To Read or Not to Read

When I mention my To-Be-Read-Mountain, few are surprised. Not only do I buy more books per year than I can usually read, I inherited a good 500 books from my father a few years ago. That’s 500 I kept, discounting those I gave away to friends and charity. He had many genres, including fantasies I’ve longed to read, series of which I’d never heard. A few trilogies had the first book only, or book one and two with the third missing so I went searching to complete those that interested me. These amounted to a great many novels, adding to an existing large collection. My bookshelves ‘double up’.

I’m always amazed by people’s reactions, ‘Wow, books’. Makes me think of the little green men from Toy Story all going ‘Oooooooohhhhhhh.’ With me I can spend an hour or so in someone’s home wondering ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ before I realise, there are no books. A house without books, to me, isn’t a home.

Still, I’m left asking can we have too much of a good thing? When having to move, yes, and I’ve carted this lot around twice in recent years. I’ve come to the time where I must be more selective of the books I keep, even purchase. Some writers are exempt from this rule—quite a list of them—will stay with me always. No one should be surprised when I say one of those authors is Terry Pratchett.

I’ve been listing him in my top five for more years than I can recall but it wasn’t until he died that it hit me what a long love-affair I’ve had with Rincewind, Death, The Luggage, The Librarian, Sam Vimes, and…well, that names a mere few, though I shouldn’t forget Rob Anybody, my favourite Nac Mac Feegle. Say hello, Rob. Don’t worry; he always looks that grumpy.

This may sound like gobbledegook to many but not to anyone who grasped the wonder of Terry’s satire. A friend once told me she’d read the first book (in her words: cute, about wizards) without getting that Terry Pratchett wrote satire, that the Discworld was our world, that the University was our government, the clacks system our postal service and so on. I’m not as surprised as I might be. Not many know Gulliver’s Travels was also an exercise in parody.

When Terry died, I was already experiencing a rough day during lasting stress. The universe bestowed another hammer blow. Is it possible to experience real grief when someone you’ve never met dies? Absolutely. I won’t be the only one to say so. When you’ve admired someone, their work, kept track for many years the loss is real. If nothing else ‘no more Discworld’ is a hard kick.

I’ll soon be picking up another of his books with the bittersweet knowledge I have about four titles to go and the fantasy books he wrote with Stephen Baxter. Yes, I’ve still a few of Terry’s books to read…and in there is a puzzle. Why haven’t I read them all?

Because I’ve so many writers I love and I like to be able to spend time with Terry’s books.

I wanted the stress to pass and to be settled before I dipped into the last of his titles. I wanted to feel relaxed while reading them.

I wanted to treasure them and also delayed because he’s gone from this world and once I read the last few titles, there will be no more.

This sounds ridiculous but I know many who were on the last book or two who said the same: once they finished those, there were no more to look forward to. It’s like closing a book, having found it so good, the desire is there to begin again. Given enough time I’ll do that too. Meanwhile to Terry, a man’s whose imagination the world was lucky to have, a heartfelt thank you!

Dragon #2

Another dragon share this week (in no particular order). Although I tend to be a little more attracted to the unusual dragons, those that have been created by independent crafters on market stalls or stumbled upon in small shops, it’s difficult not to be tempted by more commercial designs. It’s also becoming more impossible to tell whether something has been created in bulk commercially. I once bought what I thought was a handcrafted ornament only to discover a couple of years later there were many of the same design available in various sizes. Didn’t make me like what I’d bought any less and that’s the important distinction.

I’ve had this little Dragon in a Teacup for about eighteen months. I ordered a few items, a couple of which were unavailable. The shop asked whether there was anything else on their site I liked and I said this little chap…who was a pound or two more than what I had paid. I did say to bill me for the difference but they never did. I might not have bothered otherwise and I’m more delighted with this than I probably would have been with the actual items I’d selected. It’s small and much heavier than it appears to be.

Produced by Nemesis Now, a company from Stoke-on-Trent selling fantasy gifts since 2003. Part of their fairies in a teacup range, I’ve also seen this called the ‘Good Morning Dragon’. The artist is Amy Brown.

Velkommen til Norge!

I’ve been missing in action, mostly because I’ve been out of the country, and then, when I did return, I spent several days running to catch up. I have…almost. Definitely by next week if not before the end of this, I’ll return to my WIP. For now I’m editing a story for a re-release end of this year.

But let’s get back to why I neglected to blog the last three weeks. Blame these little beings:

That’s a Norwegian Troll, this one flying the flag outside of a souvenir shop in Hellesylt. It’s difficult to move more than a few streets without spotting one of these beasties in their various forms. If you’re looking for something to bring home these pop up everywhere. Most people seem to love them or loathe them (I heard one woman say on this trip, “Such big noses; I just don’t get it.”) Maybe to ‘get it’ you need to look back into Norse Mythology but there’s no question the Norwegian people have taken Trolls to their hearts. We’re told daylight turns them to stone so all those mountains in Norway are Trolls taken unaware by the sun.

