The Musings of a Boho Girl

bōˈhēmēən (noun) 1. a free spirit ; 2. a writer; 3. an explorer of the Avant-Garde.

Category: Books

2016 Reading List

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Happy New Year, lovely readers! 2016 is going to be a year of brilliant new books so I’ve put together a reading list that I plan on following this year. My New Year’s Resolution is to read more Javier Marías. We were standing in Plaza Mayor when my friend said Marías lives there. Embarrassed, I finally admitted to him that I didn’t know who Marías was. That was almost ten years ago, since then I’ve seen his work reviewed in the Los Angles Times. Most recently his book, The Infatuations was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award. I haven’t read The Infatuations but I have read A Heart so White, a haunting novel about the past.

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Ali Smith Discussion: Public Library and other stories

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Her book is everywhere including The NT Bookshop

I wasn’t planning on writing a post this early. In fact I’m still overjoyed that I met Ali Smith. She’s brilliant and really lovely too. I almost didn’t make it to the event. At 17:00 I was stuck in a cab on Jamaica Road telling my driver that I rearranged my entire trip just to come to this event. He becomes quite determined and begins backing up and turns left then the driver takes an alternate route that leads us off Jamaica Road. I’m not familiar with South East London, but we traveled down a number of different streets just to go around the traffic jam.

When we finally reach the venue, my fare is £59 and he tells me to just forget it, to go inside and get my book signed. He’s the kindest cab driver in the world. So I went in late, but it was a fantastic evening. I would do it all over again even if there were only ten minutes of discussion, although it was much longer. Smith discussed her new collection of stories and who influenced them. There were readings from her book. If you’re local, try to get to King’s College London: Inventing the modern novel on November 9, 2015 (18:30-20:00). Ali Smith is thoughtful and engaging with her audience. I’d love to be able to hear how modernist literature has influenced her work, such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. She’s truly remarkable. I can’t wait to start reading Public Library and other stories.

Out of Print Books

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These objects are nearly impossible to find, and if found, they are almost always financially out of reach for the average customer; out of print books hinder numerous possibilities. Discovering an artist’s work is a journey, one wants to start at the beginning and follow his or her entire body of work; seeing how the artist has evolved is an essential part of understanding him or her. When a photographer’s first book is out of print, his or her audience is left with a fragmented history of their work.

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Peter Hujar’s Portraits in Life and Death was published in 1976, that’s well before his current audience was born. Consider how Hujar’s photography influenced the field, his stark black and white portraits admired for their intimate style. Portraits in Life and Death is the only book Hujar was alive to oversee, we can see each image in the order that he intended. Isn’t that how we should see art? Shouldn’t we have the chance to look at a time that doesn’t belong to us and see the world through the artist’s eyes?

In this case, the photographer has not been forgotten; in fact Peter Hujar’s Night is being exhibited in Cologne, Germany right now. My friend travelled from Amsterdam to see it. There are retrospectives in New York, San Francisco and across Europe. Hujar’s work is revered all over the world. Portraits in Life and Death is in demand, so why not reprint it? Seeing Hujar’s work is possible but visiting galleries in New York City and San Francisco isn’t a possibility for everyone, some of his audience will have to be content with his books. Shouldn’t those people have an opportunity to trace the haunting themes of time and death that permeate through Hujar’s work?

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Arts education is severely underfunded, especially in the public education system and most students are only taught an overview, they are left to explore artists on their own time. Photographers like Peter Hujar and Diane Arbus are routinely overlooked in curriculums; those students eager to learn more may not have access to Hujar’s book. Portraits in Life and Death is one book that would provide a more comprehensive examination of Hujar’s photography.

I learned of Hujar as a teenager and then in greater depth at university while studying cityscapes photography. They told a complicated story…a story of a city decaying… a disappearing landscape. Maybe I saw traces of sadness, but I couldn’t fully see Hujar. I wanted to. I’ve been chasing Hujar’s ghost for years, always wanting to see more of his work. This search led me to The Stedelijk in Amsterdam just to see Divine from Portraits in Life and Death.

