A few weeks ago I decided to let my work-in-progress hang for a while, which would give me time to settle into a new job, and allow me the distance to see the half-cut first draft anew. I still haven't looked at it, but in a couple of weeks I shall be joining a new, small and nearby writing group. This group is different from your regular writing group in that it is led by an experienced published writer and teacher. I know I've taught creative writing to others myself and even have a phd in writing, but one needs considered feedback and I'm hoping I'll find it there. And it's small enough for the focus. A regular couple of hours on a Saturday should also serve to more clearly demarcate the working week from the weekend and help me become more precious - or more wisely use - my free time. However, whilst not writing I am reading lots. I finished Charles Frazier's southern Gothic 'Nightwoods', which was taut and dark, yet with the right balance of light. I'm also close to finishing Gerhard Bakker's 'The Twin', which is a real gem, centring on the middle-aged Dutch farmer, Helmer, whose aged and bed bound father is shut upstairs. The father-son relationship is uncomfortable, cold, and at times cruel. Yet there is enough to attach to, emotionally.

I'm also close to finishing the first half of a manuscript by a man who has a real gift for description and emotional insight into his characters, and I hope, no, I'm sure, it will find a publisher. I'm racing ahead with both.

On my to-read pile is also the Booker long listed 'The Lighthouse', by Alison Moore, as well as The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, which includes work by many of the great Irish writers, John Banville, Roddy Doyle, William Trevor, and Joseph O'Connor.

Today I also bought the new work by poet Christopher Reid, 'Nonsense', which I'm expecting much from.

BBC's iPlayer now allows users to download programmes, instead of just watching them online. I had no idea there was a programme called My Life in Books and downloaded it. It featured the luminous 91-year-old PD James, and the rather puzzling radio presenter Richard Bacon. But more confusing for me was why the inanimate-faced Anne Robinson was chosen to front the show; she offered no bookish insight, and whenever she gave the noddies, I just kept on expecting a withering and yet unintelligent put down. This is the book show dumbed down; barely scratching the surface of anything remotely meaningful.


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