Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

In straining every nerve against heretics, More believed he was serving God and Henry equally. He failed to see that, at least where the king was concerned, he was standing on shifting sands. Erasmus, too, was unsympathetic. From his sanctuary in Basel, he fell into a state of denial over the reports he received of Thomas’s behaviour, refusing to believe that the author of Utopia could have taken this turn. Twice Erasmus claimed, inaccurately, that no heretic was put to death while More was lord chancellor. Thomas later put him straight. Writing his own epitaph a year or so after his resignation as lord chancellor, he said he had been ‘grievous to thieves, murderers and heretics’ and wanted all his friends to know as much. ‘I wrote that with deep feeling,’ he told Erasmus. ‘I find that breed of men absolutely loathsome, so much so, that unless they regain their senses, I want to be as hateful to them as anyone can possibly be.’

 * * * * * * * * *

In pursuit of his trophies, the bones or relics of the prehistoric, he had a grave enthusiasm which made you think of an owl pursuing mice. At the same time he prided himself, incongruously one might suppose, upon a more than ordinary knowledge of cocktails. He mixed, for his own benefit and that of his friends, extremely curious alcoholic solutions, which he drank or handed round with a sombre and imposing gravity. After swallowing a few of his own decoctions, he became paler, moister, more vague, until he finally subsided into a state of mental mildew, a dim shimmering on the verge of total obliteration. I suppose the cocktail aspect of Mr Tuffle was really due to a belated feeling of counterpoise, a rather pathetic desire to appear manly. A similar impulse, no doubt, induces curates to brag about the drinking of beer.

* * * * * * * * *

Later, Vera woke to splashing water. In the bathroom, she found her daughter on her knees before the toilet, holding her hair in a loose fist behind her head.

“You stupid child,” Vera said, dropping to her knee beside her. Lydia’s head flopped over the toilet seat. “You stupid child, what have you done?”

“I don’t know,” Lydia mumbled, letting the fistful of hair go slack.

Vera had an urge to shout, but she laid her daughter on the floor and made a pillow from the bath towel. A mother comforts. A mother cleans. A mother gives when any reasonable person would deny. Life might affix any number of labels to Vera – Russian, pensioner, widow, daughter. But when she looked to her washed-out reflection in the bathroom mirror, she saw only Lydia’s mother.

* * * * * * * * *

That was the summer I drifted through the city. Did I already say that? Everything I saw had a subtle but unmistakeable doubleness. Each pace was reminiscent of some previous pace, not just because I knew the streets well and had walked them before, though this was true, but because I’d already taken that particular pace. My present had somehow gone before me and was already irrevocably in my past. All the sounds I could hear, slightly amplified and somehow picked out or defined, were no more than echoes, their presence freakish, their availability to me as exotic as a radio signal from a long-ago war.

Each moment, as I lived it, had already been used up. I could not connect things together. They happened to me, they had already happened to me. The helix that spans from birth to death, the unbroken thread of habit and progress that makes a person a person, a self whole and entire, had become as discontinuous and insubstantial as a chain of smoke rings.

* * * * * * * * *

Various holy men and spiritualists had established themselves in the palaces of Russia’s great and good long before Rasputin came on to the scene. Their success cleared the way for him. He was presented at parties and soirées as a man of God, a sinner and repentant, who had been graced with extraordinary powers of clairvoyance and healing. His disgusting physical appearance merely added piquancy to his moral charms. Dressed in a peasant blouse and baggy trousers, his greasy black hair hung down to his shoulders, his beard was encrusted with old bits of food, and his hands and body were never washed. He carried a strong body odour, which many people compared to that of a goat. But it was his eyes that caught his audience’s attention. Their penetrating brilliance and hypnotic power made a lasting impression. Some people even claimed that Rasputin was able to make his pupils expand and contract at will.

* * * * * * * * *

(NB When quoting from audiobooks, I have to make assumptions about the spelling of names, punctuation of sentences, etc., so there may be some differences from the original text.)

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

41 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. Lots of Russian-ness – like it! The Thomas Moore book is tempting and I love the excerpt from Scarweather – the bit about the owl pursuing a mouse I thought was very good. And I like when people write about drinking… can’t think why… 😉 White Tears doesn’t grab me but the Russiany ones are delightful!

    • Da, tovarich – have some wodka! The Thomas More book is disappointing, I fear, but Scarweather was a lot of fun! White Tears was actually better than the quote makes it sound – it was a difficult one to lift a quote from because it got kinda weird. And at least it got me out of the Revolution for a bit!

