Saturday, June 03, 2006

A life in books, or not

A literary blog I discovered recently is Tales from the Reading Room. The latest entry A Life in Books discusses the books that the blogger cannot dissociate from her personal history.
The memory of one enriches the remembrance of the other, and if I can picture myself reading, then I have the impression of almost total sensory recall.
It's appropriate that the first on the list is Proust. The memory of reading him must be, for everyone I think, indistinguishable from that of a long, hot, idle summer.
Proust's luscious, sinuous, long-winded sentences slow down the experience of reading, and the sensation I had was one of great spaciousness.
It's also the sort of post to which one immediately wants to respond in kind. The curious thing is that I can't. Not sure why.

The final book mentioned was unknown to me but I now long to get a copy of it: Adalbert Stifter's Indian Summer. Unfortunately the translation is out of print. All I know about Stifter is that he's distantly related to Reger, the monstrous critic in Thomas Bernhard's glorious Old Masters. He (Reger) isn't a fan.


  1. Just to say thank you for the link to my site. I'm also really pleased to have discovered you and the other brit lit bloggers. I've been searching for other book blogs and now I've got a long list to visit - that's great!

  2. Your welcome!

    That blog troubled me as I really can't think of personal equivalents. Yet as I read it, I expected to discover loads. Mmm...

  3. Anonymous7:30 pm

    I tried Stifter, but had little luck. If you can imagine the blissful, fantasiatic parts of Die Zauberberg drained of all other passions, that's some idea of the effect. Being of a stormier emotional temperament myself, I couldn't identify.

    I always associate it with another hard-to-find book (that I haven't yet tracked down) of about the same period that appears to be its polar opposite: Gotthelf's "Black Spider."

  4. I'm afraid I can't imagine it myself as I haven't read The Magic Mountain. Yet as my (offline) temperament is the opposite of stormy (more like the doldrums), Stifter might be my thing.

  5. Anonymous10:18 am

    It should be on Britlitblogs, really.

  6. Stifter is definitely for the repressed, and the connoisseur of the repressed at that. Not everyone's cup of tea, I do agree, but it made a big impression on me at the time. The alternative I would offer would probably be Kleist and his The Marquise von O and other stories. More bite, more action and impressive depth of emotion.

  7. a ps - it's quite possible that you have just led a much healthier life than I have, engaging with reality without needing to filter it through fictional narrative!

  8. "it's quite possible that you have just led a much healthier life than I have"

    Ha ha. For that to be true, you'd have to be dead!

    Perhaps there are one or two things I can think of but, still, I'm perplexed at my inability to make such connections.

    I know Kleist - I read Michael Kohlhaas recently. Breathtaking.

  9. Anonymous9:47 am

    Stifter was also a strong influence on Sebald (who wrote essays on him) and Handke.



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