What is it about coming home after a vacation that prompts all sorts of other things to happen to draw you out of the house and keep you busy when all you want to do is sit down on the couch for a little while? If it’s not friends coming into town for the last weekend before school starts, it’s all the little errands like grocery shopping that conspire to keep me going while still recovering from jet lag and a pesky cold.
I seem to have recovered from both of those, though, and after days of constant go-go-go, I’ve finally been able to stop and take a breath.
Thanks to long plane trips and a four-hour layover, I had a chance to finish a few books while I was gone. I finished another just after I got back, since I was closer to the end than I thought I was.
- Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel by John Guy- This was an odd book. It started out a bit slowly, going through minute details about Becket’s early life, then sort of dashed through the latter part of his life. Overall, though, it provided a window into English history at the time.
- The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas by Alison Weir- I like Alison Weir’s biographies for the most part, but this one tended to wander away from Margaret’s story and go into the lives of the people around her. I get that people like Elizabeth I had a huge influence on her life, but there were chapters that made it seem as though the book was about someone else.
- The Moor’s Account– by Laila Lalami- This story is told from the point of view of an Islamic man who is taken to the New World by Spanish explorers. The expedition is plagued by human frailties, intolerance, and natural disasters as the group tries to make their way through strange lands and survive among the native peoples that many of them don’t even try to understand. This was a wonderful story and beautifully written. I wouldn’t have found it if I hadn’t been searching out books by authors from around the world.
I also finished up Neil Gaiman’s collection of essays and nonfiction. I only had two essays left to read before I left for Ireland, so I feel like I should have just read it the night before I left. Oh well.
The View from the Cheap Seats is wonderful! It’s filled with Gaiman’s articles going back to the early 1990s and includes the essay, ‘Make Good Art’. There were some parts I skimmed over- I haven’t read a lot of comic books, so the section about various comic book writers went right over my head- but I got pulled right into most of the essays whether I’d heard of the authors he was talking about or not. It’s not in chronological order at all, and yet you can start to construct the development of Gaiman’s voice from his early days as a journalist up until now.
In other news, school has started around here, and the weather service is forecasting a break in the heat. Autumn is on its way at last! It’s my favorite time of year, when the air is cool and crisp, and the leaves are turning. Pumpkin and apple-flavored everything is everywhere, and I can finally start wearing my beloved scarves and boots again.
I prefer the scents of fall, too:
Two more things!
I went to a few bookshops while I was in Galway, my favorite being Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, where I bought a copy of The Táin (The Cattle Raid of Cooley, to be specific), which is one of Ireland’s great epic poems. I read it in college, and the only copy I could find in the university library was a translation by Miles Standish from the 1890s or so. I was expecting some stifled Victorian tome that took all of the potentially objectionable parts out, but was surprised by how exciting and sometimes earthy the story ended up being. I’ve been searching for another copy of Standish’s translation ever since. While I haven’t found one, this translation by Ciaran Carson promises to be as good as Standish’s.
I try to buy one new piece of jewelry when I’m abroad. Nothing fancy, just something that I like that helps me remember where I’ve been. I bought this necklace on Inis Mór: