Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….He bought a can of Pearl with the last two dollars he had, then dropped a quarter in the Wurlitzer. He punched a number and settled down at a table and tipped his chair back against the wall and put his boots up. He set his hat over his eyes and drifted in the peaceful dark of not being on the road.
….The man in the box began to sing.
….The music rose and fell.
….Out of the darkness came her scent of lemon and vanilla, the curve of a white calf beneath the hem of a pale blue cotton dress, her shape an hourglass, like time itself slipping away. She, before the picture window that looked out on the mimosa dropping its pink petals on the grass. Her slow smile spreading beneath a pair of eyes as blue as cobalt glass. Water sheeting in the window and casting its shadow like a spell of memory on the wall behind. Her little red suitcase turntable scratching out a song beneath the window and he, a boy, with his bare feet on hers as she held his hands and the record turned and they danced.
….Their private, sad melody unspooling in his heart forever.

* * * * * * * * *

….Cusps are often the central features of a stability problem. A classic example is the Euler column, a simple model that explains why steel columns buckle when they reach a critical load. The key objects that underlie this are two smooth but rather abstract surfaces: the energy surface and the equilibrium surface.
….At any given value of the axial load, we can calculate how the total potential energy stored in the column varies as we increase the central lateral deflection. For small loads, the energy graph (plotting energy against central deflection) is usually a U-shape, with a single stable equilibrium at the base of the U. That is where the system will stay, happily and safely.

(Does it surprise you to know that I abandoned the book at this point – page 18? And frankly I think I deserve a Perseverance in the Face of Extraordinary Gibberish Award for getting that far. However, I highly recommend it to mathematicians who want to build a bridge while looking at pictures of nudes…)

* * * * * * * * *

….What is this love, this profound and absolute attachment I feel for Scotland? Why do these mottled rising green-brown hills, these humped fields, this river, even the familiar cast of the houses, feel so right and move me so? Lesley accepts that she is English, but it is not a defining fact for her, any more than being right-handed or blue-eyed. Whereas she can see that for me being Scottish is fundamental to who I am.
….As I turn off at the Tore roundabout onto the A835 to Ullapool, drive on past scattered villages where the valley pushes a green wedge between the hills on either side, I’m thinking of one of MacCaig’s shortest poems, Patriot.

My only country
is six feet high
and whether I love it or not
I’ll die
for its independence.

….The idea of patriotism was abhorrent to him. He’d seen enough of what it led to. He could not love an abstraction. But he loved – my God how he loved! – things that were solid, concrete, particular: some people, dogs, frogs, rivers, mountains, toads, a wild rose bush, so many kinds of birds. His vision was earthly, corporeal.

* * * * * * * * *

….While I was getting out my pouch, I looked up in the direction of the houses, and as I looked I felt my breath caught back, and my teeth began to chatter, and the stick I had in one hand snapped in two with the grip I gave it. It was as if I had had an electric current down my spine, and yet for some moment of time which seemed long, but which must have been very short, I caught myself wondering what on earth was the matter. Then I knew what had made my very heart shudder and my bones grind together in an agony. As I glanced up I had looked straight towards the last house in the row before me, and in an upper window of that house I had seen for some short fraction of a second a face. It was the face of a woman, and yet it was not human. You and I, Salisbury, we have heard in our time, as we sat in our seats in church in sober English fashion, of a lust that cannot be satiated and of a fire that is unquenchable, but few of us have any notion what these words mean. I hope you never may, for as I saw that face at the window, with the blue sky above me and the warm air playing in gusts about me, I knew I had looked into another world – looked through the window of a commonplace, brand-new house, and seen hell open before me.

From The Inmost Light

* * * * * * * * *

So…are you tempted?

46 thoughts on “Bookish selfie…

  1. I was quite relieved to read that you had left Euler columns and axial loads to their own devices! I await with interest further comment on the other books.

