This is a self-indulgent post in which I record my reading list ( read, reading, and to be read); consider how far I have travelled without leaving home; and note very briefly what knowledge, useful or otherwise, I have learned on my literary tour.
It is a post which is the equivalent of an entry I would have made in my version of a commonplace book, more than a decade ago, before the computer stole my soul.
READ (Where I have been; quite far it seems)
What I’ve learned:
Music will out even in the most dreadful of circumstances, hence the establishment of the amazing Afghanistan National Institute of Music
There is a rich tradition of poetry in Ethiopia, which is not well-known outside of Ethiopia. One particular type of scholarly poetry is called q’ene and plays with the double meanings of words. It often introduces words from Ge’ez, the ancient Semitic language from which Amharic derives, now only used in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. So a q’ene will have a surface (wax) interpretation but also a deeper and richer (gold) meaning, giving it the title semenna worq (wax and gold).
Some books choose you. After all what are the chances of reading your life, as it is unfolding, in the first sentence of the first chapter of a book which you selected randomly from a pile of donated books ~”My father is dead and it is raining.” Thus it was on both counts.
Reading about recent earthquakes on my home turf still makes my heart race.
I am a wimp. I would have been a useless pioneer. And it was interesting to realise that a lack of aeroplanes and fossil fuels was never a barrier to travel.
This book is available to us thanks to translation by Jean Anderson, founder of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation. To understand each other we need to read each other.
Data collection is nothing new. We have just changed the way we collect it. Before Google and Facebook, there was the Mass Observation project. Mass Observation was founded 75 years ago in 1937 by the South African poet, communist and journalist Charles Madge and two English eccentrics: the filmmaker and polymath Humphrey Jennings and the anthropologist and self-publicist Tom Harrisson. Formed in the aftermath of the abdication crisis, Mass Observation sought to bridge the gap between how the media represented public opinion and what ordinary people actually felt and thought. The Mass Observation Archives are at the University of Sussex.
Cows love to live in family groups and have a rich emotional life, not unlike humans.
Was this the wisest choice of reading material for a Trans-Tasman flight? The book begins “Chapter 1 Dangerous Situation. Right now: imagine dying.” Turns out I can do that in mid-air though it did feel slightly uncomfortable.
I may never understand how different people/groups/races in a country can love their country more deeply and fiercely than they do their fellow man. It’s a strange love that tears a country apart. And Scribbling the Cat is not a good thing to do.
READING (Where I am; in China and New Zealand)
Rewi Alley’s interest in China was piqued by his encounters with the Chinese Labour Corps who worked tirelessly for the Allies during World War One.
To Read Maybe, One Day, Sometime…….. (Where I may go; New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the library)
Wherein I hope to read more excellent essays like ‘ Hours in a Library’ which is the source of this lovely quote about reading lists and notebooks.
If we wish to refresh our memories, let us take down one of those old notebooks which we have all, at one time or another, had a passion for beginning. Most of the pages are blank, it is true; but at the beginning we shall find a certain number very beautifully covered with a strikingly legible handwriting. Here we have written down the names of great writers in their order of merit; here we have copied out fine passages from the classics; here are lists of books to be read; and here, most interesting of all, lists of books that have actually been read, as the reader testifies with some youthful vanity by a dash of red ink. We will quote a list of the books that someone read in a past January at the age of twenty, most of them probably for the first time.
In conclusion: I want to thank my sister-in-law and her sister who keep my bookshelves stocked with a wonderful, eclectic collection of excellent reading material. Without them I wouldn’t have read or travelled very far this year.