Well, it’s Saturday morning again. I am on my way to work just now so here’s one I prepared earlier.
Books. I spend a lot of time around them, at work and of course at home. I’ve recently moved house and as part of it I decided to downsize fairly drastically. Before the move I must have had 500+ books, most of them living in a cupboard though some also ended up in a box or beside my bed. Over a couple of days I went through them and filled a grand total of 14 supermarket bags for life and a suitcase full of books to go to charity, some of the best of them donated to the library. I don’t have any strong feelings about it. Working in libraries and having weeded thousands of books has rid me of any sentimentality. I think there’s some catharsis there from having shed some of the many, many books I would never have read, some of them presents, most bought with good intentions. I’m glad they will go to good use, even for recycling. This is also not an invitation to get me any more either.
A few weeks ago I wrote that I was intending to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, a book I found in the clearing out process. I managed to read it in a couple of sittings, finishing it on the train to Edinburgh one day. It was one of those books that shakes up your head and leaves you feeling a bit woozy afterwards. That’s a good thing. The best fiction does that. The Bell Jar covers all sorts of different notes and themes, a period piece in its insights into 1950s New York and how mental illness used to be treated, certainly, but also universal and timely in how it covers feminism and loneliness too. I believe that in most things it is right to get out of habits now and then, particularly with reading. I bought the book a few years ago with good intentions, probably because I had heard of it at some point. I tried to read it on its own terms, not seeing it as some seminal tome but just as the book I was currently reading, and it wasn’t bad at all.
The next on the ‘books I bought ages ago but never got round to’ list is The Silver Darlings by Neil Gunn. It’s sitting by my bed as I type this. I bought it years ago, it might even have been a gift, and one of my teachers used to talk about it as one of her very favourites. More recently I’ve discovered that Neil Gunn was also a mentor to Nan Shepherd, author of my favourite book, The Living Mountain, which is certainly another reason to read it, to establish a broader context to that great book. The Silver Darlings, according to the blurb, is about herring and the Highland Clearances, a struggle with landlords and nature. I look forward to finally getting round to it. I’m off on leave soon so might get round to it then.
Incidentally, in the move, I discovered my original copy of The Living Mountain. I had bought a replacement a couple of years ago plus I have an eBook on quite a few different devices. I bought the original at one of the National Trust castles in Aberdeenshire, possibly Craigievar, and read it in my auntie’s conservatory in Aberdeen that night. It was very short but it made a lasting impression. I re-read it every so often, the last time on the way to the football earlier this year. Even though I’ve never been to the Cairngorms or even to the top of a mountain, reading Nan Shepherd’s words are usually just what I need, inspirational, life-affirming and just plain beautiful. I’ll hopefully get round to another re-read soon.
Well, that’s my book blethers for another week. Tomorrow there will be a post here about a recent walk I had along the Restalrig Railway Path in Edinburgh. I’m going to be trying a few things on Sundays in the next few weeks, maybe a new mini-series. Let me know what you think. Anyway, have a nice Saturday.