Reading list 2014


Letters To A Young Poet Rainer Maria Rilke
The Torrents Of Spring Ernest Hemingway
Pale Fire Vladmir Nabakov
The Old Man And The Sea Ernest Hemingway
Within A Budding Grove Part 2. Marcel Proust
The Guermantes Way Part 1 Marcel Proust
Death In Venice Thomas Mann
Fear and Trembling Soren Kierkegaard
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
The Crying of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon
The Guermantes Way Part 2 Marcel Proust
The Lost Daughter Elena Ferrante
Cities of the Plain Part 1 Marcel Proust
The Loved One Evelyn Waugh
The Death of Ivan Ilyich Leo Tolstoy
The Metamorphosis Franz Kafka
The Member of the Wedding Carson McCullers
Cities of the Plain Part 2 Marcel Proust
Isabelle Andre Gide
La Symphonie Pastoral Andre Gide
Strait Is The Gate Andre Gide
Nadja Andre Breton
The Captive Part 1 Marcel Proust
The Immoralist Andre Gide
The Captive Part 2 Marcel Proust
The Sweet Cheat Gone Marcel Proust



A year entirely coloured by the great A La Recherche Du Tempts Perdu. I fell for Gide, and the swirling Fear and Trembling by Kierkegaard gave me  a mild headache… but nothing diverted me from Proust for long. With the exception of Pale Fire by Nabokov, all the other literature I read this year, besides Proust, was fairly short. Acting as palette cleansers to break up the big read…

Rilke was a wonderful discovery, The Torrents of Spring by Hemingway confirmed my extreme dislike of his writing – The Old Man And The Sea, however, was enjoyable if only for its lack of opportunity to display misogyny and racism. Gide was another great discovery – Isabelle, La Symphonie Pastoral and Straight is The Gate in particular; and the Death of Ivan Ilyich reminded me of my deep love for Anna Karenina – and lit a small fire under me to read War and Peace at my earliest convenience. I loathed Thomas Pynchon and Andre Breton made me mildy (oscillating between mildly and extremely, rather) angry with his closer to Nadja: “BEAUTY WILL BE CONVULSIVE OR WILL NOT BE AT ALL”. It made me bang my fist at book club and shout “beauty can be gentle!”. The study group on the table next to us moved away from our table after that.

Just one volume of A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu to go – TIME REGAINED. Anyone who has spent longer than a few conversations with me will know my love of this great book, how much I have taken pleasure in reading it and the deep joy it has given me. I can say it is without a doubt one of the greatest life choices I have made – reading this beautiful piece of art at this time in my life. It is so rich and I will cherish it forever, and pick at it again and again for the rest of my life. It has changed and influenced the way I view everything and provided a veritable FEAST for my mind.

It is with regret I notice I only read two female authors this year. I shall resurrect that strange passing next year – I’m starting with our book club choice NIGHTWOOD by Djuna Barnes as my imminent read. After that I will read the final volume of Proust. Perhaps then I will crack on with War and Peace and read the three remaining Woolf novels I have left unread – The Voyage Out, Jacob’s Room and The Years.

If anyone has any recommendations, please send – I have sailed through the year somewhat on autopilot without having to seek out great literature, as the “next” book to read, for such a long time; was always Proust, interspersed with some book club choices and the odd short-ish novel.

What a trip!!

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The Sweet Cheat Gone

And so once again we find ourselves in the bleakest and most depressing time of the year; a season characterised by bare trees and chills. Outside my window, a line of trees stripped of greenery… I eagerly await watching the spring blossom life into them. In the interim time will pass in double socks and attempts to coax my cat into sleeping on my feet.

I have finished volume five of Remembrance of Things Past and will start volume six later today – The Sweet Cheat Gone.

Two and a half weeks remain of the year. The last two volumes of the great tome are much shorter than the earlier episodes; and if I hark back to two years ago I recall that this time of year is nothing short of ideal for blazing through literature. It was December 2012 that I managed to knock Ulysses out in a week and a half  (I had that little to do and energy to do it). So it’s not entirely inconcievable that I shall conclude the great novel in the not too distant future. I am very excited.

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SKB (w/SVE) – Is What It Is

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The Paris Review: Proust x Daniel Mendelsohn

As a classicist, you often contextualize contemporary literature by going back to antiquity. In your opinion, what sort of new territory did Proust chart in literature?

I think Proust, along with Joyce, represents the limits of the novel. Those two authors signed off on the end of the novel in its existing form. With them, we see the completion of a genre born at the end of the seventeenth century, which, during its development, established itself very deeply in the inner conscience of the individual. After them, there was nothing left to explore.

But if I adopt the view of a professor rather than a critic, I think that Proust also marks a beginning. He opened the door to our interior world. Proust must be read, Proust must be taught, because Proust is good for the soul. He teaches us to read life as though it were a novel. It’s exactly that quote you mentioned—“Every reader is … a reader of himself.” In this sense, Proust, like Freud, has shaped our way of thinking. Thanks to him, we have become the critics of our own psyche.

After having read In Search of Lost Time, we realize that our existence has a common thread, recurrent themes, recurring characters—things that can be analyzed precisely the way they are analyzed in a text, by applying aesthetic and literary criteria to our every day lives. “What is the lesson you draw from your own existence?” This is the philosophy that Proust teaches us.


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Current interests, July 1st 2014:

Alice Coltrane – Turiya Sings (1982)
Kathy Heideman – Move With Love (1976)
Kevin Ayers – Whatevershebringswesing (1971)
Vashti Bunyan – Just Another Diamond Day (1969)
Basso Profondo From Old Russia (1999)
Julee Cruise – Floating Into The Night (1989)

The Hierophant
The Knight of Cups
The Queen of Cups
Two of Pentacles vs The World

Days of Heaven
Invocation of My Demon Brother
Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome
The Phantom of Liberty
That Obscure Object of Desire

Yves Klein
Peter Doig’s Studio Film Club

A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu
Psychoanalysis and literature: Freud x Proust x Woolf
Susan Sontag

Marina Abramovic
Marina Abramovic
Marina Abramovic


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