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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

December 19, 2005

Book lists (the prognosis is dim)

A very long time ago I set myself up with several programs of reading.

The first one was to understand European literature. I started off with classical greek. I started to learn classical greek itself but soon slacked off and started reading translations (Loeb, Penguin, Oxford classics etc).

Yes, they can be dry and dusty like an old man's cock, but I've been from Homer's star-roofed plains of Troy to the Munchausian tales of Lucian; from the youthful, sexy iambs of Archilochus to the crusty poetical jigsaw puzzles of Callimachus. Never mind the sheer and rocky tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, or the Bucolics of Theocritus, Bion and the rest.

All these years on, I've got 7 books left to read before I can begin reading translations of literature written in Latin from the Roman empire.

But something awful has happened. Recently I've taken to noting dates in the covers of books when I start to read them, and again when I finish them. Partly vanity, partly a practical way of tagging a book to say that I have read it.

It seems that since August 2003 I've read just two books. Translations of Arrian's "Campaigns of Alexander", and Josephus' "Jewish Wars". This is horrifying news. On that basis it may be another three years before I finish the Greek stuff.

It get's worse though. Not only is this a startling reminder of my own mortality and status as a Failed Reader of Literature: it is also a shocking indicator of the folly of much that I do.

You see, I have lists of translations of Sanskrit, Anglo-Saxon literature, the Viking sagas, Middle English stuff, Renaissance works, Tudor stuff, The Romantics, Fin de Siecle poetry, First World War stuff, James Joyce, Kathryn Mansfield, Virginia Wolf. And that's just the European Literature.

Here alone I'm forced to conclude that I already have more books than I will get to read before I snuff it.

Three years ago I stopped reading computer books: they are the modern equivalent of the chap book; disposable trash that is of no use to anyone who isn't terminally bored.

There's music too. I have a cabinet of bookshelves full of books about music: tutorials, theory, about guitars and amplifiers. What about all of those?

There's my philosophy list. When I say "philosophy", I mean analytical philosophy rather than the looser modern bookshop definition along the lines of "New Age" or "Religion". Theory of Mind. Formal Logic. That sort of stuff. I'm currently bogged down in Kant (and probably have been for about 5 years now).

And there's all the miscellaneous clutter I've picked up along the way: stone-age history, Egypt, Incas and Mayans, early China, a book about the Queen of Sheba. There's a cupboard full of books about war that my mum's friend Eddie has leant me.

And the current list of "must read soon" books that don't fit into a list:
a) Where late the sweet birds sang - Kate Wilhelm (Rob lent me this several lifetimes ago).
b) The history of association Football which I want to read as a sort of posthumous cap tipping to my dad.
c) The labyrinth of time - saw it mentioned in an astronomy magazine and thought, "yes".
d) A fat book about wild flowers that seems to offer no practical use other than as coffee table fodder.
e) The fossils of florissant - it is possible to know what butterflies looked like 30 million years ago.
f) History of Country Music.
g) A Basque grammar that I bought for a laugh.
h) Last but not least, a book about how to be self sufficient, which my wife bought me. It has a useful chapter on how to manually slaughter pigs and cattle. This may well be the ace up my sleeve come the post-oil-economy apocalypse.


  • Have you still got that Tim Powers book I leant you? Can't even remember which one it was now. Stress of Her Regard? On Stranger Tides?

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 6:28 am  

  • You jest?

    You've lent me two and I am sure that I've returned them.

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 6:31 am  

  • leant? lent? Loaned? Some words don't look right written down.

    It was a genuine question. I can't remember whether you returned them, and I certainly don't keep my books in any kind of order.

    Myself, I had a year's subscription to Asimov's magazine. I think I got my last issue in December, but I'm so far only up to August in reading them. So I won't renew until I catch up, just to keep a lid on things.

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 6:35 am  

  • First you lent me the one about East against West and the fisher king (what was it called?)

    After that you lent me The Stress of Her Regard, which I know I returned because I've tried to obtain a copy for myself (impossible).

    They were both excellent.

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 6:37 am  

  • The Drawing of the Dark.

    Oh, yeah, and here's The stress of her regard for a mere 50 notes!

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 6:39 am  

  • I absolutely loved The Stress of Her Regard. So fecking clever, how he weaves the fiction in with known facts and anecdotes about the Romantics.

    I've read quite a bit about Byron and Shelley and the details in this book brought a smile to my face more times than I can remember.

    How comes it isn't available as a reprint? It makes no earthly sense to me. As you say, the going rates for dog-eared copies prove that there is a market for a reprint.

    By Blogger SimonHolyHoses, at 6:44 am  

  • Because Waterstones would apparently rather fill an entire shelf with different editions of Lord of the Rings than sell something that hasn't been made into a film.

    Ironically, even though they ripped it off for "Pirates of the Caribbean", you can't get "On Stranger Tides", either.

    By Blogger bot37363838, at 6:49 am  

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