Reading update

I haven’t posted on here for a few days, but in this time I have managed to procure some new reading matter, and have made progress with another book. However, I haven’t started the Kafka book I said I would read next. This will be digested in due course. Anyhoo- my new books can be seen below:


Incase the titles are a tad difficult to read, here they are from left to right, along with the price that I paid for them:

  • Lewis Carroll- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (two volumes)  10p each (yes- really!)
  • Ian Fleming- Diamonds are Forever  50p
  • John Ruskin- On Art and Life (Penguin Great Ideas No. 15)  50p
  • Penelope Lively- Heat Wave  25p
  • Carol Ann Duffy- The World’s Wife  25p
  • Rudyard Kipling-  Just So Stories  £1.49
  • Thomas More- Utopia  £1.49
  • Seamus Heaney- North  £1.49
  • Martin Amis- Money  £1.49

I have currently been distracted away from the Kafka collection by another Penguin Classics book titled The Cloud of Unknowing and other works, which is a decent-sized volume of 14th century Christian teachings about the sheer impossibility of actually perceiving and understanding God, which I have recently learnt is actually a way of thinking that is taken up by the Eastern Churches, but not so much in the West. In the West the view is generally more along the lines of God being a friendly, approachable father-figure, whereas in the East, he is a powerful and unreachable being who cannot be represented in human terms and who can never be fully understood by simple mortals weighed down by sin and their perception of the body. To truly know God, The Cloud teaches that a person must become a contemplative, and be able to stop perceiving and thinking about his own existence to focus solely on God. The …other works of the title are shorter pieces believed to have been written by the same anonymous author upon similar themes, and it is in fact quite a good read. A tad heavy going at times, but it certainly gives food for thought and has provided me with a few new ways to look at both myself, my faith, and my perception of God. Also, the whole idea of a ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ is a great metaphor and image to use in my poetry…


Once I’ve finished this, I plan to read the Heaney and Duffy poetry collections, and then the two Lewis Carroll books, before finally getting to the Kafka. I promise to provide opinions etc. when I finish these.

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3 thoughts on “Reading update

  1. DK Fennell says:

    I’m not familiar with the “Great Ideas” series but I think you will find John Ruskin interesting. I picked up a book of his on the recommendation of Virginia Wolf (in one of her Common Readers. (Wolf writes the most persuasive book reviews. After reading one, you feel compelled to go to the internet and immediately order the book she discussed.) Even in her day, she said that Ruskin was neglected. And she gave reasons: arcane subject matter, long expositions, Victorian writing style. But she said he was worth wading through. Once I settled into the first book, I gradually became a major fan. So I began acquiring all the Ruskin I could get. This normally means buying books printed in the 19th century, but frankly, since no one reads Ruskin nowadays, getting first editions or near first editions is cheaper than getting modern paperback versions edited by some long-winded scholar. (But frankly there aren’t many modern editions of Ruskin anyway.) I one time bought two grocery bags full of a many volume U.S. edition of selected works for $5.

    Ruskin wrote on just about everything from art (where he is opinionated, intelligent and persuasive), to economics (he was something of a proto-socialist), to education, to his own life, to everything. If you like the high Victorian world view, where the author talks sensibly about everything after having thought about it clearly and long, you will like Ruskin.

    Sorry to go on and on about Ruskin but since I’ve collected about three shelves of his books, and since no one I know has ever read or even been interested in reading Ruskin, this is something of a therapeutic outlet for me. Ruskin is an acquired taste, like Scotch, but once you acquire it, you find yourself occasionally craving it.

  2. Hi! Thanks for your comment- you have certainly whetted my appetite! I originally came across Ruskin at high school when researching J.M.W.Turner, and then in the BBC’s ‘Desperate Romantics’ TV series about the Pre-Raphaelites a few years ago, when he was portrayed by Tom Hollander. I never even realised at that point that he was a writer of so many topics until I was visiting my vicar one day and saw that he had a little wooden carousel on top of a bureau containing several ~4 inch square books of his on various topics. I never thought to read him, though, and forgot him until uni, when he came up in a lecture on the anthropology of art- I’m sorry to say that the view of his used in the lecture was a rather dated one regarding the merit of Indian art. However, Oxford has a further education college named after him (it is not a college of the University, but is similar to- and approved by- the Open University) and a School of Fine Art (which is a part of the University of Oxford), which suggests that they do perhaps regard his input to society favourably. Also, I don’t know if you are interested in these editions of Ruskin by a rather fine cartoonist: There are several pages about these versions, and you can buy them off the site too if you are interested (although I’m not trying to sell things here!). Also, in series 3 of the ‘Great Ideas’ set, there is another Ruskin book that they entitle ‘The Lamp of Memory’. Anyway- thank you for commenting (and for following me- I do appreciate it!), and I will certainly look out more of his work.

    • DK Fennell says:

      Not to defend Ruskin on his retrograde view of non-European art, but the Victorian age was fairly ethno-centric (to put it mildly). Even Charles Darwin couldn’t escape occasionally letting loose a cringe-inducing bit of “white burden.” But every age has its blinders. We are currently living in the U.S. with a profound devotion to a need to institute military adventures in Muslim lands. As an anthropologist you must see many times when group think is so pervasive that the individuals can’t see beyond the forest for the tress. Cheers.

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