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I’ve been fairly quiet recently, partly due to stressful stuff at work (more of that on another occasion perhaps) but mostly because I have had a really nasty, horrible, debilitating cold for a few weeks and am only just beginning to feel that I’m properly recovering. I managed to struggle through one review last week and that took so much out of me that I had to go and lie down in a darkened room. Or something.

When I was first developing said cold, two weeks ago today in fact, I really didn’t feel like doing very much, couldn’t settle to TV or reading anything that required huge amounts of concentration and anything with more than one syllables was definitely out of the question.

But I was bored and had to do something in between medication and naps, and decided that graphic novels were just the thing.

Started with Amphigorey by one of my heroes Edward Gorey. This is a collection of  (I think) fifteen of Gorey’s works and was ideal because the ratio of pictures to words was high (or do I mean low – more of the former than the latter, anyway) and of course Gorey’s wonderfully gothic sensibility is just the ticket when you’re feeling a bit under the weather. Loved it as much as I knew I would.

I then moved on to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (I actually wanted to call him the Ancient Manager, which is how I feel at the moment), and this was great fun in a very different way. The poem is one of my favourites (though over the years I’ve singularly failed to memorise it, though not for want of trying) and I have loved Hunt Emerson’s cartoons in Fortean Times which I have subscribed to for years. And the image of the albatross with a rubber-suckered arrow stuck on his head still tickles me.

So picture books good for early stages of a cold. When I actually gave in, stopped struggling in to work and flumped, I at least didn’t have a headache and could read more words I actually read more over that few days than I had in the weeks before so every cloud has a silver lining. But more of those later.

I really did mean to blog about this ages ago but got caught up in other things as explained in recent posts, but I’m really keen to write about it now in case you haven’t come across it yet, because it was so absorbing.

Pattern in the Carpet is subtitled “a personal history with jigsaws” which is a lovely description of a wonderful, ostensibly rambling but actually probably very carefully constructed book.

And it’s important to say that I really enjoyed this book and dashed off to a cupboard in my study where I believe  my own collection of jigsaws are stashed but couldn’t actually get to them because of other stuff.

Margaret Drabble is very clear what’s important to her about the toys/games/pastimes/whatever you call them:

one of the reasons why the jigsaw appeals to me, as I have already suggested, is that it is pre-made, its limits finite, its frame fixed. […] It can’t be done badly. Slowly, but not badly. All one needs is patience. […] in this aspect , the jigsaw is the very opposite of the novel.

It’s a book full of learning, reminiscences, anecdotes and the kind of information that I absolutely love to store away and drop into conversation and (if I’m ever invited) pub trivia quizzes. Such as the fact that Paternoster Row, which used to have lots of bookshops, was “wiped out in all but name on the night of 29 December 1940, along with six million books.” Six million books, can you imagine?

There is a great deal about children’s education over the centuries and how jigsaws came to be, but in the end she feels that she “has strayed far from my plan , which was to write a brief illustrated history of the jigsaw puzzle.” And I’m glad she did because this is so much richer being as much I think about memory and family as anything else.

There is so much to this book and I can’t recommend it enough. I’ll finish with my favourite quote which is about Margaret Drabble’s father:

I don’t know whether or not he believed in God, but he would certainly have liked to be able to do so, and he behaved as though he did

Please give this a try.

So I may have mentioned once or twice recently that it was my birthday at the end of January (and I promise that I will try not to do so again – well at least not until November) and that of course meant once or two wee pressies of a bookish nature. Plus a couple of small purchases of my own….

First of all, the pressies:

  • The House at Riverton by Kate Morton – I know everyone except me read this ages ago but better late than never, and after all in the Summer of 1924, young poet kills himself, two sisters witness this and never speak to each other again; cue Winter 1999….
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – read her first one in 2009 (I think) and thought I’d give this a try, who can resist the “Farmhouse Satan Sacrifices”
  • Bright Young Things by DJ Taylor – my mild obsession with the inter-war period continues
  • Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill – terror lies behind the door of Apartment 16; all I can say is we shall see
  • Give Me Your Heart by Joyce Carol Oates – tales of mystery by one of my very favourite authors

Plus a couple of treats for myself:

  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – now a major motion pircture of course but this has been on my wish list for ages, but it has taken Carey, Andrew and Kiera to make it happen
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – a recommendation from the very nice Japanese girl who gave me a facial in the Covent Garden Molton Brown store last week

Quite pleased especially as this is likely to be the last major book haul for some time.

So here we are in the first weekend of February and it’s been nearly a month since I actually posted anything about stuff I’ve read or am reading. In fact it’s been very quiet around here in terms of anything substantial and this is something that has to change.

So why the quietness?

  • technology – I got an iPad before Christmas and an iPhone a week or so ago and now spend my commuting time playing about with them, especially as I am now on Twitter (button on the sidebar if you want to follow my inane ramblings and grumpy-old-womanish stuff);
  • heavy workload – I had the whole of Christmas off and suffered for it as soon as I got back to work on 4 Jan – and in so many ways I’m still suffering for it;
  • general lack of backbone – as evidenced by failing to get anywhere with either the Sci-fi Experience or Virago Reading Week despite both best intentions and something vaguely resembling a plan (though I still have 3 weeks to make an impact on the former) – although to be fair all of the books I haven’t been reading have been within the permitted rules of the TBR Dare;
  • my birthday – my real one at the end of January which involved eating and cocktails and spending time with lovely people and talking about books (just not reading them…..)

But none of  this should have prevented me from reading, and as I said to Silvery Dude only the other day, if you really want to do something you’ll make time for it. Which just proves that (a) I talk a lot of nonsense and (b) I don’t practise what I preach – though that’s the prerogative of being an older sister (don’t do what I do, do what I say).

But I have plans.

I will:

  • write the one book and two film review posts outstanding from January;
  • go through my “I’ve started so I’ll finish” bookpile and weed out the ones I’m not in the mood for at the moment;
  • post about the really nice books I got for my birthday
  • start reading regularly again

So watch this space, something might actually happen!

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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February 2011