Date Archives March 2010

Population growth and CO2

Just read the January/February issue of the New Internationalist, and was depressed at first to see the title “The population panic” on the cover. But it turned out to be a very well-researched series of articles, showing that a lot of the popular assumptions about population growth are false. For example,the following graph shows that the link between population growth and global warming is weak: the majority of the population growth is in poor countries that do not contribute greatly to global warming, while the countries with low population growth… Read More

Kingdom of Ife

Went to see a wonderful exhibition recently at the British Museum called Kingdom of Ife – Sculptures from West Africa. It was a collection of beautiful sculptures, mostly heads like the one pictured, done in bronze, copper and terracotta, and dating from as far back as the 12th century. The exhibition made me realise how ignorant I am about African history. I’d never even heard of the Kingdom of Ife, which flourished in modern-day Nigeria from the 12th to the 15th centuries. I have a history degree from Oxford University,… Read More

“Beside the Sea” by Véronique Olmi

A mother takes her two young sons on a trip to the seaside.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it? There’s even a bucket and spade on the cover. You can almost feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, hear the brass band playing a cheery tune. But this is not a nice little feel-good story about a trip to the sea. There’s no sunshine, no brass bands, no sandcastles and laugher and sticks of rock. To get an idea of what this book is like, imagine that idyllic seaside trip… Read More

“Southcrop Forest” by Lorne Rothman

I’ve always been interested in stories with non-human characters. I have an idea to write a story one day about a city – not the people in it, but the city itself, as a living character with its own actions and motivations. Trouble is, I’m not really sure where to start. So I was intrigued by this book, in which the main characters are trees. Trees can’t move around or do very much, so how could a whole novel be written about them? Well, Lorne Rothman manages it, and it… Read More

“Lean on Pete” by Willy Vlautin

The writing style is incredibly simple, probably the most simple of any book I’ve read since childhood. It perfectly captures the realistic voice of the narrator, a sporadically-educated 15-year-old boy called Charley. Yet despite or perhaps because of the simplicity, it drew me into the story and was even beautiful in places. As well as the simplicity, Vlautin manages to convey the idea of a teenage narrator perfectly through Charley’s obsessions – unimportant things are told in great detail (more or less every meal is catalogued), while important things are… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

Be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph. – Roddy Doyle The Guardian, Feb 2010

Lucky dip reading

Saw a good post on the Guardian website about “lucky dip” reading – buying a book you know absolutely nothing about. It makes the valid point that people who shop online are less likely to stumble on new books than they would if they were browsing a bookshop. That’s certainly been my experience – I’ve never just randomly browsed on Amazon in the way I would in a bookshop. I just log on, buy what I want and log off again. Perhaps that will change, though, as online bookshops improve… Read More