Date Archives January 2010

J.D. Salinger and phonies

The other day, I picked up a copy of The Times because of the news of J.D. Salinger’s death on the cover. I read about Catcher in the Rye and its skewering of “phonies”, and how Salinger retreated to his home in New Hampshire and ignored the world for about forty years. Then I read the rest of the paper, an unusual thing for me to do these days. I read an article about Britain’s measure of inequality hitting a new high, and why this was not a bad thing…. Read More

“The Paperchase” by Marcel Theroux

Damien March, a bored BBC journalist on the night shift, suddenly inherits a house on an island off the coast of Cape Cod from his long-lost uncle Patrick. There is a condition, however – he must preserve the house exactly as it is. Given that his uncle was somewhat eccentric, and the house is littered with bric-a-brac (e.g. a collection of ice-cream scoops), this is not as easy as it sounds. In trying to settle into the house, Damien comes across letters and old manuscripts that reveal more about his… Read More

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera

I’ve listed Milan Kundera as one of my favourite authors for a while now, but oddly I’d never read his most famous book until now. It was definitely no letdown – the same philosophical style I’ve come to expect, but sustained over a longer time and with characters that I felt closer to than in other books I’ve read by him. The story is of Tomas and Tereza, and whether they will stay together despite Tomas’s constant infidelity. Branching out from this central story are other stories, following the lives,… Read More

2010 writing/reading goals

I’m a bit late to the New Year goal-setting party, but here goes. For my writing, I want to finish my second novel and get it published, and start on a third. I also want to write more short stories and submit them to magazines and contests. For my reading, I want to read a book a week. I think I do this already, but have never really tracked it for a full year to find out if it’s true. So this year I want to make a note of… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

“Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.” – Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (thanks to Georgina for drawing my attention to it)

Book review – BBC National Short Story Award 2008

This is a collection of the five shortlisted stories for the 2008 BBC National Short Story Award. It’s a prestigious competition so naturally the standard of writing in all five stories was very high, even though some were more interesting to me than others. First up was Guidelines for Measures to cope with Disgraceful and Other Events by Richard Beard. It’s a wonderful parody of a bureaucratic memo delivered to a member of the European parliament who has been caught having an affair. The memo outlines the various options open… Read More

“The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov

The devil is unleashed in Stalinist Moscow. The funny thing is that while the devil kills, maims and causes havoc throughout the city, he is very far from a traditional definition of evil. In fact, the character struck me as being more like an avenging angel, punishing people for various sins such as cowardice, greed, vanity or lust. There is a further subversion of expectations later in the novel when Margarita makes a pact with the devil to find the character she calls the Master. We are so used to… Read More

Holiday reading

I had a very relaxing holiday, and had time for lots of reading: Also read, but not pictured, were: Global Shift by Edmund J. Bourne Commonwealth Short Stories edited by Anna Rutherford and Donald Hannah West Indian Folk Tales retold by Philip M Sherlock Reviews to follow – I have a bit of a backlog to take care of!

UK short story magazines

Well, I’m back – finally! The snow and ice here in England delayed my return, so my four-week holiday turned into five. I am now relaxed and even a little tanned, and trying to hold onto both for as long as possible. More about my holiday later, but I wanted to start the new year by thanking Tania Hershman for providing this excellent list of UK and Irish lit mags. I plan to subscribe to several of them, and also submit some short stories I’ve been hoarding for a while…. Read More