The Sunshine Award


I was nominated for this award by Pete Denton a few days ago.

It was very exciting for me, it being my first award. So here I am, hopefully, fulfilling the criteria required by this award as below.

  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself.
  • 10-12 other fabulous bloggers must be nominated.
  • Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.
  • Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

Well the logo is in the post and I may try and add it to the sidebar later, but we’ll see.

Answer the questions:

1 – Favourite colour: Black – if that is a colour

2 – Favourite animal: A tropical fish, an Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) big and ugly!!

3 – Favourite number: 2

4 – Favourite non-alcoholic drink: Coffee, without a doubt

5 – Prefer Facebook or Twitter? Facebook, but not a fan of either

6 – My passion: Reading and books in general

7 – Prefer getting or giving presents: I enjoy both

8 – Favourite pattern: Fractal patterns

9 – Favourite day of the week:  Saturday

10 – Favourite flower: Amaryllis

Nominees: I am afraid I cannot nominate that many people, but here are a few blogs that I enjoy looking at. I will inform each nominee by comment on their blog.

I hope that I have carried out everything correctly and thanks once again to Pete for the nomination.

Productive Writing

There’s not been much happening lately. There has been a bit of a gap since my last post as I have decided that if I have nothing particular to say, I should not post just for the sake of it, even though my original intention was to try and post every other day.

I have almost, and will certainly do so today, completed ‘The Guermantes Way’ by Proust and will be able to start on ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’. The more I read ‘In Search of Lost Time’ the more I like it.

I have done little serious writing for a while now, having mostly been just free writing and journaling daily, but yesterday for some reason I just sat and started writing. Before I knew it I had written about 1,200 (useful) words pretty much straight off. I think a contributing factor was a single idea that just excited my creative imagination and allowed the juices to flow. It seems that often a productive spell of writing can be sparked off by a single discrete thought, phrase or even a word. It is just finding that, nugget, that gem, that tantalising hint that can inspire one to create.

Cambridge Book Fair – Dare I go?

The Cambridge Book Fair is this Friday and Saturday, 22nd and 23rd February, at the Guild Hall in Cambridge. I have been agonising over whether to go along this year, after the amount of money that I ended up spending there last year. It was a really good fair last year with a lot of dealers, although space was tight. There was an excellent selection of old and rare books and I found a number of first editions that I had been looking for. My small collection grew considerably that day.I managed to get not only the Enid Blyton firsts I had been wanting, but also, by chance, a very nice first UK edition of ‘The Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs.

I have been provided with complimentary tickets by Peakirk Books so I really have no reasonable excuses, except the travel into Cambridge from here (about 20miles), and is that a reasonable excuse.

Surely I should be able to exhibit sufficient self control to just go and look around without having to spend copious amounts of money. I should be, but I am not sure that I am.

Anyway, my question to you all is ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ Leave a comment.

Book Buying Problem?

Since finishing ‘The Art of Fiction’ I have been progressing nicely with Proust, now that I can devote all of my home reading time to it. I should finish this one by the end of the weekend and be able to start on the next book ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ . I know I said that I was not going to start anything else before I finished ‘The Guermantes Way’ but I have decided to start another book that I will purely read at work. I decided that Proust was too heavy to read at lunchtime, when I invariable get disturbed by other people.  The book that I will be reading is ‘Aspects of the Novel’ by E.M. Forster. I have not read anything by Forster before, although I know of his work. Can anybody recommend any of his novels?

Despite promising myself that I would not buy anymore books for a while I have acquired a few new books. I was happily shopping in Tesco on Sunday for food and somehow a couple of reduced price paperbacks ended up in my trolley. How they got there I do not know! And then later in the day I find myself clicking on buy-now on Amazon and ordering another six titles. I think it is a disease. I have piles of books that I wanted to read before ordering more, ranging from Homer’s Odyssey to some James Patterson thrillers and everything in between. I ended up ordering ‘The Fortune of the Rougons’ by Emile Zola, part of the Rougon Macquart cycle of twenty novels. I have read ‘Germinal’ which is one of them, from a reading list I was following, and I really enjoyed it so thought I would start to work on the whole lot. Apparently each of the novels in the cycle will stand alone although Zola did provide a recommended reading order. Naturally I will need to finish ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’ by Proust first before starting ‘Les Rougon Macquart’ by Zola.

Not satisfied with just one book I managed to come away having order seven. I included a couple of books by authors whose blogs I have been looking at recently, and I fully intend to get around to checking out works by more of the bloggers  that I come across, especially those that comment on my posts or follow me, although I do not have access to a kindle so will pretty much always be looking for hard copy versions. To start I have purchased ‘High’ by Corey M.P and ‘Jazz’ by Cristian Mihai. I also bought Sophocles plays and ‘Twenty Three Tales’ by Tolstoy. When I will fit them in I doubt know, but I will get round to all of them eventually. I think I will have to disable my Amazon account and lock myself in the house for a few months to curb my book buying habit.

