Skip to main content

Round up

Firstly, I have a new blog. For the past year or so I had been taking pics whenever I chanced upon an item that someone had dropped in the street. I thought it would be good to have an image only blog, too, what with this one being concerned with words.
Secondly, I am still reading the book on fairy tales, but was swept up yesterday in The Life of Rebecca Jones, by Angharad Price and Lloyd Jones. It is a simplistically beautiful account of a Welsh farming family in which three of the sons are blind. Because of this they receive better educations, with Rebecca and and a seeing brother staying at home to work on the farm. There are moments so simply rendered and yet are bursting with poignancy, like when the father takes his two blind infant sons in the horse and carriage to their first school in Rhyl. We are told he doesn't get over it. Having come from a similarly large family myself, in which three of us went into children's homes, and when we were much younger, all the then five of us, it is my Dad's reactions to it all that has served as the my personal touchstone of that deeply private, and yet silently shared sadness that sits within like a fat teardrop that never moves. In Price & Jones's book the prose, which captures the much slower, harder and yet more poetic way of life, we are confronted with the satisfactions of living by the farming calendar; the seasons. I shall maybe post more when I've finished it.
Thirdly, the current issue of the New Yorker has a good piece on Hunger, A Writer's Apprenticeship by Mavis Gallant. It charts some of the time she spent in Barcelona in the 1950s; living worse than hand to mouth.
And, finally, the current issue of the Times Lit Supp has Hugo Williams in the Freelance seat, holding court on how 'need' has replace the 'shoulds' and the 'have to's. He's on fine form.

More anon. I'm still rewriting. Slowly. I'm listening a lot to Alt-J, Regina Spektor, and Sibelius.

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

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.


SECTION ONE
Revolution, Rom…

Anything is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

Two days ago I bought the hardback of Strout's latest, Anything is Possible. I finished it yesterday evening. This is a 'novel of inter-connected stories', which features the fictional writer Lucy Barton, of My Name is Lucy Barton (blogged about already). We learn more about Lucy's brother, still in the dusty old town of Amgash, Illinois - the setting that is the main character. The Guardian claims it to be a 'shimmering masterpiece', and I agree.

Strout's work is often described as 'quietly written', and she is said to have 'a touch of Updike and Tyler'. Quietly written is one of those descriptions that means the 'sparse' writing provides the atmosphere into which the reader gladly sinks to enjoy a story of flawed and pained characters without being distracted by a 'writerly' approach. I have never sunk into Updike or Tyler, but her writing reminds me more of Richard Yates. But why liken her to anyone at all? It seems to be …