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New Beautiful Book on homelessness

Here's a piece on a new novel from Richard Walker-Hardwick, published by Beautiful Books. The novel's main storyline is the experience of homelessness itself. Walker-Hardwick had previously worked in a hostel for the homeless.

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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…

BBC World Service The Forum

I am waiting for this flight to Paphos to take off whilst writing. Off for a much needed holiday to hopefully do a bit of twitching (bird-watching - who’d have thought it!?), swimming in the sea with Husby (I promised him), and general lolling around reading and hopefully doing a bit of writing.
A couple of weeks ago I contributed to the BBC World Service’s radio programme the Forum on the subject of Friedrich Engels. It’s available on The Forum’s webpage on the BBC website. Apart from myself, the illustrious Terrell Carver, Jonathan Sperber, and Christian Kell also gave their learned insights. It felt great to be invited and reminded me of my PhD and how I must do more with it!
I am pretty much all set to embark on secondary teacher training this year. What’s a year compared to the seven years previously undertaken? And it will enable me to embark on a new career in Sussex. Teaching hours are long and lesson planning will also require many extra hours on top, but I’m sure it will pro…

Anything is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

Two days ago I bought the hardback of Strout's latest, Anything is Possible. I finished it yesterday evening. This is a 'novel of inter-connected stories', which features the fictional writer Lucy Barton, of My Name is Lucy Barton (blogged about already). We learn more about Lucy's brother, still in the dusty old town of Amgash, Illinois - the setting that is the main character. The Guardian claims it to be a 'shimmering masterpiece', and I agree.

Strout's work is often described as 'quietly written', and she is said to have 'a touch of Updike and Tyler'. Quietly written is one of those descriptions that means the 'sparse' writing provides the atmosphere into which the reader gladly sinks to enjoy a story of flawed and pained characters without being distracted by a 'writerly' approach. I have never sunk into Updike or Tyler, but her writing reminds me more of Richard Yates. But why liken her to anyone at all? It seems to be …