The Art of Fiction and Films from Books

I have now finished reading ‘The Art of Fiction’ by David Lodge. I enjoyed this immensely and it turned out to be a fine complement to ‘102 Ways to Write a Novel’  by Alex Quick that I was also reading. ‘The Art of Fiction’ treated a number of the same topics, but in a much more expansive fashion, going into considerably greater depth. Each section was illustrated by passages from classic and modern texts. This allowed consolidation of the information provided by both books in an enjoyable way, each offering slightly differing explanations.

Now that I have finished both of those books I am going to concentrate a little more on ‘The Guermantes Way’ by Marcel Proust, before perhaps starting something new. Maybe when I move on to the next book in Proust’s ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’ which is ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ I will also start something a little lighter.

So those are my current reading plans, and frankly I have little else planned for the weekend, and the next week, except the usual boring stuff like food shopping.

I did watch a film that I really enjoyed the other night. It was ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ with Emma Watson. I had been eager to see this since reading the book by Stephen Chbosky and first hearing that a film was in the pipeline. Then it appears that I completely missed its release and only by chance saw that it was on Sky Box Office the other day. I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely, having really liked the book. I always approach the film versions of books that I have enjoyed with a little trepidation, but on this occasion I wasn’t disappointed. Perhaps the fact that the screenplay was written by the author and that the film was also directed by him may have helped.

Are there film versions of books that you have particularly liked? Conversely are there ones that you have disliked or that you felt bore no relation to the books? I really enjoyed the Jason Bourne films and as a result read the Robert Ludlum Jason Bourne books. I liked the books but felt that they were so different from the films that naming the films after the books was just a little disingenuous.

Let me know your views on film versions of books.

Why do we Read?

This is a question that has been occupying my thoughts considerably recently, and I certainly cannot claim to have an answer, or even any strong conclusions. Most of us here are probably big readers, but I know quite a few people, and well educated ones at that, who would be pushing it to read two or three books a year. Why is it that some of us read a lot, others very little. What are our motivations for reading, what reasons do we have for enjoying reading as a significant pastime.

I read a quote once, that went something like ‘We read books for two reasons. The first is because we want to, the second is in order to brag about having read it’. I am not sure where I read this, who said it, and have been unable to track it down on Google. I do however like this quote.

I had a quick search on Google and came up with a number of reasons why people read, although I think all of them can probably be reduced to some extent to the two reasons quoted above.

These reasons included knowledge and entertainment, to get away from their lives, and escape the stresses of life, reading for school, to explore things out of our reach, to stimulate the brain, learn other people’s opinions, to learn, to improve their language comprehension and spelling, gain a larger vocabulary and to study and further an interest. These are just a few of the reasons I found.

Personally I like to read for a number of reasons that I am aware of, and probably an equal, or greater number that I am probably not aware of. I enjoy learning and stretching myself intellectually but mostly I think I like the escapism. Being able to immerse myself in different worlds, plots and characters lets me escape the realities of life for a little while and usually I feel calmer afterwards. However, sometimes I do read books just to be able to say I have read it (for example Ulysses) or because others are reading it (Fifty Shades of Grey). Usually I find that I enjoy them after I have gotten into them.

So tell me, why do you read books?

102 Ways to Write a Novel

I finished reading ‘102 Ways to Write a Novel’ by Alex Quick at the weekend. I really enjoyed this book for the numerous (102 in fact!) ways of approaching some aspect of novel writing. I loved the fact that each topic took up only two pages and so provided bite size chunks of humorously written useful information. I learned a lot about different approaches to various aspects of writing, from the planning stages right through  to publication and promotion. It was a well written book that I have found to provide an extensive overview of information that will be of great use. It is not what you would call an academic book, but is very much an easy reader. It has kept me company, and well entertained, through many boring lunch breaks at work recently. I was a little disappointed when I finished it and would have liked it to continue, perhaps to 204 ways.

Now that I have finished that I have more time to work on the other books that I had also been reading concurrently with that. They are ‘The Guermantes Way’ by Proust which I am still working on, and no doubt will be for some time, and ‘The Art of Fiction’ by David Lodge that I will soon be finished. Then I don’t think I will start anything new, at least nothing too serious, until I have got a good bit farther on with the Proust.

Out of interest, how many of you find that you consistently mistype certain words. The main ones for me, and I have done this a number of times whilst writing this post, are whcih, teh and Julain. These are correctly which, the, and rather embarrassingly my name Julian.

Let me know which words your fingers type so fast that they always get them wrong.

What to post?

Well, following on from my previous post it certainly looks like Saturdays are good days in terms of views, which makes sense. People have more time to sit around and read blogs. Top advice to increase blog exposure seems to be to comment lots on others blogs and to follow those that interest you.

