A flotsam consisting of 2 1/2 decades worth of clothes, toys and books found its way to Oxfam today. Well. I dropped it off. I was worried they wouldn't take it. It was a lot of stuff - three large bags of clothes and two boxes of toys and books. One of the books was a National Geographic publication: The Adventure of Archaeology. It was a big coffee table book, the title print in a mock Indiana Jones typeface. It was quite a tome, brought out to cash in on the mad rush of kids wanting to be archaeologists in the wake of the movies. I was one of those kids, reading it and re-reading it fascinated but slightly disappointed about the lack of bullwhips and Nazis. It was well thumbed and had a few of the bloodstains from paper cuts that go hand-in-hand with big glossy books. I was sad to see it go and have thought I may buy it back from Oxfam at one point. Strictly for nostalgia. It's a kids' book. But I'd forgotten about it for so long and would no doubt forget about it again. I may well buy a new book on archaeology, one more suited to someone with a degree in medaeval history. More text, fewer pictures.
I have a proper fedora now, but no bullwhip. And I've not punched a Nazi yet, but hope springs eternal. Maybe when David Irving finishes his prison sentence?
After giving loads of books away I felt I should fill some more gaps in my bookshelves. Ok, there aren't any gaps in my bookshelves and in fact they overflow into various empty wine crates, but I still wanted to buy books. And I love bookshops. Even evil multinational chains like Waterstones.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Before I went to buy more books, I stepped into a wine shop. It was wonderful. Not the wine shop itself, which was good but not great (a Nicolas - they've got a very good selection of 2nd wines from great chateau), but just wandering, the smell of wood (wine boxes smell wonderful) and seeing the odd interesting bottle. I didn't even buy anything (this is for the best, I assure you). The incredibly attractive shop assistant made this remarkable. I was struck by several pangs of nostalgia and a bit of a thirst. So I ran away before my wallet lept from my pocket and my palate usurped common sense.
To the book shop I ran, where I added to my pile of books I must read. Both War & Peace (bought today) and Don Quixote (bought earlier) are in the pile now, new translations of both. Three volumes of Gabriel García Márquez as well (a collection of short stories, 100 Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera). None of it light reading, but stuff you kind of have to read. Especially the Tolstoy and Cervantes, just so that, as a writer, you know when you're ripping one of them off.
I finally finished Atonement. I took my time with it for a couple of reasons. The first is the sense of impending doom through much of the first part. It's so beautifully written that you know when something awful happens it will appall you. The other was that I just didn't want to finish it. If you haven't read it, read it. Many thanks again to my cultural advisor for moving it up to pole position in my must-read list many months ago.
In the midst of Atonement I read The Sea by John Banville, winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize. It left me a bit cold. I think it was a bit of a triumph of style over substance. The writing is stunning. I'm just not entirely sure what the point of it was. I'm lending it to my mum to get a second opinion.
Currently ploughing through Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Bit of fun after the tragedy of Mr McEwan's writing.