First of all, welcome to 2015! I hope you all had an excellent Christmas (or an excellent holiday if you don’t celebrate Christmas) and a brilliant New Year! I was nice and warm in bed when the clock struck 00:00 on New Year’s and it quite a productive evening for me. In order to fill the hours leading up to midnight I finished my book, Eugene Onegin by Pushkin, and evolved my Zubat on Pokémon Ruby, which was great because Zubat’s bloody useless until it’s evolved into Golbat, i.e. something decent.
Anyway, for Christmas, my Dad gave me a £50 Waterstones voucher, which was good because you can buy quite a number of books for £50. So, a few days after Christmas, my Mum and I went to Oxford because she wanted to go around the Ashmolean Museum, and the Waterstones in Oxford is bloody massive, which was ideal for me. I already knew one book I definitely wanted to get, which is Lamentations by CJ Sansom. It’s the latest book (just released) in the Matthew Shardlake series which I really like. So, after picking that up on the ground floor, I headed straight up to the fourth floor, which is where the best section is…the Philosophy section. The great thing about the Waterstones in Oxford is that its Philosophy and Popular Science sections are not only next to each other (which is very convenient) but both sections are massive.
So, after flitting between the two sections, scanning the bookshelves and picking up certain books for about half an hour, I’d made my choices. Altogether I ended up buying: Lamentations, The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and The Logic Of Scientific Discovery Karl Popper. The Selfish Gene is a book I oft-quoted in A Level Philosophy, so I thought it’d be interesting to read. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is by a fellow schoolmate of Jonathan Miller’s (Beyond the Fringe) and what it’s about is interesting (people with neurological disorders who experience things such as phantom limb pain and who can’t feel their limbs etc.). The Popper book sounded interesting and I know Popper from A Level Philosophy because of his arguments against logical positivism. So I thought it’d be interesting to read some of his stuff.
So that was my book haul that day. I already know a few books that I’m going to buy with what’s left on my Waterstones gift card (about £15 I think) so I’m looking forward to getting through these books so I can go out and buy more books.
Anyway, on a slightly different note, let’s talk poetry. Now, I’ve never really enjoyed poetry. I’ve never been into it and when we did the poetry module in GCSE English, I began to almost despise poetry, because we analysed about four poems to absolute death. And I mean it. We analysed the living shit out of these four poems and the whole nature of poetry became so analytical and clinical that I just didn’t like it. It’s like when someone explains a joke, hence ruining it forever. Once you analyse a poem, it’s ruined. It’s no longer a poem. It’s an intricate web of hidden meanings, metaphors, similies, emotions, moral messages…it’s like solving a scientific problem, like deciphering a code. It’s just not fun.
So doing GCSE poetry analysis kind of killed the whole thing for me, but I thought I’d try and read Eugene Onegin anyway. It’s a ‘novel in verse’ and I thought I’d give poetry another try and in all honesty, it was the first work of poetry I’ve actually genuinely enjoyed reading. It was just masterful. A bit weird, but brilliant all the same. Basically it’s a bit sad because Onegin and this young poet guy, Lensky (who’s Onegin’s friend), challenges Onegin to a pistol duel because Onegin was being a dick and flirting with the woman Lensky was engaged to. Anyway, this duel happens and Onegin shoots Lensky in the chest, killing him. It’s all just so futile, really. But that aside, the actual poetry was great. This is the stanza immediately following Onegin’s shooting of Lensky:
His hand upon his breast he presses
Softly, and falls, as, misty-eyed
His gaze not pain, but death expresses.
Thus, slowly, on a mountain-side
A mound of snow, already teetering,
Descends with sunny sparkles glittering.
Onegin, shuddering, swiftly flies,
To where young Vladimir lies,
He looks and calls…but there’s no power
Can bring him back. The youthful bard
Has met an untimely end. Hard
The storm has blown, the finest flower
Has withered at the morning’s dawn,
The fire upon the alter’s gone.
It’s greatly tempted me to try some more poetry, but I know every poet’s very different and there’s a high probability I won’t like their stuff, but you’ve got to try these things, haven’t you? I might try some more 19th/early 20th Century Russian poets, because Russian literature of that era really does it for me.