A message from my sister

I guess I should introduce myself. I am Felix’s sister, Rhian. Most of

you reading this probably know me anyway cos you’re my friends and I’ve

told you to read this. But it is Felix’s page and one must assume that

people read his page who don’t know me and might wonder why the writing

style has changed so suddenly.

Interspersed between culture and food, opera and economics, high living and

humour, you may occasionally come across me. I am the opposite of Felix so whatever

he is, I’m not and you can build your own impression of me from that.

Now, because of our dissimilarities, Felix is a wonderful brother to have.

I can consult him on everything I don’t know and be given an opinion without

having to think about it. It’s really quite useful. I am, however, slowly

realising that there are more opinions out there than just his and mine so we’re

opening up the Very Important Things to a wider audience. Like what books to

take to Antarctica and whether flying to San Francisco for an opera

is an entirely normal thing to do. Justifiable, no doubt; excessive, perhaps.

I digress.

Today I’ve been Christmas shopping. Normally this is something I save

until Dec 23rd at the earliest but this year (and next, and the one after that,

if the boat gets in…) I will be on the southernmost continent unable to

shop. How nice! So I’ve been Christmas shopping and was dismayed to find

Cambridge packed with people on a similar mission. As a result, none of you

are getting very much and most of you are getting nothing at all. Instead, we

can meet on this web-page and have a cyber-conversation which is far cheaper

and more rewarding experience for everyone anyway.

The idea is that amidst the postings of high culture Manhattan you may find

a reminder that there are people far, far away where there is no organised culture,

no opera, no shopping and, alas, no continual connection to the internet. Felix

will send me the debate via the daily cyperpulses I will get aboard ship and

on base. I will be travelling aboard the Ernest

Shackleton, and hopefully going to Halley

Station.

Through these websites, and the general British Antarcic Survey website,

you can track where I am, read current diaries and find out if we ever make

it. Unlike last

year.

Anyway, I leave in three weeks, so the time has come to choose some books.

Today, armed with my list from the bookclub,

I gave up on Christmas and installed myself in Waterstones instead.

I am very fickle. It’s got to feel good, look good and have a great opening

line. So I came home with:

The New York Trilogy, by Paul Auster (amazon.com,

amazon.co.uk)

recommended by Felix.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller (amazon.com;

amazon.co.uk)

from Terry’s hit list

Ghostwritten, by David Mitchell (amazon.com;

amazon.co.uk)

and Three to See the King, by Magnus Mills (amazon.com;

amazon.co.uk)

from Michelle’s choices

And The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (amazon.com;

amazon.co.uk)

from Anna’s.

Everything is Illuminated (recommended by both Felix and Michelle)

was in my hands and very almost bought but it was hardback and had big writing;

not good for my weight limit. I can go back though. The Master and Margarita

can, likewise, still be bought if enough of you feel like reading along.

Terry, Why Call Them Back From Heaven was not in stock but I fingered

Philosophy and Social Hope for a long time before the deep down knowledge

that it terrified me too much to go it alone became pretty apparent. If any

of you out there feel like reading along and holding my hand, I’ll go

back and buy it. As a small compensation, however, I bought

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (amazon.com,

amazon.co.uk),

recommended by Felix . It seemed accessible but I hope deep enough that Terry

will not give up on me forever.

(Andre, I’ve read Perfume… excellent choice though, thankyou.)

Now then, I also have on my bookshelf, waiting to be packed:

You Shall Know Our Velocity (Dave Eggers), Coming Through Slaughter

(Michael Ondaatje), The Songlines (Bruce Chatwin), The Adventures

of Huckleberry Finn (Twain), African Laughter (Doris Lessing),

To Kill a Mocking Bird (Harper Lee), The Bridge of Saint Luis Rey

(Thornton Wilder), The Poisonwood Bible (Barabara Kingsolver), The

God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy), One Hundred Years of Solitude

(GG Marquez), Poems by Robert Frost, The Prophet (Khalil

Gibran), Death in Venice (Thomas Mann) and, I’m sorry to say

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullmann. I am also yet to finish The

Lord of the Rings. I started delving into Meditations by Marcus

Aurelius last night (courtesy of Phil) and they’re coming too. There’s

also The Coldest March (Susan Solomon) as compulsory Antarctic reading

and Tamata and the Alliance (Bernard Moitessier) that Alex gave me

to instil yet more adventuresomeness into my spirit.

