The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

“Everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of my own bones.”

A little tidbit I just learned: Sylvia Plath first published the The Bell Jar under the nom de plume Victoria Lucas.

Sylvia Plath

I’ve just finished reading it for the first time in, oh, ten years or so. The voice of Esther Greenwood is honest and raw, capturing what it’s like to feel control slipping away. I can’t believe it was published in 1963, because so much of it feels relevant to my experiences as a young(ish) woman today.

My favourite line from the book:

Then I folded the linen napkin and laid it between my lips and brought my lips down on it precisely. When I put the napkin back on the table a fuzzy pink lip-shape bloomed right in the middle of it like a tiny heart.

October Reading List

I went on a book buying binge yesterday afternoon from the comfort of my kitchen table. Here are the books I now have lined up on my Kindle to read. It’s an odd mix… a little bit like October.

Life by Keith Richards

Life by Keith Richards

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

London Fields by Martin Amis

London Fields by Martin Amis

Made To Stick - Chip Heath, Dan Heath

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

Jacob's Room - Virginia Woolf

Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf (it’s free for Kindle!)

Sputnik Sweetheart - Haruki Murakami

When we left the restaurant, the sky was a brilliant splash of colours. The kind of air that felt like if you breathed it in, your lungs would be dyed the same shade of blue. Tiny stars began to twinkle. Barely able to wait for the long summer day to be over, the locals were out for an after-dinner stroll around the harbour. Families, couples, groups of friends. The gentle scent of the tide at the end of the day enveloped the streets.

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami (rereading this – one of my favourites)


Currently reading

A Visit from the Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I’m reading it right now – so far, so good! It’s set in a not too distant time, and I love this musing on the ‘evolution’ of language:

Rebecca was an academic star. Her new book was on the phenomenon of word casings, a term she’d invented for words that no longer had meaning outside quotation marks. English was full of these empty words – ‘friend’ and ‘real’ and ‘story’ and ‘change’ – words that had been shucked of their meanings and reduced to husks. Some, like ‘identity’, ‘search’, and ‘cloud’, had clearly been drained of life by their Web usage. With others, the reasons were more complex; how had ‘American’ become an ironic term? How had ‘democracy’ come to be used in an arch, mocking way?

(Don’t worry, the rest of novel is not all as earnest as this – it’s a bit more sardonic.)

Currently reading

Blood Bones & Butter - Gabrielle Hamilton

I love good writing about food, and Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chefby Gabrielle Hamilton ticks all the boxes. Hamilton is not only the chef/owner of Prune restaurant in New York’s East Village, she also has an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Michigan.

“I wanted a place with a Velvet Underground CD that made you nod your head and feel warm with recognition. I wanted the lettuce and the eggs at room temperature … I wanted the tarnished silverware and chipped wedding china from a paladar in Havana, and the canned sardines I ate in that little apartment on Twenty-Ninth Street. The marrow bones my mother made us eat as kids that I grew to crave as an adult. We would have brown butcher paper on the tables, not linen tablecloths, and when you finished your meal, the server would just pull the pen from behind her ear and scribble the bill directly on the paper like [the waitresses in France] had done. We would use jelly jars for wine glasses. There would be no foam and no ‘conceptual’ or ‘intellectual’ food; just the salty, sweet, starchy, brothy, crispy things that one craves when one is actually hungry.”


I am a bookish girl, and nothing pleases me more than libraries, notes in margins and the smell of binding glue. But recently I was given the super lovely gift of a Kindle (thanks Ma & Pa!) – and now I’m a convert.


{My Kindle, snug in its blue case – the device itself  powers a light in the case!}

Why I love my Kindle:

  • All the hits, for free. I HEART HEART HEART that most of the classics are available for free. Doing some top-level math, the cost of a kindle would be covered by just a tiny stack of Penguin Classics. So far I’ve read Pride & Prejudice, Little Women and Anna Karenina, without trotting down to the library.
  • Space (and back) saving. It lets me cut down on the space required to store my belongings. Currently most of my possessions is books… and moving house is painful. Books are heavy! With the Kindle I can store hundreds in my satchel.
  • DIY magazines. You can push long articles from the web to your Kindle to read later as a separate ”book”. A Chrome extension gives you this ability with just a click. I am looking forward to making my own awesome magazines to read on flights and more.
  • Freedom to connect. I got the 3G model, which seems superfluous in the age of wi-fi. But should I ever make it to the backwaters of Borneo again, I’ll never spend hours searching for an internet café. A 3G Kindle will let me check email and the web (albeit slowly) from anywhere on the planet.


Books I have lined up to read:

  • Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox. I did a few anthropology papers at university and loved them, so I ordered this book for a bit of nostalgia. Social anthropology starts at home for Fox; rather than trot off to the Amazon, she looked at her own tribe.
  • Here She Comes Now (3 short stories) by Chad Taylor. ‘Here She Comes Now’ is a collection short stories about modern relationships and family tensions, with a focus on dialogue. The author’s 2004 novel, Electric is one of my favourite New Zealand books.
  • Do the Work by Steven Pressfield. A productivity guide aimed at writers, based around the Art Of War. How could I resist?
  • Just Kids by Patti Smith. Just Kids chronicles Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe’s time in New York before they found fame. I’m sure many of you have read this already and you’ll agree, it’s captivating. I am half way through it already and I don’t want it to end.
  • The Wasp Factory: A Novel by Iain Banks. I have read some of the science fiction, and rather like his 2003 novel Dead Air. A friend recommend this book to me as “life changing”, and I can’t think of higher praise than that.

I think at this stage the Kindle and I are entering into a long-term relationship, but if I fall in love with a book, or appreciate its design aesthetic, I’ll probably buy a hard copy. Or should I happen to drift into a second-hand bookstore, I’m sure I’ll emerge with a bag full of new-to-me books.



Apparently it is Neuromancer’s 24th birthday today! Above is a selection of the cover renditions over the years. If you haven’t done so already (cult classic, much?), check it out – it’s a great read, along with William Gibson’s other books. My favourite is probably Pattern Recognition, due to the rampant brand and Internet references.

According to IMDB, Neuromancer the movie is in production for release in 2009. Will it surpass Blade Runner or the Matrix? Here’s hoping!