A little of what you fancy

A midsummer sunset, from a garden

To the Reader, confused at my Inconstancy

Here we are, at the start of the second part of the calendrical year (no fanfare as far as I’m aware). I’m not one to boast but I offer this post as both apology and excuse in the spirit of glasnost: I’m not being contraire — I really do care that of late I’ve been remiss (had a lot on my plate) in missing your posts. Note, I’m not really a ghost follower

Two themes to this post: an explanation as to why my engagement with fellow bloggers has recently been a bit hit and miss; and an update on what’s currently engaging me book-wise.

Several commitments have taken up my time this summer. First, I’ve been working on poetry assignments for a creative writing course (you may have seen some of my efforts on the Zenrinji blog here) and you can see I’m still in rhyming mode above. Secondly, we’ve been summoned for grandparent duties a few times. And thirdly I’ve had a few musical gigs to attend to — such as accompanying for exams, rehearsals, concerts and competitions, singing too — an admirable by-product of living in the so-called Land of Song (Wales, to the uninitiated) but necessarily time-consuming.

This isn’t the first time I’ve cited these excuses reasons, nor will it be the last, but there it is, just so you know it’s not personal!

Now to the second strand here. I don’t know if it’s to do with extreme weather or the poison in current politics or the dire state of the environment but it’s hard not to feel the world is in rather a bad way. Reading is definitely a consolation, an antidote to the never-ending doom and gloom of breaking news stories.

In particular my reading has been steering me towards fantasy. Is it because this genre offers an escape from reality in the way that much contemporary fiction may not? Or is it — as I believe — that fantasy often presents, if not certainty, then the hope that obstacles can be overcome and evil overthrown with the application of courage, determination, compassion and a sense of fair play? (And obviously a bit of magic, that goes without saying!) To illustrate my point I’ve recently completed fantasies by Joan Aiken, Ursula Le Guin and Jasper Fforde.

I know I have non-fiction, classics, crime novels and historical fiction I’d intended to tackle, along with short story collections and contemporary novels, but I find myself placing each of them back down after speculatively picking them up for consideration. Turns out my secret self knows that a little bit of what I fancy does me good, and that fancy is — fantasy!


Does this make any sense? What reading matter do you go for if or when you’re stressed by events outside your control? And, more to the point, am I forgiven?

20 thoughts on “A little of what you fancy

  1. Oh, you’re forgiven all right – even one word would suffice, and that word is “life” 😉 Life happens whether we want it or not, but I strongly believe we all want it rather badly 😉

    And as for fantasy, together with SF it is my preferred genre, not only because of its inherently hopeful, escapist vibe, but also because I find that often it tackles themes and problems other literary genres are steering clear of, yet which are quite important to me. Fantasy/SF still seems to possess the boldness and creativity that were the classical novels/drama trademark – but are more and more difficult to find in their contemporary counterparts, at least in my experience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ola, trust you to go straight to the heart of the matter! Yes, ‘life’ often leaves reading and books on the back seat, doesn’t it — but it does often make us appreciate it all the more.

      Every genre has its different strengths, but the best SF and fantasy also help us consider more possibilities, especially when it comes to thinking outside the box.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve been missed but it’s good to know all is well and you are making progress with your poetry and doing exciting musical things. Thank you for letting us know.

    There have been similar discussions taking place on Book Jotter with regards to escaping from all the bad news. It turns out that my happy place is with the Moomins, and I’ve discovered I’m not alone. In fact, we’ve come to the conclusion that Moominmamma should take over from Theresa May at the earliest possible opportunity!

    The thing is, Chris, at least we know we’re indulging in fantasy and are able to laugh at ourselves. The worry is over those in power who live in their own rather unpleasant make-believe worlds and think it the norm. Power not only corrupts but renders the most dominant completely delusional (that certainly seemed to happen with both Thatcher and Blair as time went on). It’s such a shame that the likes of Le Guin or Jansson don’t get to write the end of our real-life stories. I would feel considerably more hopeful if that were the case! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve just let Emily read my copy of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book first (in fact I promised she could keep it after I’d read it, she’s so much taken with it). I was never into Moomins but I did very much enjoy a book of her short stories, even to be searching out her adult pieces when I finish this. Jansson or Le Guin influencing our future would be good, but so would knowing how to face up to our responsibilities from reading their works. I don’t know how much fiction either Thatcher or Blair read, but neither really accepted that some of their decisions had more negative outcomes long-term than positive.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My default reading is anything that makes me laugh: Nancy Mitford, EFBenson’s Lucia books, and all of Eric Kraft’s “The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences and Observations of Peter Leroy”. In fact, I’m about to make this the summer of Leroy, with a marathon reading of all 14 volumes. Right after I finish “Love in a Cold Climate”.

