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Showing posts from January, 2011

Digging my way back into the WIP

Still struggling to get to grips with the novel-in-progress. Trusted criticism of it so far is that the framing alter-ego skulks in the margins. That had been the intention, but whilst there can be a purpose to that, it doesn't mean it should stay. I want both characters to be as 'alive' as possible without veering too far away from the very purpose she was included. The purpose of the form and how the contemporary is 'deader' politically than the 19th century counterpart. How to compromise? Do writers compromise? Should they? One thing is certain - it needs more work, and I need to roll up my sleeves and dig my way back into it. And soon.


Romantics -Tate Britain

I have decided that Friday is my main day off, given that I'm writing in some library most Saturdays. So this afternoon, craving the art fix that I didn't get around to giving myself whilst in Paris last week, I have taken myself off to Tate Britain for it's Romantics exhibition, in the Clore Gallery.

I don't make much of William Etty's 'Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm'. It offers me no real story, although I am told that it was influenced, like many other Romantics, by Thomas Gray's poem, The Bard, published in 1757. Etty described the work ad an allegory of human life, but given there is no distress, I fail to see it. Edwin Landseer's ' A Scene at Abbotsford', the home of novelist Walter Scott, depicts his dying deerhound, Maida, who is dutifully watched over by a younger dog.

A more familiar image, to me at least, is Henry Wallis's Chatterton 1856. Chatterton, a poet and 'forger of Gothic tales' was dead by the age …

War poetry

Think of war poetry and the usual suspects are named: Rosenberg, Brooke, Owen and Sassoon. Yet they are all from the First World War. The body of poetry from those who served in this war remains one of the main ways that this particular war is seen as spectacularly tragic. Yes, all wars are tragic, but this one horribly so. I am amazed whenever I am reminded just how on earth my own grandfather survived it. Private Thomas Henry Sanders served from 1914-1920. He got a limp and a medal for his effort - yet not even a promotion. He was dead at 58, his young wife pregnant with their seventh child. His eldest, my (late) mum, was born in 1945, months before the Second World War ended. Yet that war, much more greedily replicated in the media, produced little poetry. Apparently. Yet there is a new book out that argues for a body of WWII poetry. Daniel Swft's Bomber County not only argues for this but also seeks to highlight the bomber pilots. His grandfather had been one - in fact, he was…

Costa Prize Winner

Jo Shapcott has just been announced winner of the 2010 Costa for her poetry collection 'Of Mutability'. It will come as a shock to many given that Edmund de Waal's memoir The Hare with the Amber Eyes was regularly chosen as a standout book in the Christmas lists drawn up by the literary magazines and sections of the nationals. Shapcott follows last year's winner - also for poetry - Christopher Reid's A Scattering, an elegiac collection inspired and informed by his wife's battle and death from cancer. Shapcott also uses cancer - this time her battle with breast cancer - as the main influence of this, her first new work in over a decade.

TS Eliot Prize

Derek Walcott has this evening been announced as the winner of this year's TS Eliot prize. Walcott was named the victor for his collection White Egrets, which competed against Seamus Heaney's Human Chain and Sam Willett's New Light for the Old Dark, amongst others. 2009 was a notoriously difficult year for Walcott when he found himself the focus of a smear campaign whilst running for the Oxford Chair of Poetry. One of his rivals for the Chair, Ruth Padel, ggrand-daughter of Charles Darwin, was then elected. Days later it emerged Padel had played an instrumental role in the smearing of Walcott and subsequently stepped down. Walcott then upped and left for Essex. Whoever said poetry was boring and genteel?


This morning I bought Eric Hobsbawm's eagerly anticipated new book 'How to change the world - tales of Marx and Marxism'. Funnily, I also spent the past week in Paris working with his niece on a market research project! But today was strange in that I also got another new book - Irvin Yalom's Lying on the Couch, which I've already started and am enjoying. I love the way Yalom is so open about his profession. The book was a gift - along with many more in a package of goodies - that I was given this morning. Over the past week 7 friends arranged this gift between them as a way of encouraging me in what I'm hoping is the last 6 months of my PhD. The goodies are all stress relievers - bath oils and salts, body souffle, delectable edibles from Paul the French bakery, fine tea from Fortnum & Mason, manuka honey, good coffee - even vitamins for concentration! It was such a lovely and kind gesture.

Mayhew Revisited

This evening I turned back to my e-edition of the Dec/Jan double issue of the Literary Review. I read most of it long before Christmas, but somehow only glanced over Sarah Wise's review of the London Labour and the London Poor: A Selected Edition (ed. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, OUP). Thackeray's (ironically) melodramatic quote signalling his naïveté opens the piece, in which he claims 'A picture of life so wonderful, so awful, so piteous and pathetic, so exciting and terrible, that readers of romances own they never read anything like it'. Note how he omits 'even' readers of romances, for it was such readers widely frowned upon throughout the century and well into the next. Of course what is immediately evident from the Mayhews recordings - originally appearing in a regular column for the Morning Chronicle newspaper - is the quick-witted humour and necessary inventive abilities of these poor interviewees. Sarah Wise asks to what extent did Mayhew polish up dull …