This week’s Bite Size Memoir Prompt is:
Do you read on holiday? If you do, what do you choose? Do you have a genre you prefer for those long, relaxed poolside word-marathons you don’t get chance for at home? Do you read about the places you visit? Perhaps you take a large and tricky tome, knowing it’s the best chance you’ll get this year to finish it! And do you remember the books you have read on holiday? Is there something your holiday reads say about you?
In general, I read anything and everything that informs or entertains me, but on holiday I tend to read pacey fiction. I certainly don’t often choose to take a grinding literary piece or text. I like something that will swallow me up in the moments I grab to relax – Something fairly easy to follow but clever enough to keep me guessing.
Later this year we’re going to Sri Lanka and I’m considering what reading to take. Before I go I’m reading a bit about it’s recent and troubled history and also about its wildlife and geography – all so I might appreciate and understand my surroundings when I get there – at least a little better than a teleported alien.
But I’m still looking for a few perfect holiday reads to enjoy whilst I’m there. I’m not in a particular author’s vein at the moment so there’s no obvious choice. Consequently I’ve been doing a little looking around.
Following your nose on google is sometimes a fabulous thing! Yesterday I came across a Wikipedia page for novels set in Sri Lanka which seems to me a perfect way of continuing to explore the country whilst I’m staying there. I’ll work my way through reviews of each of these and choose two or three. What a fabulous way too, to explore authors I would perhaps never come across otherwise.
Meanwhile, I was reminded of deliberately choosing a novel to read just before visiting a specific place on a holiday a couple of years ago. I think the way we choose our holiday reads and sometimes link them with holiday memories might say something about us.
What do your holiday reads say about you?
(And please don’t panic you bibliophiles! I know we can’t squeeze everything books mean to us into one prompt. Some books haunt us, taunt us, annoy us. Some change our lives and some have one line that stays with us for ever. We’ll definitely come back to books – I have several other prompts up my sleeve..)
I’ve tackled this prompt in two ways as an illustration – If you’re new to this memoir prompt and want to know more, please read here – there’s also a summary below of how you can take part in this challenge.
10 x I remember statements
I remember Simon reading A Prayer for Owen Meany in a ski chalet and laughing til he couldn’t breath – I never did get it.
I remember wriggling into smooth pebbles on an undeveloped Alonissos beach 25 years ago, to make the perfect head, neck and body support and reading Patricia Cornwall.
I remember reading Meg and Mog over and over to a hot and tired little boy sucking his dummy in Corfu.
I remember a suitcase with a whole series of ‘Beast Quest’ and almost the complete works of Roald Dahl and secretly packing Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone because Max needed to move on in more ways than one.
I remember Simon reading Love, Medicine and Miracles in Elat and suddenly getting the survival thing when he asked “How wrong could they be?”
I remember stiff shoulders, back and hips after hours of reading Jack Reacher novels on a plastic sun lounger.
I can vividly remember reading Veronica Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho drinking coffee in Alpine sunlight on a ski-slope in a picture book mountain chalet, though I don’t know which resort!
I can remember the poolside in Kos where I battled my way through Human Cognitive Neuropsychology by Ellis and Young just before I starting my MSc.
I remember this poolside is where I first came across visual neglect and other visual deficits and was transported back there when Max stopped in his tracks out shopping a couple of years later, describing how half his world had just ‘disappeared’.
I remember running the horrors of potential teenage stroke or aneurism through my mind as the book hadn’t covered the more simple explanations such as migraine!
150 Words Prose
I had a second hand copy of Victoria Hislop’s, The Island, sitting on a shelf for at least two years before going to Crete at Easter in 2012. Up til then it hadn’t appealed enough and anyway, it was a Richard and Judy ‘Summer Read’. The starting premise seemed poor for what turned out to be a hauntingly good book.
