Sunday, January 15, 2023

Sunday Salon

Last Week

There were a couple of books, of course: I finished Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus. Post coming soon? We'll see. It is half-written.

Then a slim volume of poetry, The Discarded Life by Adam Kirsch, which came out last year:

Which may be why, in that first eastern winter,
When I looked up to see the silhouettes
Of stripped black branches spidering across
The deeper blackness of a frozen night,...
Our eastern-ish backyard earlier today.
More sunset than frozen night, though...

Kirsch was raised in L.A., but then moved to the east coast, where he writes for The New Yorker. The volume is more or less the story of his move. He writes blank verse well, and yes, that is a bit 'damning with faint praise' in case you were wondering.

Some plays of Plautus, which I'm still thinking about.

Then Try Not To Be Strange by Michael Hingston, a history of the kingdom of Redonda, also out last year, from small Canadian press Biblioasis. Redonda is an actual island in the Caribbean, but the kingdom is a literary in-joke.  M. P. Shiel (born on Montserrat in 1865) was its first king: his father took him to the uninhabited island as a boy and proclaimed him king as a birthday present. Shiel went on to be a popular writer in England; his best known work is the last man sci-fi novel The Purple Cloud. (Pretty good and available from Project Gutenberg.) The kingdom was handed on to the English poet John Gawsworth (friend of Lawrence Durrell and frenemy to Dylan Thomas) before spawning a bunch of claimants to the throne, one of whom was the late Javier Marías.

'Try not to be strange,' is what M. P. Shiel's father told his son as the young Shiel emigrated to the U.K. Not entirely sure the advice was heeded. Pretty entertaining. I preferred the journalistic parts of the book to Hingston's memoir, but your mileage may vary.

Which leads to:

On the Stack

Some of those are the same as last week, but then I added three Redonda-related books to the stack. Am I really going on a Redonda bender? Maybe! The new ones are:

Javier Marías' All Souls
Javier Marías' Between Eternities and other essays
Lawrence Durrell's Spirit of Place: Letters and Essays on Travel

I also downloaded M. P. Shiel's Prince Zaleski from Project Gutenberg, which is supposed to be Shiel's answer to Sherlock Holmes, written after Holmes went over the Reichenbach Falls and everybody still thought the great detective was dead.

Linking up with Readerbuzz' Sunday Salon:

Sit down, stay a while. How was your week?


  1. It doesn't happen as often as I would like, but it's delightful when it does happen: I love it when a book sparks my next book and my next book and my next book the way Try Not To Be Strange has for you.

    I'm very interested in seeing your review for Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus. I really don't know much about the book or the author.

    1. It is nice! We'll see what actually happens, though...

  2. What a fascinating list of books. I had no idea about the Caribbean Kingdom and its strange history.

    best… mae at

  3. So many books I haven't heard of. But Lawrence Durrell ..... I tried his Alexandria Quartet but I don't think it's my cup of tea. I might give it another try sometime but meanwhile there are so many others (may I say, better) books to read. I must say though, I really love letters and essays so I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

    1. I like the Alexandria Quartet, but it is odd and sometimes overwritten. His non-fiction is much more straightforward & I've generally liked it (and I've read half this book before). His funny diplomat/spy stories (Antrobus stories) are different again & pretty enjoyable.