Skip to main content


Left the British Library early today and off the short distance down the road to Judd Books where I picked up 'A Radical Reader - The Struggle for Change in England 1381 - 1914' ed. Christopher Hampton, 'The Economic History of England 1760-1860' by Arthur Redford and 'Victorian Years (1841-1895) Halevy's History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century Vol. 4'. You see, still firmly in the nineteenth century yet learning more about current times as a result, especially after reading a paper by J.R.T. Hughes entitled 'The Commercial Crisis of 1857' which, if the dates were changed, could quite easily be reproduced in this month's Prospect as a contemporary analysis!

I was also very much taken this week by a piece written by psychotherapist writer Adam Phillips in this week's London Review of Books - In Praise of Difficult Children. I have, I think, a couple of Phillips' books somewhere but have so far not gotten round to, but I was struck by just how epigrammatic and aphoristic Phillips' style is - a less harsh Nietzsche, although Phillips, it seems, has attracted many critics who claim he's a great prentender, and yet many devotees who have responded positively to his take on psychotherapy as being an uncomfortable encounter and not, as many people would think of the sacred space of the therapist's office, some womb-like holding space that will make you feel better about everything!

The point is conflict, not stultifying comfort, or something.

But whilst I was very conscious of his jagged writing style - many sentences need to be read as stand-alone units of meaning without proceeding smoothly onto the next - it spoke to that adolescent part of myself that I spent many years trying to rein in and control and whenever she came out would show me up, but have since learnt to admire and allow her space. Phillips writes of the 'truant' mind - not in that the person's mind is absent, but that there is this urge to 'escape' as though from a 'cult' that is society itself. All very interesting and someone whose works I'm now going to have to delve into.

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…