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Showing posts from July, 2008

Booker Longlist Announced

The Booker Longlist has been announced.

Aravind Adiga The White Tiger
Gaynor Arnold Girl in a Blue Dress
Sebastian Barry The Secret Scripture
John Berger From A to X
Michelle de Kretser The Lost Dog
Amitav Ghosh Sea of Poppies
Linda Grant The Clothes on Their Backs
Mohammed Hanif A Case of Exploding Mangoes
Philip Hensher The Northern Clemency
Joseph O'Neill Netherland
Salman Rushdie The Enchantress of Florence
Tom Rob Smith Child 44
Steve Toltz A Fraction of the Whole

I have only read Barry's The Secret Scripture (excellent) but am looking forward to reading ma…

Terribly terribly Telegraph...

The Telegraph's literary blog is not doing a very good job at keeping up with the Guardian's. However, they have got a podcast which I was both totally fascinated and repulsed by - in equal measure. Each author is answering the question - which literary classic are you ashamed never to have read? I was fascinated to hear the 'humiliation' of not having read Middlemarch (Mary Beard - Oxford Don) or the biography of General Slim (Martin Bell). What classic am I ashamed of having never read? None! There are works I would like to read so that I at least feel as though I am better informed when I say that Salman Rushdie is a load of tosh, but ashamed and humiliated is a bit strong. I was repulsed because, apart from Oona King, every other author was white, and not just with no trace of an accent, but 'terribly terribly...' I know I shouldn't be mean and it's not a go at them as people, more at The Telegraph who couldn't even be arsed to put in a token ac…

Win a copy of A Clockwork Apple

To coincide with the fact that are featuring the first chapter from A Clockwork Apple and those books by Nicholas Hogg and Drew Gummerson they are also running a competition. The prize? Why, the book itself! Click here.


I've kind of put the Bellow to one side and have picked up Gerard Donovan's Schopenhauer's Telescope (Julius Winsome remains one of my favourite novels) which was his first and has the most praiseworthy quotes on the front and inside cover - needless to say I'm expecting much, not least because I feel totally run down and have a cold.

A glut of Bellow

In the library today I came across a trio of Penguin Modern Classics - all by Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet, The Actual and The Victim, which I feel (I hope) will suit my current reading mood. The last book by Bellow had been Sieze the Day and I had loved it. In terms of reading I'm actually comforted by the melancholic! And it is through reading that I've come to identify huge parts of myself - that knowledge in itself can be comforting. But then there have been periods in which I've not been able to even pick up a book, let alone read one. But they are always there - waiting.

Grace Notes - Bernard MacLaverty

Yesterday, on my return from Manchester, I finished Grace Notes, by Bernard MacLaverty. It was such a subtle tale of one woman's struggle with post-natal depression and the need to maintain her musical creativity - the space she had made her own. What I loved about MacLaverty's prose is the way in which he also had a perfect, succinct description for just about every action, such as getting in the bath and 'rowing' the hot water round with your hand. It was a masterclass in minute description. Here's a review from The Richmond Review.


Having abandoned Galgut's, The Good Doctor I'm now reading Grace Notes, by Bernard Mac Laverty. Also on my 'to read' pile are Flights of Love, by Bernhard Schlink and Austerlitz, by W.G. Sebald.

Latitude off

I recently announced, with pride as it was to be my first festival with reading, that I had been asked to appear at Suffolk's Latitude Festival, as part of Vox N Roll. But I've had to cancel. As I've already mentioned, my Mum's funeral is being held on the Friday afternoon in Manchester - the by-then two week delay between dying and funeral is because of the Unison strike (cemetery workers included) and what with having to rush around making travel arrangements and just simply giving the funeral the time to 'sink in' (it's still all a bit surreal) I thought it best. I just hope they ask me back to read from my second book. I'm not sure what the second book is yet, but I'm determined there will be one! I've also asked Kat, the hard-working publicist at my publishers, whether she can get me into a London Vox N Roll event. I've included a link to more information on the fabulous Vox N Roll here as well as a link here to a (2000) Vox N Roll…

A History of Alcohol...

Here's an article/review on the latest social history of something that has become so woven into the fabric of society - most societies. I found it interesting because I became tee-total over eight years ago and am always intrigued in the way in which alcohol can be held up as this magical nepenthe - for many social drinkers it is a little relaxant, or something which makes them a little more... well, fluid. It oils small talk with strangers and aids many a business deal and is the foundation of many a celebration. Yet I don't know many people who actually drink socially, I mean, they'll have one glass of wine or one G&T and leave it at that. That one glass of wine has become for many, after work especially, the bottle or even the box. But here it is - a social history of hooch, grog, booze...


I haven't begun it yet but I intend to tomorrow. It's The Good Doctor, by Damon Galgut. Andre Brink has called it a 'Truly remarkable novel...' so we'll see.

Trauma - Patrick McGrath

I galloped through Trauma, by Patrick McGrath. It is almost as great as Asylum, but that will remain my favourite by him. But Trauma does what really good novels should, in my opinion. It has clear prose that is not cluttered by too much pointless descriptive detritus that can annoying hold up the pace of much narrative. Whilst focussed it also brings in the stories of other characters and their effect on Charles Weir, the main character. It has a believable and clever unreliable narrator that had me questioning the story I was being told, enabling me to engage with it at a much deeper level. And it also teaches much about psychology and trauma at the same time. Brilliant. The Independent featured an extract from it here. Hilary Mantel also reviewed it for The Guardian last Saturday, here.

Works in progress

I have just updated my other blog here - the one that has extracts from past manuscripts and current works in progress. It is the blog that sometimes has me waking up in the middle of the night with a 'shit, what did I put that there for?' but I've learned not to be either too precious or ashamed of my work - it is what it is and I own it - some I'm more fond of than others. And who knows, some of it might even get published!


I'm reading Patrick McGrath's latest novel - Trauma. Seems rather appropriate at the moment. The only other novel of his that I've read - Asylum - was fantastic, and I watched the film adaptation of Spider - which was also great, but I've never been tempted by either Martha Peake or Port Mungo. What I'm liking so far about Trauma - apart from the story, obviously - is the expert handling of narrative structure and timing.

Also, extending the topic of trauma, Unison members are holding a two day strike next week - on Wednesday and Thursday - which means that my Mum's funeral isn't going to be until Friday 18th. Yesterday we were told that we might not be able to get a priest for that day/time and it might have to be on Monday 21st - which also happens to be my birthday! Anticipating having to dread from hereonin the day my mother gave birth to me as also being the anniversary of the day she was buried, my fears and general hysteria were put to rest when a sta…
My Mum died yesterday morning after suffering a series of strokes a few months ago. I had been in Manchester to see her and say goodbye whilst she was in hospital as we had been told on three separate occasions that she was about to 'go'. But each time she perked up and continued to fight a little while longer. But then last week she was moved to a hospice. They called me on Monday to say that she had been given the last rites from a local priest. So I came to Manchester once again. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was confronted with when I got here. I didn't think she could get any worse than how she had been/looked whilst in the hospital, but over the past few weeks she had deteriorated to such an extent that there was little left of her. I walked into her room at the hospice on Monday to see a woman who couldn't have weighed more than 3 or 4 stone - she was nothing more than a skeleton with a thin layer of skin. She was 63, yet she easily looked 93! She wa…