Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….I became aware that our love was doomed; love had turned into a love affair with a beginning and an end. I could name the very moment when it had begun, and one day I knew I should be able to name the final hour. When she left the house I couldn’t settle to work. I would reconstruct what we had said to each other; I would fan myself into anger or remorse. And all the time I knew I was forcing the pace. I was pushing, pushing the only thing I loved out of my life. As long as I could make believe that love lasted I was happy; I think I was even good to live with, and so love did last. But if love had to die, I wanted it to die quickly. It was as though our love were a small creature caught in a trap and bleeding to death; I had to shut my eyes and wring its neck.

* * * * * * * * *

Lenin the Dictator by Victor Sebestyen

….At first the Immortalisation Commission was told by Dr Abrikosov that Lenin’s body could be preserved ‘for many, many years’ by refrigeration, if it was kept in the crypt, in a specially designed sarcophagus, at a carefully controlled temperature. But despite the most expensive and sophisticated freezing equipment bought from Germany, within two months there were already dark spots on Lenin’s face and torso and his eye sockets were deformed. The magnates were worried their plan would not work out, particularly as the weather was becoming warmer.
….Towards the end of March 1924 two prominent chemists, Vladimir Vorobyov and Boris Zbarsky, suggested re-embalming the body with a chemical mixture that they said ‘could last hundreds of years’. They had studied the ancient Egyptian techniques of mummification but they could do a lot better ‘and keep Vladimir Ilyich’s body looking natural’. They worked day and night whitening Lenin’s skin and devising the correct embalming fluid, under intense pressure, reporting directly to Stalin and Zinoviev. They experimented on several cadavers of fifty-ish-year-old men brought to them from morgues and scientific institutes in Moscow. After four months they found the correct formula of glycerin, alcohol, potassium acetate, quinine chlorate and another ingredient still strictly secret at the time of writing.

(FF says: I bet it’s beetroot soup…)

* * * * * * * * *

….It hadn’t taken the landlady very long to find out that her lodger had a queer kind of fear and dislike of women. When she was doing the staircase and landings she would often hear Mr Sleuth reading aloud to himself passages in the Bible that were very uncomplimentary to her sex. But Mrs. Bunting had no very great opinion of her sister woman, so that didn’t put her out. Besides, where one’s lodger is concerned, a dislike of women is better than – well, than the other thing.

* * * * * * * * *

….Gordon and Dudorov belonged to a good professional circle. They spent their lives among good books, good thinkers, good composers, good, always, yesterday and today, good and only good music, and they did not know that the calamity of mediocre taste is worse than the calamity of tastelessness. . . .
….He could see clearly the springs of their pathos, the shakiness of their sympathy, the mechanism of their reasonings. However, he could not very well say to them: ‘Dear friends, oh, how hopelessly ordinary you and the circle you represent, and the brilliance and art of your favourite names and authorities, all are. The only live and bright thing in you is that you lived at the same time as me and knew me.’ But how would it be if one could make such declarations to one’s friends! And so as not to distress them, Yuri Andreevich meekly listened to them.

* * * * * * * * *

….When the client came out, I noticed the fake tan on her calves looked a bit streaky, which almost never happens. She either hadn’t noticed, or didn’t mind. She winked at Mum and said, ‘Enjoy tonight – look forward to hearing all about it.’
….Mum says everybody spills out all their news in the Powder Room. She thinks that it’s something to do with lying with a nice white towel under your head and a blanket over your legs and feet. She says everybody feels like a child tucked up safely in bed, mostly because when she raises them up their feet can’t touch the floor anymore and they are warm and safe and so they sing like canaries. They tell her all manner of very personal things. Her way to describe this is womb talk. Some nights she’ll pour herself a glass of wine and say, ‘oh my goodness I’ve had so much womb talk tonight if someone else says menopause or hysterectomy to me I’ll start mixing HRT with the Fakebake.’

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

41 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. I can just imagine Colin Firth reading that extract and it is woefully beautiful. The Lenin passage was a bit much for this time of the morning, I’ve only had three cups of tea, I tell you! I hope they stuffed the bugger full of beetroot soup 🙂 The Lodger sounds very familiar, I must have come across it somewhere… very much up my street!

    • It’s a wonderful narration, in truth, but a kinda dismal book… 😉 Haha! Sorry about that, but somehow the quote tickled my funny bone! I suspect I’ve read so much about the horrors Lenin inflicted on others that I got a perverse joy out of reading about him being stuffed, so to speak. Sadly, he was dead at the time…

      Spoiler alert! The Lodger is great! 😀

      • Oh, I was more than pleased to see that the corpse of Lenin was so treated – it was just a bit of a shock first thing! It’s a great passage, I like the evident panic at him rotting away 🙂
        The Lodger – is it related to the Hitchcock film, is that where I’m getting the deja vu? If so, I’m certainly going to read it. Actually, even if not, I’ll probably read it any way 😀

        • Actually that whole Lenin bio is quite fun – like sorbet after the massive histories!

