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Showing posts from March, 2011

Then Came the Evening - Brian Hart

I've always had a thing for log cabins. They convey solitude; being in the margins. Some of my favourite books have also featured log cabins - Julius Winsome, by Gerard Donovan; Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson; The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding. The book I've just this minute finished reading has a log cabin on its cover. It's ablaze. And so begins the the story of Bandy Dorner, a Vietnam veteran who has a penchant for violence. He reminds me of the character 'Teardrop' in the film Winter's Bone. It's the same landscape - physically and emotionally. These characters are hard-bitten; surviving, but only just. Bandy shoots a cop and ends up in prison for the best part of twenty years. His ex, Iona, left Bandy before to move in with Bill, a kinder man; a butcher. It's with Bill that she brings up Tracy, the son she gives birth to after leaving Bandy. Bandy only learns that he has a son when Iona writes to the prison to tell him, by which…


I read Northline by Willy Vlautin in an evening. It was shorter than 'Lean on Pete', but no less powerful. It was about Allyson, a 19 year old waitress who drowns her sorrows in alcohol. In order to get away from an abusive boyfriend, to whom she has discovered she is pregnant, she goes to Reno. She lives in a house with other pregnant girls and she is paid a monthly stipend to then allow a couple to adopt it once it is born. It is the best decision. She manages to save the few grand and once she's had the baby and handed it over she finds waitressing work. Yet the past won't leave her alone. Through all of this she finds counsel in an imaginary Paul Newman. That bit put me off when I first read the blurb on the back, but it works well.

Over the weekend I also read EL Doctorow's Homer & Langley. It is based on the real lives of eccentric brothers, Homer and Langley Collyer. It is narrated by Homer who, since his teens, is blind. When their parents die within a …

Willy Vlautin

It's been a tough couple of weeks. Stress. Black dog. Call it what you will. It's not as bad as it has been in previous years. I've been in states before where I have been barely able to read a sentence and when I can it seems to deconstruct the minute it hits my mind - slippages of meaning - no fixed meanings, just a slip-slide into postmodern meaninglessness. Maybe that's a truer state? Anyway. I'm reading at least - and doing some writing. I've been dipping in and out of John Fante's 'Ask the Dust'. I like reading American fiction; like American realist drama it seems to speak more to my own experiences of underbellies and gritty paths. A few years ago, when it was first published, I read Willy Vlautin's 'The Motel Life', which was published by the ever dependable Faber & Faber. It was about two brothers living in motels in Reno. I remember thinking that Vlautin was a great story teller. He's the frontman for the rock band …

Ted Hughes award shortlist announced

This blog is like waiting for the bus - wait for one post and two come almost at once. Anyway, the Ted Hughes award for New Work in Poetry shortlist has just been announced so thought I'd be a bit quicker off the mark:

Martin Figura for Whistle - 'the personal story of the death of Figura's mother at the hands of his father (!)
Katie O'Reilly for The Persians, a site-specific Theatre of Wales performance described as a 'beautifully poetic new version of Aeschylus' tragic play.
Christopher Reid for Song of Lunch (more specifically for the BBC 2 production).
David Swann for The Privilege of Rain - poems and prose written following a year as Writer in Residence at HMP Nottingham - includes wood cuts by Clare Dunne.
Katharine Towers for The Floating Man 'a powerful debut collection' recommended by the Poetry Book Society.

I have no favourite to back. The only one I know of is Christopher Reid, for his beautifully heartbreaking collection 'The Scattering',…

Too busy reading, writing and working to blog!

I haven't posted in a while. I've been up to my ears in the written word - be it in my PR day job, writing my PhD novel or simply reading - there has been too little time to post. And yet I often find myself thinking what the next post should cover. Last weekend I stayed in Manchester. It was a good weekend. My sister and I took our two nephews - 6 year old Keenan and 2 year old Caleb - to the People's History Museum. (I wrote an article on the PHM for the Guardian back in December upon news the government were cutting its funding - it claimed the PHM is 'regional', which is nonsense as it draws international visitors and is of great national importance). It used to be in the old TUC archives building but last year relocated a mile down the road into a beautifully refurbished old pump house. I must admit my guilt at thinking we may find only musty items relating to the socialist and worker struggles over the past couple of centuries. I'm glad to report that I w…