalong here: The Radetzky March Readalong, Part 1… Read More

The Radetzky March Readalong: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the readalong of Joseph Roth’s novel The Radetzky March, kindly organised by Caroline and Lizzy. For Part 1, click here. To avoid spoilers, don’t read anything at all. But who cares about spoilers, right? Are there characters you like or dislike particularly so far? Roth has a great knack for making characters feel real, without making them particularly likeable or dislikeable. I feel sorry for most of them, locked as they are into quite horrible lives and seemingly unable to escape from them. I find myself drawn to the… Read More

The Radetzky March Readalong: Part 1

This month, I am reading Joseph Roth’s novel The Radetzky March in the excellent company of fellow book bloggers Caroline and Lizzy. The readalong takes place over three weeks, Roth having helpfully split his novel into three parts just for this purpose. This week, I read Part 1, and I am responding to questions that Caroline and Lizzy came up with as prompts. Welcome to the #germanlitmonth spring readalong of Joseph Roth’s most famous novel, The Radetzky March.  What enticed you to readalong with us? A strange sequence of coincidences…. Read More

Refined and Elegant Things: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

The eggs of the spot-billed duck. Shaved ice with a sweet syrup, served in a shiny new metal bowl. A crystal rosary. These are just a few of the items on a list of “refined and elegant things” in the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Then there are “things that make your heart beat fast”, “things that make you nostalgic”, and, on the other hand, “infuriating things” or “things later regretted”. And, beyond the lists, there are anecdotes, jokes, improvisational poetry competitions, and some quite beautiful observation of life. One… Read More

February Reading Roundup

After a slow January, I hit my reading stride in February. We stayed in Croatia all month, with just a quick side trip to Slovenia, so I had plenty of time to read and catch up with writing too. Here’s a quick roundup of the books I read last month. Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval We’ve all met people who don’t have good boundaries, haven’t we? But in this disturbing Norwegian novel set in England, this is quite a literal problem, as a young biology student finds herself melding with… Read More