Tag Archives: literature

In good (or not so good) nick

in a good nick meaning

Photo credit: calliopegifts.co.uk

Today I went for my regular volunteering shift at the local bookshop – to strengthen my willpower by resisting the temptation to buy more books, to get my weekly fix of chocolate biscuits, to spend time around some lovely people and… hopefully to hear some more cool phrases.

A customer came in asking whether we had any more books by Marina Lewycka apart from A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian that we had in the shop. He said he had seen another book, but it was in such a bad nick that he didn’t get it.

I hear this phrase – ‘in good/bad nick‘ – from other volunteers very often. ‘Nick‘ essentially means ‘condition’.

You can also say that a book that is in a bad nick is ‘tatty‘.

I must say that in the days when I was buying books from charity shops like there was no tomorrow, I did buy some tatty ones, but I ended up donating them back to charity shops as I never read them. Much as I love books – all kind of books – I find that they need to look appealing.

I still find that I have hoarded way too many books and I need to slowly work my way through them so that I could buy new books!

This is how my current ‘to-read list’ looks like (or at least its English section – there’re at least as many books in other languages waiting to be read and they make me feel bad):

bookshelf shelfie

And while we’re on the subject of books and shelves… I recently came across the word ‘shelfie‘, i.e. ‘selfie of your bookshelf’. Here are some shelfies from Guardian readers.

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Margaret Atwood, ‘Alias Grace’

Alias Grace Margaret Atwood quotes

Photo credit: studytemple.com

A couple of days ago I finished another book, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. It was a bit heavy-going in the beginning because of a very detailed narrative, but after a hundred or so pages it got better.

Here are some amusing bits that I particularly liked:

Spiritualism is the craze of the middle classes, the women especially; they gather in darkened rooms and play at table-tilting the way their grandmothers played at whist, or they emit voluminous automatic writings, dictated to them by Mozart or Shakespeare; in which case being dead, thinks Simon, has a remarkably debilitating effect on one’s prose style‘.

‘As one season’s crop of girls proceeds into engagement and marriage, younger ones keep sprouting up, like tulips in May. They are now so young it relation to Simon that he has trouble conversing with them; it’s like talking to a basketful of kittens’.

There was one good effect of all the suffering. The passengers were Catholic and Protestant mixed, with some English and Scots come over from Liverpool thrown into the bargain; and if in a state of health, they would have squabbled and fought, as there is no love lost. But there is nothing like a strong bout of seasickness to remove the desire for a scrap; and those who would cheerfully have cut each other’s throats on land, were often to be seen holding each other’s heads over the scuppers, like the tenderest of mothers; and I have sometimes noted the same thing in prison, as necessity does make strange bedfellows. A sea voyage and a prison may be God’s reminder to us that we are all flesh, and that all flesh is grass, and all flesh is weak. Or so I choose to believe‘.

‘Mary said I might be very young, and as ignorant as an egg, but I was bright as a new penny, and the difference between stupid and ignorant was that ignorant could learn’.

‘…Having a thought is not the same as doing it. If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged‘.

‘Having a mistress – for that’s what she’s become, he supposes, and it hasn’t taken long! – is worse than having a wife. The responsibilities involved are weightier, and more muddled’.

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Kate Atkinson ‘Started Early, Took My Dog’

Kate Atkinson Started Early quotes

Photo credit: crimeandpublishing.com

I’ve been meaning to start writing about books that I’ve enjoyed – for a bit of a change and also to share my other big passion, though I suppose languages and reading often go hand in hand.

Usually when I’m reading a book I really like I have an overwhelming urge to quote a few bits to whoever is near, but seeing that there’s not always somebody around a blog seems to be a perfect place to do it.

I think this is a very ‘English’ book, in a sense that there are lots of details and descriptions that I probably couldn’t relate to or understand until I came to live here.

Here are the bits that I liked most:

‘His mother was defensive, worried that Leslie would carry her son off to a faraway continent and all her grandchildren would have accents and be vegetarians. Leslie wanted to reassure her, say, It’s only a holiday romance, but that probably wouldn’t go down well either’.

She thought she’d signed up for the duration… and then last week they told her that her contract wasn’t being renewed and she was going to die at the end of her run. She had only a few weeks to go. They hadn’t told her how. It was beginning to worry her in some curiously existential way as if Death was going to jump out of her from round the corner, swinging his sickle and shouting, ‘Boo!’ Well, perhaps not boo. She hoped that Death had a little more gravitas than that‘. [It’s about an actress who was about to be killed off in a series. It’s not new to me, but it’s interesting to note that Death is masculine in English, even there are no genders as such. In Russian death is a female, for instance].

‘He was a big guy, with a mean expression on his face, barrel-chested like a Rottweiler. Add to that the shaved head, the weight-lifting muscles and a St George’s flag tattooed on his left bicep, twinned with a half-naked woman inked into his right forearm, and, voilá, the perfect English gentleman’.

Fiction had never been Jackson’s thing. Facts seemed challenging enough without making stuff up. What he discovered was that the great novels of the world were about three things – death, money and sex. Occasionally a whale‘.

‘They were celebrating the divorce of one of their pack. Jackson thought that divorce was possibly an occasion for a wake rather than a knees-up but what did he know, he had a particularly poor track record where marriage was concerned. It surprised him to discover that the women all seemed to be teachers or social workers. Nothing more frightening than a middle-class woman when she lets her hair down’.

– ‘Do you know what colour grey is?’

– ‘It’s the colour of the sky’, Courtney offered. Tracy sighed. Therapist would have a field day with this kid.

‘Everywhere people were puffing and panting their way up the steps. He had never seen so many fat people in one place at the same time. He wondered what a visitor from the past would make of it. It used to be poor who were thin and the rich who were fat, now it seemed to be the other way round’.

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