Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Books Read in June 2024 - "Why can't we steal the calm vegetable clairvoyance of these great rooted lives?"

Three weeks in Portugal meant less and different reading.


Wolf Solent (1929), John Cowper Powys – among the most eccentric novels I have ever read, up there with his contemporaries D. H. Lawrence and Ronald Firbank!  I feel I should write about it; I feel I should read The Glastonbury Romance (1932) first!  See where he is going with this.  The exclamation points in puzzling places are one of Powys’s eccentricities.  The quotation in the title can be found on p. 356 of the 1961 edition.

Winter’s Tales (1942), Isak Dinesen – for all seasons.

Loving (1945), Henry Green – just perfect.

Brat Farrar (1949), Josephine Tey

Grendel (1971), John Gardner

High Stakes (1975), Dick Francis

I had both the Tey and Francis in Portugal with me as my light reading which was a minor mistake.  I knew that the Francis novel was obviously (see left) a horsey book, obviously, but I did not know that Brat Farrar was also a horsey book (see below – I guess I did not look too carefully at the cover), and two in a row pushed a bit past my threshold of interest.  But there I was.  

I enjoyed that neither book was in a hurry to turn into a mystery or thriller.  It was not until at least halfway through Brat Farrar when I saw that the book would indeed qualify as a mystery.  A third of the way into the Francis it was unclear if it had any story at all (it does).  None of this is meant as a complaint, since I enjoyed both books’ voice and characters and even horses and am frankly often happiest when the genre formulas are set aside for a while.


A Treatise on Poetry (1957), Czeslaw Milosz – a survey of Polish poetry in poetry form.



Portuguese was mostly menus and worksheets.  French was neglected.

Douze petits écrits (1926), Francis Ponge – like a preface to Ponge’s next book, the 1942 masterpiece Le parti pris des choses.

Trente-trois sonnets composés au secret (1944), Jean Cassou – composed in his head, a half-sonnet per day, in a Vichy prison where he was being held for Resistance activities.  Kept in his head, too, since he had no means to write anything down until his release.  Beyond criticism, really, although I found a non-sonnet, a translation of a Hugo von Hoffmansthal poem, especially beautiful.  All published in 1944 under the name Jean Noir.  Poetry as heroism.


  1. Yes, I think you should read ''Glastonbury Romance". While other hippy teens were reading Lord of the Rings, I'd finished and moved on to "Glastonbury Romance", not that I had anything against Tolkien, just I was a faster reader, and although looked like a hippy, I had a job and income to buy books.
    Sounds like you had a wonderful time away, except for an excess of 'horsey' books.

  2. Oops, the anonymous was Clare Shepherd

  3. Glastonbury Romance is full of King Arthur stuff, yes? I'm curious how that works.

  4. Ah, Dick Francis - such a reliable read. His later ones are less horsey, though that remains the general milieu. You are right about Brat Farrar taking its time to get to its "mystery" plot; I liked that about it. I'm very impressed at your progress in Portuguese.

  5. In the used bookstore, with a lot of Dick Francis paperbacks in front of me, I thought about looking up your list of favorites, but instead I just tried my luck. Did pretty well, really.

    Brat Farrar was from the same chaotic basement store in Waterville, Maine. Nice selection of cheap mass-market mysteries!