Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Of Provisions

Today has been spent running around Oxford making arrangements and sorting out a few last necessities for my trip to the Alps, which begins tomorrow. I realise that I have been mentioning this little jaunt without actually explaining why I - a girl who enjoys her home comforts perhaps more than most - am taking myself off to a chalet on the mountain slopes, miles away from the nearest hairdryer. I shall explain properly tomorrow before I leave, but suffice to say at the moment that I am now equipped with everything one could possibly need to fend off any type of biting creature you care to mention, enough plasters to soothe the blisters of a small army, and, thanks to skirmishofwit, the means to make sure that a little bit of girly luxury finds its way into the chalet at shower time:


Most importantly of all, however, I have enough books to keep me occupied for ten days up a mountain. I shall have company of course - I am not quite hare-brained enough to disappear into the hills alone - and I plan to spend some of my time strolling gently along the less arduous of the mountain tracks, admiring the alpine flowers and commenting on the view while my more adventurous companions strike off up the glacier. Mainly, however, I can't wait to have ten days cut off from emails and telephone calls, away from my studies, to sit down undisturbed and simply read.

I read all the time while I am in Oxford, of course, but most of this is for work - the literature of Sir W's time, rather than my own, or the arguments of critics. I genuinely enjoy this reading (or most of it, at least...), but I miss having the time to read for enjoyment alone. I always have at least one non-work book on the go, for reading over lunch, or before I go to bed, but I am almost giddy at the thought of having ten whole days to really indulge myself with books which are purely for fun. I am hugely thankful that I seem to have escaped the curse which afflicts some English students - of losing the ability to read 'for fun', and attacking each and every novel as if required to write a 20,000 word paper on it afterwards. I still get every bit as much enjoyment out of a good old-fashioned murder mystery or regency romance as I ever did before, and so, although I shall be taking a little 'work' reading with me, this holiday is really a chance for a proper break, to be immersed in a few books not written by men who died four hundred years ago...

In case the photograph is a little hard to make out, my reading selection comprises the following: The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff; The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter; Mariana by Monica Dickens; The Calligrapher by Edward Docx; Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor; and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.

The Calligrapher is my collection's wild card - I had never heard of it, but when I saw it in the bookshop today I was immediately lured in by the blurb on the back, unable to resist a book which is about 'a world-class calligrapher and a serial seducer', who is transcribing Donne's Songs and Sonnets for a wealthy patron when an indiscretion catches up with him. It sounds like it should be suitably enjoyable froth, and as John Donne was a good friend of Sir W, it even has a tangental relation to work...! The other books are all ones I've been wanting to read for a while. Forever Amber I've been curious about ever since I read about bad girls reading it surreptitiously as a banned book in the Chalet School series of my childhood, and it looks like a great romp. Angela Carter has been recommended to me so many times, I've decided I simply must try her, and besides, how could I resist such a gorgeous cover? (Incidentally, anyone else interested in Carter should pay a visit to this review of The Magic Toyshop at Verity's Virago Venture, and also the guest posting there on the same topic by Paperback Reader, both of which further fueled my desire to become acquainted with Carter's work).

Mariana and The Fortnight in September are two more to add to my steadily growing collection from the wonderful Persephone Books; and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie sounds delightful, and right up my street. I am also just now cogitating about which audio books to upload to my ipod (apparently, although the chalet is without electricity, there is a hotel a little distance away where I can charge both my camera and my ipod, so I can listen away unimpeded, and unfortunately have no excuse for returning from holiday without photographic evidence of me in walking boots carting a rucksack around, as the excuse that 'the battery ran out before I had chance' just isn't going to wash...).

And although I shall be deserting him for a little while, I can rest confident in the knowledge that Sir W would approve of my 'reading holiday', being himself a true book lover - his admission here in his 1600 essay 'Of Censuring' is one of the reasons I am sure he and I would get on:

'I am determined to speake of bookes next, to whom, if you wold not say I were too bookish, I shuld giue the first place of all thinges here.'

8 comments:

Paperback Reader said...

Angela Carter AND Persephones? Be still my heart!

Have a fabulous time in the Alps, Sophie, and enjoy the reading.

ramblingfancy said...

Have a lovely, relaxing time! I loved The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - such a fun read.

skirmishofwit said...

Have a lovely time! Glad the Chance will add a splash of frivolity ;)

Sophie said...

Thank you, everyone - I'll certainly try!

verity said...

Ooh, I have Fortnight in September on MY holiday reading pile :)

I'm glad you are inspired by us to try Angela Carter...

Maybe you would like to join in our Persephone reading week when you get back:
http://cardigangirlverity.blogspot.com/2009/07/persephone-week-challenge-240809.html

I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

Table Talk said...

I loved 'The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie'. The heroine ought to have been at the Chalet School. Have a great holiday. I have a problem with mountains, I always think they're going to collapse on top of me. I can only survive if I climb them which doesn't make for a relaxing holiday. I hope you do better.

Sophie said...

Ooh, Verity, yes, I'd certainly be interested in getting involved with the Persephone reading week - thanks! Are you reading the Sherriff for the Oxford Persephone group? I'll be coming along to the September meeting, which is why it's in my pile...

Table Talk: well, as you'll see from my latest post, I have some problems with mountains too, so I'll let you know how I get on!!

verity said...

Sophie - I haven't been to any of the Oxford Persephone group meetings and seem to have dropped off their list. I am reading the Sherrif though, but mainly because I'm off on holiday, in September, for nearly a fortnight, so that seemed an appropriate choice!