Date Archives April 2010

Spring and resurrection

I’ve been reading The Golden Bough recently – an old 1920s work on myth and magic in ancient societies around the world. It talks a lot about vegetation deities – corn gods, maize gods, rice gods, etc. There are striking parallels in early beliefs around the world, in places that as far as we know had developed separately. The idea… Read More

“Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida” Part 1

I was always going to enjoy this book. I have loved Russian literature from an early age, and this short story collection is a Hall of Fame of Russian literature. With a few exceptions, which the editor Robert Chandler highlights in his introduction, the big names are all here. The main omissions are Gorky, Grossman, Pasternak and Sholokhov, because their… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they’ll know it too. Esther Freud The Guardian, Feb 2010

“The World Is What It Is” by Patrick French

A lot has been made of how frank this biography is. It’s certainly true that V.S. Naipaul gave his biographer Patrick French access to a huge amount of material, including things that other people would have tried to keep quiet about. For example the racism, the bigotry, the use of prostitutes, the affairs, the betrayals, the occasional violence, the perpetual… Read More

“How to Write Short Stories” by Sharon Sorenson

This is a very useful basic guide to writing short stories. Most of it I have read or heard elsewhere (e.g. “show, don’t tell” – ever heard that one before?), but what I found useful was the examples used to illustrate the lessons. The examples were good because I’ve always thought of formulas for writing short stories as, well, a… Read More

“Global Diasporas: An Introduction” by Robin Cohen

Global Diasporas by Robin Cohen is an excellent introduction to the theory of diasporas, a term which has expanded considerably in recent years from its original use in the Jewish Diaspora to describe all kinds of cultural and ethnic dispersions. Cohen starts by defining common features of global diasporas: Dispersal from an original homeland, often traumatically, to two or more… Read More

Literature optimisation

Just had a little blast from the future. With books being digitised and searchable on Google, will authors start writing books with their Google search ranking in mind? You know how these days there’s Search Engine Optimisation, where people try to design their blogs or websites so that they appear at the top of a Google search? Well, perhaps in… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ­counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free. – Anne Enright The Guardian, Feb 2010