Home > About reading, Personal Posts > Blog’s birthday: one more chapter

Blog’s birthday: one more chapter

Les mots sont faits pour scintiller de tout leur éclat. Il n’y a pas de limite concevable à leur agencement parce qu’il n’y a pas de limite à la couleur, à la lumière. Il n’y a pas de mesure à la mesure des mots. Il ne viendrait à l’idée de personne de mettre un frein à la clarté nue de midi en été. Les mots. Silex et diamant. Votre rôle est de fouiller là-dedans à pleine main au petit bonheur. Pourvu que ça rende le son qui est en vous quand vous écrivez.Louis Calaferte. Words are made to scintillate of all their brightness. There is no conceivable limit to their order because there is no limit to colour, to light. There is no measure that measures up with words. Nobody would dream of refraining the raw brightness of light at noon in the summer. Words. Flintstone and diamond. Your role is to dig in there heartily and haphazardly. As long as it gives back the sound that is in you when you write.

Bonheure_LireI find this quote beautiful as it intertwines all sensations with the pleasure of reading and writing. One more chapter is what I say to myself at night when I know I ought to turn off the light but am reluctant to put my book down. When a book is gripping, how can you resist?

One more chapter: Book Around the Corner is three-years-old. I decided to celebrate that milestone with a little book entitled Au Bonheur de lire or To Happiness in Reading. The English translation doesn’t give back the literary reference of the French title. Au Bonheur de lire refers to Au Bonheur des Dames by Zola. (Ladies’ Paradise for you, dear Anglophone readers) It’s a collection of texts about reading and it is split in three parts.

The first one covers childhood memories of hours spent with a book. They are either fake (excerpt from Madame Bovary) or real (Les Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau). The second part describes the pleasure of immersing in someone else’s words and thoughts, and sometimes feel like they’re your own. I was touched by the passage of Septentrion by Louis Calaferte; I’d like to read this book. The third part concentrates on books as an object and the strange relationship we have with our books. This relationship is changing now that we can read on ebooks. (Well, not in France since only 1% of books sold are ebooks, according to a recent article in Télérama)

It was a lovely book, an ode to my favourite hobby, to the blissful hours spent with the words of others. As a coincidence, I read it shortly after watching a fantastic theatre version of Farenheit 451. It was directed by David Géry who has also directed a theatre version of Bartleby. The play was faithful to the book (spectacular fires on scene) and once again it struck me how Bradbury managed to imagine things that are now part of our daily life: music in the ear, huge flat screens, pills. The people who fight against the loss of books were present on scene at the end of the play. They weren’t actors, only avid readers sharing a quote from their favourite book. Very moving and an incredible celebration of literature.

My blog aims at celebrating literature too, at sharing my enthusiasms or my disappointments. I hope it makes you want to try a new writer sometimes. Talking about favourites.

Trevor from The Mookse and the Gripes recently posted his personal Pantheon of writers, based on a simple criterion “after reading one of the books by the author, I had the strong desire to read everything that author had ever written”. I like this criterion because I feel free to leave aside geniuses who don’t speak to me or are interesting but no fun reading, even though I acknowledge their literary worth. So, here is my Pantheon:

  1. Romain Gary. Do I need to say something?
  2. Jane Austen. Under polite and civilized phrases lays a sharp analysis of the society of her time.
  3. Philippe Djian. American in style and French in the characters.
  4. Molière. Laugh was his weapon. Massive destruction of egos in his wake.
  5. Philip Roth. From a character’s daily trivialities to the analysis of our world.
  6. Raymond Chandler. Crime fiction breaking into literary fiction.
  7. Thomas Hardy. Irony and poetry in rural England.
  8. William Somerset Maugham. Leaning on a character’s story to explore the core of mankind.
  9. Emile Zola. Isn’t he almost historical fiction?
  10. Dezső Kosztolányi. Humanity, poetry and description of society all wrapped in one.
  11. Philippe Besson. For his incredible ability to share passion and its forceful wave.
  12. Jim Harrison. For the American dream and his flawed characters.
  13. David Lodge. For his British sense of humour.
  14. Rainer Maria Rilke. Beautiful, soothing and painfully human.
  15. Anne Perry. Excellent series of historical crime fiction in London. She manages to renew herself.
  16. Edith Wharton. Acute perception of the human heart, feminism and both in France and America.
  17. Max Barry. When I read Company, I laughed so hard I decided I wanted to read all of his books.
  18. Antal Szerb Impossible to describe in a few words.
  19. Elizabeth George. Inspector Linley and Barbara Havers are sort of relatives by now.
  20. Steven Saylor. No one resuscitates Rome during the Roman Republic like he does.

