anotherlongshot (anotherlongshot) wrote,

Books and Travels.

I'm back from my trip with Wouter. In fact, I have been back for a few days now but haven't got round to writing because I am crashing at his place at the moment and it is rather difficult to write when we are in the house together. He goes out to work in the day on weekdays but I'm sure it's not too hard to imagine that I was plagued with a recurring disease called Laziness which prevented me from updating this last week.

(That said - in my defence, it is pretty crazy how much time simply goes by when you're trying to fix things around the house. I'm not claiming to be doing all the heavy lifting in his house because I'm still the spoiled princess from Singapore and will likely always be, sorry boyfriend, but things as simple as taking out the laundry and washing the dishes and making lunch take up half the afternoon. At the end of all that, I can't really be bothered to motivate myself to do anything that requires a modicum of brain usage.)

Before I write a few paragraphs about the trip, I would like to say that I recently read three novels, oh my god! I took ages to finish Martin Amis' London Fields, which I started reading back in April, no thanks to the dreaded QLTS for which I was desperately preparing when I wasn't busy being head over heels in love with Wouter (which was pretty much 0% of the time). I was honestly too blinded by Amis' pure writing prowess to notice anything about plot or whatever. Who gives a fuck about the story when you're reading the work of a writer who writes like Martin Amis? The story probably wasn't much of a story but his writing, so full of energy and life, so creative, is reason enough to read the book. He makes his characters come to life, even completely deliberately stereotypical ones (the femme fatale, the uneducated working class brute, the dumb-as-bricks gullible white knight), and even if the story could have been told in half the number of pages, it doesn't matter because his writing is simply a joy to read.

I finished W. Somerset Maugham's The Painted Veil on the trip. I think it was very kind of Maugham to warn his readers that the novel was written with a plot in mind first, then the characters; or maybe it was just a smart move on his part to provide an excuse at the ready for the horribly cliched characters and their descriptions throughout the novel, but especially at the beginning. I was really disappointed with what I was reading at first because Of Human Bondage is honestly one of the best novels I've ever read in my life, and I couldn't understand why the same writer who wrote that masterpiece also wrote the crap that I found myself reading (mostly about how beautiful Kitty Fane was). Still, a talented writer is a talented writer, even if he writes purplish lines at times - and Maugham's talent shone through in bits and drabs throughout the novel which saved me from completely hating it. More importantly, even if he did write the novel with a story in mind first, he still managed to give Kitty Fane enough depth to make her compelling despite his annoyingly over-the-top descriptions of her beauty. I especially loved her slip up towards the end of the novel which was a very real reflection of the fallibility of human beings in the face of sheer physical desire. I didn't quite like the stuff about the nuns in the cholera-plague Chinese colony and I thought the characterisation of the Mother Superior was super cardboard cut-out and over-the-top, but it provided a believable stimulus for Kitty's growth, which was what saved the novel for me, so it was okay. All in all, the novel was good but not great, and definitely comes nowhere close to the sheer brilliance of Of Human Bondange.

I finally got round to reading Animal Farm. I'm not sure it really succeeds as a novel and I'm quite convinced that it's only a classic because of Cold War politics and the victory of the "West" in that regard. I understand that it's a satire and an allegorical tale etc etc etc but it is so obvious that it wasn't really enjoyable. It's not immediately obvious why he chose to tell the story through animals; I don't know what artistic purpose it served. I think 1984 is the superior novel. Perhaps Animal Farm is just dated. In any case, I'm glad to have finally read it.


About the trip:

The itinerary was as follows: Split, Vis, Split, Trogir, Split, Dubrovnik, Mostar, Dubrovnik and Barcelona. I will probably write more about the trip in greater details and with pictures (!), so here are some thoughts for now:

- The food in Croatia is probably some of the most unimaginative, derivative and bland food that I have ever come across in my life. People complain about how bad British food is but at least British food is theirs. It got to a point where we stopped thinking too hard about what to eat because the food was the same everywhere: pizza, pasta, grilled fish, grilled meat, salads. Depressing.

- The Adriatic Sea and the Croatian coastline are disgustingly beautiful. The view from our apartment in Dubrovnik was simply breath-taking.

- I will always remember sitting in a bar on the cliffs overlooking the sea in Dubrovnik, staring into the vast blackness of the night, watching flashes of lightning occasionally light up the sky, hearing the wind blowing whispers across the water...and then seeing two clear bolts of lightning drop from the clouds, illuminating the horizon for a split second, then plunging it into darkness once more.

- I will also always remember swimming in slightly choppy waters, first in Vis, then in Barcelona. The wind was so strong on our first day in Vis that they made the waves strong as well and I had trouble staying afloat, and the same thing happened in Barcelona. I quickly got used to it though and floated on my back in Barcelona and it was amazing feeling myself being pushed along by the waves. Seriously, swimming in the sea is one of the best things in life, ever.

- Barcelona was not as mind-blowing as I had expected, but probably because I'd heard so much about how fun it was that I set my expectations too high. The Gaudi things were interesting and quirky but the unfinished church was overrated.

- My favourite place was Mostar. Our apartment was small but cosy; more importantly, the host was super nice and genuine and they prepared a simple but delicious breakfast for us. In contrast, everything in Split and Dubrovnik was overpriced. I will write more about Mostar when I get round to writing about the trip in detail.

- I love Wouter so so so much. He is sweet and he is perfect, and he is everything to me. Here is my favourite picture from the trip:

Tags: books, europe, pictures, travel, wouter

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