I can’t take all of these. Really, I can’t. So, please, fill out

a comment box and cast your votes. (On that note, if you can think of anything

else I’ll need, add away. I have also just bought a CD player that plays

mp3s and a v cheap but v cute ‘digital dream’ digital camera that

I got cos Steve has one and I reckon even I can operate. And I’ll take

a posh camera too but am torn between an SLR or rangefinder…)

This entry was posted in Rhian in Antarctica. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to A message from my sister

  1. Stefan says:

    Please do take along The Master and Margerita, you will be the perfect excuse for me finally reading it all the way through. And feel free to drop The Poisonwood Bible. It was an entertaining enough read this summer, but when it comes to portraying actual events in the early 60s Congo it partakes in a conspiracy theory that was painful to read. In the end, Kingsolver ends up sounding condescending while we the reader no longer know what is fact and what is tendencious. If you want an Aftrican book that doesn’t insult your intelligence, take Mating by Norman Rush (if everybody hasn’t alreadty read it a zillion times).

    Yay to The Great Gatsby. Absolutely my favorite book and plenty to argue about.

  2. Felix says:

    Don’t be sorry about the Amber Spyglass. Maybe if you add it to the book club, I can read it without feeling guilty that I ought to be reading something a bit more heavyweight. For what it’s worth, Christopher Hitchens loved it. Remember to give us all a bit of advance notice of what you’re going to be reading when, so we can go out and get the book and all be reading it at the same time! Which one do you think you’re going to read first?

  3. Rhian says:

    Good. Kingsolver’s gone but I forgot to mention that Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie) was also on the must-read list. I guess some if these all time greats will have to wait. I desperately want to read the Eggers book but again, it’s hardback and I have a weight restriction (I couldn’t put “a heartbreaking work of staggering genius” down). Magnus Mills will get gobbled up on the plane to Montevideo. So that’s the first I think. And Stefan, you scare me. I got about halfway through “Mating” before realising that, a bit like “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, I was ploughing through the dry clever intelligent stuff mainly to find out what happens next in the story bit. And that was pointless cos you’re told the ending at the beginning anyway. Remember,- I’m not my brother. Think Pooh bear, Philip Pullmann and Lord of the Rings.

  4. Chris says:

    Joining the conversation late …

    I didn’t submit a book list because after living with you for a few years, most of my fave books were either stolen from your shelves or lent to you during long Toronto winters.

    I’m a big fan of Ondaatje, though have not read Coming Through the Slaughter. My Grandmother Stewart will be most pleased about The Great Gatsby and I trust her implicitly. Even though we borrowed a passage for use in a certain celebration last year, I can’t say The Prophet does a lot for me. I feel like I should be surrounded by choirs going ‘oooh-oooh-aaah-oooh-aaah’ when I read it … though that may be just what you’re looking for down there.

  5. dorkus says:

    Oh rhian, i miss you already! i know you have many books, but i did include a book in the little care package that we, Newt, peter,and i sent you. it is very political. not fun reading, but funny nonetheless. love you lots, dorkus

  6. Span says:

    So, no Quangle Wangle (Felix/Stephan/anyone, how do I italicise in this box?) hey? I guess Lear’s ramblings are probably not the most absorbing of literature but I figure you might get over being deeply bookish so I shall send you vitual pobbles and crumpety trees instead.

    Glad you went for Gatsby. It’s a book to read many times.

    Question: if I send you messages via this fine portal, does that mean everyone else gets to read them?

  7. Rhian says:

    Quangle Wangle is definitely on my hit list…but I’m looking for a paperback version in a 2nd hand bookshop. If no luck, I’d like to hope the ship’s library might stock it.

