Saturday, March 7, 2009

IN THE DISCIPLINE

I’m somewhat ashamed to report that it’s taken me four months to locate the foreign language library here. The process of “settling in” has, let’s say, not quite been an Edith Whartonish whirl of appointments with the local dress-maker - it might better be measured by the friendly acknowledgements won from our local taco-slinger or semi-professional chess player turned barman. In fact, I’ve comprehensively failed at resolving most practical matters, including finding a dentist, a doctor, or a supplier of the kind of vegetarian spacefood I occasionally disgust my boyfriend by consuming.

I got through the first four months with the pile of paperbacks I lugged over here as excess baggage. I’ve exhausted the more diverting of these as bedtime reading , or, indeed, sweated ponderously over the more oblique ones whilst writing an academic proposal – I was almost the woman who had to pay a baggage supplement for carriage of her Christine Brooke-Rose omnibus. I cased Budapest’s second-hand bookshops for a while, but found selection more interesting for the paratextual tales the novels had to tell than anything else: who, exactly, carted The E.S.P. Worm by Robert Margoff and Piers Anthony (a “brain-bending science fiction surprise”) around Europe, decided (wisely) that it wasn’t a keeper and offloaded it at a bookshop behind the Opera in Budapest?

Anyway, the library on Molnár utca comes highly recommended. Its smallish English language section seems orientated towards the fine English Studies programme at ELTE nearby. I came away with a haul comprising Joan Didion’s The White Album (a favourite, favourite prose stylist); a couple of lit crit surveys by that contemporary fiction lot to rouse my ire; a novel by Iris Murdoch that, for all the references to it sprinkled liberally throughout my undergraduate dissertation, you might assume I had already read and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, which I raced through at lightning speed this weekend. It has had me pondering my own decidedly less luminous intermingling with the Hull commuter belt’s Yorkshire Post cognoscenti as a teenager at a grant-maintained private school, which was more a seven-year blur of chronic embarrassment at provincial Italian restaurants and rugby club discos than cocaine and sodomy in South Ken.

4 comments:

Phoebe said...

ha ha, the blur of chronic embarrassment in provincial Italian restaurants... that made me LOL(!)
Yeah, my friend david just read The Line of Beauty and has taken to reminiscing about the swagger and sins of the early 80's, with a slightly peculiar "aids crisis" nostalgia, since he was only about 4 at the time...
I've got another friend who similarly likes to talk about "kicking the police" in poland during Solidarity... again, he was a small child!
Which Iris M are you reading? I just started Under the Net, I thought i should read more first novels...

Jennifer Hodgson said...

Haha - I was quite possibly the very worst candidate for a Hull's half-arsed attempts at jolly hockey sticks! Reading The Line of Beauty in a two-day flurry set off a chain of reminiscence that called for several glasses of wine. In fact, stay tuned, 'cos its put me in the mind to share tales that include:

- The time my Maths teacher told me I spoke like a fish wife.
- The time my History teacher decided I was a lesbian communist.
- The time my costume suddenly availed itself of all lycra content during swimming club and I, at twelve, was left pretty much nude in the municipal baths.

Still, its been seven years and in comparison to those times of utter social agony I feel positively well-adjusted at 25!

Haha at your friend's borrowed nostalgia too - I'm afraid I got that feeling from the book too!

And I too am reading Under the Net, and finding it much less po-faced and niggly than expected.

J

Phoebe said...

Very much looking forward to reading more about those school-daze revelations! I hope you'll write something for our journal one day!

We should compare notes on Under The Net ... I've formed absolutely no opinion as of yet!

Ph.

Jennifer Hodgson said...

Definitely. In fact I'd love to have a read of the Hysteria issue in particular. Would there be any way of throwing in a bit of extra postage money in and getting it posted to Hungary I wonder? Do let me know what's coming up with the journal and I'd be delighted to submit something-or-other!

As for Under the Net, I fell asleep with it over my head last night so I'm not quite sure whether I finished the thing or not...

J