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Wednesday reading (technically still Wednesday in the UK, at least).

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What have you recently finished reading?

I finished The Map of Love! I am pleased to say that I enjoyed the second half of the book infinitely more than the first; it seemed to pick up much more momentum and there was less of the character who annoyed me (Isabel) and more of the characters I liked (Sharif, Anna, ‘Omar). Particularly interesting to consider the discussions around Egypt under colonial rule, and how many of those considerations are still live today – most pressingly, of course, the Islamism / secular nationalism divide. I also finished Garnethill, which was great EVEN THOUGH bloody Amazon spoiled me in its description of the third book in the trilogy; note to people reading the first book: DO NOT READ THE DESCRIPTIONS OF THE OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES. And Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. the Bloggess, which I enjoyed.

What are you reading now?

I’ve gone back to Gorky Park  by Martin Cruz Smith, which I’ve been reading on and off since…May? I think? I don’t know why I keep getting stuck on it, as I love the way the book’s written and it is (of course) one of my favourite settings for a book, and I devoured Three Stations and Stalin’s Ghost (later books in the series) earlier this year, and, I confess, I am a little bit in love with Arkady Renko. But for some reason I keep getting distracted.

What will you read next?

Oh man, I don’t even know. I never know. I don’t even know why I keep this question in. Perhaps something fairly classic? Maybe some Nabokov? I have never read any Nabokov, except for some short stories (which I really liked, not only because one of his characters had my last name).

Books recently acquired:

Too shameful to mention. Let us draw a veil.

Written by hypermobility

November 20, 2013 at 10:56 pm

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Here are some things that I think are awesome

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Posting this at least in part so that I can shut down some of the infernal tabs I have open.

Pictures of the world in 2000, as imagined in 2010. Sometimes lunatic, sometimes delightful, sometimes eerily prescient.

40 maps that will help you make sense of the world. I tend to nitpick maps that don’t show the Sudan / South Sudan border (SERIOUSLY PEOPLE IT IS 2013) but there are some interesting visualisations here. Also, I pretty much love the translations of Chinese names for countries.

SovLit.net. OMG people. I have not read any of these stories yet but they look amazing. “The peaceful Soviet motherland is subjected to a perfidious sneak attack by bourgeois forces. As the Soviet fathers and older brothers are killed, little children have to join the battle.” “A young female French Communist secretly boards a French warship to agitate among the sailors, who are hugry for word on the revolution in Russia. The sea itself gets involved in the revolutionary struggle, heaving and seething in an attempt to cast off the warships and their weapons of death.” “A story dealing with the painful scab of stagnation that has come over a factory…a factory where workers once suffered under the whip…a factory which crucified workers on its spinning metal gears in ghastly industrial accidents…a factory which gave workers shelter as they studied revolutionary texts and fought battles with strike-breaking Cossacks. Now the factory lies abandoned and crumbling, dismantled piece by piece by pilferers and looters. Workers long to take up the hammer again, but Party officials get nothing done.” I NEED TO READ ALL THESE STORIES IMMEDIATELY.

On a similar note, here is a Soviet-era erotic alphabet. Yes.

Transit maps delight me, almost universally (I think my favourite is Budapest’s). Here is an entire Tumblr devoted to them.

Africa is a Country, fantastic collective of African artists and bloggers and other creative types.

The Omnivore. Books and books and books and books.

Red Lemonade is doing a read-through of Sweet Valley High novels. When I was a tween (before tweens were even invented) I used to lurk by the SVH shelf at the bookshop in my local mall, furtively flicking through them in search of raunch and drama, though I could never bring myself to actually spend money on them. I was particularly enchanted because my name is JESSICA (like the ‘fun’ / sociopathic twin in the series) and I have a cousin a year or so older called ELIZABETH (like the ‘boring’ / not-actually-profoundly-evil twin in the series) so we were TOTALLY like the Wakefield twins.

And finally, this has been linked all over the shop, but it still gives me chills.

You can download their live album for free (and their studio albums for money) at their Bandcamp page.

Written by hypermobility

November 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

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Wednesday reading

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What have you recently finished reading? 

