Friday, 28 December 2012

The habit of reading is the only enjoyment in which there is no alloy; it lasts when all other pleasures fade - Anthony Trollope

I’m painting.  Nothing arty, you understand.  Just my flat.  Well, not my whole flat.  Actually just a couple of walls in my bedroom.  For the moment.  On the advice of my physio. I need to find some simple, repetitive movements for my still-troublesome shoulder. 

The painting is therapeutic.  Or so I'm telling myself through the pain.

Still I’m loving being on holiday.  I have projects.  Including the painting.  Like knitting. Visiting. Baking.  And lots of eating.  I love being on holiday.  Can I do this for a living?
Probably not.  Still, I have a pile of books that have just arrived to compensate and I’m launching forth into them.  Another project.
As previously mentioned, winter is a romantic time for me.  The most romantic time of the year, in fact.  Although this winter is a tad too mild and wet, if the truth be told.  Still, it’s winter.  And that’s romantic.
So I need to read romance.  And I recently discovered the Penguin series, Great Loves.   “Love is strange, love is beautiful, love is dangerous, love is never what you expect it to be.”  So says Penguin Books.
There are 20 books in the series.  I bought a few and am reading them in no particular order.  I started with Stendhal’s Cures for Love.
Stendhal takes us through stages of love.  From first contact to jealousy to conflict.  With lots of comparisons and even more contrasts between men and women in love.  He's interesting and insightful in his musings.  For musings they are. 
One stood out: “the difficulty of forgetting a woman with whom you have been happy is that the imagination tirelessly continues to embellish moments of the past.” I think that applies to us all.  Regarding more than just former love and former lovers. We are sentimental beings.  Romanticising the past to make up for the present.  Or is that just me?
John Updike was much less fun.  He doesn’t muse.  At all.  His take is The women who got away.  Which I thought might be a sweet reminiscence of former love and former lovers.  But it's all reminiscing on former affairs.  All by married men.  All fathers.  Penguin says of this book:  “love is a game”.  Apparently these are the players.  It didn't do it for me.  Affairs are just not my idea of romance.  Call me strange.
So that's two down and 18 to go. Great Loves are going to see me through the rest of my holidays. Between painting sessions.  And baking.  And knitting.  And before romance gives way to reality and we’re back in work.
But we’re not there yet.  Let the romance live on…

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Never judge a book by its movie - J. W. Eagan

It’s very cold here now. The snow’s gone but it’s cold nevertheless. And grey. Very winter-like. I am so not complaining. I love the winter. It’s the most romantic of seasons in my book.

Chunky clothes, comfort food, vin chaud.  Bracing walks, visions of snow-filled fields and sparkly lights everywhere. The days dragging themselves awake and scurrying back under the covers almost as quickly.  Seriously romantic.

All you need is a little Ella in the air, a good book in the hand, and winter is truly a delight.  On days like this, one of my greatest joys is starting and finishing a book in one afternoon. Indeed, I’ve just had one of my more perfect days. Cuddled up to two (very warm) cats, sipping some steaming coffee, and said music filling my flat, I read Edith Wharton’s The Old Maid. Not a romantic read in the traditional sense, for sure. More tragic, really. Although the profound beauty of a mother’s love is never far from real romance. Self-sacrifice, lost love, pure misery.  It’s all there.
Of course, I couldn’t help but read the whole with Betty Davis in mind. I don’t normally watch a film before reading the book.  Possibly for this reason.  In this case, I only recently realised the link between the two.

I cried hard at the end, even though I knew what would happen. Inspired by such sacrifice. In awe of the lengths one human being can go to for another. True romance.
I never cried so hard watching the film.  It moved me, but nothing more.  And it turns out to have been a fairly faithful rendering of the book. Although I’m not sure Betty Davis could ever be as plain as Charlotte was meant to be. Still I insist with my bah humbug about film renderings of books. 
Films lack the sparkle a book inspires in my head. Reading is such a personal thing. Your own imagination is allowed to – indeed encouraged to – give free rein to its fullest capacity. I don't doubt that a film-maker wants to reproduce his/her own imagined version of the book.  But essentially such banalities as time, money and sales will always take priority. And are always guaranteed to dull the sparkle of imagination.
I'm certainly not anti-cinema.  Just a cautious film buff.  I saw Skyfall.  And I loved it.  Even though I saw it in French. Dear ole James. It was delightful. On so many levels. I will of course have to go back and see him, I mean it, in English. To get the real romance of it all.
Now there's a book I’ve never read.  OO7.  Ian Fleming. I don't know if I could after all this time. But who would I think of, I wonder, if I did? Mmm a nice dilemma to mull over on a cold winter's night...