Tag Archives: Hilary Mantel

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage

I came across Murakami’s writing through 1Q84, his iconic alternative universe exploration of Tengo and Aomame. In all honesty, I “discovered” it through Audible.com for one reason: it was many hours in length and, for one credit, really good value!

And then I got swept up in this strange unsettling and unsettled narrative. It was like stepping into someone else’s dream! Familiar yet alien; recognisable yet surreal.

And, thanks to Aomame’s description of her name and the differences between Aomame and Edamame, I seem to remember getting a University Challenge question right.

So any way, after picking up Norweigan Wood , The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka On The Shore, Murakami has become one of those writers for whom a new novel is an event. There are a few novelists that have this effect: China Miéville, Hilary Mantel, Neil Gaiman….

So my picking up the wonderfully entitled Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage was always going to be exciting.

IMG_5225.JPG So, imagine my delight and pleasure that, as well as the book itself, there were stickers inside the front cover.

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IMG_5227.JPG Stickers!

Yes, stickers.

It’s perhaps 30 years since I had stickers inside the front cover of a book!

This must rank alongside such classics as Dress-Up Barbie and Design A Dinosaur World!

The blurb to this book reads as follows:

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance, all their names contained a color. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’ Tazaki was the only last name with no color in it.

One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.

Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.

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There’s an obvious geographical connection with Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being but there also seems to be a thematic parallel: the drifting, loneliness, a drift towards suicide.

Anyway, I’m going to stop gabbling now, bring that delicious sensual moment of teasing before I begin the book to an end.

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Libraries

I love libraries.

That is all. Really.

What is the first thing I do when moving house? Join the library.

How many library cards do I have in my wallet? Five: mine from three previous addresses (why would I relinquish one? I may move back again!), my step-son’s and my five month-old baby’s!

Where else – in this day and age – can you walk in with nothing and leave with a stack of books on the strength of a promise to return them later?

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A single room overflowing with entire worlds!

The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.
Albert Einstein

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them.
Stephen Fry

I once stole a book. It was really just the once, and at the time I called it borrowing. It was 1970, and the book, I could see by its lack of date stamps, had been lying unappreciated on the shelves of my convent school library since its publication in 1945.
Hilary Mantel

You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books! Best weapons in the world!

Dr Who

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I’m the Doctor and you’re in the biggest library in the universe.
Look me up.

Dr Who

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WTF, Fuck

Hmmmm… Reading Mantel’s sublime Bring Up The Bodies and really loving it but she has used the f-word twice now I think, in 126 pages. Gosh, it says something about my upbringing that I still shy away from using it save in extremis. Putting it as the title to this blog actually made me shudder a little! I am such a prude!

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“let’s fuck about with Cromwell.

This comes from a chapter set very specifically on Christmas Day 1535 and, frankly, the word grates on me! I know Mantel is using modern language and not attempting a faux Shakespearean dialogue and I fully applaud that! Whilst a self-confessed prude (see above!) I understand that Cromwell, the son of a violent Putney ne’erdowell, the soldier, the merchant would have a range of choice vocabulary and our narrator reflects that. All well and good. I understand that at this precise moment, said choice lexis may be appropriate: he has just been excluded from negotiations between his King and his friend (who happens to also be the Spanish ambassador) Chapuys over his request to visit the erstwhile Queen Katherine.

But fuck? Really? It grates it really does!

So, on with a spot of research online…

Its literal sense seems to be suitably ancient – much to my chagrin – Germanic and Scandinavian words ficken, focken, fukka or fokka which no doubt arrived with Vikings and were grafted onto our mongrel tongue. There is a poem prior to 1500, at least according to Wikipedia which includes the line

non sunt in coeli, quia fvccant vvivys of heli

which translates as a description of Friars who are not in Heaven because they’re too busy fucking the wives of Ely. And what a brilliant mongrel sentence of language! Shifts straight from Latin to English within a single breath of the speaker! I love English!!

Anyway, back to fuck. I am forced to concede that the word exists within the time of Cromwell. Indeed, there’s even a graph!

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So, somewhat oddly fuck was most common in use around 1590 and 1700. Much more common then than it is now in fact. Why? To me, logically, that suggests its use was less taboo earlier and therefore more frequently employed. As records of writing was much less and skewed towards the more educated and socially adept in 1600 and 1700 it suggests that even more strongly. It makes me wonder if the explosion of twitterati and the blogosphere may have caught up! Here’s my contribution to spurious research into word frequency: fuck, fucked, fuck you, fuck off, fucking hell, fuckity fuckity fuck fuck, FUCK.

Oh dear, I’m blushing now.

But does the sense in which it’s used – as a verb meaning to toy with or to really piss off or to seriously annoy – exist in that time?

The answer is… who knows! To me it just feels too modern and contemporary. It feels too Americanised; too “Call Of Duty” to be used in the 1535 context in this sense. But this is entirely based on me and my personal, subjective reaction to it as a word.

Your views??

One thing that did make me giggle was the myth that it derived from some 1800s acronym for Found Under Carnal Knowledge or Fornication Under the Consent of the King. In fact myth seems to strong a word. This explanation ignores the previous 300 years of use and is just totally silly!! One could say, a fucking joke!

Ebooks vs Paper Books

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One book (Hilary Mantell’s Bring Up The Bodies) an inch and a half thick, chunky, heavy, fills my bag;

982 books, less than a centimetre thick, slim, lightweight slips into a jacket pocket.

That is why I love my ebook.

But having the same book in paper and electronic format, I’d still always prefer the paper. The weight, the smell, the feel of the paper under the fingertips. A lovely immersive sensuous experience. And one I can take to the bath with me! However I wrap my ebook up in food bags and freezer bags, it just doesn’t like it!

The Giant, O’Brien

I picked up The Giant as a free book when pre-ordering Bring Up The Bodies, Mantel’s sequel to the wonderful Wolf Hall.

I wasn’t sure what to expect: the blurb identifying the setting of the book in 1782 didn’t inspire me: with the exception of Wolf Hall historical fiction has never really been my bag. But on the strength of Wolf Hall and it’s appeal to my impecunity, I took a punt.

The Giant of the title, Charles O’Brien, however seems to have stepped out of Irish mythology and the Tuatha Dé Danaan and the Sidhe. The concerns that I have about most historical fiction (that the depth of research and shoe-horning in of faux authenticity – yes, I’m aware of both the pretentiousness and oxymoronic nature of that sentence!) fell away!

The Giant is a story teller and Mantel creates this wonderfully evocative passage in which he starts to tell a tale in exchange for shelter and food.

“The Giant hesitated, looked deep into the smoke of the fire. Outside, most gathered on the mountain. Shapes formed in the corner of the room that were not the shapes of cattle and were unseen by Connor, Jankin and Claffey; only Pybus who, because of his youth had fewer skins, shifted his feet like a restless horse and lifted his nose at the whiff of an alien smell.”

Stunningly beautiful passage!

I love the sensuousness of the depiction of the tale as smell; the sense of otherworldliness of the alien presence of the story; the power of words and narrative to do more than describe and narrate but to create or invoke; I love the image of men wrapped up in so many layers of skins that they become blind to the magic and power around them which only children can see!

Magical !

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