Things I’m Reading #3 PLUS! ONS Giveaway!

Sorry, I am late yet again with my Things I’m reading Thursday post – and ONS has been pretty quiet this week in spite of my best intentions. My rather pathetic excuse is I’ve been up against two deadlines this week… normal service will be resumed, I promise! To make it up to you, there’s a brand new ONS giveaway — details at the end of this post. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been reading this past seven days; feel free to share your books (and thoughts thereupon) too…

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
OK, if someone had said ‘hey, read this book – it’s 500 pages long and set in an Italian convent in 1570’, I’d have run a mile – in a bookstore full of fiction, this might well have been the last book I’d have chosen to read. However, because it’s required reading for me at the moment, there was no way out… so I braced myself and dived in.
I was actually quite pleasantly surprised – particularly since I’d tried to ease myself into the book by reading some reviews, and one or two I found were pretty savage. The book basically follows the story of a young novice who enters the Ferrara Convent against her will, and focuses on her relationship with one of the long-serving nuns who empathises with her plight. Unfortunately, Dunant makes the mistake of painting Zuana, the older nun, far more vividly than Serafina, the supposed protagonist – for me, Zuana was the more interesting of the two and I couldn’t really get a grip on Serafina’s character. The book also contains vivid and sometimes harrowing descriptions of convent life – nuns mistaking extreme fatigue and sickness for divine ecstasies, self-mutilation in the name of faith, etc. However, Dunant does not give a one-dimensional portrayal of these women – all the nuns display a degree of religious fanaticism, and many are vain, proud, jealous and secretive. The novel really comes to life in the passages where Dunant describes the small vanities of the sisters – their surreptitious personal grooming, the pampering of their pet lapdogs – I was far more interested in hearing about the trivial details of convent life than about tortured Serafina and her thwarted love affair. So I think perhaps I missed the point of this novel… but I did enjoy it, in spite of myself. I’d recommend it, but beware – like The Wonder from last week, it is also really, really (perhaps somewhat needlessly) long.

I’ve also been dipping in and out of various poetry books – too many to list here – in order to find inspiration for my forthcoming portfolio deadline. So instead of picking one of the many I’ve been looking at, I thought it was high time for another ONS giveaway. Last summer I was sent a little package of poetry books by the lovely people at Donut Press — this is another of those. Frankie, Alfredo, by Liane Strauss is up for grabs and Donut describe it thus: “poems of great ingenuity, humour and charm. This feminine metaphysical verse frequently explores aspects of desire, and holds at its heart a number of seeming contradictions: it is often ironic yet romantic, passionate yet deftly controlled, intellectual yet accessible, and displays wit counterbalanced with modesty.” Who could refuse such a book? I’d be tempted to add that it’s small but mighty – about A6 size – and has cover art to die for. Want a free copy? Just tell me what you’re reading this week in the comments box, before Thursday 28th. Simple!

(Photo by Montgolfier)

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12 Responses to “Things I’m Reading #3 PLUS! ONS Giveaway!”

  1. Rachel Fox Says:

    Yes, I’d like that book so please put me in the draw.
    I’m reading ‘What is the what’ by Dave Eggers - I’ve had it on my shelf for a year and this month, oddly, I feel ready to read it. So far (I’m maybe a fifth through) it is spectacular. I knew it was going to be SAD but it is also spiky, lively, surprisingly moreish.
    I’m also reading Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s poetry collection ‘Portrait of the Artist with a Red Car’….and Paterson’s ‘Rain’ on and off
    x

  2. charlotte g Says:

    i bought zadie smith’s book ‘changing my mind’ this week and i’m reading that at the moment. it’s the first thing i’ve successfully read much of during term that isn’t a set text in a while, and that’s probably because it’s a collection of essays, and essays don’t take very long to read. i especially like her essay on barthes and nabokov, despite having never read any nabokov. i find her account of trying to reconcile theorists with actual reading & writing really interesting, and worthwhile. i’m excited for the rest of the essays - i’m on the fourth or fifth now, and there are quite a few in the book. she’s great.

    i’ve finished reading paradise lost, and i wrote an essay on it and everything. it’s great but it’s not for me. less said about that the better i feel.

    i’m seeing luke kennard read here next week, so i’m going to try my hardest to re-read the migraine hotel before then. he’s probably my favourite poet.

  3. Rachel Fox Says:

    I’m reading the papers too of course…so many sad stories this week. All those orphans…and everything else.
    x

  4. David Says:

    I’m meant to be reading Geoffrey Hill for class but really find it a chore to do so. I’m sort of in the zone where I think there are so many things out there that I really want to read that it maybe isn’t worth trying to like things you instinctively don’t like. So, with that in mind I’ve been reading the two Carcanet anthologies on The New York Poets - particularly impressed by James Schuyler and Frank O’Hara! They have this amazing talent for making the everyday an absolute wonder. I read Catherine Smith’s The Butchers Hands too, one of those rare collections you can just read cover-to-cover and be like “wow!”

