CCCB: Mind as Passion

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Eenie meenie… It’s Thursday, so time to pick another book to read from the cache of my most ancient unread books and bake another cake.

And this time the lucky winner is Susan Sontag: Mind as Passion by Liam Kennedy. Which I apparently bought at a sale in mid-90s (so it’s a bit newer than most of the books here, I think).

Back when I was pretentious teenager (before maturing into a pretentious adult), I used to read books written by all kinds of intelligent people (preferably in places where people could see me reading them), and Susan Sontag was one of them. I vaguely remember On Photography and… er… Notes on “Camp”? Was that a book or just an essay in a book?

Oh, yeah, it’s in this one:

Isn’t that a stylish edition?

Anyway, I was a fan, so I picked up this book about Sontag and never read it. Because you know.

It’s not really a biography, but it’s an overview of her writings. Here’s a sample:

But the thing is, I’m not really that interested in reading about Sontag’s writing. It’s interesting to have it contextualised to see what she was writing against, I guess, but it just mainly reminded me that I probably should be re-reading Sontag instead of reading this book.

It’s refreshing to read a British take on her writing. And, I mean, it’s well-written and all.

Let’s look at the cake instead:

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The cake to go along with the book is ginger layer cake with rhubarb fool.

Look at my expert decorating skillz!

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It turned out pretty delicious, although I over-baked the ginger cake by a couple of minutes.  (I was watching Xena, and I couldn’t find the time buzzer thingie.)  And the rhubarb for the fool could probably have been a little less wet — the fool turned a bit more runny than was probably warranted. I mean. A lot more runny.

But it was pretty delish anyway.  Mmm.

CCCB: Larque on the Wing

Like everybody, I’ve got a bookcase of unread books, but perhaps weirdly, mine is organised along a simple principle: Older books sink towards the bottom. That is, as I read books, I compact the rest and move them towards the bottom left.

It’s a sedimental journey.

The last couple of years I’ve read very few books, and have instead been reading comics and comics and comics, and I’m totally burned out on that. So what better way to get back into reading books again than to take a whack at those books that I’ve been avoiding reading most of my life?

That’s the selection. I think the oldest ones here have been with me since the late 80s, probably… and somehow I’ve never gotten around to reading them because other books have seemed more urgent.

Oh god. One of them’s fucking Ulysses, and now I have to read it…

But to entice me to make headway here, I’m also going to teach myself how to bake cakes and cookies. One cake, one book. Cake, Cookies, Crumpets and Books: CCCB.

Let’s aim for… one per week? And I can read other books in-between while finishing off the cake.

I started with this banana mocha cream cake, which looks very scrumptious in the pictures at least…

Do I have all the ingredients? Yes!

I ate too much of the dough. I’m allowed!

Bake baby bake.

So shiny.

For the book I chose Larque on the Wing by Nancy Springer, which I’ve always pronounced in my head “Laroque” when I’ve decided not to read it, several times per month, the last 24 years.

It’s a very witty, and strangely unclassifiable book. It’s not quite a fantasy, but it’s not quite a non-genre book either. It reads more like a magic realism book? But it’s marketed as a a fantasy book.

Just read these three opening pages:

But how does it pair with the cake?

Hm, it came out dryer than on the picture on that blog… but it’s been in the fridge, so I should probably let it sit on the table a few hours to get back to room temperature.

But it’s really more like a banana bread with a chocolate covering than a cake, really, which isn’t quite what I wanted. But it’s a pretty good banana bread, anyway.

And it pairs well with the sinister whimsy of the Nancy Springer book. Which is very good, indeed. I never know where it’s going.

One thing I find upon returning to books after this hiatus is that I’ve aquired some bad reading habits, probably from spending too much time reading blogs: My eyes have started skipping past text I think I know what’s going to say. They slip into skimming mode for short periods of time. And that doesn’t work with this book at all, because just about any sentence here doesn’t go the way you think they’re going to go.

It’s published by Avon Books, and this is what they usually publish:

So it’s somewhat out of their normal remit, but I seem to remember them also publishing weirder stuff like this. It’s got a very exciting plot, with the most horrifying monster of all time as the main antagonist: A mother who can change reality by just refusing to see whatever is in front of her eyes. But it’s also a somewhat frustrating read, because for most of the book, things don’t much develop as repeat themselves, so reading it feels like we’re stuck in molasses. Which may be Springer’s point, but…

But you can’t fault the fabulously climactic confrontation at the end, wart hog and all.