2022 and All That …

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Yes, I know, it’s a bit early to be thinking of what I could be reading next year; after all, not only are there still two months to go before 2021 is wrapped up for good but there are already plenty of prospective events coming — Witch Week for example, Novellas in November and SciFiMonth to name just three, plus Narniathon21 which starts in December (and then runs through 2022).

But I like to have a medium term vision of what might constitute my bookish choices, and what better than a literary anniversary or two, or even twenty-two?

Interesting centenaries and half-centenaries are in the offing for 2022, and as it happens I’ve either read, even reviewed, some of the titles or authors to be celebrated, or happen to already have a few appropriate titles waiting on the shelves. What follows is a mere selection of what has caught my eye, not to be regarded in any way as comprehensive!

© C A Lovegrove

So, there are the authors born in 1922 and the titles associated with that year. Ditto fifty years ago. I could have marked bicententaries, I suppose, and deaths as well as births but, well, life’s too short.

Born 1922

Kurt Vonnegut is an author I feel I ought to have read and, as it happens, I’ve got a copy of Cat’s Cradle to enjoy. Then there’s Sam Youd (who also wrote as John Christopher) whose first published novel, The Winter Swan, is also waiting patiently for my attention. The author of Room at the Top John Braine was also born in 1922, along with Jack Kerouac; I have to admit I’m more attracted by the former than the latter but whether I’ll get to either by the end of 2022 is a moot point.

Written and/or published 1922

Fiction published in this year which I read before I started reviewing include Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, Richmal Crompton’s Just William, and Façade, Edith Sitwell’s collection of poems famously set to music by William Walton. I’ve also read several H P Lovecraft short stories, including a few written or published in 1922, but have only reviewed one or two others here.

I have however reviewed E R Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros. F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a novelette I’ve read in a collection, but I have another short story collection which includes this with others I haven’t read, so I may have another bite at this cherry.

So, still on my wishlist are several of the short stories published in Katherine Mansfield’s collection The Garden Party, T S Eliot’s The Waste Land (which I’ve attempted before now, without success), E F Benson’s Miss Mapp, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (written and set in 1922 though published later) and Franz Kafka’s The Castle (I’d only read his The Trial and The Metamorphosis back in my late teens).

Born 1972

Two authors whose books I aim to read half a century after their birth are China Miéville (specifically his The Last Days of New Paris) and N K Jemisin (whose The City We Became was published last year, and whose short story collection I’m reading little by little). And I mustn’t forget Maggie O’Farrell, whose Hamnet won the Women’s Prize for Fiction for 2020: up till now I’d only read her Instructions for a Heatwave (2013).

Published 1972

I’ve read and reviewed a number of well-known works from this year, including Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Robertson Davies’s The Manticore, and Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. Also reviewed is Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea tale The Farthest Shore and her Hainish novella The Word for World is Forest.

Another fiction read though not reviewed include Richard Adams’s Watership Down. Nor must I neglect to mention nonfiction titles I’ve read: Elaine Morgan’s The Descent of Women, Frances Yates’s The Rosicrucian Enlightenment and Philip José Farmer’s Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke (though strictly this is creative nonfiction, or rather spoof nonfiction). John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is one a series of essays I want to revisit as something the advancing years may help me appreciate more.

Those are some of my thoughts, but I’d be grateful for yours if you’ve some favourites or suggestions to mark these anniversaries. In the meantime I’m of course focused on Witch Week and the other events coming up in November, so onwards and upwards!

36 thoughts on “2022 and All That …

  1. Isn’t Ulysses a 1922 book? I just read a review from when it came out, and it made me want to try it! The New York Times is celebrating their 125th anniversary this year with a big section of historical reviews and interviews, it’s pretty great. They even printed interesting letters from over the years, including one from Edith Sitwell, responding to a bad review – noticed her name in your post 🙂

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    1. Ulysses is indeed from 1922, Laura, and features on various lists, but as I wasn’t trying to be comprehensive (nor am I likely to get into it anytime soon) I left it out in the hopes somebody would mention it — and you did!

      That NYT special issue sounds great, it’s always interesting to see contemporary notices that with hindsight we might view differently.

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  2. Edith Sitwell’s The Queens from the Hive is a remarkable book about the rivalry between Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Published in 1962 two years before Sitwell died it is I suppose historical fiction, but it has the authority of historical truth. A favourite book.

    Oh but my little body is aweary at the thought of all the Anniversaries and Months and Weeks in the coming year.

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    1. I remember reading a mention of the Sitwell book you mention, and criticism of it falling between two stool — creative nonfiction I suppose we’d call it now — though there was little commentary on it as literature.

      Literary events are exhausting — they just keep coming, don’t they?

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            1. We actually have three specimens of ficus carica in large pots, I’m surprised you found a surveillance satellite strong enough to see into our garden… Oh. I see. 😁

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    1. If Purgatory is in paper form I would be interested, Alicia, but heaven knows when I’d get to it given my piles of as yet unread books! However I just couldn’t cope with a digital version, goodness knows I’ve tried.

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  3. It‘s really incredible that Hesse‘s „Siddharta“ is already 100 years old, isn‘t it? It‘s one of those books that come across as totally timeless. (Helped, of course, by the setting and the language employed; still …) If it had been published nowadays, the message would still be as relevant; even more so, actually.