Time and place: those ephemeral qualities that Peter Hujar captures in his work should reach audiences in the smallest corners of the world. One way to make that possible is keeping his books in print. It’s my hope that Stephen Koch considers reprinting Hujar’s first book. Portraits in Life and Death could find a second home with a publisher. Almost four decades have passed and there are at least two generations who never experienced Hujar’s first book. Shouldn’t we have a chance to see the world as Hujar saw it?

Five Quotes from Ali Smith’s Hotel World

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‘Remember you must live.
Remember you most love.
Remainder you mist leaf.’

I ended up attending a book club again. Maybe it was the cake or the opportunity to discuss Ali Smith’s Hotel World that led me to the basement of an independent bookshop, but there I was holding my copy of Hotel World and eyeing a Whole Foods cake. This novel is one of my favourites, Hotel World is brilliant: five sections about five women, one of whom is dead, and it’s set at the same global hotel branch. Smith skillfully traces the characters’ paths and where they intersect. The final section is a stream-of-consciousness from Clare (Sara Wilby’s younger sister) which is reminiscent of Woolf or Joyce. Here are five quotes from Hotel World:

‘Else wonders where her head would go, if she could take it off and hold it in her hands and then fling it up and set it flying, leaving her chest and her stomach and her legs and her waving-goodbye arms, her head soaring by itself up past the huddles of freezing starlings. The sky would open. The roof of it would come off. She would be so careful up there. She would avoid aeroplanes.’ 67
‘It is much easier to picture her from the photographs in the papers and TV than to try to remember. The photographs in the papers and on TV seem to have wiped Lise’s memory of the real Sara Wilby even cleaner.’ 110

‘Time is notoriously deceptive. Everybody knows this (though it is one of the easier things to forget).’ 103

‘At the bottom of the shaft, colourless in the dark, there was a shoe and a crumpled uniform, both still warm, both going cold. There were three or four coins, maybe more. There was a broken clock. Its plastic shell was shattered and its face was in bits.’ 154

‘& since I will always know off by heart I will not forget the sound of you breathing in the dark & since there was the night when I was eleven when they played the old song about the long and winding road on the radio & for some reason I don’t know why it made me frightened that the earth was full of dead people even the earth round the flowers outside in the garden though I didn’t say anything I was in bed you were in the other bed you said what’s wrong are you scared you knew I was without me having to say anything’ 219

You can find Hotel World here.

Favourite Quotes from Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks

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Language and landscape have been inextricably linked for centuries, can you imagine Wuthering Heights without Bronte describing the Yorkshire moors? The setting captures the emotions of Bronte’s characters. While I was reading Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks, I took notes and wrote down my favourite quotes. Landmarks is filled with fascinating portraits of authors that influenced Macfarlane’s writing. His high praise for Nan Shepherd led me to The Living Mountain. This book is about language…words lost or words on the brink of extinction. The glossary at the end of each chapter reminds us how important vocabulary is to Macfarlane. So I thought instead of a traditional review, I would share Macfarlane’s most striking quotes.

On Roger Deakin’s relationship with water: ’Water was to him a visionary substance. It was homoeopathic, it was cheering, it was beautiful in its flex and flow – and it was lensatic. Prepositions matter again here: we might say that Roger Deakin thought not just about water, he thought in water or with water.’

On Nan Shepherd: ’Shepherd is fierce see-er, then, and like many fierce see-ers, she is also a part-time mystic, for whom intense empiricism is the first step to immanence.’

On Peter Davidson’s poetry and northern landscape: ‘I think of Davidson’s what-ifs as versions of the duct: strange spaces in which time’s claim are stilled – and through which one might see so far into the future that it becomes the past.’
On reading John Muir: ’Reading Muir, I feel invulnerable. He gives me seven-league boots, lets me climb high mountains in a single paragraph. Rockfall, blizzard and avalanche cannot harm him.’
On Richard Jefferies: ‘Sunlight was the substance Jefferies associated most with life; dust the substance that most often triggered his dismayed materialism and his thoughts of death.’

