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Showing posts from October, 2011
I couldn't upload this to my Facebook feed, and I think it looks so nice (yes, I doctored it) that I thought I'd post it here instead. I like church buildings - quiet, cool places in which one can sit and reflect - its just a shame that they come with clergy and doctrine.

Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, and showing the seams of work

Painting Canada - Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven - Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Tom Thomson's Sketch Box is appropriately situated a footstep from the opening to this exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery; seeing the artist's equipment before viewing what he created from the splodges of layered paints that have aged within for almost a century is an appropriate start to the work of Tom Thomson. We are told that 'before 1913 - the Group's first biographer, Fred Housser, talked of 'a new type of artist' who cast off the velvet coat of his caste, and put on the outfit of the bushwhacker... he closes with his environment; paddles, portages and makes camp'.

Tom Thomson (TT) entered into nature on nature's terms. His was the work of the explorer; wanting to dig down into the soil, the trees, the rivers and mountains, as if to bring back the gold of the elements as yet untarnished by the hand of the human, unlike the often manicured, contrived scenery of…

Citric reviews and a poet's burglaries

I feel as though the weekend has barely started and yet I'm already thinking about the Monday return to work! I've managed no writing at all this week - I'm never in the right frame of mind on the commute. I could have done some today but spent half the day faffing around - downloading iOS 5 on the iPhone took almost two hours! Still haven't done the iPad. Then there was the ironing, cleaning, etc. I did, however, have a long talk with a lovely creative woman and we said - not for the first time - that we would brainstorm and collaborate. Men are forever being helped, it seemed to us, through networks and all the rest of it - it's harder for women - Fred Astaire got the lion's share of the glory yet Ginger did it all - backwards! Anyhoo - my viva date has been set for 9th December. It's a Friday. D-Day! I hope.
I had been reading Frazier's Nightwoods but I felt I was losing connection with it - and then I read a review of it in this week's Times Lit…

Reading migraine...

The past day and a half have been wretched for my poor head. Migraine. I got onto the tube yesterday evening after work, my body vibrating and weak, and my head in a throbbing vice-like grip that also ached my neck. All I could tell myself as I closed my eyes and rested my head against the window that divided the carriage of the tube from the next were the words from Jonathan Sachs. He wrote a book on migraine in which he said they could be seen or used as the philosopher's touchstone. Needless to say all I kept thinking was 'how'? There is, though, a journey through a migraine, or a bad headache. There is the onset of the headache (and of course I speak only for myself and my experience). I wait. I try to tell myself that it will just go away. They never have in the 36 years I've been aware of having them. I more often than not (especially at work) take two painkillers. If it is a headache it goes or fades sufficiently to allow me to get on with the day. If it's a…

New Van Gogh biog

A new biography of Van Gogh, which hit the bookstores this week, is causing a stir.

Van Gogh: The Life, written by Stephen Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, claims that the painter was shot by two teenage boys known to Van Gogh, in a tragic accident. The claim runs counter to the long held notion of suicide. Yet, intriguingly enough, the gun was never found. Apparently, the authors contend, Van Gogh was protecting the boys. If true it certainly echoes another assertion: that far from cutting off his own ear, it was chopped off by Van Gogh's close friend and fellow artist, Paul Geoghan one boozy night in Paris. When the police were called Van Gogh was said to have protected Geoghan.

Both could be true.

Van Gogh was a famously melancholic, yet gentle man, whose only outlet was through his prolific and vivid colour-coated painting. This soul saving vocation was made possible only through the assistance of his beloved brother, Theo, charted so touchingly in their correspondence. The lett…

Booker Prize

Repeating the scenario of last year, when the winner was the bridesmaid of too many previous years - Howard Jacobson - tonight's Booker prize has just been awarded to Julian Barnes for The Sense of an Ending. It has to be particularly poignant for Barnes, given the death of his partner, the brilliant literary agent Pat Kavanagh. I have yet to read it, but I shall.


Beautiful Books

The publisher of A Clockwork Apple, Beautiful Books, has gone into administration. It's such a shame. Simon Petherick, the MD, who set it up from his home in Clapham about four years ago before moving to a small west-end office had the passion for reads that were away from the mainstream. I'm not at all too disheartened. I'm just glad that I was one of the early authors; I know I'd have felt great sadness had I signed up only months ago. So, the copyright reverts to me, which I shall be free to capitalise on should my future books be successful enough to secure a readership. It is a shame that independent publishers struggle so much; they seem to be forever on the knife-edge. Waterstones plays a large part in that it can returns a whole load of unsold books in what is often an insufficient timeframe. What's to be done? I read a headline today about how amazon is breaking down the old arrangements by enabling authors to 'publish' digital 'books' dire…


The Collector by John Fowles has been on my mental 'to read' pile for years. Perhaps I never got round to it because I didn't want another of his to usurp what was one of my favourite, The French Liutenant's Woman?

