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…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Days Without End and Mosul's Avengers

So fed up am I of buying books that I don't finish, that I decided I would go to the local library for a copy of Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, which has just been awarded the Costa Prize. Unfortunately, I could only borrow it on the proviso that it was return by 1 February. I returned it the day after, without having finished it. I was about three quarters through, and will now have to go out and buy it for the final quarter. I loved Barry's The Secret Scripture, and on every publication of a new work, his star rises. Days Without End follows two boys, one descended from native Americans, and the other having arrived on one of the notorious coffin ships from famine struck Sligo. The tale is brave, funny, touching, but most of all Barry has achieved the perfect pitch. It is quite remarkable.

Another remarkable work comes in the form of reportage in the New Yorker (February 6, 2017) The Avengers of Mosul, by Luke Mogelson 'A Reporter at Large'.