Please welcome this billet as a heartfelt thank you for reading, following, commenting, putting up with my typos and misuse of the English language and take it as an opportunity to share your Pantheon in the comments. I’d love to discover the writers who thrill you.

  1. April 30, 2013 at 3:20 am

    Happy BD to your blog, Emma. I’ve been thinking about writing up a list of my favourites, but I don’t know that I could be as succinct as you. It might take a series of posts.


    • April 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm

      I’d like to see your lists (one per genre?)
      This one was easy to do because I just picked the first writers who came to mind. The coups de coeur (no idea how to say that in English) are easy to find. You just let your enthusiasm speak for you.


  2. April 30, 2013 at 4:25 am

    Gee, that’s great, happy birthday.


  3. April 30, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Happy Birthday and rhank you for the list. It’s always inspisring to see such lists.
    I’d have to think some more on my favourites.
    I like the quote and will probably get that book as well. the collection, I mean. I would like it.


    • April 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      Thanks Caroline, I’d like to see your list.
      I’m curious about Septentrion, I really liked the excerpt of this book.


  4. April 30, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Happy blog birthday, Emma! Your list is really interesting, thanks for sharing it! Personally, whenever I try to make such a list I find it outdated the next day. Good to see you’re more steady 😉


    • April 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks Bettina. It didn’t take time to make the list. Another way to see it is “comfort” writers, the ones you turn to when you want to read something you’ll like. I’m sure you have writers like this in your life.


  5. April 30, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Looking forward to many more chapters! Cheers!


  6. April 30, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Happy blogiversary, Emma! That book you are reading – ‘Au bonheur de lire’ – looks so beautiful. I love that Louis Calaferte passage that you have quoted. Thanks for sharing your list of favourite writers. I loved your descriptions of them. Maugham and Hardy are there on my favourites list too. Happy reading on your blog birthday!


    • April 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      Thanks Vishy. More Hardy to come, my next one is Far From the Madding Crowd.
      I want to read The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage.
      Have you read them?


      • May 3, 2013 at 5:43 am

        Looking forward to reading your thoughts on ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, Emma. I hope to read some Hardy myself, later this year. Hope you enjoy reading ‘The Razor’s Edge’ and ‘Of Human Bondage’. I liked both of them very much. ‘Of Human Bondage’ is probably one of my alltime favourite books. ‘The Razor’s Edge’ is very inspiring. I won’t tell you more as it might spoil the book for you. Happy reading! I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on them.


  7. April 30, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Congratulations! I don’t know all the writers on your list – so many authors, so little time, sigh! -, but those I know are very much in my line, too (maybe except Thomas Hardy). I hope that you’ll continue writing such interesting and inspiring posts 🙂 Many happy returns of the day!


    • April 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Which writers are unknown to you? Besson, Gary and Djian, I suppose.


      • May 2, 2013 at 10:31 am

        To be truthfully, they are quite some whose books haven’t gone through my hands yet… not Djian, though. I have a novel of his in my shelves, but didn’t get to finish it the summer when I started it. Beson and Gary I never heard of, that’s true. Others I know by name although I never got round reading any of their work. Most of the crime section slipped my attention completely (being a lawyer who hated criminal law from the start, I don’t particularly enjoy thrillers).


        • May 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm

          There is more to crime fiction than just thrillers. Anne Perry’s books are very agreable to read and the descriptions of the Victorian society are interesting.

          Oh, you’ll soon know more than you care about Gary if you keep on reading this blog 🙂


  8. April 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Bonne anniversaire! To help celebrate, I’m announcing my determination to get around to Romain Gary this year.