We sailed grimly across to Spinalonga imagining the one-way journey taken by the inhabitants of the leper colony, closed in 1957. I wandered through ‘Dante’s Gate’ and now familiar but thankfully deserted streets. I peered into surprisingly everyday lives through ordinary shop windows, individual houses with gardens and vegetable patches. I stared, eyes smarting, at the iron bedsteads still in the small hospital.
I took Hislop’s characters with me. I imagined their pain, physical and emotional and wept for them with the real outcastes buried in functional, unmarked graves.
If you’re new to the Bite Size Memoir Challenge, this project is designed to help anyone record and share some personal memoir in small manageable bites. I hope you’ll have a go!
I post a prompt every week and welcome contributions from anyone – you don’t have to be a writer. For ideas on how to participate please read the post introducing the challenge here.
Here’s how you join in:
A REMINDER OF HOW THE BITE-SIZE MEMOIR CHALLENGE WORKS
1.Each Friday I’ll suggest a topic by 2pm UK time (BST) via my blog and Twitter (using the hashtag #BiteSizeMemoir – You don’t need to be on Twitter to participate.)
2. The challenge will be to write about the topic using
10 x “I remember statements”
150 x words (prose, or poem if you want to stretch yourself)
Either will make you pick and choose your words carefully whilst keeping a tight focus for time’s sake. You might want to write more, to keep at home, but please only submit one option within the limits for sharing (i.e. 10 statements or 150 word prose/poem)
3. The Deadline for sharing your ‘Bite’ will be 2pm (BST) the following Thursday. You can share in either of two ways:
a) Post your response in the comments section of the current topic – I will find it and cut and paste to the compilation of responses. (You may not see your comment appear immediately but don’t worry – I will find and share it)
b) If you have a blog you can post your response on your own blog with a link back to this post, and then also provide the link to me in the comments section. I will then link your contribution back to your post, in the compilation of responses.
4. It would be great if you felt able to include the country the events took place in – I think it provides a significant context for other readers. As an example look at the compilation for “School at Seven”
5. I will aim to compile responses and share them via another post before the next challenge is issued.
A few rules:
1.If you need or want to be anonymous that’s fine – When you post a comment just put ‘Anon’ or a nickname in the name field. It does ask for an email address as part of spam filtering but only I will see it.
2.Please keep others anonymous to protect their privacy and dignity – change names or use initials etc.
3.If you’ve got an axe to grind, please do it somewhere else.
4.If you stumble across this after the deadline, do feel free to contribute and include your blog link in the comments section of the compilation, so others can read it.
Remember to submit your bite for “10 out of 10” by 2pm BST Thursday 24th July 2014
July 24, 2014 at 5:49 pm
Hi Lisa. Where has the week gone? I can’t believe it’s Friday tomorrow! I’ve just realised I haven’t sent you my bite-size memoir. I’m sending it to you now, straight away, even before putting it on my blog, so you can include it in the round up. If it’s too late, don’t worry, but I hope you can fit it in.
When I was at school, we had a very good school library, and during the summer holidays, I was an assiduous visitor to my local library. I remember Victoria Holt’s historical fiction and biographies enwrapped me for a few summers, together with Daphne du Maurier.
At University I read mostly French and Spanish literature, and a great deal of English theatre, which was my passion, at the time. During the summer, I was probably having fun, and as far as I can remember, not reading too much.
When my three children were little, I was a working mum. I remember buying books throughout the year and storing them on a bookshelf (I do the same now, except I store them mostly on my kindle instead!), in no particular order, to read during the summer holidays. I loved detective and crime fiction, Ruth Rendell and Minnette Walters were my favourites for years.
Now, my summers are no longer holidays, I write!
July 24, 2014 at 5:56 pm
Editing.. Quickly !
July 24, 2014 at 5:12 pm
Here you go Lisa, sorry it is late again. I really procrastinated this one. I actually had the “edit post” up all week and every time I came to the page I found any excuse to leave. A poem decided to show up.
