Weekly Fragments ~ January 3rd

virgilio-dias-universitc3a1ria-2011-o-s-t-60-x-60First and foremost a Happy New Year to all of our friends in the blogging world from both me and The Bears.  I would get The Bears to come and greet you personally but they are still sleeping off their Hogmanay excesses.  Too many marmalade sandwiches are good for no one, especially when said marmalade is laced with whiskey!  We hope the year brings you all that you could wish for and definitely no unpleasant surprises.

If there were going to be any New Year’s Resolutions in this household then cutting back on the marmalade sandwiches should really be at the top of the list.  However, we’ve never been ones for making such resolutions mainly because we know that collectively we are so very bad at keeping them.  In fact, setting something out as a resolution has always appeared to be a certain way of ensuring that it will never actually come to pass. Nevertheless, when I look back over my reading habits as inscribed here, there are certain trends from last year that I want to put a stop to and so while not offering them as anything so concrete as a set of resolutions here are some practices that I would like to see change over the next twelve months.

First and foremost, I want to read a wider range of books in 2014 than has been the case recently.  If I look back over the last year crime fiction has predominated.  More to the point, re-visiting crime fiction has taken up an inordinate amount of my reading time.  I now know that there has been a very good reason for this.  Just before Christmas, following a quite frightening run of health problems, I had to come off the medication I’ve been taking for the past while.  This, of course has had other consequences because I was on said medication for a very good reason but a positive result is that I have quite simply got my brain back.  I hadn’t realised how dulled and lethargic the drug was making me feel because it crept up on me slowly but I now understand why there have been times in 2013 when re-visiting old friends was the only reading I felt capable of doing.  I will still be acquiring new fiction by my favourite crime writers but book for book the sheer volume is going to have to fall.  In its place I want to read more contemporary fiction, especially looking for writers whose works are new to me so that I can then tackle their back catalogues, and to return to reading new children’s and YA fiction, something that I let lapse when I retired, a state of affairs which I now regret.

Linked with this is a desire to read with more attention to and appreciation of the books I pick up.  I only have to look back at some of the blog posts I wrote last year to know that I haven’t been doing that, especially if I compare them with even earlier pieces.  At present I can blame this on the medication as well, but if the situation continues I won’t have that as an excuse and I know from previous experience that reading and writing with attention is a practice you have to make a habit of or it is far too easy to become superficial.  This year that won’t do.

And neither will wasting good reading time with activities that are really nothing other than time fillers.  I’ve never been an avid watcher of television but I do have a nasty habit of picking up either a jigsaw or a killer sudoku simply because neither of them ask very much of me mentally.  Bad Girl!  Equally, I need to think about the reading I do when I’m out and about.  I very often have an hour or so to fill between events at the University and because I don’t carry a physical book around with me (back problems) my practice has been to put a crime novel for re-reading on my mini i-Pad.  Well, that won’t wash any longer.  (See my first resolve above.)  What I thought I would do instead is use the time to catch up on the back catalogues of some of the writers I have recently come to appreciate but whose earlier works I missed.  I have in mind Penelope Lively, Anne Tyler and Ann Patchett as starting points, but there are plenty of others who would easily fill that particular slot.  My only concern is that may well mean that at times I will have four books on the go at once.  I know that a number of you manage that on a regular basis but it will be unusual for me. I shall have to see how it goes and perhaps have a rethink half way through the year.

Finally, I’ve decided to give the blog a simpler look.  But I expect you’d noticed that already.

So, with all those good intentions in mind what do the early days of the New Year hold?  Well, to start with I’m off into hospital next week so there may be a bit of a gap between posts.  I’m not sure how long I’ll be out of commission but I’ll catch up with you all as soon as I can.  By that time I should have finished The Goldfinch and Sara Paretsky’s Critical Mass.  Next on the list are William Brodrick’s The Discourtesy of Death, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase – one each from my modern fiction, new crime and children’s literature resolutions – and downloaded onto my i-Pad is the first Penelope Lively I need to catch up on, Treasures of Time. Come to think of it, given how much time you normally spend waiting around in hospital it might not be a bad idea to make a second novel available.  Definitely better to be safe than sorry.   And of course, by then, there will also be whatever the second parcel from Heywood Hill’s Year of Books turns out to contain.  This time I will try and restrain myself long enough to photograph it for you.

Happy New Year.