    And of course you’re forgiven. Your reasons/excuses are eminently justifiable. Family, music, art — who could resent those?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In these desperate days I tend to get my humour fix from satirical programmes on tv — other than holding a mirror up to politicians’ indefensible actions they don’t necessarily come up with solutions but they do help to redress the balance when reassurance is needed that our best instincts are the right ones.

      And thanks for your own reassuring words, Lizzie, I’m feeling better already! (PS I’ll email you separately about that other matter.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t believe this. I am reading your post after two weeks of not reading any of the blogs I follow. My summer has turned into a complicated one. My mom nearly died at the end of May, but she has not. However, she is at hospital, and I will fly to see her soon. Life has been difficult with the girls at home, but we’re here, still smiling.

    I have just finished Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, I too go to SF or something light when stressed.

    Take care, and nice to read this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do hope when you visit that your mum will be in better health, Silvia, that kind of potentially sad news does always show things in a different light and make us question our priorities.

      Don’t know this Asimov title, something to look out now! I’ve only read some of his Foundation novels as well as some of his Black Widowers stories.

      Like

  5. I was just looking at my library wish list and thinking I’m going to take a whole bunch of fantasy books along with me on vacation. I’ve been trying to plow through my unread piles of books in the house (which include little fantasy) but I’m going to throw that all up for a couple of weeks and enjoy myself.

    And of course we forgive you for being a little distant for a while – it happens to everyone from time to time! Always nice to have you back and hear what’s been going on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all have our favourite holiday reading, Lory, but I think it must often be tempting to take a ‘worthy’ title away to consume. However, for me too fantasy is a good genre, especially on do-little-or-nothing breaks. For culture vulture holidays I tend to take something a little more serious along with the usual travel guides — I ndon’t know whether it makes me feel virtuous or just well-informed!

      I’m in the midst of a sequence of ten days where I’m involved in rehearsing, accompanying, performing and even conducting at least once every twenty-four hours — but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I really enjoy that aspect of music, actually making it. Or, like last night, taking in a live performance, in this case an open-air presentation of ‘A Misummer Night’s Dream’ in the middle of a ruined abbey. It was actually quite good! (I’ll draw a veil over the incidental music however…)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantasy is often my escape too, but yesterday it was a pre-WWII Angela Thirkell. Oh, for a life in fictional Barsetshire, where all your motherly problems are solved by the end and the only would-be dictators in sight are Nannies and stubborn parlourmaids!

    (Every week seems to bring some new horrifying revelation over here. Can I come live in Wales? Theresa May’s got nothing on our guys….)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Angela Thirkell is yet another author I’m unfamiliar with, Jean, but she sounds worth cosying up with. 🙂 (Fiction-wise, you understand!)

      Reading escapist literature is frequently seen as a frivolous occupation, almost an irresponsible cop-out from daily vicissitudes. I think we all disagree with that to a greater or lesser extent. It’s not burying one’s head in the sand but a viable way of recharging mental batteries, reasserting core human values like decency, compassion and — yes — true civility, and reminding ourselves that Hope still remains in Pandora’s box when all human evils seem to have girdled the globe several times over. If only more world leaders owned up to reading a range of fiction…

      Don’t escape to Wales yet, Jean, Theresa May and her more extremist friends may yet drag all of us, Welsh as well, to perdition. But you’re still welcome here, the natives continue to be friendly last time I checked!

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      1. Yes indeed. And ….if only certain people read more fiction!

        Angela Thirkell is lovely candyfloss. She took Trollope’s county of Barsetshire and peopled it anew in the late 20s right up through the 50s (though I stop in about 1946). They’re novels about family and county life with a good dollop of comedy — just so fun. Give one a try sometime! I read Summer Half yesterday, that’s a good one.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. MrsB_inthehills

    My choice of reading material is often factual and very often involves the medieval period. I can lose myself quite happily in the 13th century!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to be very happily ensconced in the post-Roman / early Saxon period for many years, partly from some involvement with archaeology but mostly from editing an Arthurian quarterly (plus writing articles for and reviewing for it). I still subscribe to Current Archaeology though no longer actively involved, but am finding less and less time (and thus an inclination) to read issues when they appear. The 13th century is a fascinating period though, what with civil war and the Plantagenets, and new architecture and romance literature and nation states coming into being.

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