I could write screeds about the number 7, but won't get carried away with that tonight. Suffice to say it's a magnetic number for me - as it no doubt is for many - and features large in my life. I tend to draw or paint in series of seven, for instance; will almost always light seven (as opposed to four, six or eight) candles; prefer to plant tussocks, cabbage trees, lobelia and silver birches in groups of seven... No surprise then that the pile of holiday books I'll be stuffing into my West Coast suitcase currently numbers seven, too - you may have noticed I have a bit of a thing for primes.
Anyway, here's my reading list -
(1) Maverick - Extraordinary Women from South Africa's Past by Lauren Beukes.
'This is a book about raconteurs and renegades, writers, poets, provocateurs and pop stars, artist and activists and a cross-dressing doctor. From Africa's first black movie star and Drum covergirl, Dolly Rathebe to Glenda Kemp, the snake-dancing stripper who shook up the verkrampte social mores of the 70s, these are the riveting tales of women who broke with convention and damn the consequences...'
(2) White Heat - The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple. (Tasty name, Wine Apple.)
(3) Fear of Fifty by Erica Jong. Dangerous, compulsive, saucy reading for any woman on the edge of rebellion? Not that I am or anything... besides, I still have a year or two to go before I reach the big Five-Oh! 'Saucy' is a word my grandmother used to use for subjects or behavior she considered risque: there's nothing vaguely quiescent or apologetic about Erica J - to the contrary! I suspect my forward-thinking grandmother would have found her feisty frankness as entertaining and irresistible as I do.
(4) The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. Oliver Sacks commented '... a remarkable and hopeful portrait of the endless adaptability of the human brain...' This book seems to be taking the reading world by storm: friends here, in the States, UK and South Africa say it's an inspiration.
(5) A Year To Know A Woman by Dunedin author Paddy Richardson. I started reading Paddy's novel in a tent in the Bay of Sails, Antarctica - could not have conjured a more stunning place to start a new book! A busy season's work meant I had to set it down and bring it home: am impatient to get back to it.
(6) The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway. I've lost count how many times I've read this one: it's likely to be passed around the family,
(7) The Four Wise Men by Michel Tournier. This all time favourite book was given to me years ago by a dear art school friend, Heather. At the time (mid-198os London) it powerfully impacted my way of thinking, tipping my old, inherited paradigms on their heads. Rich in symbolism, it reinterprets the old Biblical story of the epiphany, adding a fourth - apocryphal - boy king with a penchant for confectionary (turkish delight, in particular). Tournier takes the reader on a devastating, ultimately transformative, journey. I can't remember a Christmas holiday when I haven't re-read - and relished - it.