July 24, 2014 at 5:25 pm
I just realized that I forgot your word count is 150, I was thinking I had to keep it under 100. Ah well, it is short yet filled to the brim.
July 24, 2014 at 5:36 pm
Even more genius then!
July 24, 2014 at 2:01 pm
Hold the mainsail, I’m sailing in by the skin of my teeth this week Lisa. Here it is…sorry so near the money, I honestly had planned this for yesterday and well, my plans seem to go pearshaped so often.. http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/2014/07/24/holiday-reading-ghosts-and-the-norfolk-broads/
Thanks again my friend 🙂 xx
July 24, 2014 at 1:30 pm
Thank you everyone for some fantastic reading here! I am so sorry I’ve been so snowed under I haven’t replied to each and every one of you. Compilation coming up and emergency measures for the summer to follow..
July 24, 2014 at 6:08 am
I really need to take better holidays, Lisa! I’m the traveling cook or traveling for work. So I stretched the prompt a little to share a beloved book memory–the time I discovered that the Hub was a reader, too. http://carrotranch.com/2014/07/24/bite-size-memoir-holiday-reads/
July 23, 2014 at 5:08 am
What an interesting prompt Lisa, and particularly interesting for me as a reader that I have few recollections of holidays and reading. I’m not sure what that says – maybe not enough holidays?!
From you selection, the ones most familiar to me are Roald Dahl and Meg and Mog, which probably reveals something else about me!
One holiday reading I do recall is from when I was about thirteen and was into a series of Arthur Upfield stories about an Aboriginal detective called Napoleon Bonaparte – the Bony stories. The one I was reading when visiting my aunt in the country was called ‘Bony and the Black Virgin’ (quite politically incorrect now, but not so much then). My aunt was horrified thinking I was reading something lewd and totally inappropriate. “Does your mother know you are reading these?’ she asked. I assured her it was okay. My mother did know, and the books were ‘harmless’. It took a little convincing but I finally assured her the book was not going to make me morally corrupt!
July 24, 2014 at 6:11 am
How funny! Makes you wonder what the adults are thinking!
July 24, 2014 at 8:16 am
Something that I certainly wasn’t at the time!
July 23, 2014 at 3:46 am
This was a great prompt this week! Loved it. Made me think about what I like to read and why.
July 22, 2014 at 5:13 pm
You are quite a tease, Ms Reiter. Each prompt is like giving me a key to a long shut door; when I open it, all sorts tumble out: bicycle chains, wedding dresses and now a library of dusty tomes. You asked for it…
July 21, 2014 at 5:41 pm
OH! Fantastic prompt and flash. (Lovely pictures, too.) I want to write this one. Lisa, I am having so much trouble writing these. I adore your blog and these bite-size memoirs and the fact that you’ve invited other writers to explore memoir in manageable portions but I just find it so difficult. I don’t know why. Vulnerability? Not sure…
July 21, 2014 at 6:07 pm
I wonder myself after 10 out of 10 whether when it gets personal, our inner perfectionist stifles us with fear of failure? Meanwhile finding Charli’s very hard this week because all it does is bring back memories rather than new ideas?! Agh!
July 21, 2014 at 6:23 pm
Yes, Charli’s was a challenge! Try a new song. No memories attached. Just pick one, any one, and see what comes to mind. Anything goes over there. 😉
I think maybe you’re right about the personal stuff. Perfectionist? Fear? Probably a bit a both.
July 24, 2014 at 6:12 am
Go for it, Sarah! And Lisa, sometimes powerful memories can be shaped into new fiction.
July 19, 2014 at 2:06 am
Wonderful prompt! How amazing that you found novels on Sri Lanka. You are going to be infused before you ever get there!
