Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….With relatively few exceptions, they [Golden Age crime writers] came from well-to-do families, and were educated at public school; many went to Oxford or Cambridge. . . .
….Theirs was, in many ways, a small and elitist world, and this helps to explain why classic crime novels often include phonetic renditions of the dialogue of working-class people which make modern readers cringe. Some of the attitudes evident and implicit in the books of highly educated authors, for instance as regards Jewish and gay people, would be unacceptable in fiction written in the twenty-first century. It is worth remembering that theirs was not only a tiny world, but also a very different one from ours, and one of the pleasures of reading classic crime is that it affords an insight into the Britain of the past, a country in some respects scarcely recognisable today.

* * * * * * * * *

….It had to finish like this. Sooner or later he had been bound to discover what was concealed from other beings – that there was no real distinction between the living and the dead. It’s only because of the coarseness of our perception that we imagine the dead elsewhere, in some other world. Not a bit of it. The dead are with us here, mixed up in our lives and meddling with them…. They speak to us with shadowy mouths; they write with hands of smoke. Ordinary people, of course, don’t notice. They’re too preoccupied with their own affairs. To perceive these things you’ve got to have been incompletely born and thus only half involved in this noisy, colourful, flamboyant world…

* * * * * * * * *

….When we reached the crest of the steep winding brae leading into it, the smoke from the straw chimneys was the only visible sign of life. Otherwise one might have imagined that some terrible scourge had made an end to all the inhabitants and no one had come near the clachan since from a superstitious dread.
….Green hill rising behind green hill – they raised in me a brooding, inherent melancholy. I felt this place had lived through everything, had seen everything, that it was saturated with memories and legends. I thought of it submerged under the sea, of the ocean receding farther and farther from it; of glaciers creeping down the mountains, forming the glens and ravines; of the mountains as spent volcanoes covered by the impenetrable Caledonian forest. And now there was nothing more for it to know and it was waiting for the clap of doom.

* * * * * * * * *

….“There is so much lying going on around that I could scream. All my friends, all my acquaintances, people whom earlier I never would have thought of as liars, are now uttering falsehoods at every turn. They cannot help but lie; they cannot help but add to their own lies, their own flourishes to the well-known falsehoods. And they all do so from an agonising need that everything be just as they so fiercely desire.”

Ivan Bunin quoted in Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths

* * * * * * * * *

….“No one’s going to harm a hair on my precious uncle’s head. He’s safe enough. He’ll always be safe – safe and smug and prosperous and full of platitudes. He’s just a stodgy John Bull, that’s what he is, without an ounce of imagination or vision.” She paused, then, her agreeable husky voice deepening, she said venomously, “I loathe the sight of you, you bloody little bourgeois detective.”
….She swept away from him in a swirl of expensive, model drapery. Hercule Poirot remained, his eyes very wide open, his eyebrows raised, and his hand thoughtfully caressing his moustaches. The epithet ‘bourgeois’ was, he admitted, well applied to him. His outlook on life was essentially bourgeois and always had been. But the employment of it as an epithet of contempt by the exquisitely turned out Jane Olivera gave him, as he expressed it to himself, furiously to think.

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

54 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. The classic crime book sounds quite wonderful, I love this passage here. The golden age mysteries really were from another world and what I love so much about them is being transported there, just for a while. It’s true that attitudes have changed and that’s a good thing – I think it’s important that we are reminded of these dreadful prejudices from time to time, to recognise how far we have come as a society and realise how far we still need to go, in some cases. The Russian Revolution continues to be fairly angst-ridden, I see – but then I suppose revolutions are not exactly jaunty affairs. Unlike our dear Poirot – thank goodness for some light relief, FF! 😀

    • It’s fab – not only does he discuss the 100 novels, but he mentions zillions more – it could become a lifetime’s work! And he talks a lot of sense – he doesn’t get all highfalutin about it, but he clearly knows his stuff inside out. Yes, one of the things I enjoy about classic crime, or any kind of classic fiction in fact, is being taken back in time. It always makes me feel a bit happier about where we are know in terms if attitudes and so on, even though there’s still a lot of work to do. Haha! I’m thinking someone has to write a comedy set during the RR – everyone seems to take it far too seriously. Go on! (And I’d rather be Trotsky than Lenin – better hair!) 😉

