Something about rainy days seems to galvanise me into composing my seasonal reviews for the quarterly magazine from Slightly Foxed and today is no different. The Autumn storm Alex has passed but not without causing flooding across the country. I forever have a pot of tea on the go and my affectionate dog by my side, and at the start of my week’s leave from an intense job, it is with gratitude that I can pause … take a moment to note how I truly feel and take an exquisite moment of stillness to just be. The nation is still living with the Covid19 virus lockdown that we went into on 23 March 2020.
Firstly, I want to reiterate my praise for the Slightly Foxed podcast. Keeping me topped up with literary recommendations and entertainment, I am forever in gratitude for the effort the team make to remain buoyant at this time.
I start my review with a day in Paris… Loafing by the Seine, thanks to Kristian Doyle. The reviewer takes the reader on a journey of discovery that is the self-portrait, dream-book, collection of visions that is Paris by Julian Green. Kristi am carefully unpicks this unlikely success – that instead of one long set of prose, it was “cobbled together near the end of his long life from wildly various, and occasionally contradictory, essay-like first person bits and pieces he’d written over many decades.” Most interestingly Kristian tells us the book isn’t one of those observational romantic easy-reads – it doesn’t include architectural observations or any kind of meandering glimpses of down-and-out Paris, or indeed hoards of people. However, Kristian does reveal that the heart of the book is that “everything in it comes from … self aware declarations.” Sold!
With Tristram Shandy on the contents page, Christian Tyler brings us a tale of Progression by Digression and an insight into the classic The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (1759). The opening line of his review signposts the reader to where his opinions are situated, explaining that it is funny, eccentric and anarchic, that it has been a family favourite for two centuries, but, that he is perplexed as to reason it ensures as a classic and this he explores why. He even says he owes his first job to this book. I was so amused by the way Christian reveals the intracicies of Tristram Shandy to him, people he knows, how the language relates to modern times, and that digression is the dominant motif of the book! Whether to read this book will depend on your personality, your values and beliefs, your every day assumptions, and, Christian tells us, your mood.
Living with a global pandemic is interesting and … hard. Those of us who can escape into books are privileged and I am grateful for having opportunities, hopes and dreams, and a spark to read.