Books I Read in 2012

One of my New Year resolutions is to write a weekly blog – it’s so easy to get out of the habit especially when I get the horrible feeling no-one is reading them. It’s like talking to myself in an empty room. My efforts to establish a blogging habit have been sporadic but I have been inspired by other musicians. The day-to-day activities of Chico Chica may be all sound a little dull and foolish after a while but  my reading habit will always provide me a rich source of subject matter. As I did at the end of 2011, I published a list of all the books I read in the year. Here’s is 2012’s:

 Cakes and Ale, Somerset Maugham

The Painted Veil, Somerset Maugham

Liza of Lambeth, Somerset Maugham

The Razor’s Edge, Somerset Maugham

Theatre, Somerset Maugham

The Moon and Sixpence, Somerset Maugham

Mr Perrin and Mr Traill,  Hugh Walpole

Of Human Bondage, Somerset Maugham

Short Stories (The Kite, The Verger, The Traitor + others), Somerset Maugham

A Writer’s Life, Andrew Motion

Collected Poems, Phillip Larkin

Collected Poems, W.B. Yates

An Introduction To French Poetry, Stanley Appelbaum

Old Goriot, Honoré de Balzac

Père Goriot, Honoré de Balzac

Lost Illusions, Honoré de Balzac

Illusions Perdues, Honoré de Balzac (Abandoned: lost)

A Harlot High and Low, Honoré de Balzac

Splendeurs et Miseres des Courtisanes, Honoré de Balzac

Ashenden, Somerset Maugham

Eugénie Grandet, Honoré de Balzac

A Treatise On Elegant Living, Honoré de Balzac

As you can see, I have continued my 2011 habit of batch-reading authors. The trouble with this is knowing when to stop – Balzac wrote forty novels but research reveals there are about a dozen which readers talk about so I concentrated on those. I’m coming to the end of Cousin Bette and that will finish my Balzac period – for now at least. A reader needs to drink deeply at the Balzacian spring. The characters keep reappearing in the novels, often as very minor characters – it’s an idea copied by Anthony Trollope a few years later. – so  a vast panorama of Paris in the 1830s and 1840s is created.  Balzac has so much to say about thing which preoccupy me: the life of an artist and the relationships between old men and young women. In the course of my future blogging life I will refer to Balzac’s ideas –  there are so many, and he puts them into such pithy sayings – the latest one spinning round my head is: ‘Home is the grave of glory’.  

I tried to be worthy and read the Balzac novels twice, once in English and again in French. But I grew tired of reading in French – I felt virtuous, but reading for me is primarily a pleasure and I found it was Balzac’s ideas which appealed to me, not his language. 

 There is, I have discovered, a decline in the standard of Introductions, particularly those in Everyman’s Millennium Library. Nowadays they are written by academics and seem to be aimed at students who are needing to write an essay. By contrast, I read a 1950s edition of Lost Illusions and the introduction was so much more readable. I forgot the author’s name but he came across as an amateur enthusiast. He was prepared to admit the bits that went above his head and he warned the reader about the boring passages which should be skimmed through – unless the reader has an interest in early 19th Century bankruptcy law or the technical aspects of printing. Eventually, Balzac becomes a stimulating friend – and like all stimulating friends, can go on a bit – but we love him nonetheless.

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