Trolls or not, there’s nothing quite so breathtaking as the scenery. It’s a place I’ve visited more than once and hope to do so again. Here’s a lovely photo of the mirror-image type it’s possible to take on the lakes in the beautiful area of Stryn. The mountains may or may not be trolls but this kind of landscape makes me want to believe in all possibilities.

Velkommen til Norge! Welcome to Norway.

Images: (c) Sharon Bidwell

An Haiku for You

Remember a typical English summer? No, neither do I. These days we seem to follow the pattern of a few hot days followed by a storm, a few drab days, rain, sun, rain, drab, maybe some sun, and expect another storm. Nevertheless, people are taking breaks and flowers have struggled into bloom. I don’t write much poetry but while I step back for a few days and until I post again I thought I’d leave you with a Haiku.

Dragon #1

I make no secret about the fact I love dragons and own a few. Some would say more than few but they fill only one cabinet so it’s far less than I could own if I let myself buy every one that caught my eye. Buying dragons began a while back. If I saw one that ‘spoke to me’, as such objects do, while on holiday in the UK I would bring take it home with me. In that respect my dragon collection has taken many years and hasn’t grown all that fast. I bought another the other day, people cried out to see it, and so I decided to share the occasional post featuring my dragons.

There isn’t much of a story to go with this one except it’s a garden ornament I have no intention of putting in the garden. It’s metal and no matter how many years it’s designed to last, invariably the elements will wear it down. I’ll set him by a window in the hope the light will work but, if it doesn’t, I didn’t buy it for the light. I loved the colours. When my other half first saw this his words were, “Is that a garden ornament?” to which I replied yes. “I wouldn’t put that in the garden,” he said so there is some method to my madness.

Watch out, he’s behind you!

It’s just as well only my husband is present during our recent binge ‘catch-up’ watch of The Walking Dead. Like a participant in Gogglebox — a show that invites the audience to watch people watching television (though I’ve only seen adverts for it, some reactions can be to great comic effect) — I’m not a silent viewer.

This is a trait that once drove my relatives to gritting their teeth with irritation, much as I do when an inconsiderate cinema-goer persists on talking during a film, or won’t put their phone away. I appreciate the frustration; however, in the cinema I restrict myself to a few gasps or loud laughter when appropriate. It’s an entirely different experience with an unspoken rule of no talking. I’ve paid a ticket and want to be submersed. I have never, unlike when a grandmother of mine went to the cinema, made not only a public faux pas, but done so twice in the time it took to run through a single showing.

The film was The Time Machine, the classic version starring Rod Taylor made in 1960. She went with her husband and her adult children, and they arrived just as the film started. Although only the opening credits were rolling, my nan, intent on not missing a minute, gaze glued to the screen, fumbled her way along a line of people already seated. I heard the story of how she stopped one seat short of her own chair and plopped herself down on a bald man’s lap. I’m unsure as to the significance of his being bald other than that being the way she forever thereafter described him amidst general hilarity, but I am confident he was as surprised as she. My nan made everyone switch seats so she could sit as far away from him as possible and then sat hidden and, she hoped, forgotten in the darkness…

Until the moment when ‘George’ makes his way into the Morlock cave and we see their gleaming eyes. While the hero tries to creep around and the Morlocks brace to launch an attack, my grandmother gasped, put her hands to her face and shouted out, “Watch out, he’s behind you!” The cinema audience on this occasion met my nan’s outburst with a round of laughter adding to the collective enjoyment.

I once worked with a woman who never understood this. When I referred to laughing or crying over stories — viewed or read — she always shook her head. Strange from someone who read all the time and professed to be a bookworm.

“But…but…but…” I stuttered, “how can you not cry over a sad scene?”

“But it’s not real,” she said.

As one who understands that stories are our way of examining and learning how to deal with reality, I beg to differ. As someone who has had to put a book down in a crowded train carriage owing to the risk of a tear or two escaping among strangers with no easy-to-explain reason, I fail to understand this lack of emotional attachment. Thrill seekers get on roller coasters looking for that up and down ride of a lifetime; book lovers take more tight turns and steep slopes lasting far longer than your average amusement park ride. Our pulses speed up, our stomachs grow tight, our throats close, we cry, and scream, and shout…with anger, with pain, with frustration, and with joy. Even when it hurts, we consider ourselves lucky.

Watching a beloved character’s harrowing death the other night (even though through reading the graphic novel I had a sense of what was coming), make no mistake, I was vocal about it. Feel free to share whether you experience a story without emotion or find it next to impossible not to laugh when something is funny, cheer when the outcome is good, or scream when it’s the end you were dreading.