Aug 022015
 

I had two new labels slapped on me this past week, which I’m not ecstatic about, seeing as how I’m not into fitting people into labelled boxes, and the process of applying labels is not exactly ‘scientific’. However, I find myself identifying with both labels more than a bit, so there’s probably something in it. Or not.

Firstly, after much avoidance, I was finally corralled and someone administered the Myers & Briggs Type Indicator assessment. And, surprise, surprise, I scored as INTJ with a whopping 96% for the Introversion part, which tells me that I was feeling particularly just-leave-me-alone at the time. If I took the test again I’d probably score something else, but once the result was known, people around me were nodding their heads and laughing in DELIGHT about how WELL my characteristics matched the personality assessment, so yeah, whatever.

Apparently, less than 1% of females score as INTJ, maybe as few as 0.5 – 0.8%. Hmmm.

I’ve been reading up on the supposed INTJ characteristics, and I have to admit that it sounds like me. A LOT like me. Oh, alright, it is me. Someone showed me this and I showed it to Mr V, and he raised his eyebrow, smirked, and said, ‘Spot-on.’

Fire

Why am I sharing this? Well, it may explain a few things about me, I guess. For instance, my inability to function in group situations and my unwillingness to tolerate incompetence led me to quit most of the MA courses I started over the past few years. At the time I thought there must be something really wrong with me, but yeah, maybe it’s just the way I am.

I’ve been avoiding these sort of personality tests for a long time, since I was studying to qualify as a counsellor and scored way, way off the chart on a ‘social needs’ test that had my classmates looking at me with big eyes. And then there were the times I made classmates cry during group activities because I was ‘mean’ to them – well, I was actually just telling them to STFU and address the task at hand because we had a time limit – but yeah, sadly, I don’t play nice with others in group situations.

The other label I acquired is ‘Reading OCD’. I was talking to a doctor and mentioned the problems I’ve sometimes had with reading over the past few years, and she pricked up her ears. Apparently, ‘Reading OCD’ is a thing, although not officially recognised, but quite a few people seem to have it. Seeing as how I have OCD that manifests in other ways, I guess it’s logical that I might have a problem with reading as well. *SIGH*

Sometimes, when I read something, especially if I *need* to read and understand it, my brain gets into this weird ‘did I understand what I just read / did I read that correctly / did I miss anything important / do I really know what that word means’ loop. So, I have to read and re-read and re-read sentences and paragraphs and pages, and look up words to make sure of their meaning. I know. It’s crazy and weird and exhausting and it means that sometimes I don’t get much reading done at all. I’ve only had this problem for a few years and I’m thinking that my OCD has probably sneaked into my reading process, and I didn’t recognise or name it until someone else stuck a label on it.

I was given some strategies to try to overcome the compulsion to re-read, so I shall do my best to implement them. It’s a bit disappointing, though, because you’d think I’d have picked up on it myself, but therein lies another mystery of the brain: often we just don’t see what’s staring us in the face.

INTJ – not exactly a scientific analysis of my personality, but it does sound eerily familiar.
Reading OCD – seems to describe what I do.

Maybe, one day, I’ll write about living with OCD. It’s not just about having a tidy sock drawer or perfectly arranged books – I have neither, actually. OCD is a debilitating mental illness that can really blight your life if you let it. My main strategy is avoidance – I just don’t do what my brain nags me to do, and maybe that will work with the reading problem.

Anyway, I shall end this TMI post with a link to my new website, a blog dedicated to unearthing the books hiding in my TBR book mountain, unimaginatively called ‘the book mountain’, and which resides at tsundoku.me . I’ve only got three posts there so far, and the reading project tab is kind of a work (not) in progress. But, you get the idea…

P.S. Can you let me know if you have a problem viewing the new site on your device? The theme is supposed to be responsive and self-adjusting, but I’ve only tested it on a few platforms. Thx. :)

Edited to add:

Mr V was fairly sceptical about the Myers & Briggs test, even though it seemed to peg me quite accurately. Reluctantly, he did it and scored ISTP which is totally bang-on-the-money, right down to the career in the military. Yep.

Jul 302015
 

July wasn’t a particularly good reading month for me. I’ve had a virus for a couple of weeks now, which has kind of wiped out my sinuses, so what with the face ache and general body-blah feeling, I’ve been mostly fiddling around with my new website and not reading much at all. I’m now into the ‘coughing like a sixty-a-day-smoker’ phase, which is big fun!

Fire

Anyhow. I read Samantha Ellis’ How to be a Heroine and absolutely loved it. She wrote about many of the books I read as a youngster, and had many of the same reactions to them as I did. For instance, I could never understand why Laurie and Jo didn’t run away to Paris together, or something equally as exciting. All that Christian goodness in Little Women made me feel queasy, and still does, which is why I still have trouble with Gaskell and other Victorian novelists who lay the piety on too thick. But, yeah, novels did shape my way of thinking and being in the world, and I lived in those fictional worlds in my head more than I did in the real world, and still do, I guess. It felt very comforting to encounter a book that so closely mirrored my own thoughts about certain novels and I had a great time reading it.

Fire

Ellis wrote about Franny Glass and so, of course, I had to hunt down my copy of Franny and Zooey and give it another read. I love reading Salinger. His writing is just so beautifully crafted, every word in place, no fat, no fluff, just arrow-words that zing you straight in the heart. I loved Franny the first time I read about her, and although I thought I understood her distress, in actual fact I would have to be a bit older before I really understood her existential crisis. Lane’s arrogance made me burn, and Bessie’s annoying persistence made me laugh, but mostly I puzzled over what made Zooey tick. I should re-read the rest of the Glass stories because the members of that family are some of the best characters in fiction.

