The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore for #BrianMoore100

This event is being hosted by Cathy of 746 Books, who is known for celebrating all things literary and Irish. Moore’s Irish connections are always jarring to me, as he’s well known as a Canadian author here. In reality, he was a wanderer, living in many places in Europe and North America, and spent more time in the United States than anywhere. So I guess it’s not that odd that I read a “New Canadian Library” edition of The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, a book about Ireland, with an afterword by Australian writer Janette Turner Hospital. Actually, Hospital lived in Ontario for thirty years, later moving to the States, sharing a claim on Canadian identity and a nomadic spirit with Moore.

Hospital uses that connection, and familiarity with being “from away”, to bring forth themes of displacement in her brief afterword to this edition. Miss Hearne lives a very circumscribed life in Belfast, but Hospital shows us that she actually goes on an epic journey, including romance, hope, dashed expectations, and a crisis of faith. The afterword was illuminating, but to me the more interesting themes were those of hunger, desire, and rage – or, you know, passion – and specifically the rage of the middle aged woman. These themes reminded me of Jean Rhys’s writing, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that the same editor who shepherded Wide Sargasso Sea into the world, Diana Athill, was a champion of this book.

Miss Hearne’s dreary bedsit put me in mind of Good Morning, Midnight‘s heroine Sasha’s awful hotel rooms. Both characters are without family, of little means, near starving, drink to excess and fall prey to depraved men. If anything, Sasha had less hope than Miss Hearne, lacking an object for her anger (other than herself), with no church to storm and no one to ask for forgiveness. Sasha had only lately fallen on hard times, while Miss Hearne had been sidelined her whole life, first by her tyrannical Aunt, and then by poverty. In The Lonely Passion, we see a woman who has been made invisible her whole life finally demand to be seen.

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The recommendations book tag

I have mixed feelings about tags, but I love that this one is straightforward and book focused (none of that “name a book that has an orange tea cup on the cover” or whatever), and I was tagged by the lovely Naty, so here we are!

The rules, as set out by original poster Ally:

  • Tag Ally @ Ally Writes Things so I can see your recommendations!
  • Give at least one recommendation for each of the prompts below
  • If you don’t have a recommendation, talk about a book you want to read
  • Tag your friends

I will additionally challenge myself to mention recently read books, or at least, ones I haven’t talked about much.

A book about friendship

Days by Moonlight by André Alexis is a roadtrip novel about unlikely friends. A troubled young man accompanies an older friend of his deceased parents on a quest to find a reclusive poet, and their travels through Ontario take them to some weird places. I was about to call it a fever dream of a novel, when I remembered their destination ends up being a town called Feversham. Alexis is the type of author who can pull this off.

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Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession

I didn’t plan to read this book for Reading Ireland Month 2021, it just worked out that way. I might even squeak in during the appropriate week, as March 1st through 7th is dedicated to Contemporary Irish Novels. Which this certainly is. Though it didn’t feel that way while reading; it seemed rather timeless and placeless. I can’t tell if Leonard and Hungry Paul live in a big city or a small town, let alone whether they actually live in Ireland or in the UK. References to “lollipop ladies” and “sweets” only give me a very general idea, geographically. Leonard’s open-concept workplace feels pretty urban, but then, the Chamber of Commerce holding a contest is a big event that everyone’s talking about, which feels painfully small-town. As for contemporariness, the contest in question involves inventing a new way to sign off emails, so we’re squarely in the 21st century, and people have phones, but no one spends much time online. And I suspect that guys like Leonard and Hungry Paul would probably be at least somewhat, if not Extremely, Online.

Or perhaps not. Leonard and Hungry Paul are, to varying degrees, operating outside of society. So perhaps it makes sense that we don’t know exactly where and when they are situated, as they probably don’t feel too grounded in their particular time and place either. The plot, such as it is, follows the thirty-something friends as they make tentative steps into society, one in the expected way (a new romance) and one… not (it involves mimes).

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The Reading in Bed Tenth Anniversary Starter Pack

The blogger and her writing partner, circa 2011

This month marks ten years since I started Reading in Bed, with the less-than-SMART goal of reading the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Assigning no numerical goal or timeline, it was neither Specific nor Timely, but the blog was conceived as a way to Measure my progress. How Achievable or Realistic it was I will leave for you to judge.

