Skip to main content

Waterstone's Waterman's

Late yesterday afternoon I was mooching my way down Kensington High Street when I thought I may as well mooch around inside Waterstone's. This was despite the fact that I already had an unread book (Campbell's The Semamtics of Murder) in my bag. I was drawn to Tove Jansson's novel The Great Deceiver by the name, then the cover, then the back cover, then the first page. All standard criteria for judging a book. Tove Jansson has a devoted readership, and had built up particular acclaim for The Moomins. Despite my having a penchant for sparse prose coupled with snowy settings depicting solitude, preferably with the Scandinavian brand of melancholy, this was my first Jansson. I wasn't disappointed. It tells the story of Katri Kling, a yellow-eyed young woman who has bright up her younger brother, Mats. Katri has the position - popular in literature - as the truth-teller, a role that necessitates being on the outside. With it goes an absolutist awareness of motives - one's own and others. This awareness is played with aplomb by Katri, which serves to place her and Mats at the heart of Anne's life, a children's book illustrator who has lived a near-solitary life in what the villagers call 'the rabbit house'. Katri makes herself indispensable - and achieves a long planned nautical mission for Mats. Talking of solitude segues nicely into How I Ended Last Summer, a Russian film that I returned to Waterman's this evening to see. It is a story set in a meteorological outpost in the Arctic. The permanent data recorder, Sergei, is seemingly burdened with a student, Pasha, who is stationed there for the summer. There is a quiet, yet glaring clash of values and attitudes between the two men. Pasha takes an important message over the radio for Sergei, which is then just as bungled as the data Pasha has been entrusted to deliver whilst Sergei heads off in his boat to catch arctic trout. It is a study in human frailty and, for Sergei at least, the need for frozen solitude. In this respect it reminded me of Georgina Harding's novel The Solitude of Thomas Cave. The cinematography was outstanding, capturing the distinct lights on this unique setting. It is a slow film. The pace sags somewhat towards the middle, but, along with the developments, this speeds up as we reach beyond midway.



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…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.




-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-


And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised

***


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Midwinter Break - Bernard McLaverty

The only other book that I've read of Bernard MacLaverty was the sublime Grace Notes, published in 1997, and shortlisted for the Booker Prize of the same year. That prize was awarded to an author of another similar hiatus recently broken, Arundhati Roy, of the widely acclaimed The God of Small Things. I was certain, when buying the kindle version of Midwinter Break, that MacLaverty's first book in seventeen years (Cal, 2001, was his most recent) had made both the Booker Longlist and Shortlist - but having just double-checked - am disappointed and confused to find it had made neither. MacLaverty's prose style feels Yatesian, after the late Richard Yates, US author of Revolutionary Road, and TheEaster Parade
Midwinter Break, set in Amsterdam, is written in the same deliciously clear and poignant prose that so widely marked out Grace Notes. The husby and I have not long returned from a late summer break in that same fabulous city. With the visit to the Rijksmuseum still fre…