    As for emails,. yes, everyone can read their own and everyone else’s missives in this portal. If you have a response to individual pieces that you don’t mind our world (a fairly limited world) reading, please post here. Am hoping for some Span-Steve-Toni type ramblings…I will be able to get email directly as well but don’t know the address yet. Somehow I will set up an address that forwards emails to me automatically. I have a 1.5kB/month limit though and won’t be able to access hotmail while away. Watch this space.

    sounds like Dorkus has sent me one of the books from Stefan’s hit list…I’m scared!

  8. Rhian says:

    My vote forlightening the load wuld be: “The Songlines” and “The God of Small Things”. If you take them, I shall re-read them to see if I get more of a message or greater entertainment value. I am quite prepared to change my view.

    mum

  9. Kim says:

    I’m joining this cyber conversation rather late in the day as well but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to cast my vote.

    I’ve been wanting to read Midnight’s Children for years and every time I pack up and move it seems to get put into another box… still unopened. So any incentive to finally read Rushdie would be a good thing.

    As for which ones to drop. I’ll probably go against everyone’s taste by saying 100 years. I’ve only ever managed to get half way through that book and never fell in love with Marquez in the same way that nearly everyone else I know has. The Prophet is also another no no for me. The God of Small Things is inoffensive but not very memorable. Much better books about India have been written in the same style.

    So there are my thoughts.

    Can I sneak in a cheeky, last minute suggestion for other Rushdie books – always wanted to read the Satanic Verses as well…. Also, Haroun and the Sea of Stories is great – series of short stories for adults and children – very light(both weight wise and content wise) but extremely well written.

  10. Erika says:

    The Human Stain by Philip Roth was recommended to me. I have not read it. What do others think?

    If you never got around to reading these, now might be the time to escape into them – Hermann Hesse: Siddhartha; Dostoyevsky: The Gambler. Also desperately trying to remember the author’s name of The Emmigrants. Felix, help – I can’t find it on the bookshelf, the German author who lived in East Anglia and was killed in a road accident a couple of years ago. All of these have the advantage of being in lightweight paperback and short.

  11. Rhian says:

    no no no no no!!! I’m trying to reduce my collection now, not add more to the choice! We still have next year, okay?! I agree, Kim, Haroun is an all time classic. Always happy to read it again. Midnight’s Children will probably come then too but no more Rushdie! Anyone else interested in the Songlines? Great Gatsby we all seem to have read but all seem happy to read again so count that in. And I’ve just found a way to sneak a box on the boat tomorrow so now I can take more!! And Erika, I have your copy of The Emigrants, whoever it’s by.

  12. Erika says:

    Just remembered, Sebald is the author of : the emmigrants

  13. Lou says:

    Oh Rhian Salmon, public postings, yeuch! I’m not one for spouting on the web, probably ‘cos I chunter for far too long and doing so in public is unseemly surely. Harumph anyhow, down to book business …

    I’m not too sure about Catch-22. I’ve stopped and started it several times but a guy at work reckons that it’s probably most amusing to those familiar with a routine / regime of sorts … he may be right … so maybe it’s just the thing for the seclusion of an Antartic base?

    I’m going to have to muddy your waters further by saying that you really ought to get some Graham Greene, Will Self (great for reminding you of London … especially with his journalistic volumes … assuming that you want to be?) and Kingsley / Martin Amis onto the list. They can be a bit stark sometimes, but that’s not such a bad thing and plenty to stir the imagination … or maybe some JGBallard … oh dear, I’d better hold it there.

    I’ll be up there with you on Magnus Mills, I’ve recently finished his one about high tensile fencing (?!) … such a smashingly sinister read.

    Oh and I’ll definately be there for The New York Trilogy, Meditations (purely out of guilt at recent intellectual lazyness on the philosophy front) and maybe One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’ve avoided it for sometime given that it seems to be everyone elses favourite book and is thus intimidating.

    So there’s my two, three and four-penneth-worth … hope it helps.