I borrowed The Collector from the library a few weeks ago, as I have on several occasions without actually reading it, but I started reading it today and am intrigued by the set-up, and Fred Clegg's infant abandonment by his 'painted' mother, following the death of his father, and then, as a teen, by the death of his uncle.

Fred collects butterflies, a perfect analogy for what how he watches, (stalks), then plans to capture Miranda, a beautiful, slight, art student with pale golden hair, which he achieves fairly early on. I'm sure I'll have finished it by the end of this week.

Despite having had today off to make up for working the weekend, I still didn't write. I had a few naps with strange dreams - one to do with fear of my viva - a…

Want to read

The problem with being a regular reader of Literary Review, TLS, LRB, et al, is that I am constantly aware of a great number of new books that pique my interest. This may not sound like a problem, but it is when one is trying also to write. And has no more room for additional books unless I make moving to somewhere larger a priority. However, it's also an advantage that, through these reviews I also get a snapshot of the vast range of books currently being published.

Having read Mary Kenny's review of Tim Rombinson's genre-defying/straddling 'Connemara - A Little Gaelic Kingdom', I feel I have been treated to a taste of Celtic mythology, geology, geography, literature, and history. I must get a copy because it evokes a yearning for Yeats' Bee loud glades, the Lake Isle of Innisfree, no matter how cliched. I was given a tour of Connemara in 2001, when myself and my sisters went to visit our aunts and uncles in Mayo. My Dad never returned, not even for a week. I …


Watching Libero this afternoon served to remind me that Italians do film exceedingly well. Better than fashion, food, and football; film is more often than not shown with the inherent ability to convey that heat-seeking gem of all arts: clean emotion. Each of the performances of the four main family members: Kim Rossi Stuart, Barbara Bobulova, Alessandro Morace, and Marta Nobill, are first rate - but none more so than the young boy, Tommi, played by Morace. This boy consistently expresses suspicion, fear, and suppression.

Tommi and his sister, Viola, live with their single father, volatile cameraman Rossi Stuart, who pushes his son to swim competitively, whilst Tommi hankers after football. There is a thread, a strong one, of parental/child sexual relations that teeter on the precipice of appropriateness - like the English title of the film (along the ridge). Their mother seems to be a narcissistic sex and love addict who has on more than one ocassion walked out for other men - leavin…

Steve Jobs, TLS, really writing...

I can't ever remember reading the TLS Freelance column when it's been written by a woman. If it's not Hugo Williams, it's Michael Caines. I like Williams's, Caines not so much because he bangs on about the band that he's in. But this week's, by avid reader and critic Regina Marler, was perfect - if anything can be. She simply shares her years' long habit of recording what she's read - her book journals a better memoir or photo album as she looks back to see what she read as a young woman, then a mother... She evokes the simple pleasure of writing book title and author on a piece of creased paper before inserting it into an unmarked notebook. I like reading just as much, but writing - stories, yes, but the simple act of making shapes, letters on the promising page; handwriting. It was one of the things that I loved as a child - starting with pencil; using my tiny fingers to space the width between words; trying to make the perfect a, b, and c. And th…

Ford Madox Brown, and Protests

This weekend I went up to Manchester for three reasons: to visit family, to see Manchester Art Gallery's exhibition on Ford Madox Brown, and to take part in the anti-Tory protests on what is, today, the first day of the Cons Party Conference.

Why on earth they saw it fit to hold a Tory conference in a city that has bore the brunt of their ideology over the years is best known to them. But first the Ford Madox Brown exhibition. It's always going to be somewhat problematic walking around a gallery to stare at pictures with a six and seven year old neice and nephew in tow; they get bored, despite both being appreciative of art. My nephew, on my last visit, said to me 'have you heard of that arter, Jack Pollock'. And Kya has been known to stand slack-jawed in front of a picture, as if in awe of the colours, the creation... Yesterday she even crouched down on the floor from which to study 'Work'.

Kya, 6, with my sis, Abby, in front of Ford Madox Brown's 'Work…