Reading: Orwell, Sacks, Marquez, Camus, Huxley & Weiwei

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Occasionally, I get a little over-excited in bookshops. As much as my degree has infuriated me, it has given me an insight into some really interesting topics and authors, particularly within the realms of cultural, literary and art theory and scholarship. I used to read very few theory books and essays, being more interested in devouring fiction - but at the end of my three years I've found my bookshelves increasingly groaning under the weight of critical and non-fiction writers. My book-buying habit is certainly not particularly useful to me at the moment, considering my poor bank balance and the fact I have zero time to be reading texts which aren't to do with my course. However, as of May I'll be able to once again read for fun: and when I do, I'll have a mountain of books on my to-read pile. I picked these six up in the lovely Brick Lane Bookshop, which has tons of interesting titles, art books, theory, relatively cheap classics and is, luckily for me and my collection, well stocked with the Penguin Great Ideas series. 

Albert Camus, The Sea Close By 
Two essays by Camus. The first is The Sea Close By, written six years before his death; the second is Summer in Algiers, written in his twenties. The two essays, despite being written at relatively opposite times in his life, apparently fit together beautifully and are described by Penguin as 'a love song to his Mediterranean childhood'. I haven't read a lot of Camus as of yet, but I'm looking forward to starting with something a little smaller to whet my appetite. 

Ai Weiwei & Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ai Weiwei Speaks 
Ever since seeing Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern, I've been fascinated by him as an artist and a political figure - because his art and his life are undeniably political. He is an open critic of the Chinese government's attitude to human rights and democracy, which culminated in his 2011 arrest and being held for over eighty days without charge. International support for him was garnered, with even the Tate having 'Release Ai Weiwei' put onto the side of the building. I'm looking forward to reading a bit more about his art and viewpoints with this book.

George OrwellSuch, Such Were The Joys
Orwell's autobiographical essay takes its name from the William Blake poem 'Songs of Innocence', which Orwell's mother apparently read to him. This essay covers Orwell's life as a child in the years before and during World War One. I'm ashamed to admit I've only read his most famous works, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, but I think it'll be nice to have a firmer grasp of his biography before I move on to his other fiction.

Oliver Sacks, Seeing Voices
I seem to be collecting Sacks' entire published collection at the moment, and seeing this book for only a few pounds rather than the usual ten I picked it up to add to my few. His books, based on cases he encountered during his neurology career, mix science with narrative to make fascinating accounts of atypical neurological conditions and their effects. In Seeing Voices, Sacks' covers a variety of topics in deaf studies, including the neurology of deafness, historical treatments and linguistic challenges the deaf face. I'm hoping this will be great!

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings
Memories of My Melancholy Whores still remains one of my favourite books, years later. Marquez was a journalist before writing a book of short stories (which included this one), which was so successful that he quit journalism - he then went on to write his critically acclaimed One Hundred Years of Solitude (which is still waiting in my bookshelf!). Wandering in his courtyard after a storm, Pelayo comes across a homeless man with what look like large wings coming from his back; the community must decide what to do with the man they deduce to be an angel.

Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception
I loved Brave New World when I read it a few years ago, and have been looking for something else of Huxley's to read but never picked anything up. This book deals with Huxley's experience of the drug mescaline (a psychedelic drug with hallucinogenic effects similar to LSD) under the care of psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, who had written about the drug. The title of the book is another taken from William Blake's poem 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell'. Apparently, after reading the manuscript, Huxley's publisher said that he was the 'most articulate guinea pig that any scientist could hope to engage'. This certainly looks set to be an interesting read!

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