    Love,

    Lou

  14. Matthew says:

    am i too late? perhaps i can help with some load lightening:

    – egger’s book got stinky reviews. so much so that the nyobserver ran a front page piece about him and zadie smith and all those trendy writers headlined, “they might be authors.” but then again, i was so-so about hwosg, so take that as you will

    – god of small things is marvellous but roy has become such a tedious and vocal twit in recent months about pretty much any subject you’d care to mention, that i’d suggest consigning her to the maybe pile.

    – gibran, if you’ve been to more than one wedding in your life, is unnecessary. also wishy-washy in a 1960s way and entirely inappropriate for the world as it is right now.

    – only half the songlines is any good. second half is incoherant rambling.

    – kingsolver smells bad to me, but haven’t read it and that might come from my poorly regulated snobbery.

    does that help?

  15. Jean-Francois says:

    ooops

    It looks like messages fly by themselves.

    There is one book, that might be difficult yo get but… It is the only novel I have heard of that takes place almost entirely in Antartica. It is a very enjoyable read to, perfect for a long winter night…, the kind that takes you, shakes you here and there and then leaves you just like that! Thinking about it afterwards, as I do now, you might wonder about how dangerous it is in fact. And from that stems a very current discussion about love, technology and the purpose of it all.

    The book is titled “La nuit des temps” which has been translated into “The ice people” in english. The author, Rene Barjavel.

    And if you can pick up one video and you have not seen it yet : Koyaanisqatsi. One film you can probably watch over and over again without ever get bored. It is part of a trilogy actually. check http://www.koyaanisqatsi.com

    Gros Bisous ALL.

    jf

  16. Jean-Francois says:

    ooops

    It looks like messages fly by themselves.

    There is one book, that might be difficult yo get but… It is the only novel I have heard of that takes place almost entirely in Antartica. It is a very enjoyable read to, perfect for a long winter night…, the kind that takes you, shakes you here and there and then leaves you just like that! Thinking about it afterwards, as I do now, you might wonder about how dangerous it is in fact. And from that stems a very current discussion about love, technology and the purpose of it all.

    The book is titled “La nuit des temps” which has been translated into “The ice people” in english. The author, Rene Barjavel.

    And if you can pick up one video and you have not seen it yet : Koyaanisqatsi. One film you can probably watch over and over again without ever get bored. It is part of a trilogy actually. check http://www.koyaanisqatsi.com

    Gros Bisous ALL.

    jf

  17. Michelle says:

    Coming Through Slaughter (Michael Ondaatje), haven’t read it, he’s an OK writer but I must admit, sometimes I get bored

    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain), oh yes

    To Kill a Mocking Bird (Harper Lee), yes yes

    But here’s the thing – you only have 4 months of reading, won’t most of your time be taken up by work? Why don’t you bring 2-3 books for every month you are there, then the larger book list you can save for next time when you will have a long winter to deal with…

  18. Rhian says:

    Thankyou all! Four days to go, 12 books have been sent ahead and about another 6 will be carried by me. What I don’t read this time, I shall leave to await me next!

    So. Currently crossing the Atlantic in a box are:

    You Shall Know Our Velocity (Dave Eggers), Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie), Ghostwritten (David Mitchell), Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell), The Gambler (Dostoyevsky), Siddartha (Hesse), Coming Through Slaughter (Ondaatje) and, for my soul, Poems by Robert Frost, Quaker Faith and Practice, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, The Prophet (Gibran) and, my all time favourite, Mister God, This is Anna (Fynn). So there you go. Somewhere amidst that lot I’ll find something I want to read when inspired by magnificent icebergs or terrible weather. On the plane will be with me, for sure, Three to See The King (Magnus Mills), Medititations (Marcus Aurelius), The Great Gatsby (FSF) and probably the New York Trilogy (Auster) too. I’m also tempted to take The Coldest March (Susan Solomon) cos I it’s about Antarctica and written by an atmospheric chemist. Couldn’t get more appropriate really.

    Rh.

  19. jack says:

    Very good,HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Comments are closed.