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    1. I read Siddhartha in translation of course but despite it being many years ago I do remember its timeless quality, somehow making ancient legend feel of the moment. I must reread The Glass Bead Game>, another Hesse title I consumed back in the 1970s, along with Journey to the East and some short stories (possibly Strange News from Another Star) which included a tale of, I think, Odysseus coming ashore on Calypso’s Island.

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  4. I can feel this translating into a ‘(Centenary (and a half) Challenge’ – Great idea to pick out some titles relating to 100 and 50 years ago. There are some fun 1972 books in particular (Stepford Wives, Honorary Consul, Roadside Picnic, The Odessa File, The Rachel Papers – just a few I picked out which I’d happily (re)read.)

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    1. Weird, I saw a copy of The Odessa File in a charity bookshop recently but never thought to pick it up, even though I’ve yet to read it. Just the thought of the premise of the Levin novel makes me angry, though I’d happily read the Greene tale, though I see that this and The Rachel Papers are listed as published in 1973.

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  5. jjlothin

    Gosh, you’re going to be busy next year! And I see you’ve missed out that 1922 classic, Aleister Crowley’s ‘Diary of a Drug Fiend’ (not that I’ve read it myself yet – it sounds truly awful). Not to speak of Kingsley Amis, as discussed elsewhere!

    Knowing my own time/energy limitations, I think I’ll just commit to ‘Just William’ for now …

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    1. Hah! I’d rather read Somerset Maugham’s 1908 The Magician, loosely based on Crowley’s life, rather than Crowley’s own work. And I’ll probably focus more on Sam Youd (who also wrote as John Christopher, author of seceral speculative works) than on Kingsley Amis. I think we also have a couple of Crompton’s William titles on our shelves somewhere which I’ll be seeking out…

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      1. jjlothin

        Now I’ve never really got into Somerset Maugham – I don’t know why – but I’ve just downloaded a Kindle sample of ‘The Magician’ to add to my ever-growing list. I did in my misspent youth read several of the novels of Dion Fortune (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dion_Fortune), who was in some ways AC’s ‘white magic’ counterpart.

        I’ll give Kingsley Amis a miss, though – I never really got on with his novels. Martin’s neither: the last one I read got 1 star from me (on account of the fact Amazon won’t let you put zero).

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        1. I’ve not read the Maugham, though at one stage I did have a copy (and it may still be on the shelves somewhere, though I doubt it, probably culled during a move). Thanks for the caveat about Amis senior and junior.

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            1. No, I’ve heard reservations from other readers whose tastes I broadly agree with, though I may at some time seek out something from either or both to form my own opinion—just not just now!

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  6. Oh golly, don’t remind me of my own 1972 vintage and the fact I’m about to turn 50 next year (well, I do get an NHS flu jab so not all bad). I am doing AusLit, Novellas and Nonfic Nov and then I have chosen my author for 2022 … with fewer books to read than Anne Tyler this year!

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    1. I’ve possibles, like a Stefan Zweig, lined up for NovNov and also some nonfiction, plus the odd title for SciFiMonth, so I shall keep busy. In a few days I’m due for my booster (yes, I’m that old!) but don’t envy me, the day before I shall be having a molar extracted…

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  7. So many tempting choices. I had Watership Down on my list also. I will be joining in for Narniathon of course, the 1954 club and want to join in more literary blog events than I did this time to widen my range a little more.

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      1. As of now it’s just plans, let’s see how well they materialise. I keep wanting to include books set in or originally from parts of the world I’m unfamiliar with a lot more.

        Watership Down I remember reading for the first and only time when I had just started college and I cried a lot simply terrified about how the poor little creatures would fare. I hope I’ll hold up better when I reread.

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        1. I read the novel in the 70s when I remember mostly the poetic and mythical aspects, but after seeing the animation in 1978 with our then 6-year-old daughter the horrifying aspects came more graphically to the fore (and similarly with the more recent animated TV adaptation). I’m now hesitant, wondering how I’ll manage a reread! I hope your reread, whenever it happens, will prove less traumatic.

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          1. That’s part of the reason I haven’t reread so far. I even remember the tears starting off on my commute after which I put the book away before people began to ask what was wrong. I’m still sceptical but let’s see if I can work up the courage to give it another shot.

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  8. I’m just catching up with this, Chris. Goodness what a busy time ahead! I’m looking forward to joining in with the Narniathon and it will be good to have an excuse to read more Maggie O’Farrell. Like you I still haven’t read Hamnet but would like to. Watership Down I remember reading at the time of publication or shortly after and wonder what I would think of it now. Perhaps it’s time for a re-read.

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    1. The better half has just read the Hamnet and thought it excellent and, moreover, right up my street, so I’m hoping to get to that soon, or at least next year. Whether I revisit Watership Down as well I’m less sure; perhaps I’ll see if the library still has a copy. Anyway, lots else to celebrate, and of course the Narniathon to set in motion! 🙂

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  9. I’m also looking forward to Sci-Fi November, which I didn’t do this year… of course I have Wyrd & Wonder to look forward to before that, and I’m thinking of joining the Spring Into Horror readathon (hosted at the Seasons of Reading blog, in April). I don’t know if I’ll be reading any of these, but maybe I’ll join you for a reread of The Wasteland.

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    1. There’s a Vintage SciFi Month which features on social media every year, if you have any classic SF titles (for example I’ve just finished Schuyler’s 1931 satire Black No More in preparation for that). I’ve got some T S Eliot on my shelves so I might give ‘The Wasteland’ another go around the anniversary date…

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