Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?


Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

A foundational work to start with. Aeschylus’ Oresteia has awed paulburns:

I’m a bit overwhelmed by its brilliance, even though I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read it. Translated by Robert Fagles, one marvels at its poetic grandeur and religious ritual, especially in Agamemnon, the first play of the cycle, Though that reaches a dramatic height with Agamemnon’s murder by Clytemnestra. The second play, The Libation Bearers, where Orestes decides to murder his mother in revenge for her murder of Agamemnon, moves more quickly, and, to my mind, reads better. The final play, The Eumenides, is the most frightening. Legend has it that the dance and chant where the Furies called down revenge on Orestes had women fainting in the audience. (I’d bet the men were shivering in their boots as well.) There was nothing to match it in world literature until Shakespeare wrote the witches’ scenes in Macbeth.

Wow, I’m still a little discombobulated with that one, which is rarely a bad sign. The book didn’t really go at all how I expected it to. The direction of the narrative set in the first 50 or so pages preordained a certain finish, but the end was not what I had foreseen. Those closing pages really just knocked me on my ass ever so slightly.

It is apparently one of the longest novels ever written, which explains the tissue thin papers and small text. My god, is it good. Part anthropological dig into the residents of “The Boroughs” of Northampton, part historical fiction, part fantasy, and a deep delve into life, death and the afterlife that serves as the veins of the story. Jerusalem blends real life and fiction perfectly, it truly is Moore’s magnum opus. Out of all of the fascinating, mad, dark tales the author has given us, truly this is a story to rival Chaucer’s Tales. It feels like the type of story that should be broken up into parts and retold as folk tales for centuries to come. Highly recommended.

This morning I dug out Hill’s excellent book on the radical ideas of groups such as Levellers, Seekers, Ranters, Diggers and Fifth Modernists, sects like Quakers, Baptists and Muggletonians … But here’s the strangest thing. Something I had not noticed before. This paperback was published by Penguin in 1991. I must have picked it up in some secondhand bookshop one day and I wanted to look up a reference to Sir Isaac Newton and his belief in alchemy, page 290, when I noticed that page 288 had a different typeface. Checking further, all the pages from 240 were in the same different typeface, in fact, after 240 the page number was 129. How odd. Investigating further, I discovered that a section from a different book was included (129-160); this is from Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins. Pages 240-288 of Hill’s book missing. I have never come across such a thing before and wonder if every 1991 edition has the same error?

It is exactly the book I was looking for. What a treat to find there are two more in the trilogy! Feeling positively energised and happy with my reading habit.

My, what a strange, surreal little book it is! As I read, I couldn’t help envisioning it as a black-and-white New Wave film, filled with shadowy lighting, rapid scene changes and long tracking shots… I am enjoying my initial forays into the world of Maigret very much. Given how many of them there are, of course, I shall have to pick up the pace if I intend to get through all of them: there are 73 novels left (not to mention the short stories) which, at my current rate of three a year, will take me another 24 years to get through … and I rather think I’ll be lucky to live that long.

This week every year I take Ulysses down from the shelf and read three or four pages from each of the 18 chapters. It’s a ritual I enjoy more with each passing year and my admiration for Joyce’s masterpiece grows accordingly. Such a wonderful affirmation of words, of language, and ultimately, of our humanity. It is a novel that has never been bettered and I will be forever grateful to Joyce for completing it and to Sylvia Beach for publishing it.

“I’m the same old wreck I’ve always been.” Rejoice! The poet, lyricist and extreme talent David Berman is back.

Salman Rushdie on Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

The mysterious 11-day disappearance of Agatha Christie in 1926.

“If he had a third eye, it was staring at me, too.” Not strictly books, but Brian Cullman writes so beautifully about the late, great Dr John in the Paris Review that you won’t regret the reading.

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