    • April 30, 2013 at 6:52 pm

      This is a great birthday gift. Lucky you, you can read Gary on French.

      Which one do you want to try? La Promesse de l’aube? Les Racines du ciel? Chien Blanc? (I have this one in English to see how the “translation” is. Books by Gary aren’t exactly translated but sort of re-written by the author with the help of a translator)


      • May 2, 2013 at 12:56 am

        For some reason I do not understand, there is a copy of La Promesse de l’aube on my bookshelf, probably left by a French visitor, so I guess I’ll start with that (also, I very much like George Delerue soundtrack to the film, which I cannot believe I haven’t seen given that Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin are involved).


        • May 2, 2013 at 8:49 pm

          La promesse de l’aube is an excellent book and a good start with Romain Gary. You’d probably like Chien Blanc too, but it’s non-fiction.

          I haven’t seen the film. I haven’t seen any of the films based on Gary’s work. I’d rather keep my own images of the characters.


  9. May 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Happy birthday, indeed!

    You asked for pantheons, but nobody shared! Well, here’s one, since you asked. I wouldn’t claim these as the best writers in history, but they’re the ones that engage me now…

    1. Raymond Roussel: An imagination like no other.
    2. Ambrose Bierce: Bitter, witty, and his war stories are devastating.
    3. Boris Vian: What fun!
    4. Harry Stephen Keeler: Convoluted, improbable mystery stories, a nonpareil.
    5. Alphonse Allais: I’m currently translating the lovable rascal, so he belongs here.
    6. Tommaso Campanella: Particularly for his rough, intense sonnets.
    7. François Caradec: A wonderful scholar, particularly of La Belle Époque.
    8. Charles Fort: Satirist, anomalist, and a hilarious stylist.
    9. Richard Shaver: A soulful schizophrenic who had a wild career in pulps.
    10. Mark Twain: Damn, but he was good.
    11. Eric Partridge: One of the best scholars of English slang.

    Happy birthday!


    • May 1, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Thanks for sharing your pantheon.

      I only know Vian (I’m curious to see the film version of L’écume des jours directed by Gondry), Allais (never read him but his aphorisms were on chocolate packagings when I was a kid. Ditto for GB Shaw) and Twain.

      I have to check out the others.


  10. May 1, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    My pantheon is too conventional to be interesting. Whoever is typically anthologized – take a random selection of them. That will be close to my pantheon.

    Having said that, Campanella’s sonnets are, as Doug says, outstanding, capping an extraordinary early modern Italian run.


    • May 1, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      I’m sure your pantheon based upon the criterion “I want to read all by him or her” isn’t that conventional.
      I have never heard of Campanella; I don’t know much about poetry.


    • May 1, 2013 at 11:17 pm

      I forgot to thank you for reading La Promesse de l’aube last year. So far you’re the only one I managed to convince to read Gary. 🙂
      (apart from Scott above, but he hasn’t read the book yet)


  11. May 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Congratulations on your own blog’s third birthday! You have achieved a distinctive style and a consistently high quality of writing. Most of we British readers find ourselves amazed at your command of the English language.

    I enjoyed reading your list of best writers and am pleased to see that you find some light relief in Elizabeth George.


    • May 5, 2013 at 10:27 am

      Thanks Tom!

      I have read most of Elizabeth George’s books before starting the blog. I have one on the shelf. I like the stories and the characters.


  12. June 9, 2013 at 1:23 am

    Just caught up with this Emma … may was a busy month. Happy blogiversary from me too. I love your list … Particularly Austen and Wharton. I also love Hardy. Was it Guy who put you onto Barry? I’d never heard of him until Guy named him as favourite Aussie author! That was embarrassing.


    • June 9, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Actually, Guy put me onto Wharton (I knew her and had abadonned Les beaux mariages, the French translation of The Custom of the Country), and yes he put me onto Barry. He’s funny and incredibly spot on when he describes the corporate world.


      • June 10, 2013 at 12:38 am

        Well done Guy, then, I’d say! I must try to read the Barry I bought for my husband … At least I got him into the house


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