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Showing posts from July, 2011

British Library

Whenever I'm at the British Library, which hasn't been for a while now, and emerge from the concentration in the humanities reading room, I am always much taken with the lines and curves of the interior. Last time I was there I took this pic.

Wordless story

I often see, whilst out walking, the odd small shoe, mitten, or anything else that can be dropped from a buggy. Inevitably someone will pick it up and position it prominently. I saw this shoe on my way to the shop; it was at the side of the pavement. Within the short time of my return it was placed thus, someone's front garden wall. I wonder if the parent will retrace his/her steps in order to find it?


Lady Chatterley's Defendant

Lady Chatterley's Defendant & Other Awkward Customers by Horatio Morpurgo - Just Press ( (2011) £8.00

Having recently reviewed for Tribune, Paul Goodman - A Reader, I remarked on what a revelation Goodman's writings were, having been ignorant of him up to that point. I resolved to delve further but, as so often happens, I got caught up in other things - until I came across Horatio Morpurgo's first collection of essays. Published by the independent Just Press it includes an essay on Goodman, entitled Unblocking the Future. It opens with a focus on a key incident in Goodman's first novel - The Grand Piano (1942) - in which the main character cycles through Harlem, intending to ride alongside the Hudson River. Yet the boy finds himself unwillingly carried along in a stream of traffic on a road network not designed for kids, or anyone else on bikes. The boy, another Horatio, finally swerves off the road in order to escape being carried along even fur…

Booker Prize Longlist

Ok, so the Booker Prize long list announcement was made two days ago, but I've been hither and tither, with one thing and another. Certainly no surprise to see Julian Barnes on the list - for the third time - maybe this will be the year that he will be the groom, as opposed to the long standing best man. Ok, so that analogy doesn't quite work - I didn't want to emasculate him by using the bride/bridesmaid cliche (!) so I should be given some points for that at least. Anyway, here's the full list:

Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape - Random House)
Sebastian Barry On Canaan's Side (Faber)
Carol Birch Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate Books)
Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (Granta)
Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent's Tail)
Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld)
Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger's Child (Picador - Pan Macmillan)
Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury)
Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books)

Storytelling and tragedies

This week's issue of the Times Literary Supplement includes a review by Terri Apter, of two memoirs - the first being One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman, and Strange Relation by Rachel Hadas. The books seem very moving. Ackerman's book is sub-titled 'A Stroke, A Marriage, and the Language of Healing', which seems to sum up the story. Ackerman's husband, Paul West, is a Professor of literature and writer. He suffered a stroke that seriously curtailed not just what he could say, but how he could conceive of words and their meaning, as well as symbols, such as arrows. It seems unfathomable. It is doubly cruel, then, that two types of stroke induced aphasia (Wernicke's and Broca's) should hit this 'born phrase maker'. It is because of Ackerman's devotion that West recovered his abilities to the point that he is now able to speak and write again. She 'devised her own exercises for him, tailored to his lifelong strength - words and creat…


I am thirty-eight today, and will continue to be - with increasing degrees - until a day before this time next year! I don't mind ageing, I mean, what's the alternative? My twenties were, for the most part, a mess. My thirties, thus far, have been all about education, writing... It is a sobering thought to realise that my Mum, who didn't have her first child until she was twenty-seven had, by my age, seven children, the youngest - twins - just two-years-old. I have none, and have had no biological calling for them; it may just be that I haven't met the person with whom I've wanted to have children - or them me. I heard someone say the other day, actually it was more of a lament, that he felt on the outside because he hadn't fathered any children. I hate this idea that just because the vast majority of us have the ability to procreate, that we should. The world is becoming dangerously over-populated - why feel bad because you haven't added to that? But let m…


I felt a twinge of empathy with that Republican nut-job, Michelle Bachmann, this week. She is a fellow migraineur, which has seen the media asking whether she should run for Presidency. This is despite the fact that Ulysses S Grant, Jefferson, and JFK suffered them. But the empathy comes from my being walloped by them since I was a child. I know it's a migraine when I'm being sick, like I was at Earls Court station the other week - and at South Acton station a few months before that, forcing me off the train and onto my knees on the platform, with the train driver shouting through his cabin window as the train left 'sorry, sorry' and then calling to the platform guard to 'get her an ambulance', before looking back at me again shouting 'sorry'. He obviously thought I was about to die. When I'm being sick with migraine I really wouldn't mind someone shooting me to relieve me of the pain and tides of nausea. They are truly debilitating. Thankfully …

Samuel Palmer

Today's Observer reviews a biography of Samuel Palmer, by Rachel Campbell-Johnston. Who is Samuel Palmer? Well, he's another artist who was overlooked, neglected, abandoned (need I add more?) in his lifetime as well as well after it. There's nothing a biographer likes than to find a gem of a subject; one they can rescue and show how great and deserving they were. I know, I'm doing a bit of that myself with Fred Engels's partner, Mary Burns. But as soon as I clicked the link to the story and was presented with his painting 'Early Morning' (1825) I was struck by a pang of sadness and awe. I think I would have cried if I'd been at home, but I'm in Chiswick Cafe Nero, receiving odd glances from a man who I'm sure would dash over to enquire if I did - and I don't fancy him - he may not fancy me. He may just be giving odd looks because I look odd! Anyway, I digress, back to poor Samuel Palmer. Kathryn Hughes imparts the gist of Campbell-Johnston&#…

Why some politicians are more dangerous

James Gilligan's new book, 'Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others' (Polity Press, 2011) could be reduced to a few key statements, the main one being 'Republicans are very bad for your health'. Gilligan, Professor and MD at New York State University, has combed the statistics on violent deaths (homicide and suicide), from 1900 through to 2007 in order to determine political causation.

His findings confirm what many have hitherto instinctively and experientially known: murders and suicides increase under Republican rule. Why? Because they also create inequality and unemployment, both of which produce an employer's market that keeps wages down. In fact, unemployment figures - in rate and duration - have increased during every Republican administration, and decreased during every Democratic administration. Ironically, despite Republican policies that favour employers and cause greater levels of inequality and unemployment, their policies then inculca…