Rather shamefully – and possibly for the first time in 2013 – I haven’t finished anything since last week. What is happening?! Well, work has been happening, mostly. I’m off diving on a liveaboard this weekend, however, so I plan to remedy the situation before next week.

What are you reading now?

I paused the Ahdaf Soueif – no idea why it wasn’t grabbing me; it just wasn’t – and picked up the first of Denise Mina’s Garnethill trilogy instead, which is brilliant. I don’t read very much in the way of crime novels – they generally have to have an extra element like an appealing setting or characters for me to be interested, and Garnethill has both: love a good Glasgow setting, and the main character, Maureen, is both believably flawed and enormously sympathetic. Final judgement will be reserved until I see how it ends, though.

What will you read next?

I should really go back and finish The Map of Love, shouldn’t I? So maybe I’ll do that. I suspect that part of the problem is that I’ve been reading it in short bursts, whereas I think it’s the sort of book that would benefit from a bit more concentrated effort. So hopefully this weekend’s liveaboard will provide.

Books recently acquired: 

Despite the triumphant arrival of my replacement debit card in Cairo I have been (by my standards) terribly restrained and only bought three new books: When Reporters Cross the Line by Stewart Purvis and Jeff Hulbert, Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa, and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (first of the Kingkiller Chronicle series, which a friend of mine raves about), all of which were for cheap on Amazon.

Unread books owned:

348 on my Kindle. Shhh.

Written by hypermobility

November 13, 2013 at 3:23 pm

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p1060179.jpg

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Today in my Arabic class I managed to correctly form the sentence: “I always see the Nile from my window.” I WAS NOT EVEN LYING. (It’s going to be hard ever moving away from this view.)

Written by hypermobility

November 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm

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Wednesday reading

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Haven’t done this since July, partly due to general blog neglect, and partly due to Kindle buying shame. (We will come to that.) But:

What have you recently finished reading?

 

The last book I finished reading was Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, which I enjoyed, despite its semi-misogynistic introduction by Chuck Palahniuk. (Did not inspire me to read any Palahniuk, I must say.) However before that I read Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch, which absolutely blew me away. I – much like everyone else of my age – adored The Secret History, and – again, like many others – was more or less unmoved by The Little Friend, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this; however I was clearly excited enough to pre-order the book, which magically appeared on my Kindle on the day of release and I burned through it within the next few days. Oh, friends, it is wonderful, lyrical and incredibly moving and thoughtful and delightfully long (I have a marathon temperament when it comes to novels, and am drawn to the immersion that a 500+ page novel brings), the sort of book that lingers with you for days and weeks and longer. I cannot recommend it too highly.

 

What are you reading now?

 

I’m partway through Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love, which I am enjoying when I’m reading it – particularly being in Cairo, as I am – but which I find quite able to put down. I’m not sure why this is the case. (I’m also a bit annoyed about the terrible formatting of the e-book version, which is what I’m reading – it’s something I’ve come across quite regularly, most egregiously in Liz Jensen’s The Rapture, and it enrages me: it’s one thing for cheap-to-free e-books; I’m not going to complain about the occasional typo in a Project Gutenberg book. But if readers are being asked to shell out proper money for e-books, you’d think that the least the publishing houses could do was actually make sure they were properly edited and correctly formatted? Not only is it irritating from a pedantic point of view, but it can actually be detrimental to the reading experience if sections breaks aren’t in the right place. SORT YOURSELVES OUT, PUBLISHING HOUSES.)

 

What will you read next?

 

I never know the answer to this question. Possibly something non-fiction, like Adrian Tinniswood’s book about the Barbary corsairs? Or possibly some fantasy, like Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora? Both of them are ready and waiting on my Kindle. Which brings us to…

 

Books recently acquired:

 

Nothing over the past little while, as about ten days ago I left my wallet in the Cairo Opera House, and although I did get it back (much to my surprise and pleasure – it even had all the money inside!) I’d already cancelled my card, which puts the kibosh on Amazon purchases. Which is probably a good thing, because…

 

Unread books owned:

I HAVE 342 UNREAD BOOKS ON MY KINDLE. I have…no idea how this happened. How have I acquired 100+ (taking into account the books that I’ve read) since July? How? How?!? Teenage Jess would clasp her hands in rapture and say that 35-year-old Jess is living the dream, but this is ridiculous. I will make a dent in this by the end of the year. Yes.

