Frau Kohlehydrat has sent me a meme, or as the Germans call it ein Stöckchen, or as the Austrians including Frau Kohlehydrat call it, ein Steckerl: to list the ten books that are gathering dust on my shelves because I bought them but haven’t read them.
I don’t usually do these, but this one seems highly suitable as I have even more than ten unread books. And for years, when I was teaching, I used to buy all sorts of books just to imagine how nice it would be to have time to read them.
Robert Underhill: Turkish Grammar
I am sure this is a brilliant grammar. Its idea is to take you through the grammar in thirty-eight lessons with a minimum vocabulary. You can get the vocabulary elsewhere. I spent nearly three years trying to learn Turkish, going to evening classes and hoping to expand my knowledge at home. It was a long time before I realized that my desire to be able to read Turkish newspapers was never going to be realized in those classes and with those books, because written Turkish is highly complex with sentences of German complexity but different structure, and we weren’t going to be taught that. There is also a good book on reading newspaper Turkish that showed me there was no point unless I went to Underhill. However, I seem to have abandoned it now. The Underhill costs the earth but I got it cheapish by using abebooks and having it sent from the USA by surface mail.
Marion Shoard: A survival guide to later life
This is only unread because I left my first copy with my aged relatives for whose sake I bought it. It takes months to get by post. It is a Daily Telegraph special, dated 2004. Marion Shoard wrote on environmental affairs for 25 years and when her mother, in her mid-80s, needed more help, she researched the situation for old people in the UK thoroughly. I think I need to read this. It is very specifically UK and explains the details of obtaining help and care, among much else.
Rob Eastaway: What is a googly?
An explanation of cricket for laypersons. I wanted some cricket on DVD to accompany reading this, but for some reason it took certain persons months and months to record some, by which time the book had gathered some dust. Glossary in the back.
Wolf Haas: Das ewige Leben
I have never read any of Haas’s crime novels, although I’ve seen a film or possibly two based on them. I’ve been told it’s not a pleasure to read because the language is so idiosyncratic, but I suspect I will read it. Here’s the first paragraph:
bq. Jetzt ist schon wieder was passiert. Und ob du es glaubst oder nicht. Zur Abwechslung einmal etwas Gutes. Weil erlebst du auf einer Intensivstation auch nicht jeden Tag, dass dir ein Hoffnungsloser noch einmal wird.
Tim Richardson: Sweets. A history of candy
This may be too heavy going. Why do books not mention pismaniye? It isn’t really candy floss, because it contains butter and flour as well as sugar.
Paul Celan: Die Gedichte. Kommentierte Gesamtausgabe
I think one can have too much Celan. Great stuff, but rather lugubrious. There is also a tendency for people to put him on a pedestal without understanding him. Apparently the members of Gruppe 47 laughed when he presented Die Todesfuge. Anyway, I feel enough drawn to some of his work that it seemed a good idea to read a commented edition, because there are so many references, often quite private ones. The big problem with this book is that the endnotes – there are 425 pages of end material – give the title of each poem, but not the page it is on. It’s therefore easier to pick some interesting notes and then trace the poem.
Richard Conniff: Spineless Wonders
This is subtitled ‘Strange tales from the invertebrate world’. I thought it would be a good follow-up to Goff’s A Fly for the Prosecution, but I’ve never got into it.
Wolfram von Eschenbach: Willehalm
I didn’t realize Willehalm had a great reputation till I went to the Wolfram museum in Wolframs Eschenbach. Unfinished, but a diatribe against the Crusades and a fairish view of the Muslims. I wanted to read some Middle High German again. My edition has modern German facing the original, and I think indecisiveness as to which to read slowed me down.
Karina Matejcek: Überleben ohne Sekretärin
I’m always a sucker for books on subjects I feel inadequate about. But a closer glance at this indicated that only parts were helpful and it was rather superficial. Nor does it look so good on my bookshelf as How to Succeed in Business without a Penis by Karen Salmansohn. This is also unread, but it may impress visitors.
Harry Mount: My Brief Career
The trials of a young lawyer. I forgot I even had this. It’s an account of a year as a pupil in barristers’ chambers. I must have got it in a bookshop, as I wouldn’t have bought it without leafing through and deciding it wasn’t too joky for me.
I am now supposed to pass this Steckerl on. I can’t send it to Des, as he seems otherwise occupied looking after a poeskat and preparing a wedding, and Trevor also seems otherwise occupied. If they wish then, to: