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Showing posts from October, 2009


Today I bought, on a whim, Written Lives, by Javier Marias, a series of short, dip-in-and-outable 'written lives' that 'throw an unexpected and very human, light on authors too Often enshrined'. Quite funny, very interesting. I also bought The Faber Book of Modern Verse, which includes a lot of the modernists, as well as the OUP Very Short Introduction to Biography, by leader in the field, Hermione Lee.

Hooky and the Hacienda...

ClashMusic are this week running extracts from the memoirs of New Order's Peter Hook. Now I have to go buy it to go with my book of Manc music photos: Looking for the Light Through the Pouring Rain. My shame-faced admission is that, whilst I was very much in Manchester at the time of the Hac I never once stepped foot in the place. I got so very close. Once. I was actually 18 years old. Even had the birth certificate to prove it. Me and my friend (younger by a year and who had been in and out since she was 15!) queued, which was all part of the evening, and then the doorman waved us by and it was only as we got inside that a woman who sounded more like a student than 'one of us' scrutinised my face and said 'there's no way you're 18' and ordered me to do an about turn. My friend looked at me, wondering what to do. She was ok. She would get in. But alone? Nah. We did what we did most weekends, trundled off to the nearby Boardwalk with all the other Hacienda r…

Mr. Rochester number one

The results of a poll announced at Cheltenham Lit Festival have put Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester as literature's most romantic leading man, despite being 'grim' to look at, and 'moody'. The news piece, here, doesn't say where Charlotte Bronte's Heathcliffe comes in on the list.

It was a Sunday... July 2008

It was a Sunday
Mourning in September
When my Mother screamed
and stamped
and pulled at her hair.
She had been told.
Her Mother had gone.

It was a Saturday
Mourning in July
When I nodded
and withdrew
saying 'alright then'.
I had been told.
My Mother had gone.

My Mother's Mother had seven.
My Mother had seven.
I have none.
To whom it will be told.
When I have gone?

B. Webb C 2009

On the Death of my Da - March 2007

On the Death of my Da

Last Monday evening my da died.

I called the hospital in Manchester and the doctor broke me whilst I sat on the back seat, upstairs on the C2 bus to Camden.

‘Are you sure you’ve got the right person?’ I asked, and immediately played out Denial.

‘Yes’, she replied.

I got off the bus in Camden and walked through the grunge and trails of spliff and wondered where my da now was. I was sure it wasn’t Camden.

I had to call my brother. He wasn’t answering. So I sent a text – ‘Dad’s Dead’, I said, ‘ten minutes ago’ – the miracle of modern technology.

My brother then called said he was so depressed he wouldn’t mind joining him.

‘Fine’, I said, ‘just make sure you have insurance’.

I reached what passes for ‘home’ and made my usual supper of oatcakes, bananas and a glass of soya milk and felt guilty at sticking to my ritual. Then I realised that the first episode of Sopranos series six was starting that night.

I called my dad’s sister and broke her. She cried. I cried but the…

Forward Poetry Prize

Don Paterson, 45, has been announced as the winner of the Forward Poetry Prize, beating, amongst others, Sharon Olds. It is for his simple and evocatively titled collection, Rain. Story here.

Knut Hamsun

I remember reading Norweigan writer Knut Hamsun's Hunger about fifteen years ago, at a very low point in my life, and despite it also being grim, it gave me sustenance. Here was a novel about a writer struggling. I wasn't writing very much back then, but I was really struggling. It introduced me to the rest of Hamsun's work. I knew nothing, until the past few years, of Hamsun's Nazi affinities. In fact, twenty-three years after being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, he passed it on to one of his heroes - Joseph Goebbels! But despite all this he was still a great writer. It doesn't darken Hunger for me knowing that the author had these politics. I take the work, reject those parts of the author. Is it really that simple though? Here's an interesting article on 'Norway's Black Sheep', from The Wilson Quarterly.

Leszek Kolakowski

Philosopher and Ideas Historian Kolakowski died in July. I've just ordered Main Currents in Marxism, which will hopefully be a good intro into what seems like an impressive body of work. The last issue of the New York Review of Books has a well-written obit on him by Tony Judt, and one also appeared here at the time.