      • Oh, FF – you know I have this habit of following up your suggestions! I recorded a song when you suggested the PorterGirl characters go to an open mic night, I blogged Finnegans Wake and both Poirot parodies are down to you! You just know I’m going to be thinking about this and will have devised a Carry On Trotsky-type affair by Christmas… 😉

        • Hehehe! The power, the power!!! I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist! (I totally refuse to take the blame for Finnegan though! I warned you…) By that time, I should be well able to be your expert adviser on any historical aspects… 😉

          • I’m thinking about it already… it could potentially be quite funny, in a dark sort of way. You will absolutely have to be my historical adviser as you probably know more about the revolution than anyone else alive. When it eventually gets turned into a musical (as it undoubtedly will) I will split the profits with you as a sign of my appreciation 😀

  2. Not tempted by “She was no more”, and I’ve read the Christie and the Morrison, the Russian Revolution isn’t exactly a light summer read, so it’ll have to be the Classic Crime.

  3. I hope you’re enjoying The Story of Classic Crime…, FictionFan. What a great resource that is. And One, Two… is a really solid example of Christie’s work. There’s an interesting sense, at least to me, of atmosphere. You can feel the unease as war is in the background. She doesn’t mention the war really directly, but it was published in 1940, and I’ve always felt that it seeped into her writing.

    • It’s great, Margot – I can see I’m going to have to read lots of the books. Just as well so many of them are being reissued these days! You’re so right about the Christie – I felt it was quite a political book in its way, and really showed the uncertainty as to how the world was going to turn out. Actually I felt it read as very relevant again to the current political situation too, mainly because she doesn’t go into specific details – just lets that air of unease sit in the background…

    • Yes, that’s always the problem with classic crime, or any classic fiction really. Usually I can make allowances, but sometimes it can be just too much…

  4. Very tempted, ha ha ha, by the first book and the last, specially. I love all that we learn about those Golden Era mystery writers. And then you illustrate the point you brought from it with the Christie’s quote, perfect.

    • The first book is killing my TBR – I think I’m going to have to turn it into some kind of challenge next year. And yes, you’re right, though that was pure luck – haha! I wish I had planned it now! But Christie definitely sheds quite a lot of light on society just as the war was beginning in this one…

  5. You do have a talent for picking the most cheery of quotes from the Russian Revolution, don’t you? Rather a nice bunch of books, am tempted by them all. As for Portergirl’s Carry on Trotsky… that sounds like a brilliant idea!

    • Haha! I admit it – I deliberately look for bits that remind me of what’s going on in the world now – not that it’s hard, sadly. Yes, a particularly good bunch this week – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all. Teehee! She’s so easy – just pop an idea in her head and off she goes… 😉

  6. Hmm your first paragraph is a good reminder to all readers to take everything we read with a ‘grain of salt’. But this is why reading different time periods is so important! It teaches us to not repeat the mistakes of our past 🙂

    • It’s a good book – the quote’s actually a bit misleading. It’s actually more of a psychological crime novel than a horror story, though it does have horror elements in it. Review soonish – I’m so behind!

  7. I am very tempted by The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books, in fact in the last 5 seconds I’ve convinced myself I need a copy despite getting very distracted by the thought of Stalin in a tutu!

    • Haha! It’s a disturbing image, isn’t it? I have a horrible feeling this comedy could turn into a horror story… 😉 You would love the Story of Classic Crime! I might be going to challenge myself to read all 100…

  8. Tempted by the Agatha Christie. I have never read anything by the author. This one sounds great. I had first skimmed through the second last book. The title and cover had put me off but that excerpt is powerful. It made me go back and take a closer look at the book.

    • Oh, you should try an Agatha Christie! I’d recommend Murder on the Nile or And Then There Were None as good ones to start with. The Russian book is actually very interesting – it tells the history, but it’s really more about the propaganda art that came out of it. Review soonish – I’m so behind!

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