‘Like the ‘white granular powder’ that gathers lethally upon a thriving landscape in the opening pages of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), Jefferies’ dust contaminates both body and soul…’

You can find the book here.

July: My Five Obsessions

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Happy July, it’s the month of barbecues, strawberries & cream, and summer cocktails (that was June too). There are so many things that I love right now, it was hard to narrow it down to just five. I couldn’t resist the urge to list the two Smiths that I adore. If I had one ounce of Kanye West’s confidence and Ali or Zadie Smith’s talent, I’d be sorted for life.

1. Hotel World by Ali Smith. This 2002 book is being released with a new cover of David Hockney’s ‘Views of Hotel Well II’. Like everything Ali Smith writes, Hotel World is brilliant. I read it nearly a decade ago and can still remember Smith’s vivid prose. Hotel World was shortlisted for The Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction, it’s well worth a read. Check out the synopsis here. It’s as imaginative as How to be Both, which everyone should be reading, by the way. Keep an eye out for this Hamish Hamilton title.

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2. BBC Proms. There’s one thing I love about summer…the Proms. Going to The Proms is one of the things I miss most. This summer classical music concerts was one of my favourite events. So if you’re based in England or planning a trip to London, do try to make a trip to the Royal Albert Hall for the Proms. I lived near Royal Albert Hall and managed to go several times a week. Yes, I was addicted. The last night of the Proms is particularly special, the crowd sings Rule Britannia.

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3. Zadie Smith. Several friends are just discovering how talented she is. They’re becoming addicts and I don’t blame them, she’s an extraordinary writer. Smith’s recent short story, ‘Escape From New York’, is in the New Yorker Fiction Issue (2015). It’s quite good, Zadie Smith re-imagines Marlon Brando, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor leaving New York City during 9/11. I love how Smith plays with this urban myth. You can find the story here.

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4.  Wimbledon. I’ve been waking up insanely early to watch the matches. It’s always great fun as long as my favourite players are winning. Things are looking good for Team Andy Murray and Serena Williams.

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5. Lush Cosmetics. I fell in love with this store and I’m glad they have stores throughout the United States, although the Regent Street store will always have my heart. I can’t imagine life without their bath bombs and melts. Go here and prepare to fall in love.

Lydia Davis’s Can’t and Won’t

Can’t and Won’t
by Lydia Davis
Hamish Hamilton, 289 pp.

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I picked up Lydia Davis’s collection of short stories after reading her Paris Review interview. My curiosity had grown after reading her novel, The End of the Story; she wrote the story in fragments and the structure fascinated me. I became immersed in Lydia Davis’s stories, the moments she describes possess a strange beauty. There are stories about dreams, some are just one sentence, and others are described as extracts from Flaubert’s correspondence. It’s one of the most unique collections I’ve read.

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Summer Reads

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It’s coming: summer will be upon us. Soon we’ll have long warm days with sunshine, Pimm’s, and reading. *Fingers crossed* I will have found the perfect literary agent who will then find the perfect publisher for my manuscript (seriously, cross your fingers). Summer is the perfect time to do some reading. I have a list of fantastic books that I plan to read. Here we go.

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My Five Obsessions

So right now I wanted to share the 5 things that I can’t stop thinking about.

1. Penguin Little Black Classics. The launch of classics celebrates the 80th anniversary of Penguin Books. 80 titles at .80 pence each. There are a range of titles, from The Yellow Wallpaper to Anthem of a Doomed Youth; and those are just two of the eleven that I pre-ordered. The publication date is 26 February 2015 so there’s time to check them out. I want them all, which is completely impractical (my bookcase is crumbling and I’m fairly unsettled).

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