Having confidently stated just a couple of weeks ago that I would be back into the swing of blogging from now on, the northern part of the South Island was hit by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake just after midnight on November 13th. Here in Whanganui I was woken from a sound sleep and sent scurrying for cover as the ground rocked and swayed for what felt like forever (at 90 seconds it was a good long shake). In Kaikoura, on the north-east coast of the South Island, things are much worse. As I write this, a week and a half later, there is still no running water and the town, situated on State Highway 1, the main highway which runs the length of the country, remains cut off by land to all but military vehicles. Two people are dead. Aftershocks continue to periodically rock the country. And I, as a member of Whanganui’s Red Cross Disaster Welfare team, am preparing for a five day deployment to the area. This will be my first deployment, which is exciting but also a little nerve-wracking. Hopefully by the time you read this scheduled post the situation will have improved, but in the meantime my blogging schedule is a minor casualty.
Which also means I have very little time to finish the books on this list. Unless there’s enough ‘hurry up and wait’ that I end up blasting through them – I have absolutely no idea. Here, then, is my November reading list.
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth: I’m a fifth of the way through, and things in Brahmpur are heating up as the lens widens from Lata and her family to the political situation and rising tension between the Hindu and Muslim population. The ruling classes are losing land and power. The labourers in the shoe-making quarter are on strike and close to rioting. And Maan Kapoor’s involvement with the courtesan Saeeda is causing increasing tension in his family. It’s a shame the book’s a bit big to squeeze into my pack.
An Introduction to English Poetry, by Laurence Lerner: I picked this one up in a second-hand shop, and although it was published in the 1970s it deals with the history of English poetry, which, having already happened, doesn’t really change much. Each of the fifteen chapters starts with a poem, beginning with the anonymous sixteenth century work ‘Clerk Saunders’, and is followed by an essay on the context and themes of the poem. It’s an interesting insight into the subject, as well as a fairly easy read.
The Republic, by Plato: I picked this up from a local market stall, and as it’s one of the earliest extant works of Western philosophy, and also one of the most influential, I thought I’d give it a go. It takes the form of a dialogue between Socrates and a number of companions, but lays out Plato’s own vision of ethics and government. Or so I’m told.
The Bible: With a month left to go I only have one book of the Bible to read, the Gospel of John, which is my particular favourite and opens with John’s immortal poem on the nature of Christ:
In the beginning was the Word,
And the Word was with God,
And the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made,
Without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness,
But the darkness has not understood it…
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
What’s on your reading list this month?