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2018

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Jan 2018

3rd January

[W]hat I wanted was something engrossing, something reliable, and for me, that means something I have read before.

When I re-read, I know what Iím getting. Itís like revisiting an old friend. An unread book holds wonderful unknown promise, but also threatens disappointment. A re-read is a known quantity.

Jo Walton, 'Why I Re-read', 15 July 2008, in What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading the Classics of Fantasy and SF (2014)

10th January

The woman who knows beyond a doubt that she is beautiful exists aplenty in male novelists' imaginations: I have yet to find her in women's books or women's memoirs or in life.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

17th January

It is common to describe a dreadful restaurant meal as being like a car crash.... I have realised the comparison is entirely wrong - at least with a car crash the emergency services eventually come to deal with the pain and distress. With a terrible restaurant experience no one ever comes. You are left only with the bill and the aftertaste and an abiding sense that you did something really stupid by booking a table.

Jay Rayner, The 'Indian Jamie Oliver' leaves a shell-shocked Jay Rayner picking through the wreckage, The Guardian, 9 Aug 2009, reprinted in My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways To Have a Lousy Night Out

24th January

All women should, therefore, be prepared for discovering faults in men, as they are for beholding spots in the sun, or clouds in the summer sky.

[Sarah Stickney Ellis], The wives of England : their relative duties, domestic influence, & social obligations (1843)

31st January

The extraordinary, the thrilling, the transgressive provide automatic glamor, but it takes a brave author to try to describe lives that are so commonplace as not even to be extraordinarily unhappy. And happiness - not sexual satisfaction, not reward of ambition, not ecstasy, not bliss, just day-to-day happiness - has practically vanished from fiction. That may be because we distrust it, seeing it as sentimentality, confusing the real thing with the fake. Indeed, itís not easy to write about. To ring true, description of even the humblest kind of fulfillment and contentment must be written in awareness of human inadequacy and cruelty and the always imminent possibility of illness, ruin, death.

Ursula K Le Guin, 'Kent Haruf: Our Souls At Night' (2016), in Words are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer's Week (2016)

R.I.P. Ursula K Le Guin, 1929-2018.

Feb 2018

7th February

[W]hen the chips are down, the spirit is exhausted and the body hungry, the same old thing is a great consolation.

Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen (1988)

14th February

I am only certain that from first to last I have never had any ambition in the world beyond the deep instinct to attain self-expression, which instinct was accompanied by the conviction that thereby only could I fulfil the desire of my heart to help others. Fame, for one who is by temperament and taste a recluse, could be nothing but an embarrassing superfluity.

Havelock Ellis, My life (1940)

21st February

I wasnít really a baby. I was a bookworm. For the true bookworm, life doesnít really begin until you get hold of your first book. Until then - well, youíre just waiting, really. You donít even know for what, at that stage - if you did, you would be making more noise about it[.]

Lucy Mangan, My life as a bookworm: what children can teach us about how to read. Guardian Saturday Review, 17 Feb 2018

28th February

It is a salutory thing to look back at some of the reforms which have long been an accepted part of our life, and to examine the opposition, usually bitter and often bizarre, sometimes dishonest but all too often honest, which had to be countered by the restless advocates of 'grandmotherly' legislation.

E. S. Turner, Roads to Ruin: The Shocking History of Social Reform (1950)

Mar 2018

7th March

[T]his suggests to me that freedom of conscience is more profoundly inhibited by prejudice and taboo, internalized by us all, than it is by laws and institutions. We can see that it is easily manipulated by subrational means, suggestion, and repetition. And it can be inappropriately invested, making us confident when we would be better served by doubt.

Marilynne Robinson, 'What is Freedom of Conscience?' (5 May 2016), in What Are We Doing Here? Essays (2018)

14th March

Itís called fat shaming with good reason. By the second episode I had decided to pre-empt the abuse, by misquoting Churchill on Twitter: yes, I was fatter than I might like. But I could lose weight. My tormentors would always be unpleasant ill-mannered scumbags.

It was a good line but I doubt it will ever stop them. Mention issues around weight management and there will always be someone wanting to point out the existence of food banks. Well done them. Personally, I think being sanctimonious is much worse than being obese. At least the overweight only have to deal with the impact themselves, whereas the judgmental impose their views on others.

Jay Rayner, 'Yes, I have to watch my weight. But donít get me started on diets', Observer Food Monthly, Jan 2018

21st March

[B]lockbusters such as Passengers and Jurassic World could have benefited from more female input, if only to point out that women donít usually fall in love with creepy stalkers or go on safari in stiletto heels. Itís not that we need more kick-ass sci-fi heroines so much as a wider perspective on technological and ethical issues in the imagined future.

Anne Billson, 'The final frontier: how female directors broke into sci-fi ', The Guardian G2, 16 Mar 2018

28th March

Literary history is, I think, familiar with the Catch-22 by which women who were virtuous could not know enough about life to write well, while those who knew enough about life to write well could not be virtuous.

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983)

Apr 2018

4th April

[S]he advances towards the row of gleaming white wash-basins, but is there defeated by the turning on of the water to wash her hands. It's a simple-looking stream-lined but incomprehensible mechanism she's never seen before: does one twist something, depress something, or wave one's hands at a certain distance beneath the orifice? There's nothing as obvious as a tap, and she is about to give up hope when another older woman arrives by her side to share, momentarily, her bewilderment, and then to solve the problem by a deft turn of a discreet lower spigot.

Margaret Drabble, The Dark Flood Rises (2016)

11th April

Iím trying to get away from that old-fashioned female character as written by men for women, which is all about suffering, endurance and sacrifice. Why donít we find some other talents and separate ourselves from the boredom of always having to be defined or pinned down in that way?

Deborah Levy, Books interview, The Observer New Review, 8 April 2018

18th April

He loved her, certainly. But he loved her especially when she was as gay, as happy, as simple, as easy, as decorative as the flowers in his garden this morning through the open door.

Vita Sackville-West, Family History (1932)

[No quotation for 25th April]

May 2018

2nd May

[S]he reviewed her situation and found it completely satisfactory. She was better able than most women to put aside the gift of beauty: she desired neither husband nor lover, nor to be admired, nor to make other women envious. All she wanted was to be - unencumbered.

Margery Sharp, Martha, Eric, and George (1964)

9th May

The intensity of childhood reading, the instant and complete absorption in a book - a good book, a bad book, in any kind of book - is something I would give much to recapture.

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading (2018)

Jun 2018

Ju1 2018

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