17 Ramadhan 1437
I've been reading all sorts of bits and pieces in no particular shape or order since we've been in KL. This is partly related to the fact that the bookshelves here house quite a mixture ranging from books acquired when I was just a lad (which went into storage in two distinct locations for quite a number of years after 1988 until I finally shipped them out east) to stuff purchased very recently. Most of the comics/graphic novels I've bought since finding my way back into this genre via Gaiman's wonderful Sandman series are housed here, and I've had pleasure dipping into Persepolis, Gaiman's tales of Dream's sister Death and The Long Halloween, an imaginative updating of the Batman mythos.
Another tome handy for dipping into has been The Collected What If? a collection of historical essays dealing with some intriguing counter-factuals. It's quite a bulky volume, given to me as a present a decade ago by Mei & Boon (gosh, time passes!) and it's really not made for reading in sequence, so I've never bothered. Rather I find myself looking at some two or three of the essays each time we're around here for any length of time and enjoying the idea there's more to come.
But I've managed to get beyond just dipping and give the full length treatment to a couple of books in the last week that I've been meaning to get round to for some little time. The first of these was H.E. Bates's Love For Lydia which I acquired in 1988, just before heading out here since it featured in the Marshall Cavendish series of Great Books (or something like that) which, for some reason, I thought worth subscribing to back then, probably because they were cheap, I guess. I didn't have a chance to read it then and it's not featured high on the list of stuff I need to catch up since getting it out here since I can't honestly say I would regard Bates as a writer of Great Books in any meaningful sense. From all appearances it looked like an account of drearily obsessive first love for a drearily mysterious femme fatale, and that's pretty much how it turned out - except maybe just a bit better. Some observant descriptive writing relating to the natural world raised it slightly above the ordinary for me, but only slightly. I'm afraid I'm several decades too late for tales of young love and passion. I keep wondering why anyone would bother and, more practically, why the narrator didn't just take off with one of the nicely stable ordinary young ladies who made their availability clear to him.
The other book I went cover to cover with is, I suppose, a volume for children. Entitled Return to the Hundred Acre Wood it's a revisiting of A.A. Milne's engaging tales of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh and their companions written in the style of the original by David Benedictus and illustrated, quite beautifully by Mark Burgess in the inimitable (but here wonderfully imitated) style of E.H. Shephard. Now you might be thinking I must be quite a Milne fan, but that's not the case at all. I didn't particularly enjoy the Pooh stuff as a kid, coming to it rather too late, and I only know the stories from hearing them adapted as they were for programmes like Jackanory. In fact, it's only as an adult that I came to recognise the 'engaging' qualities of the tales, as referred to above and I don't feel any strong nostalgic impulse to read Milne (of the sort I definitely feel for Kenneth Grahame's work.) This was another book given to me generously as a present, quite unexpectedly, by my colleague Suzanne back in 2011. I think she'd been to the UK in the December of the previous year and bought the book at a signing by Benedictus thinking it was something I'd like precisely because I'm English. It's a handsome-looking volume, beautifully illustrated, as I say, and I popped it on the bookshelves at work meaning to get round to it some time soon - and didn't. And then when Suzanne passed away for some reason I lost all desire to look at it.
That was silly. It was fun to read and a reminder of a lovely person. Good enough reason to want to read anything, and I'm glad I did.