I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what a “book blog” was. I didn’t know what an ARC was. I didn’t know about tags, or Top Ten Tuesday, or what “YA” meant. I was a reader without a community or a culture.

Forays into Bookstagram, Booktube, podcasting, and formal book reviewing were fun, but not my thing. I kept coming back to the blog. And so did some of you. Thank you so much. I’m not a stats person, but it’s nice to know someone’s reading.

If you’re new here, or just want to accompany me down memory lane, here’s a Reading in Bed starter pack, with your favs and mine.

Reading in Bed’s greatest hits

My favourite posts

No life lessons on this anniversary, but my thoughts from five years ago still stand.

A book that needs several introductions: Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

After reading my seventh Dostoyevsky novel, I realized I still don’t really understand his writing. Not at first, and not on my own, anyway. Luckily, classic novels usually come with an introduction. I ended up perusing three introductions to Demons (I like to check out different translations, and later decided to borrow an edition to read on my phone). Here’s a quick guide, to help you choose an edition that works for you.

Just don’t ask me to recommend the best translation. I read about 80% of Demons in the Maguire translation, which was great until I came across a typo, and about 20% in the Pevear and Volokhonsky. I don’t get the P&V hate, though they are awfully fond of using formal and old-fashioned language (in the very first sentence, they use “hitherato” where Maguire used “until then”.)

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Read books. Mostly backlist. Not too much. (2021 goals)

Let me begin by apologizing for using “much” where I should have used “many,” but it’s a play on Michael Pollan’s “Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.” thing, so I’m letting it go.

And yes, Pollan’s advice would probably make a better 2021 goal for me, but alas, this isn’t a food blog.

Here are my plans for 2021, a little more than 10% of the way through.

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2020 Year in Review

Remember last year when I whined about “only” reading 64 books?

Speaking of 2019: the first book I read was The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai, about a new and mysterious virus, and the last one was Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. And yet I wasn’t prepared for 2020, not for a pandemic, and not to take it stoically. Which just confirms my stance on reading, that it does not make one a better person nor prepare one for life’s challenges. It’s just entertainment And That’s Okay.

My reading in 2020 was even less prolific (whether or not it’s as portentous remains to be seen). I read 44 books, a low point in my blogging career, not counting years in which I gave birth. Covid is a simiarly life-altering event, I suppose. I’m relatively unscathed, but not much reading was happening in spring and summer. I still managed to read a few gooders though, and I am hopeful for next year. I even have some plans in mind. Planning ahead: what a concept!

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A tale of two dinner parties

Well, one dinner party and one “dinner thing.”

I’m suseptable to seeing tenous connections and patterns in books. I succumbed to this impulse over the summer, drawing conclusions about Paul Beatty’s influences that are not borne out in reality, and I fear I’m about to do it again. Except for one blazing detail, that makes me think I must be right, but I’ll leave that for last…

In Real Life, Brandon Taylor tells the story of Wallace, a Black grad student at an unnamed, mostly-white school that is understood to be the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wallace’s regular weekend routine of lab work, tennis, and angst is interupted by a last minute invite to a dinner “thing”, which starts out benign enough but soon Wallace finds himself under attack by his so-called friends. The dinner party is the central scene in the novel, and is much celebrated by Taylor’s contemporaries as, well, real, and necessary.

I found it overly dramatic on first read. But then I read Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner and wondered whether his late-1930s alcohol-soaked dinner party scene wasn’t the model for Taylor’s 2010s vegan hispter potluck, and if Taylor wasn’t responding directly to it.

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Novellas in November 2020

I’m pretty disconnected from book culture (I’m trying! See here, here, here) but even I noticed that this is a big month. The Booker and Giller Prizes will be awarded, and a slew of reading events are running, one for every taste, including the geographic (Germany, Australia), the author-specific (Margaret Atwood Reading Month), and the category-based (Novellas in November, see below, and Nonfiction November, blog or booktube version).

I’m just here to read novellas, though I will have a bit of overlap with one other event. No need to break out the Venn diagrams in my case though!

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Reading Dostoyevsky to own the libs

A weird thing happened to me on Twitter the other day…

I’m participating in a Crime and Punishment read-along on Booktube this month. I’ve been dutifully tweeting my observations, but the readalong doesn’t really have a Twitter presence, so I’m mostly tweeting into the void. I might get a pity like from Michael, if I’m lucky.

Then one of my C&P tweets got retweeted by Ben Shapiro.

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