      • I quite like weird, maybe I won’t write off White Tears completely. I am quite taken by Scarweather, it’s going on ‘the list’. You have been very revolutionary lately, I am expecting an imminent Scottish uprising 😉

        • Ah, ‘cos you’re not around at the end of the week when I do all my “what am I reading” type stuff you probably don’t know I’m doing a year-long “Reading the Russian Revolution” Challenge – fact and fiction. Hence the huge history tomes and the Russian related fiction. I shall be talking with a Russian accent before the year is out, Comrade…

  2. Very creative way to take a ‘book selfie,’ FIctionFan! And you’ve picked intriguing quotes. I think the Rolls and the Marra interest me the most. But they all look enticing.

    • I’m glad you enjoy it, Margot – I find it quite fun to do! Both excellent choices – one or two of the others aren’t quite as appealing though. But on the whole a good bunch!

    • White Tears was… different! It’ll get a high rating from me, but I haven’t quite decided how high yet. I’m still thinking about it though, which is a good sign…

    • Both excellent choices! If I can concentrate my mind, the reviews will be along soon but *spoiler alert* they’ll both get high ratings. Haha! Well, given it’s about digging up bodies, Scareweather is maybe more appropriate… 😯

  3. You have a lot on the go! I’m most interested in the Thomas Moore book and A People”s Tragedy – Rasputin must have had a charismatic personality, as he certainly was not an attractive man! Actually Scarweather seems the most intriguing – a state of mental mildew is alarming and followed by a dim shimmering on the verge of total obliteration is terrifying.

    • Yes, but only because I finished some and started others! A People’s Tragedy looks like it’ll be great – it’s a monster brick though! Haha! I couldn’t imagine why women seemed to find Rasputin irresistible – I was kinda nauseated at the very descriptions… especially the old food in the beard! Scarweather wasn’t the best mystery in the world, but the book was still a lot of fun – lots of humour…

  4. A People’s Tragedy sounds most intriguing here — from that disgusting description, I’ve got poor Rasputin clearly in my mind. Smelled like a goat, huh? Yuck! Scarweather’s “a state of mental mildew” has piqued my interest, too!

    • It’s excellently written for a history book – much less dry than they tend to be. Yes, I can’t quite see why so many women apparently found Rasputin attractive – doesn’t say much for the other Russian men, does it? 😉 Scarweather has some great writing too…

    • Thank you – I’m glad you like it! I’d seen a few people do similar things with quotes, so I can’t claim originality but it’s fun to do. 🙂 Ha! I’ll see if I can get you when I write my review then…

  5. I think, either you picked unusually wonderful quotes from each, or each of them IS intriguing. I was attentive to the authorial voice of each……..though I’m nervously looking at my bedroom floor, as the books which should be on the bookshelves (read them) have gravitated off the overstocked bedside cabinet (books waiting TO be read) and are beginning to pile up in several stacks across the bedroom floor (books waiting to be able to join the bedside cabinet waiting to the read pile) ie I have secondary and tertiary piles of books straining to MAKE the imminent (20 books or so) TBR

    • Well, I do try to find quotes that make the books look tempting, I admit, but most of these make it pretty easy – a great bunch overall! And frankly, with your TBR in that state you’d hardly notice them, so you should probably add at least two – my picks for you would be The Tsar of Love and Techno (which you MUST read – you will love it, I’m positive) and White Tears (which would be more of a risk and might go either way, I feel). I’ll let you off with the 900 pages of Russian history, though – aren’t I kind??

  6. Hmm, The Tsar of Love and Techno appeals, also White Tears.
    A People’s Tragedy appeals too. Smelly old food in Rasputin’s beard is gross, the Romanov’s must have had no sense of smell.

    • I’m going to make a new law that everyone has to read The Tsar of Love and Techno – a fab book! I enjoyed White Tears too, but I think it’s one that could easily go either way. Haha! Doesn’t Rasputin just sound lovely? If the Russian women found him attractive, it doesn’t say much for the rest of the Russian men…

  7. There are many tales about Rasputin, yes? Some quite tall, from what I read in The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming (a fabulous YA book). He sounds quite disgusting, making me wonder how anyone could have allowed him to get close to Alexandra. Anyway, I digress. The except from the Marra book was quite jarring and appealing.

    • Oddly, I don’t know much about Rasputin – I’ve stuck a biography on my list because he does sound fascinating… if revolting! The Marra is quite wonderful – I shall be running a campaign to force everyone to stop what they’re doing and read it… 😀

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