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  2. I was rather thinking that the ‘curves’ one might have just been using a snippet of impenetrable science as a juxtaposition to some fabulous creative prose, in order to create some brilliant literary effect. But no – looks like it’s a book about complicated things 🙂 I’m not sure about that first one, the excerpt here does little to inspire me, but that’s a personal thing. The Scottish one looks promising and I like the thoughts on patriotism and the musings on how for some us, the place of our birth is a defining thing. That is something I may ponder at length today. Loving the last one!

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  3. You know, FictionFan, I’d have given up long before Page 18! The Greig looks very tempting to me, actually, even though I’m not one for the present tense in books. Still, I’ll be interested in what you think of that one. It seems really evocative.

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    • Haha – I struggled on in the hopes it would live up to its blurb, but sadly not! Oh well – it’ll come in handy if I ever need to build a bridge. So far, the Greig is shaping up well, but I’m not far into it yet…

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  4. The first sentence of the excerpt from the Curves book made my eyes cross. I thought, “How boring,” just before I read your note after the excerpt! Yes, you deserve a medal! Have some virtual chocolate. You earned it!

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  5. ooooh yes! The first and third in particular, though I know absolutely nothing about them and look forward to your final reviews. I take it we won’t be seeing a review of the second one? No? And with such a wonderful title and all….

    (Though I am still chuckling. Having read the excerpt from the first book, read the title of the second, I was all geared up for something entirely different to what we got! It was quite a shock when axial loads came into play! ;o)

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    • Ooh, I’m glad you like the first one – I loved his writing! I’m not far into the third yet, but it’s shaping up well so far. Haha – no, I fear I didn’t get far enough to do a review – plus I only understood about three words. Talk about misleading blurb syndrome! I was expecting a book about art! However, if I ever decide to build a bridge I’ll tell you how it worked out… 😉

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  6. You braved your way until Page 18 of that mathematician’s nightmare?? Wow, you must be looking for a medal of some sort. No way would I have made it past the first page!

    The last one is the only one here that I find the least bit tempting, happy to say! The Davidson selection you reprinted is too full of cliches for me; the Greig might work, but I’m not “sold.” I do love these bookish selfies though, as they provide a glimpse into different genres and writing styles.

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    • Haha – I know, I’m a martyr! But I kept hoping it would get better. It’ll come in useful whenever I decide to build a bridge though…

      Oh, I loved Davidson’s writing! It’s always hard though when a quote is taken out of context – I’ve often been surprised at reactions to the excerpts I pick. The Greig is shaping up well, but I think it might be very Scottish, or at the most British. Not sure that it would have a wider appeal, but it’s early days. The last one is a book of short stories and novellas. I’ve only read a couple so far – both good!

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  7. Oooh, I’m tempted! That first selection, from In the Valley of the Sun, the writing is lovely! I’m immediately attracted to it. Also, don’t blame you a bit for abandoning the Curves book. I just heard, “Blah blah blah Flux Capacitor” in my head as I tried to read it!

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    • Oh, I’m glad you like the first one! It’s getting mixed reactions, but I absolutely loved his writing! Review tomorrow – I wonder what you’ll think… Hahaha – the Curves book is a victim of severe misleading blurb syndrome! I might sue them for mental distress… 😉

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  8. I lol’d at your second choice! The first book seems intriguing, is the author a poet as well? The descriptions seem beautiful, although I suppose that could get old real quick…

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  9. Seduction of curves has a misleading title or maybe its just my mind… I thought, erotica and wondered why you were reading it. Then I saw the first sentence and erotica may have been an easier read 😀 You do deserve a medal for getting to page 18.

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    • Haha – I know! It has a misleading blurb too that made me think it was going to be about art. Well, it is in a sense, but you have to get through the maths and bridge-building first… 😉

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  10. What? You abandoned a book with Euler columns? As a former engineer, Euler figured prominently in my education. But while I love the math, I love words better. It’s clear that those words are meant for those already seduced by the ideas. So publishers should know better than to try to make technical jargon sexy by covering it with a suggestive image, LOL. I’m impressed that you gave it 18 pages.

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    • Hahaha – I suspect you’re the only visitor who has ever heard of Euler columns before! Yeah, maybe it gets to art later, but too much maths and engineering to plough through first… too bad! The blurb made it sound quirkily enticing…

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