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Showing posts from January, 2012


I'm in Starbucks, partaking of the free wifi until I set off to Kingston to have dinner with my former phd supervisor. I'm still waiting to collect my iPhone back from being repaired, which has meant much less procrastination throughout the week.

Yesterday I went to the London Library and after a couple of hours of writing I borrowed a couple of books. The first one was the new 'Nine Lives of Shakespeare' by Graham Holderness, which received a very good review in the current issue of the TLS. I loved the first chapter, or life, as Shakespeare as writer. It could have been more academically rigorous but the series to which the book belongs aims to be wisely accessible. But many of the other lives were fictional, which I wasn't so much interested in. I shall be returning it tomorrow. I also got an old copy of Kathryn Anne Porter's Pale Horse, Pale Rider. I remember reading an article on this book a good while ago and thinking it must be one of those gems that get…

Writers and honours

If I were ever invited to accept an honour by my country would I take it? Should I? It may seem like a grandiose assumption to think of this even in hypothetical terms, but it is merely the entrance to a wider discussion of honours, what with it being the season for them. On the basis that they are bestowed for some extraordinary achievement that has benefitted society then an honour is a fitting tribute; for those who have achieved this within their day-job or career an honour could mean increased job security and an instant recognition that you have achieved something that your peers in the same industry (for which read 'competitors', as capitalism is, by nature, a competitive sport) have not. In this way it can be seen as a CV enhancer. But should those in the arts accept them? It would seem that many of the practitioners themselves have thought not, considering that many have refused them. The late writer, JG Ballard, called the honours system a 'preposterous charade&#…

Howards End

I've just finished Howards End by EM Forster. Like The Fear Index, by Robert Harris, I read it completely on my iPhone. Howards End was one of the books that had rested in the periphery of my constant 'to read' pile. The only other Forster book that I'd read was Maurice, which I liked very much, although the misogyny is clearly there. Howards End, despite being denser in its prose style than Maurice, is feminist; it champions women. It is, more than anything else, a novel of ideas. There are maxims and philosophical nuggets galore, such as referring to the hopeless, remorseful Leonard Bast:
'Remorse is not among the eternal verities. The Greeks were right to dethrone her'.
Bast, though, does not quite meet any happy end. I found Forster's devices interesting in the way that they could be seen as opposite to those of Charles Dickens. The latter would always kill a fallen woman off, death being the only possible redemption. With Forster it is the fallen man. Th…

Aged perspectives

Whenever the poet, Hugo Williams, is not writing the Freelance column in the Times Literary Supplement I feel tempted to pass by to the next page. Often, when I don't, I'm surprised. Sometimes not. Williams has a way with prose that I find characteristic of many poets changing form. Concise, as if keen to keep it plain and simple lest they be accused of being a purple proser! It works to lend poignancy to what is written, and Williams, ageing with health conditions, often conveys much poignancy but never self-pity. At the same time he can deliver slices of his childhood, growing up with an actor for a father, and his subsequent marriage marked by separations. He is poignant yet funny; deadpan. Donald Hall, another poet, in his 80s, has been given a similar prose purpose in the current issue of the New Yorker. Hall recounts his time stopped and staring - out on to his New Hampshire garden in which the birds visit to stock up from the feeder. He recalls decades gone by, when the…

Lagging on the cultural front

If there's one cultural event I regret not having seen it's Jerusalem. It totally passed me by. I had been about to book tickets before Christmas and then didn't. What made it worse was when my colleague arrived into wirk last week and said: 'you'd love it'! And as of last week it is over. Today I found myself trawling the online news to see whether it would go to Broadway for another run - perfectly willing to arrange a weekend's trip to see it. Mark Rylance was reported as saying that he may resume the role in five or six years, if the appetite is there. Come on BBC, how about filming a special performance?

Tickets for Hockney's exhibition at the Royal Academy are also being snapped up left, right and centre. I don't care to mention Hirst, about whom I hope future fables will be written in the vein of The Emperor's New Clothes! It makes me realise that London is the hotbed of culture. And for that reason alone I can't see myself ever leavi…


There's not enough time to write and it's frustrating; but that's life when you have a full on full-time job. No time to stop and stare, which one also needs to write. I have, however, began work on revising half of my phd 'novel'. I've even given it a title: Bar-Chords on Barbed Wire. It's from a poem. It resonates. The imagery it conjures, as well as the attempt at sound, feel right for the story. It's currently at 28,350 words. I won't be padding it out, but I am l am looking to add another storyline to it that I wasn't able to whilst gearing it up for the viva. I'm hopeful about its potential - despite the time constraints. But I'm also trying to find time to run. This has to be the year for it. Lately I've felt it become much harder and in the first half mile I feel a surge of rage, which then settles down. I've been reading about breathing and stretching. I am realising that life - my life - needs several things running at …

My PhD critical paper

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 University, without which postgraduate study of this nature would have remained firmly beyond reach - as it is - and becomes even more so - for countless others who would relish this hard, yet rewarding journey of growth.
Thanks are due to my brothers and sisters, particularly my older brother, Sean.

Behind this PhD candidate was a fellowship of brilliant friends, whose kind and wise words, often amounting to no more than 'keep going' encouraged me in the low moments. And, of course, to the spirit of Mary Burns (1822-1863) - no mere mistress.

No endeavour is the work of an individual.

Revolution, Rom…