Date Archives June 2012

Sophie Blackall at the Brooklyn Public Library

Like any nosy New Yorker, I first encountered Sophie Blackall on the subway. I most often ride the F line, and found myself pleasantly surprised one day by the depth of feeling in the illustrations above me. Blackall is a children’s book author, born in Australia but currently based in Brooklyn, and would likely not mind the neat line one might draw between her and Maurice Sendak.

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Why reading is social rather than solitary

Although reading is termed solitary, some of my best times on holiday have been when we’ve been sitting beside each other, each immersed in our own book. And in fact here reading becomes very social, because a laugh will make the other want to know what’s so funny, which often turns into reading pages out-loud, and so both benefit from the words. A couple of years ago we spent at least half of our holiday reading, and it was one of the best holidays so far.

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The worst job in the world

When Barack Obama was elected US President in 2008 “The Onion” ran the headline “black man given nation’s worst job”. Much as I found their take on events amusing, even being President during this period of such economic misery can’t compare to what really is the worst job in the world: writing.

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The reflection of read things

The enthralling The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997) is what I’ll be musing about. I read the novel earlier this year and was completely taken by both the beauty of it and Roy’s writing. Its narrative is that of forbidden love set in the milieu of socially and politically fragile India.

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No internet. No phone. One month.

OK, I’m off! Bags are packed, tickets printed, taxi is booked for four thirty tomorrow morning, and several alarms have been set. I’ve got some great guest posts lined up to run during the next few weeks, but you’ll hear nothing from me until the middle of July. I thought about taking my laptop, or going to internet cafes, and then decided just to have a complete break. No phone, no internet for a month. It’s a nice prospect. Let me be clear: I love writing this blog, and chatting… Read More

The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul

The book begins with a murder. Soon detectives are on the scene, and the victim’s life is being unravelled piece by piece, revealing a double life and several people with possible motives. But this is not your average detective novel. In this respect it reminds me of Tail of the Blue Bird by Nii Akwei Parkes, reviewed on this site last year. Both books incorporate some aspects of genre fiction, while deliberately departing from others and frustrating the reader’s expectations. It made me think about what makes a book “literary”… Read More

Achieve happiness, in three easy steps?

I was in an American-style steak house here in Barbados a few weeks ago, trying to write but being distracted instead by the TVs  in every corner of the room beaming out different cable channels: sport to the left of me, news to the right, an action movie front and centre. One programme particularly caught my eye: a piece on happiness, by CNN. The news hook was the publication of a World Happiness Report, in which countries were ranked by the happiness of their citizens. The puzzle for CNN was… Read More