Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….In my memory they slid from a bank of sea mist, and perhaps they did, but memory is a faulty thing and my other images of that day are of a clear, cloudless sky, so perhaps there was no mist, but it seems to me that one moment the sea was empty and the next there were three ships coming from the south.
….Beautiful things. They appeared to rest weightless on the ocean, and when their oars dug into the waves they skimmed the water. Their prows and sterns curled high and were tipped with gilded beasts, serpents and dragons, and it seemed to me that on that far off summer’s day the three boats danced on the water, propelled by the rise and fall of the silver wings of their oar banks. The sun flashed off the wet blades, splinters of light, then the oars dipped, were tugged and the beast-headed boats surged and I stared entranced.

* * * * * * * * *

….I wanted to ask her then if she did not remember. I wanted to ask if the manner of her death had been erased from her memory, if she lived now as if those things had not occurred.
….Perhaps the days before her death, and the way death was given to her, are nothing in the place where she is. Perhaps the gods keep the memory of death locked up in their store, jealously guarded. Instead, the gods release feelings that were once pure or sweet. Feelings that mattered once. They allow love to matter since love can do no harm to the dead.
….They approach each other, my father and my sister, their movements hesitant. I am not sure that, once they have seen each other, they still see me. I am not sure that the living interest them. They have too many needs that belong to themselves only; they have too much to share.

* * * * * * * * *

….The trains of the London and West Coast Railway run over the lines of another company as far as this town, which should have been reached by the special rather before six o’clock. At a quarter after six considerable surprise and some consternation were caused amongst the officials at Liverpool by the receipt of a telegram from Manchester to say that it had not yet arrived. An inquiry directed to St. Helens, which is a third of the way between the two cities, elicited the following reply:-
….‘To James Bland, Superintendent, Central L. & W. C., Liverpool. – Special passed here at 4.52, well up to time. – Dowser, St. Helens.’
….This telegram was received at 6.40. At 6.50 a second message was received from Manchester:-
….‘No sign of special as advised by you.’
….And then ten minutes later a third, more bewildering:-
….‘Presume some mistake as to proposed running of special. Local train from St. Helens timed to follow it has just arrived and has seen nothing of it. Kindly wire advices. – Manchester.’

From The Lost Special by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

* * * * * * * * *

….By 1921, there were twice as many bureaucrats as workers in Russia. They were the social base of the regime. This was not a Dictatorship of the Proletariat but a Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy. Moscow, in Lenin’s words, was ‘bloated with officials’: it housed nearly a quarter of a million of them, one-third of the total workforce in the city by the end of 1920. The centre of Moscow became one vast block of offices as committees were piled on top of councils and departments on top of commissions.
….Perhaps a third of the bureaucracy was employed in the regulation of the planned economy. It was an absurd situation: while the economy came to a standstill, its bureaucracy flourished. The country was desperately short of fuel but there was an army of bureaucrats to regulate its almost non-existent distribution. There was no paper in the shops but a mountain of it in the Soviet offices (90 per cent of the paper made in Russia during the first four years of Soviet rule was consumed by the bureaucracy).

* * * * * * * * *

….I broke off. He was looking at me with a cold, glassy stare, as no doubt he had looked at the late lions, leopards and gnus whose remains were to be viewed on the walls of the outer hall. Fellows at the Drones who have tried to touch Oofy Prosser, the club millionaire, for a trifle to see them through till next Wednesday have described him to me as looking just like that.
….‘Oh, so that’s it!’ he said, and even Pop Bassett could not have spoken more nastily. ‘I’ve got your number now. I’ve met your sort all over the world. You won’t get any five pounds, my man. You sit where you are and don’t move. I’m going to call the police.’
….‘It will not be necessary, sir,’ said a respectful voice, and Jeeves entered through the french window.
….His advent drew from me a startled goggle and, I rather think, a cry of amazement. Last man I’d expected to see, and how he had got here defeated me. I’ve sometimes felt that he must dematerialize himself like those fellows in India – fakirs, I think they’re called – who fade into thin air in Bombay and turn up five minutes later in Calcutta or points west with all the parts reassembled.

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

26 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

    • Ha – it wasn’t even entirely dissimilar here back when I started work in the ’70s. In fact, lots of stuff in this book takes me back to those days… and reminds me that things might not be perfect now, but they’re better…

    • I think Miraculous Murders should be good – loads of great writers in it! Ha – it sounds not unlike most of the offices I’ve worked in over the years…

  1. The descriptive writing on The Last Kingdom is lovely! I ‘m not familiar with the story, but writing like this draws me in. And I suspect the Jeeves offering is another good one.

    • Isn’t it? It’s about the Vikings so there’s lots of battles and gore, but it’s really lifted by the quality of the writing, I think. And who could resist Jeeves?

  2. Have you seen the TV series of The Last Kingdom? My husband found it on Netflix and he doesn’t usually like period pieces but he was completely addicted. I haven’t read the book yet.

    • I haven’t – I hardly watch TV these days (except for obsessive news watching, that is). But I may search it out – I enjoyed the book a lot. It’s clearly very well researched and the writing is excellent.

  3. Love the House of Names quote! That’s such a sad and beautiful passage.

    I requested Miraculous Murders from NetGalley, but haven’t heard back yet. No matter though, I’m still reading Continental Crimes. 😀

    • He’s a great writer!

      Sometimes I think if you don’t request them straight away they stop checking and then if you’re lucky you get it just as they’re about to archive it – so if they do approve you download it quick before it disappears! 😀

  4. I can see I’ll have to start The Last Kingdom soon! I’m more tempted this week by this extract from House of Names than last week’s and I’m content just to read your extracts from A People’s Tragedy – I remember when it was said that computers would reduce the need for paper, ‘ a paperless office’! Of course Miraculous Murders tempts me!

    • I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Kingdom – definitely superior to lots of these sword and sandal books both in terms of the writing and, as far as I could tell, the research. Enjoy! I was more ambivalent about House of Names to be honest – review soon. A People’s Tragedy has been great but boy, it’s big!

    • Yes! I love these anthologies – there are always loads of interesting authors in them and that helps me to decide whether I want to read any of their full length novels if the British Library publishes them. If you do get to read it, I hope you enjoy it! 😀

    • A People’s Tragedy is actually a fantastic book – huge and time-consuming but exceptionally well written and put together. And yes, sadly there are a lot of echoes in today’s politics of the worst aspects of the revolutionary movement…

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