Thursday, 25 August 2011

Darkness at teatime

As I started to write a new post late on Monday afternoon the power suddenly and unexpectedly went off - no thunderstorm or similar to explain it. It took my part-written post with it, and it didn't come back. Or at least, it didn't come back in a way that could be used, the lights were flickering dimly and most things, including the broadband, weren't working at all. Investigation suggested that a combine harvester had yanked the power line and stretched it - something hotly denied by one of the workers in the field! We rang the power company, who said they would send someone out, and in the meantime, our neighbour came home and confirmed that we had between 60 and 100 volts only, instead of the required UK 240v. The joys of country life, honestly - usually it's our water supply that gets ploughed up. Some hours later the lights came back on, in time for reading in bed, I'm glad to say.

The post I lost was only a reading update: despite the TBR pile being multiple, I of course came home from Edinburgh on Sunday with two books from my elder son and a determination to start re-reading American Gods instantly, having been to hear Neil Gaiman speak at the Book Festival. I could only make time to go to one event, and had been intending to go to hear A.S. Byatt, but then it was announced that Gaiman was doing a Guardian Book Club event, so that won hands down - it was worth it, too. Both sons came with me and we had very pleasant Thai food before heading home.

I had to go to the library as a book had come in for me - Margaret Drabble's The Sea Lady, which I'd read somewhere has a Northumberland connection. I like books with a strong sense of place, and I like living in the north-east, so one feeds the other, and if I'm not careful it will become the next obsession. I'd been checking exactly where in Northumberland it was that there was a Drabble/Byatt connection (Wylam, in case you're wondering) because I thought I'd read somewhere that Byatt's new book, Ragnarok, which I plan to read for R.I.P. is set on the north-east coast. I guess it will become evident - or not - when I read it. In the meantime, I'll read Drabble, with some trepidation - I used to love her in my younger days, but I haven't really enjoyed any of her more recent books.

Anyway, while at the library I also picked up a couple of books on Northumberland: one has lots of pictures and a bit of history, and the other is a complete gazetteer of churches. Lots of the churches aren't interesting at all, but a few are intriguing, and it's nice to be able to read about them all, rather than an author's selection, which may be favourites, but not necessarily my favourites (especially if I haven't yet discovered them!) Time to visit some soon, I hope.


  1. "American Gods" was suggested to me by a close friend whose opinion I truly value, and so I read it about a year ago. I did enjoy it and found most of Mr. Gaiman's ideas original and witty, but maybe two thirds or three quarters into the book, I somehow wanted to say to him "don't you think that's a bit much now?"; it was probably just me who'd had enough of the whole theme. Still, as I said, I enjoyed the book, the language, the style, the book being completely different to any other I'd read before (and after).

  2. Dear Librarian, American Gods is *the* book that I would have written if I could! I've been reading myths and legends since I was a small child, and it feeds my obsession, so I'm not a disinterested audience (I didn't want it to end). Interestingly, most people seem to love it or hate it - you're exceptional in being more neutral! Have you read Stardust? A bit shorter and very charming.

  3. Is Stardust also by Neil Gaiman? No, I don't think I have read it, but then again, sometimes I have read a book in German, and the title has been "translated" beyond recognition - which is one reason why I prefer reading books in their original language, if I can.
    My favourite character in "American Gods" was Horus.

  4. Oh, just like me! I read MD faithfully in my twenties and thirties. Her women were always just a bit older than I was, and I so enjoyed learning about them. I was telling another blogger recently that I cut my bangs after seeing she did, but of course, my hair being curlier than hers they never quite looked like hers. :<) I stopped reading her when her books got more social/political than personal. I don't even know if that's the right way to describe the change, but something wasn't the same. I did read The Seven Sisters about ten years ago and found it oh, so strange. BUT, I've just bought her short stories, and her sort-of memoir, The Pattern in the Carpet. I've read about half of it. I think it will answer your questions about Margaret Drabble's home place. I really recommend it. Great writing. There really isn't anyone quite like her, and I'm so happy to be in her company again.

  5. Librarian, I was curious to see what it might have been called in German, but just lists it as Stardust! Do give it a try if you get the chance, and Neverwhere as well.

    Nan, yes, that's exactly what put me off too. I shall see if the library has the memoir. I'm a bit lukewarm about short stories - I don't mean to be, but I don't seem to be able to help it. Fairytales are all right, but even the best writers leave me cold.

  6. And I'm just the opposite. :<) Fairy tales are often too scary for me, and I love short stories.

  7. Oh, how was it hearing Neil speak in person???? You are so lucky, and to have a lovely evening doing it with your sons! I've listened to some of his auditory posts when he puts them up, I enjoy how he speaks very much. I've read American Gods and I remember crying near the end. It was some years now, so I'm due for a reread at some point.

    The joys of country life. I often think of you in the northeast, by the lovely ocean, wondering how you are on the farm. When we saw the northeast when I lived in England, I loved the closeness to the sky, the feeling that you were on the edge of the world. It sounds silly, certainly in the northeast Europe is just 'over there', but there is something about seeing ocean liners go by, isn't there?