Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

The mailbox offered up a wonderful present yesterday…a book I ordered MONTHS ago which finally became available. Nadine Gordimer’s Telling Times, a collection (1954 – 2008) of her non-fiction writing about politics and literature. I absolutely cannot wait to get started. Just need to clear a few projects off of my desk and I’ll be able to focus almost exclusively on this.


I have narrowed my choices for my author read to three: Iris Murdoch, J. M. Coetzee and John Banville. Murdoch has 26 novels, Coetzee 12 and Banville 17. Coetzee would be the obvious choice, to be able to read one a month for 2011. But I’ve already ordered Murdoch’s first five novels and I have about seven Banville on the shelf waiting for me. I may just attempt the impossible and read all three writers. It means I wouldn’t really be reading anyone else in 2011 and that may drive me batty, but I so loved my complete Gordimer read, not just her books but the experience of reading them one after the other, that I’m inclined to attempt to recreate that reading mood.


In an attempt to catch up with my 10-year reading project I am immersed in Euripedes at the moment…Medea, Hippolytus, and The Trojan Women. I’ll be posting on these next week but let me just say here that being a woman (or an innocent child) in Ancient Greece was no party.


Am currently about halfway through Danielle Dufay’s Mon mariage chinois, a book which Smithereens brought to my attention (and then very kindly sent to me!). This is an interesting book, not only because of the style of the writing, which I found to be dense and formal (but in a good way), but also because of Dufay’s subject. The book is a collection of letters sent by Dufay’s grandmother Jeanne between 1922 and 1924 to her sister Laurence. Jeanne married a Chinese man in 1913 (an act which caused her to unknowingly lose her French citizenship), was separated from him by WWI and then went to China in 1922 to meet him again. Her letters begin on the boat from Marseille and are rich with images of the cities along the way to China and character portraits of the people traveling with her. Jeanne is going to China out of a sense of duty but she doesn’t love her husband and she has no idea what kind of life awaits her. Her impressions of the Hong Kong and China of the 1920s are fascinating. I’ll write more when I’ve finished.

11 Responses to “friday reading notes”

  1. nicole

    Wow, three author reads in a year is exactly what I wanted to do this year and completely failed at. (Does it count as failing when you don’t really try?) My own choice for 2011 is Nabokov. We’ll see how that works out.

    • verbivore

      You mention Nabokov and my mind goes into a spin…maybe I’ll drop Banville and go for Nabokov. Maybe I’ll stick with men and drop Murdoch. Fie on you for mentioning Nabokov 🙂

    • verbivore

      Hi Lilian, no the Dufay book isn’t available in English that I can see. But it’s interesting enough to get picked up for translation someday.

  2. litlove

    Very interesting author choice. And then I see Nabokov in the mix, too. I would certainly try to read along with some of the works of all those authors – with the exception of Banville who, for unknown reasons, doesn’t work for me at all. Aren’t books quirky that way? Good luck with your decision!

    • verbivore

      Thanks, Litlove. I’d love to hear why Banville doesn’t work for you…books are quirky that way. I can’t read too much of him at one time because I find his narrators quite similar, but if I give myself a break between books things are fine.

  3. びっくり

    I imagine receiving a book months later would be like receiving an unexpected inheritance from a long lost relative. A wonderful surprise.

    Your current reading reminded me of a bad pun. Two comedians acted it out on stage as a man visiting a tailor. They dialog went:


    Ha ha ha…

    • verbivore

      It took me a moment, but I finally got it. Nice one!

  4. Charlotte

    Extremely curious about the Dufay book, especially in terms of content… Can’t wait for your post!

    • verbivore

      I’d be very curious to see what you think of the Dufay book, especially because you would be much better at sorting through the language of it. Her style is a little peculiar for me, but it may be the time period. I think I will have much to say about the content, both for its historical implications but also what it tells about this woman and her interior life.

  5. chasing bawa

    I like your reading plan which is different from a lot of other people’s. And I’m in awe of your 10 year plan too. Dufay’s book sounds so interesting, I love that period in history. Just out of curiosity, was part of the reason Jeanne returned to her husband because she lost her French nationality since she was no longer in love with him? Looking forward to hearing more about the book.

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