Sunday, 8 April 2012

A reading list for cold creek-creeping

I now have quite a few suggestions for books to take on my voyage on a mailboat up the coast of Norway.

My friend Barty suggests Dorothy Sayers' Five Red Herrings 'to remind me of Galloway'.

Katherine from the Moffat bookshop says: 'anything by Anne Tyler (her favourite novelist) and The Cornish Trilogy by Robertson Davies, if you can get it, as it really needs an extended journey to give it your full attention......'

The main man at John Sandoe writes
Some quick thoughts towards your Norwegian trip:

The fiction of Per Petterson and Jan Kjaerstad - I can give you more info if you want, but they are two internationally acclaimed contemporary Norwegian writers (leaving aside the Scandinavian crime phenomenon).

A biography of Wittgenstein (Ray Monk's) - he spent a lot of time chilling his toes & frying his brain by a Norwegian fjord, but of course Norway is a very tangential aspect of his life.

Bishop Seraphim Sigrist suggests Kristen Lavrensdatter and Thomas Browne (whose Religio medici I studied at uni, and remember fondly not least for his theory that badgers have legs shorter on one side of their body than the other, the better to make their way across hill slopes).

"The Norwegian Feeling For Real" - an anthology of contemporary Norwegian poetry and fiction. This was the 6th Leopard anthology published by Harvill about 10 years ago. It's out of print now but could easily be got secondhand - although not by Wednesday, I fear - and is a good cross-section of recent Norwegian writing (which is very good).

Finally, you may have seen in our new catalogue a book by Kathleen Jamie called "Sightlines", a collection of wonderful essays about - well, wonders: the natural world, thinking... What I did not say, as I recall, in my blurb for the catalogue, is that a couple of the essays have to do with the whale museum in Bergen (Norway). I would urge you to read this, it's a gem.

My brother Henry introduced me to Kathleen Jamie's work several Christmasses ago with Findings (2005). I remember how my heart sank at the unprepossessing (to me) cover and what I feared would be uncongenial subject matter. But I was entranced. I hope to meet her later in the year in connection with a University of Glasgow project on perceptions of the environment.

Finally, I commend Susie Boyt's meditation in this weekend's FT, on the eve of her own departure on holiday. I share her dread of holidays, and seriously considered ducking out of my Norway expedition on the grounds that early April is an insane time of year to go to sea, plus I hate snow. But my sister urged me to go with the floe (sorry) so my woollies are packed.

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