Date Archives February 2010

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 4

In the final part of this series of posts, I’m reviewing stories by Mavis Gallant, V.S. Naipaul, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Hal Porter and Chinua Achebe. Mavis Gallant (Canada) – Orphans’ Progress According to the introduction, Gallant’s work mostly deals with broken families, and this is no exception: two girls are taken into care because their mother is irresponsible. They go to live with relatives, and then at a school run by nuns, until finally they have forgotten where they came from. At the time it seemed normal – it was… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 3

Continuing the series, here are my notes on the short stories by Randolph Stow, Janet Frame, Andrew Salkey and Ezekiel Mphahlele. Randolph Stow (Australia) – Magic This is based on the ‘sulumwoya’ myth of the Trobriand Islands, where incest between a brother and a sister is the supreme sexual taboo. The introduction says he took the myth and added psychological realism and more description of the setting. But I couldn’t see much evidence of either – it felt like a traditional myth. The lust was heavily foreshadowed from the first… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 2

This is a continuation from yesterday’s post, which was becoming too long! Today, I’m reviewing stories by Mordecai Richler, Lee Kok Liang, Wilson Harris, Frank Sargeson and Amos Tutuola. Mordecai Richler (Canada) – The Summer my Grandmother was Supposed to Die The story is a narrated by a child, and starts with his grandmother being diagnosed with gangrene and a doctor saying “She won’t last a month.” Gradually she lasts longer and longer, and there are some good observations about how the family is prepared to help for weeks or… Read More

“Commonwealth Short Stories”, part 1

There are some excellent stories in here, from big names like V.S. Naipaul, Patrick White,  George Lamming, Chinua Achebe and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (although this book is so old he is credited as James Ngugi, his birth name which he rejected as a sign of colonial influence). Also some good ones from writers I didn’t know, like R.K. Narayan from India and Amos Tutuola from Nigeria. The editors, Anna Rutherford and Donald Hannah, have also provided for each of the 18 stories a couple of pages of introduction giving background… Read More

“October All Over” by Maria Roberts-Squires

I liked the premise of this book. It’s set in 1983 against the backdrop of the Grenadian revolution, and is basically a love story, with a lot of complications due to the family backgrounds of Ramona and Fabian and also the turbulent political events. I like this combination of personal and political, and the plot moved nicely along, allowing the discussion of political events and racial prejudice. What I thought didn’t work so well was that a lot of the major plot points relied on large coincidences. Ramona and Fabian… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

“We all need some time to ourselves – just a few minutes a day to get reacquainted with the one who’s been there since the beginning.” – seen in Starbuck’s, Muswell Hill

Finding the ‘Lost Booker’

So it seems that due to a procedural anomaly, a whole year’s worth of novels missed out on being considered for the Booker Prize. This is being remedied by a retroactive award, with a shortlist of novels from 1970 being drawn up by three judges and then a public vote to decide the winner. I think this is interesting – partly for a window onto a year’s writing (lots of names I recognise, but not a single book I’ve read), but also for raising questions of how we judge literature…. Read More

“On the Holloway Road” published as an eBook

I’m a bit behind the times – this actually happened at the end of last year. But wanted to let you know that my debut novel On the Holloway Road has been digitised and is available as an eBook download, for those of you who are into such things. Personally I prefer the feel of a physical book, although I suspect I’ll be convinced of the merits of electronics readers one day. I certainly like the idea of being able to search an electronic book and instantly find a passage… Read More

Google Adwords?

I got a voucher recently for £75 of free advertising on Google Adwords. I wasn’t really planning to use it, because I think Adwords is quite expensive for someone like me. I don’t exactly do a “hard sell” on this website, so even if I get extra traffic, probably only a small percentage would actually buy my book. I can’t really see how I’d make back my money (apart from of course during the free period, which only lasts a few weeks). But I just thought I’d ask if anyone… Read More