          It is indeed! I had great fun last weekend reading the book and then watching the film, which has been restored recently by the BFI. There’s a great copy of it on youtube. Hitch has of course played with the plot – a lot in fact – so only the very basic premise remains the same, but the film is enhanced by Ivor Novello looking rather beautiful… 😀

          • I really fancy the Lenin bio – I’m going to be a fully fledged comrade with all these Russian books you are tempting me with!
            Aha! Well, I must certainly read the book now and definitely check out the film. Nothing at all to do with Mr Novello, of course. As if I would be lured by such things… 😉

            • Ha! I’m beginning to feel qualified to be Chair of the Kirkintilloch Communist Party myself!

              No, of course I wasn’t interested in Mr Novello’s beauty either – I was paying far too much attention to Mr Hitchcock’s technical skills… 😉

  2. I think The Comfort of Others sounds like fun – makes me realise I would have hated to be a hairdresser or beauty therapist and have to listen to all that drivel… Although I do get accosted by little old ladies on buses and end up listening to their entire life stories. I must have that kind of face.

    • The Comfort of Others has been a surprise hit for me – not my kind of thing really, but I ended up totally hooked. Haha – you’ll have to cultivate a grumpy look. A few frown lines might be a price worth paying… 😉

  3. Ooh, I see you have The Lodger, FictionFan! That’s a really fine classic, I think. And there’s a very effective atmosphere of growing menace in it. Definitely a good ‘un. The Comfort of Others looks interesting, too. And I see you got some Colin Firth in there, … Hmm….

    • I had so much fun last weekend reading The Lodger and then watching the old Hitchcock silent movie of it! I know real crime aficionados are aware of it, but really it deserves a much wider readership. The Confort of Others shouldn’t have been my kind of thing at all, but I ended up enjoying it a lot. And then there’s Mr Firth… 😉

  4. You know, FF, I haven’t read any of these, but the passages you’ve chosen make them all seem interesting. Either these could be delightful surprises or you’ve got a knack for picking out tantalizing passages — I’ll be interested to read your full reviews because no way do I need to add this many at once to my poor TBR!!

    • I do try to make the books look good on this feature by picking interesting passages, but it was easy this week since all these books are good – except perhaps Doctor Zhivago. The best I can say about it is that I managed to finish it… 😉

  5. I love this quilt of passages you composed. Of course, Greene being read by Firth is heaven. Yes, the disgusting thought of how Lenin’s remains are horribly treated does leave me with some perverse joy.
    Nothing compares to Hitchcock, but there was another film version of The Lodger with Simon Baker. As far as The Comfort of Others, I could see Maggie Smith saying those lines in a movie 🙂

    • Thank you! The Firth narration of The End of the Affair is great so far, as you would expect! Haha – it’s rather sad how much I felt Lenin deserved all he got – I just kinda wish it had happened while he was still alive to enjoy it… 😉
      I spotted there was another version of The Lodger and was thinking I might watch it too soon – I wonder if it’s more true to the book than Hitch’s. Ha! Yes, it is the kind of book that would work well as one of these BBC-style dramas – a surprise hit for me!

    • I must say I didn’t expect to enjoy The Comfort of Others – not my kind of thing really. But I ended up really loving it. Made me laugh, made me cry, left me happy – what more could you ask!

    • I love the writing in The End of the Affair but the story isn’t grabbing me much, in truth. Yeah, love affair doesn’t work out… *tries not to yawn* 😉

      Haha – the book on Lenin is pretty good and not at all full of yucky bits. That one just tickled my fancy… I know, I’m weird…

      • The yucky bit is what got me. I almost got to seen him once but as only my luck would have it, it was closed for repairs when we visited (or more embalming!)

        • Haha! According to the book there’s a permanent team of six people whose sole function is to stop him accidentally decaying! What a pity you couldn’t get to see him though. 😦

  6. The End of The Affair is my absolute favourite Greene book, but it has to be read, by me (silently) from a well battered copy, every few years. You can keep Mr Firth to yourself on this one, though I’m sure he reads it very well. So……..as I won’t be engaging in any duel’s, I volunteer to look after your chocolate stash (just the dark ones) whilst you are engaged with pistol, rapier, wet shirt and |Audible device

    • It is beautifully written and as always he pins down those pesky human emotions superbly. In truth, so far it’s not grabbing me quite as much as I’d hoped, perhaps because it takes me so much longer to listen than to read. Though Colin Firth is doing a truly superb job. Yeah, like I’d let YOU look after my choccies… *locks them up in an iron box and buries them under a tree*

    • He is doing an excellent job, but I’m finding it’s still not grabbing me, which is often a problem with audio for me. I’d probably be better reading it – I may well switch over…

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