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Next, I read Nightflower: The Life and Art of Vali Myers. There are not a whole lot of words in the book, but I spent a while looking at the artwork and having a ‘I wish I’d been part of the Bohemian thing in Paris’ moment. Why is it that some people can just strike out and do their own thing in life? Where would be be if it weren’t for people like Rimbaud, Van Gogh, and Vali Myers? She didn’t seem to care AT ALL what people thought of her, although she did enjoy attracting attention. I’d like to read a proper biography of her. Her long-time partner wrote a memoir that’s supposed to be good. I’ll have to see if I can track it down. Anyway, Myers’ art is amazingly wonderful. I’m posting a little thing about the book on my new blog, so I won’t go on about it here.

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Andrew Stott’s treatment of John Polidori’s dealings with Byron & Co., The Vampyre Family, is engaging and thorough. I didn’t learn anything new, but Stott isn’t in awe of Byron, which is always a good thing. Poor John Polidori was always going to be out of his league around Byron and the Shelleys, and he got off to a bad start by asking for Byron’s opinion of his writing, which was one of LB’s pet peeves. So, the book covers the usual stuff, including the 1816 summer at Villa Diodati, where Frankenstein had its genesis. Polidori’s story is sad: he was clever and beautiful and had so much potential, but he also had a flawed personality and a chip on his shoulder, which made life hard for him and it all ended very badly.

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Daisy Hay’s double portrait of Mary Anne and Benjamin Disraeli is proving to be very interesting, and I’m finding it a bit of a page turner. It always helps when a biographer genuinely likes her subject, and Hay seems to be rather fond of this unlikely couple. He married her for her money, and then learnt to love her, and she simply adored him. Mary Anne has been dismissed by others as being vacuous and crass, but Hay delved into Mary Anne’s papers in the Bodelian library and this original research has paid off: she gives us a fresh portrait of two intriguing people. I read Hay’s previous book about the second generation Romantic poets and their ‘tangled’ lives, and was left feeling a bit underwhelmed because it had all been done before and in a slightly less censorious tone, it seemed to me, but I think she hits the nail on the head with her second book.

Well, that’s about all I’ve been reading this past month. I hope to have my new site up soon and will be posting there about what I discover in my TBR book mountain. I intend to keep posting here to honour the fact that (it’s) still life, with books. I started this site in 2009 when I surfaced from yet another bout of clinical depression, and I’ve tried to keep it going since then, through all the ups and downs of living with official Crazy Brain. Sometimes I feel a bit sad that I haven’t been able to integrate more into the book blogging community, but I do appreciate the steadfast readers who comment here on my waffling posts. I know it’s often hard to keep up with my mercurial temperament – you should try it from this perspective! :)

So. Onwards!

Jul 272015
 
Fire

A couple of weeks ago I had the bright idea of starting a new blog in which I would ‘journal my adventures of discovery’ amidst the TBR book mountain that has taken over our house. It seemed like a good idea to me at the time, so I registered another domain and decorated another WordPress install, and then I kind of ran out of puff. I guess I started second-guessing myself about the point of it all.

Recently, I read Samantha Ellis’ How to be a Heroine and absolutely loved most of it and agreed with just about everything she wrote. It felt to me as though I were having a margin-conversation with someone who has a similar attitude to books and reading as I do. When I finished her book I felt sad and a bit lonely, because in real life I don’t talk about books with ANYONE, and I remembered the yearning I felt in 2005 when I started my first book blog. Back then, I felt there had to be other people out there who had literary characters as imaginary friends; who read and re-read and re-re-read their favourite novels; who lived in those mind-worlds more than they did in the real world. There had to be people who felt they understood what motivated Heathcliff and Isabel Archer, who cried over Lily Bart and Emma Bovary, who went high-adventuring with Jim Hawkins and Ishmael, and who fell hard in love with Vronsky. Back then, I desperately wanted to find other people who shared my variety of book weirdness.

The idea for starting a new blog came about while I was sorting through my TBR mountain and ruthlessly culling books that seemed like a good idea at the time I acquired them but which hold no interest for me now. Amongst the survivors I’ve discovered books I never knew I had. For a long time I thought I was stockpiling books ‘for a rainy day’. You know how you think that time is going to keep rolling on and you’ll get around to reading all those books ‘one day’? For me, it feels as though, suddenly, ‘one day’ is here and now.

Jun 212015
 

How Beastly the Bourgeois Is

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species–

Presentable, eminently presentable–
shall I make you a present of him?

Isn’t he handsome? Isn’t he healthy? Isn’t he a fine specimen?
Doesn’t he look the fresh clean Englishman, outside?
Isn’t it God’s own image? tramping his thirty miles a day
after partridges, or a little rubber ball?
wouldn’t you like to be like that, well off, and quite the
thing

Oh, but wait!
Let him meet a new emotion, let him be faced with another
man’s need,
let him come home to a bit of moral difficulty, let life
face him with a new demand on his understanding
and then watch him go soggy, like a wet meringue.
Watch him turn into a mess, either a fool or a bully.
Just watch the display of him, confronted with a new
demand on his intelligence,
a new life-demand.

How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species–

Nicely groomed, like a mushroom
standing there so sleek and erect and eyeable–
and like a fungus, living on the remains of a bygone life
sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life
than his own.

And even so, he’s stale, he’s been there too long.
Touch him, and you’ll find he’s all gone inside
just like an old mushroom, all wormy inside, and hollow
under a smooth skin and an upright appearance.

Full of seething, wormy, hollow feelings
rather nasty–
How beastly the bourgeois is!

Standing in their thousands, these appearances, in damp
England
what a pity they can’t all be kicked over
like sickening toadstools, and left to melt back, swiftly
into the soil of England.

D. H. Lawrence, 1885 – 1930.

Fire