Lit Major Abroad: Great Scott! Abbotsford, Melrose, and Sir Walter Scott

Abbotsford ThistleFamous writers throughout history have often had their well-known quirks. Many of them have created work-spaces that inspire and surprise. They can be placed into all sorts of categories, from the mildly romantic to the Spartan. And amidst all these categories, Walter Scott’s Abbotsford ranks somewhere between ‘inspired’ and ‘downright mad’.

Scott, who rose to fame in the early nineteenth century as a writer of sweeping historical romances, is one of Scotland’s most famous writers. He helped romanticise Highland culture and brought the stories of Scottish heroes like Rob Roy to the attention of the world. In the early Victorian period, everyone knew his name. From Ivanhoe to Waverley to The Lady of the Lake, Scott was a medievalist extraordinaire. What’s more, he wasn’t content to simply write about the past. He was determined to live in it. Or, rather, to live in a re-created romantic ideal of the past. Continue reading

How I Became Less of a Grinch About Christmas

IMG_20151224_002447-1Now, I realise that this is not strictly a book-related post – hence my vague Dr Seuss reference. Consider this me branching out a little, one small step at a time.

I wanted to discuss something that I’ve discovered since I’ve been in the UK. Something I wasn’t quite expecting. It has to do with sleigh bells and turkey and Michael Bublé.

Yes, like the famous Dr Seuss character, I have found my heart growing two sizes (metaphorically, of course, or else I’d be having some far from jolly health complications) and embracing the spirit of Christmas. And I think it perhaps has quite a lot to do with setting, with the weather and general atmosphere of Edinburgh in early December.
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Lit Major Abroad: Edinburgh – First Impressions

Edinburgh CastleYep. I know I’ve dropped the ball again when it comes to blogging (although, let’s face it, when it comes to my blogging habits, I have all the athletic skills of – well, of me, really). In my defence, it has been a crazy time: new city, new people, new bookstores to discover and spend way too much time in…. But now that winter has begun to sink its teeth into the city, and tourism seems distinctly less appealing in the biting wind (seriously, what is up with the wind in this city?) I thought I’d share some of my first impressions of Edinburgh. Because to be honest, I haven’t had all that much time to stop and reflect on my experiences here so far. Also, it’s essay-writing season over at the university, and I’m a tried and tested procrastinator.

So… where to begin with this famous city of literature? (And I’m not just saying that, by the way – Edinburgh really was named a City of Literature by UNESCO.) Continue reading

Top Ten Literary Places I’d Like to Visit

Scott Monument EdinburghThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is a freebie, and seeing as I’ve recently come to the UK for a year of study, I thought I’d use this opportunity to share my list of top literary places I’d like to visit while I’m here. Whether I’ll be able to visit all (or any) of these remains to be seen; but like all travelling bookworms, I dream big.

Top Ten Literary Places I’d Like to Visit (in the UK)

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Lit Major Abroad: Istria, Home of the Famous Colossal Trousers

Porec StatueAustralians are a travel-hungry people generally, not content to sit on this hot, boring little island for too long at any one time. So we generally go overseas and sit on hot, boring little islands there, because it’s interesting and the people are fun and the food is better. Also we can collect those little bottles of soap and hair conditioner that you find in nicer hotels. Because, let’s face it, you never know when you might ten millilitres of runny, fifteen-year-old shampoo from a bottle that is older than all three of your children.

So in true Australian fashion, I have once again abandoned my home, and have headed to the home of my forefathers – Croatia – on the first leg of a year-long stint which will include plenty of travel, and a year of university study in the UK wedged in there somewhere (but let’s not talk about uni just yet, because it makes me terribly anxious, and also I haven’t bought all of my books yet). Continue reading

Challenging the City Slicker: Tracks (1980), by Robyn Davidson

tracks davidsonRobyn Davidson’s book is one of those things that challenges you because it describes something that is so utterly alien. And there’s more than a few reasons why, on the surface, I thought there would be little to relate to when I began reading her account of a trek across nearly two thousand miles of Australian desert. For instance:

  1. Despite the fact that I have lived my entire life in Australia, I have never seen more than a few patches of desert through a car window.
  2. My tolerance for hot weather peaks at about twenty degrees Celsius.
  3. I have a deathly fear of anything that clicks or slithers.
  4. I have never, nor do I ever intend to, sleep in a ‘tent’.
  5. Cleanliness is an issue with me; so much so that I am prone to anxiety attacks if I don’t shower at least once a day.
  6. Since the fourth grade, when we learnt about the dangers of melanoma, I react to sunlight in the same way that your average teenage vampire does: by slapping on three layers of skin-concealing shirts and scurrying into the welcoming shade of the nearest building/tree/bus shelter, arms held above my head like it’s raining locusts.

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Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-1818), by George Gordon, Lord Byron

childeharoldThis book is #44 on my Classics Club list, and #2 on my Back to the Classics list for 2014.

Hands up everyone who, like me, thought that Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was going to be about, oh, I don’t know, a young soon-to-be-knight tramping around Europe and going on grand adventures? I feel like there should be a big sign at the end of the book saying, ‘HA HA. Sucked in’.

Don’t get me wrong, Byron’s first major work is absolutely wonderful – just not in the way I was expecting. It’s been so long since I’ve read poetry that I had more or less forgotten the whole point of the Romantics was less about plot and more about Nature, the individual, the human mind with all its ingenious and imperceptible little nooks and crannies. So I went in expecting some sort of storyline, and found something completely different. Continue reading

A Sentimental Journey (1768), by Laurence Sterne

sentimentaljourneyThis book is #6 on my Back to the Classics list for 2014.

Well, it’s been a while since I posted a book review. But fear not! I haven’t been neglecting my reading. In fact, now that the winter break has begun, I’ve finally been able to focus on Books I Actually Want to Read, rather than constantly struggling through the tyranny of Books I Must Read For Class or Risk Failing. Meanwhile, I’ve got a backlog of reviews that I’m hoping to share with you all, starting with another travel-inspired tome.

There are several reasons why I wanted to read Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. Not only is it a turning-point in the history of travel writing, it also makes fun of the self-obsessed and narrow-minded travel accounts of older generations, something I’m sure almost everyone enjoys, if only in small doses. Sterne’s novel was also a precursor to the approach of Romantic writers like Goethe, whose Italian Journey I read earlier this year. Continue reading

Paris in February (in April): Part II

notredamebackThis is Part Two of my Paris trip. If you’d like to read the first part, please click here.

You might be wondering, amidst all this talk of Irish, American and Argentinian writers, whether there is actually anything to see in Paris for those fans of French literature. Fear not, world literature lovers; there is plenty to keep the French lit-lover happy. You could start a little bit away from the centre of town, at the Maison de Balzac. This is the place where the author lodged for several years. It’s now a nice little monument to the writer, though if you don’t speak French you might find the signs a little difficult to read, as there is no English translation. I managed to muddle through on the basis of about five years’ worth of high school French. Here is what I managed to pick up: Continue reading