July 20, 2014 at 9:13 am
Thanks Charli – it’ll be interesting to see the different responses on this one! Lx
July 18, 2014 at 5:49 pm
This ought to be one even I can manage, my problem might be deciding which holiday reading to choose! And, just wondering, whether we ought to have listed The Island in my watery theme, since a lot of it seemed to be about going back and forth. I enjoyed your photos of the leper colony and, while I did appreciate learning about this through the novel, I’m afraid I found the style rather irritating and the poignancy – which was clear enough from the bare facts – overly signposted. Oh yes, and for your Sri Lankan holiday there’s Reef by Romesh Gunesekera, though I don’t think I’d recommend it as a holiday read.
July 18, 2014 at 7:54 pm
I cannot wait to see what you choose, Anne. You must have read more books than most and with such a keen bibliophile’s eye, choosing the one must present a bit of a challenge!
As for Reef.. short-listed for the Booker Prize – usually enough to put me off! A bit hard going then, is it then? I would dread another ‘Wolf Hall’!
And then The Island, being a Richard and Judy choice – of course a little obvious which is why it sat gathering dust despite a friend’s recommendation, though in the end I clearly enjoyed it more than you! And it did bring Spinalonga to life at the time.
I hope you can pin it down for us to share, if not try 10 with I remember.. Looking forward to whichever, Lisa xx
July 24, 2014 at 9:37 am
Reef isn’t a challenge in terms of style – more, as I remember, the harrowing content relating to the Civil War.
As expected, I couldn’t really make a story out of any of my holiday reads without fictionalising it, so my offering is a list of I remembers:
July 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm
Oliver – UK
‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’
I first read that phrase on a well remembered holiday so many years ago that the person I was did not really understand the force of those words. Such a simple phrase. A dream of a poorly remembered event. But as we go on through life, the dreams become loaded. The slow accretion of memories and memories of strong emotions that become who we are today. We suppress them, perhaps, or celebrate them and magnify them out of all proportion to become that singular moment that defines who we are. But then we have treacherous dreams that tell us what we were and what we might have been and frequently, what have we have lost.
Daphne du Maurier’s dream of an impossibly perfect ideal of womanhood lay at the centre of another’s insanity. Yet I bought into that insanity. I must have done. I called my daughter Rebecca.
July 18, 2014 at 6:36 pm
An eloquent assessment of the process nay fallibility of memory which nevertheless becomes the ‘truth’ about us – always the interesting twist within memoir. And beautifully interwoven with your appreciation of du Maurier’s book and the naming of Rebecca. Thanks Oliver – what a truly wondrous bite! Lisa xx
July 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm
Ooops…sorry for the garbled comment…not sure what happened there. Got so excited about Spinalonga I’m guessing…sorry about that 😉
July 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm
You make perfect sense to me 🙂
July 21, 2014 at 2:29 pm
Well that’s a relief! Thanks Lisa 😀
July 18, 2014 at 2:58 pm
Another great prompt here and Lisa (and my summer reading is not light-hearted!!!) you will not believe this as yet another coincidence. I almost fell off my chair, laptop with me and all when I read about Spinalonga. I usually do the weekly photo challenge and for this week’s theme I was going to post about it as we visited it three years ago! I intended to read The Island but never did for the theme ‘relic’ but with the award’s posts I ran out of time. So, if you see me posting it Monday I hope you won’t think I’m copying you!!! But what a small world it is…maybe this means I’ll be following in your footsteps and going to Sri Lanka…how I would love that! Have a great weekend and see you next week 🙂 xx
July 18, 2014 at 3:16 pm
Heaven’s to Betsy!! It’s fascinating just how small a world it is at times! Looking forward to perhaps seeing your Spinalonga pics on Monday. I love the way our worlds collide 😀
July 21, 2014 at 2:32 pm
Haha…love that expression and isn’t it great how our worlds do indeed collide like this?! Hoping to get them out today…you’ve inspired me!! 😀
July 21, 2014 at 8:43 am
Thanks Christine – a lovely glimpse into your childhood and a nice way to tackle perhaps not reading on holiday! 😊