    Put me in the draw for that book :-) there is a donut sized hole on my bookshelf (where a donut used to be) SCOFF!

  5. Rachel Says:

    I’m finally getting around to Lionel Schriver’s “Post Birthday World” this weekend as well as finishing “Yoga School Drop Out” which mirrors my own yoga journey a lot! Also finishing up this quarter’s MsLexia and Ambit magazines.

  6. Lewis Says:

    I’ve always got a few on the go at once, but I’m concentrating on:

    Mud Luscious Press Year One
    - experimental short-shorts. Each entry is beautiful, challenging, engaging and inspiring in its own way. A truly spectacular body of work from 40+ authors.

    McSweeney’s Issue 19
    - a beautiful collection of short stories, like the rest in their series of quartleys, but this one comes in a cigar box designed by Michael Kupperman with reproductions of unusual wartime propaganda leaflets. A pleasure to hold.

    Angela Carter’s Book Of Fairy Tales
    - who else could compile such a collection? Fantastical tales from around the world and it’s beautifully presented too, from someone who really knows her stuff. I’m not ashamed ( despite being a man ) to say that Angela Carter is one of my favourite authors.

    I recommend all of the above!

  7. Regina Says:

    Oh, Claire- I’ve read Sacred Hearts and really enjoyed it! I don’t know whether it was because I grew up a Catholic and had all these fantasies about convent life, but I found it fascinating!

    Right now I am reading Sylvia Plath’s Unabridged Journals… and Ariel at night before I go to sleep- hm… no wonder I am up now at 4:30 in the morning!
    ;)

  8. Col Says:

    Hmm, free donut… err book. Terrible to get them confused.

    I started the week with ‘Scoop’ by Evelyn Waugh. I got through buying a pack of ten Penguin Classics for £10. This being the first book by him that I’ve read, I was surprised about how much I enjoyed it. In some ways it has aged, the England of that time is long gone, but a lot of the satire is still more that relevant.
    Then ‘In Flanders Fields’ which is a poetry anthology of poets who all died in the first world war. There are a few poems that instantly recognisable (included some by Wilfred Owen) but I guess I just wasn’t really in the mood for it, and it hasn’t stayed with me. One to go back to, I think.
    After that Is ‘Nine Horses’ by Billy Collins. Obviously, this a wonderful book, chock full of fantastic poems. If I had to offer some criticism, is that the formula for each poem doesn’t vary much. A highly simplistic view: this is what’s happening to me / around me, this very moment, and then turn in it to show it in the wider pattern of the world. For instance, there are only three poems that don’t use ‘I.’ Anyway, this is just some nit-picking by me. Much to like, and indeed love, many thanks for the recommendation.
    Finished the week with ‘Aller Retour New York’ by Henry Miller. Which is two very long letters (the first 85 pages- imagine getting a letter like that these days!) about an account of a trip to New York, and the return back to Paris, where he was living at the time. I’m very aware Miller isn’t for everyone. The way he easily dismisses women in his books as little more than objects for sex, for instance. But still, it’s an enjoyable and funny book.

  9. Alvin Says:

    Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
    It’s difficult for me to really read for fun with classes going on just because I tend to have so much reading for class, but I’m glad my friend sent me this book. It’s rare that the first paragraph of any book should really catch me enough for me to reread it, much less reread it three times, but it just felt like the right thing to do with Sputnik Sweetheart. I’m still essentially in the first quarter of the novel, but I have been loving every little word of it. It captures that bittersweet romance I’m such a sucker for so well.

  10. Dee Says:

    This week I’m reading Richard Siken’s Crush, his amazing Yale Series-winning collection of poetry, which is easily one of the best books of poetry I’ve read in a long while. I also just started reading The Passion by Jeanette Winterson, and I’m finishing up re-reads of both Jeremy Mercer’s Time Was Soft There, his memoir of living at Shakespeare & Co, and Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things, his most recent story collection.

  11. Gareth Says:

    Fiction wise, I’ve just started reading Frankenstein, which I’m undecided about for the moment. Am also up to GoF in my Harry Potter reread (yes I am a complete Harry Potter geek — Hermione Granger has been the major love of my life thus far).

    As far as poetry goes, I’m still reading Nine Horses — trying to make it last as long as possible! Have also been dipping into the Ginsberg book I bought — I think it’s “selected poems”or somesuch — but am yet to read Howl or Kaddish. I did read this fantastic poem about going to bed with a man, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called.

  12. PUA eBook Says:

    Bookmaring this site.