Written by hypermobility

November 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm

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Dahab moonrise

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P1060198Spent a few days diving in Dahab during the Eid al-Adha break in October. From Dahab you can see right across the Straits of Tiran to Saudi Arabia on the other side, bruise-purple mountains and a string of faint lights at the water’s edge. One evening I did a night dive, pulling on my wetsuit just as the muezzin was calling the sunset prayer, the light vanishing behind the jagged Sinai mountains and the sea soft as silk. When we came up it was full dark, the moon fat and white and the evening star fierce and burning.

Written by hypermobility

November 1, 2013 at 8:45 pm

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That was August.

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What the hell, September? Where did you come from? I think the biggest change in the year is between the months of August and September – August being, in my head at least, high summer (despite having spent many years of my life in countries where August means no such thing), while September is autumn and back to school and a vertiginous plunge towards mid-winter and the end of the year. One of the traumatic effects of aging is that every year seems to go by faster than the one before – it is limited comfort to remind myself that this is wholly subjective, and objective time remains the same. (…OR DOES IT?!?)

August was a busy month, in that I moved from the UK to Egypt, which greeted my arrival (because it is All About Me, obviously) with a deepening of the national crisis that has been going on since late June – or since January 2011, or forever, depending on how you count. One would think that a cumulative total of four and a half years in the Sudans would prepare me for political and social upheaval, but I didn’t realise until coming (back) to Cairo that I have always associated political instability and insecurity with very low levels of development, and there is something profoundly disconcerting with experiencing pitched battles in the streets of an otherwise totally modern city. I have mostly been keeping my mouth shut and reading as much as possible – primarily online, but right now I am two-thirds of the way through Ahdaf Soueif’s Cairo: My City, Our Revolution, which provides a heartbreaking and personal account of the events of 2011 – even more heartbreaking when you consider what has happened since. Highly recommended.

Otherwise, I have been snowed under with work, both Day-Job related and freelance – AND the final (really truly HONESTLY final this time) round of edits on Novel #3, as well as the first 30,000 words or so of #4. From this perspective the 7pm – 6am curfew has been almost a relief, though it’s severely curtailed my attempts to develop a Cairo-based social life, and there have been rather too many sad solitary dinners of tuna-in-a-can and flatbread and vache qui rit cheese. I am hoping that this will change in September.

Here is a small list of things that have delighted me in August:

-          A pair of red and white striped canvas open-toed espadrilles, and bright red nail polish;

-          A new tattoo;

-          Welcome to Night Vale, an utterly wonderful (and free! FREE!) podcast by Commonplace Books, which has suffused me with JOY and FEELINGS;

-          A weekend at Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea coast, where I got to immerse my body in the sea (though the shallowness of the water made Proper Swimming nearly impossible);

-          A new phone, a new Paperwhite Kindle, and a WHOLE LOAD of wonderful books, the best of which have been Drinking: A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon, The Uninvited, by Liz Jensen, The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink, by Olivia Laing, and The Golem and the Djinni, by Helene Wecker.

-          Twitter, with which I still have an uneasy and difficult relationship, but which is invaluable at times of political upheaval;

-          Cairo, with which I have fairly conclusively fallen in love.

And here is a small list of things that promise to be delightful in September:

-          Two weddings of friends from totally different parts of my life, one in Oxford and one in London;

-          A holiday in Tunisia with my excellent friend C., which will begin with a 24-hour ferry journey from Marseille, as we are Excellent At Boats (having taken a cargo ship from Turkmenbashi to Baku last summer);

-          A few days in Wales seeing my parents, and a few days in London seeing friends;

-          The relaxation of the curfew (inshallah), allowing me to do things like meet people and make friends and take Arabic classes and exercise in Cairo;

-          Finally (really truly HONESTLY) finishing Novel #3. It’s time.

Written by hypermobility

September 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm

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