Date Archives February 2010

“West Indian Folk Tales” retold by Philip Sherlock

What struck me about these stories is the similarity between traditional folk tales in different parts of the world. I grew up, of course, with British or European stories, whereas these stories are either of Carib or African origin. Yet many of them sounded familiar, not in the specifics but in the general themes — explaining the world and how things came to be the way they are, through stories with animals as characters illustrating different aspects of human behaviour. What was also interesting about these stories was that the… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

“Let our imagination guide us – and never cease to follow it, for if we do, we grow up and the child inside us is no more.” – seen in Starbuck’s, Muswell Hill

Reading 8 or 9 hours a day

George Lamming also said something quite amazing in his speech, and I forgot to mention it in my last post. He mentioned that he reads for 8 or 9 hours a day, and has done throughout his life. If he doesn’t read that much, he feels – I forget the word he used, but basically unsatisfied, hungry for more. After the speech, I said how wonderful it would be to read so much – you’d have such an encyclopaedic knowledge of world literature and presumably a lot of other topics…. Read More

George Lamming on “The politics of reading”

While I was in Barbados over Christmas and New Year, I went to a literary event – the 12th annual award ceremony for the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment, on Saturday 9 January 2010. The keynote speaker was George Lamming, probably Barbados’s best-known writer. He gave a fascinating speech on the politics of reading, which I am finally getting around to writing about! First he made it clear what he meant by politics. In Barbados, when you say someone’s being “political” it generally seems to mean they are blindly following one… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Edison

I’m old

It was one of those moments when you realise you’re old – or at least no longer young. I am working on editing the draft of my next novel, and decided to go to a cafe – somewhere I hadn’t been before, a fresh location for a fresh perspective on the manuscript. All was going well as I got an enormous fry-up and mug of tea for £4. But then as I settled down to work, the music in the place just started driving me crazy. They had the radio… Read More

British “state of the nation” novels

One of my fellow Legend Press authors, Mark Piggott, wrote an interesting article in the Independent about ‘state of the nation’ novels. I thought it would be complaining that nobody’s writing about contemporary British issues these days – there’s been quite a bit of that recently, because historical novels have been getting a lot of the awards and attention lately. But he takes a more interesting line, noting that historical novels have been getting the attention, but pointing out the wealth of books tackling contemporary issues (of which mine is… Read More

“Gustave Flaubert” by Andrew Brown

This is not your standard biography. Translator Andrew Brown abandons the usual chronological approach in favour of an entertaining, thematic narrative that moves through Flaubert’s life by a kind of free association. The first chapter, for example, is on the spire of Rouen cathedral, and the second on the spiral of Flaubert’s life, “a matter of many returns, not always happy (or even unhappy). I found it worked really well, giving more of an insight into Flaubert’s character than a standard “life and times” approach would have done. I learned… Read More

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

When I talked about why I blogged, I used to use this book as my stock example. Here I am in September 2008, for example: The original idea of this blog was to provide somewhere for me to record the books and articles I read. I forget things so easily: I know I’ve read “Catcher in the Rye”, for instance. I see it on my bookshelf sometimes, and the spine has creases. It’s definitely been read. But I can’t remember a single thing about it. Not one event, character, idea,… Read More