I have been pondering what topics to write about recently. What direction to take with this blog. I tend to suffer from a desire to write something insightful every time, resulting in a general failure to succeed. I would love to be able to offer a unique perspective on things, but can never decide what I want to write about.

My main interests currently are reading and writing, although I also play the guitar, and have done so for many years, but it is no longer a true passion, as the others are. I have only very recently become interested in actually writing and am definitely not confident enough, nor really have anything organised enough, to consider posting any of my own writing. So as a topic for posting that is pretty much out of the window. I suppose I could write about the journey that I am taking, learning about writing, and how I am developing. In fact I am sure that as time goes by this will indeed take a more prominent role in future posts.

For now it is more likely that I will write about my adventures in the vast world of reading and books. I am apt to read books from a wide range of genres and really there is nothing that I won’t consider giving a go. I enjoy following recommended book lists as they give me something to work from and a box to tick. I am currently working on a list based on the Great books list. I find that lists can also expand your reading habits, by exposing you to many books and authors that you may never have previously considered. I do not however limit myself to just following a list, or even several lists, and supplement this with random reads that I may find on Goodreads, browsing Amazon, blogs and even books by foreign authors (assuming that they have been translated to English) recommended by colleagues. It is quite interesting to see what books are read at school in other countries during peoples formative years.

Posting what books I am reading and how I am enjoying them is probably the first step, but I am sure is likely to lead to writing reviews on the books that I am reading. I will also recommend lists that I come across that I have found to be well constructed and useful, although this is going to be pretty subjective.

So enough for now, but next time I will look at the books I am currently reading and what I am about to start on.

Blog Stats

Why is it that there seems to be little relation between when I make a post and when the most views of my blog appear to take place? Are the stats updated in real time, every hour, at a certain time of day? I suppose that others only read blogs at particular times of the day, but in our online community there are people in a multitude of time zones that would, I expect, negate that effect.

I also find it a little disconcerting when I write what I think is an interesting post and nobody seems to look at it, then I write some inane piece of crap and I get lots of likes. Perhaps my idea of what is a good post doesn’t match other peoples. I admit that sometimes I think I have posted something decent and it is well visited, so this is not always the case. I suppose that it is all about perception. People’s perceptions differ. What may be interesting to me may not be to others.

Do bloggers out there analyse their own stats and see what keywords get the most views and whether there are any temporal patterns to be observed? From the views of my blog, and I freely admit that the sample size is very low, it seems that on Wednesdays and Thursdays there are fewer views than on most other days. Is this kind of analysis, especially with the very low number of views that I currently have of any real use?

What do others think? Is it a useful exercise, or is it something better left until I have a greater number of followers and views? If so, how does one get more followers. I suppose the only answer is to write more interesting posts and post regularly. Maybe commenting on others blogs more would be a good idea. Better use of tags also.

I will have to ponder these questions more, although ultimately it doesn’t really matter, I am enjoying my blogging experience thus far, and that is what truly matters.

In Search of Lost Time

As most of you will know I have been embarked on the task of reading my way through ‘In Search of Lost Time’ by Marcel Proust for a little while now. I have finished the first two books, ‘The Way by Swann’s’ and ‘In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower’. It is at the point of starting book three ‘The Guermantes Way’ that I have realised that I may have cocked up in my purchasing. I have realised that the first two books are Penguin Classics books whereas all of the remaining books are published by Vintage. Now I would not be so concerned were these books originally written in English, but as they were written in French and translated to English I am not sure as to the differences that I may find, or even if I will be able to relate the two translations.

As a simple indication of the potential problems that could arise here are the differences simply in title of each book. The first book is called ‘The Way by Swann’s’ in the Penguin Classics edition but is called ‘Swann’s Way’ in the Vintage edition. The remaining books ‘In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower’ and ‘Within a Budding Grove’, books, three and four are identical between editions, then we have ‘The Prisoner and the Fugitive’ and ‘The Captive and The Fugitive’ and finally ‘Finding Time Again’ and ‘Time Regained’. If something as seemingly simple as the titles can be so varied what does that bode for the text.

It appears that the Penguin edition is from a new translation by a team of translators based on the Pleiade edition, both the 1954 and the 1987 editions, whereas the Vintage edition is a fully revised edition of the Scott Moncrieff and Kilmartin translation. What this means in reality I will find out in time. In fairness I cannot really tell anything from the first ten pages that I have read. I will update you if I find any glaring differences, and I must remember to be more careful when buying a series of books that may have been translated from their original language differently in alternative editions.

If anyone knows of any major differences between these translations please let me know. Is it better for me to buy the missing books from one or the other translation? This I may do if I find too many differences that it becomes confusing. But for now onwards.