Skip to main content

Reading, planning

I've been feeling a tad excited at the prospect of a trip to Iceland this Xmas. I've wanted to go for as long as I can remember. Perhaps one of the reasons I haven't made the relatively short flight thus far is that I don't want to be disappointed by the reality - the imaginary idyll can be a far greater place to inhabit and hanker after. I hope, then, that when I go I am not disappointed too much. I feel the need - have long felt it - to be awed by nature; the northern lights (even 'chasing' them could be a metaphor for soul-seeking), the whales of the icy waters, the geothermal waters, the possibility of volcanic eruptions, the puffins... All of it. I found myself in the BBC's Green Room at Television Centre on Thursday morning. I was accompanying a young woman engineer who was to comment on the launch of the Queen Elizabeth Medal for Engineering - a £1m prize to encourage innovation. Sir John Beddington, the government's Chief Scientist, was there, commenting on the same subject. Iceland came up as we waited for the call - he said that he was given a few days notice of Icelandic volcanic eruptions and none seemed likely for a little while - which I felt was a shame. Perhaps Iceland could do pre-eruption packages? Maybe I will go and not want to come back to London? Whatever response I have it will be a welcome break for I have long needed one. This time next month will see - I hope- the end of my studies, as the viva looms ever closer (9th December). Everything that I have done since 2003 - when I returned to full-time education - has been in service to it.

I've started a reading group at work. I was surprised at the level of interest. Most readers I know want to talk about it afterwards - whether they liked it or not - it's almost like both a closure and a new, extended opening to the book and the time and energy spent reading it. I had proposed Moby Dick as the first group read, but this was usurped for The Help by Katheyn Stockett. My first thought was. 'it's a best-seller of the Richard & Judy variety. And it's been made into a film. But, like other occasions when I've ignored my readerly and cultural discriminations, I've been rewarded. I'm about a third of the way through and I'm enjoying it. Stockett's conceit - a multiply narrated tale - is a good one. At first it felt a little too contrived but then the story and the characters took over. More anon.






Location:Kew

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…