I wrote a little review of ‘Hold On to the Sun’ by Michal Govrin, for the For Books’ Sake website.
Now go and have a read
At the moment I am finding it quite difficult to concentrate on writing (things going on) and the blog in particular, hence the rise of this more snippety kind of post…
I finally, after a couple of years of intent, joined the Thali Cafe‘s tiffin club. And it is bloody marvellous. The food was plentiful (fish curry, spicy dhal, tasty rice and a weird little veggie salad thingy) and incredibly more-ish and more than enough for two people. Delicious and inexpensive when you consider refills are only £6-7.50, depending upon the type of meal chosen. Joining the Tiffin Club itself is only £22.50, and this includes your first meal (and gives you ownership of a very pretty set of metal tiffin pots too).
The Thali Cafe can be found in Totterdown, Clifton, Montpelier and Easton. The atmosphere is invariably relaxed and the food amazingly good value.
Having joined Thea Gilmore‘s Angels in the Abattoir project last year (and finding it worth every penny of the £52 it cost me) I have also joined Liz William‘s short story experiment, in which, depending upon the level of commitment chosen, she will send you from 4 to 12 short stories over the year, for the princely sum of £18 to £50. Subscriptions run for two years (from what I can work out) and are limited in number.
I have received the first three short stories and will be reading over the next week. More on this when I have done so.
Thea Gilmore’s approach is very much an experiment in direct contact with her fans, and the ‘package’ is designed to add value over and above the simple purchase of a cd or iTunes download. Liz Williams’ effort is much more of a direct sales approach, with the limited number of subscriptions adding rarity ‘value’ whilst keeping the overhead of managing these at a reasonable level (both artists take the time to be personal in their approach, as much as they can be).
I do wonder whether there will come a time, if this model explodes, where we will see eBay auctions for virtual, authentic and rare ‘subscription certificates’ to well known authors, musicians and artists. Interesting…
Breakfast this morning has been the remnants of yesterday’s bag of Jelly Babies. No, I’m not proud of myself at all.
A number of things have arisen of late where I have had to think about fatherhood and the idea of having children (no, I am not about to have a child nor am I planning to); I am still pretty much convinced that my choice is the right one so far.
Okay, the significant change there is the so far bit. I am well aware that things change, and having pontificated at length on the flexibility of change and life choice off-line, I realise that just because a decision or choice is the way it is now, doesn’t mean it cannot change in the future. Life has a nasty (or blessed) habit of throwing a curve ball and when it does you have to re-evaluate your choices based on the situation and principles at hand, rather than stubbornly adhering to a possibly outdated and less self-aware decision.
I spent yesterday with my mum, brother, sister-in-law and the two nephews (and small jug). It was bedlam. I can see and understand that having children and raising them is no mean feat, but gods, I don’t know it. And I am quite happy with that shallowness of knowledge, to some extent.
My hat off to those of you who have done and are doing it. ’tis a brave and crazy thing you do, and best of luck with it.
I am quite particular and opinionated about books, and a brief conversation with Emily last night highlighted this. I love reading and I love books. I love people’s writing but I can be a bit snotty about the quality of writing and storytelling contained within a book (this in no way contradicts my occasional penchant for horribly written pulp fiction, okay, it does).
I do not like the Brontes, the Austens and I dropped GCSE English Literature like a hot stone after reading the first couple of pages of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Heathen as it may be, I just don’t like these classics and making me read them will only get me as grumpy as the time I was made to read Dan Brown.
On the flip side I do love the ancient classics; Aristophanes and Ovid and Euripides are great, and Fagle’s translations of the Homeric epics the Odysseus and the Iliad are just fantastic. Moving forward through time, Dumas’ the Count of Monte Cristo and the Three Musketeers are true classics, as is, indisputably, Cervante’s Don Quixote. Of course there are non-European epics/classics I like as well, such as Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en and the massive and intimidating Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata (although to be perfectly honest I only really ever watched the latter on television).
I just have a real blind spot when it comes to Hardy, Austen et al (and this goes for worthy Russians such as Dostoyevsky and Chekov). Perhaps time will change my mind.
Sustrans is a cycling charity set up to promote cycling in the UK and they have been instrumental in the massive growth in the National Cycle Network. They do lots of good stuff at all levels of the community and if you are into cycling in any way you should consider joining. They also have some great helmets in their shop (ahem).
I have just recently picked up a copy of Dario Mitidieri’s Children of Bombay. The pictures are stunning, heartbreaking, emotive, brutal and observationally astute. The photography is superb. Go and find it.
The universe. I really like it. Despite all it’s odd bits; dark matter (confusing), exploding suns, life, incomprehensibility and unimaginable vastness and minute complexity, it has it’s good points too. Just look around, you’ll see examples of both. Love it.
You may want to read the post below before continuing to read this.
I was thinking on the long walk back from my disastrous and somewhat dissatisfying run about the post below, and I came to the conclusion that I was not quite there.
TNoNH isn’t just about people and beliefs and ideas and jokes, it is also very much about what Malcolm Gladwell would call ‘tipping points’. This is a book as much about transition as it is about realisation and crystallisation.
Auberon Quin, the King, has such a moment of crystallisation when he encounters the ex-President of the recently conquered, once independent Nicaragua. This meeting realises something with Quin, and the first major tipping point is reached, ultimately culminating in the transition that is the Charter of Cities, his grand joke.
His encounter with a very young Adam Wayne in turn crystallises a belief in that boy about Notting Hill, eventually leading to next tipping point, when Wayne embarks on the path he believes the only one he can follow. Transitions and tipping points follow, played out through the earnestness of Wayne and the knowing buffoonery of Quin, rippling out to occupy both the physical and metaphysical landscape of London. At then end there is recognition of this fact, leading to one of the most intensely realised scenes of the novel, when the final and unknown realisation and transition takes place, beyond the final words of the story and on into the imagination of the reader.
All good stories are about transition and change, whether it is minor, subtle or vast beyond comprehension. It is this tension, between the status quo and the new state of being that drives the story forward, defining heroines and villains both.
TNoNH has no villains as such, each character is driven from their natural state of being, Buck and Barker content with the ‘now’, with Wayne striving forwards to realise the ideals he holds dear. Quin hovers between the two, first implementing his joke against the normality of the ‘now’, maintaining his plan in the face of exasperated opposition and reluctant forbearance, before embracing destiny as it is presented to him.
And yet the central debate and examination (see below) still stands, ultimately this story is about change and people and belief and the nature of the joke.
This is a story about a joke. It is also a story about belief, and the conflict that arises because of that belief. It is a story about how a joke and belief can change a world by changing the minds and spirits of those who inhabit it.
A man becomes King, and treats this responsibility as a joke, capering and buffooning his way through life, realising that in the coming together of great nations a stilted seriousness has long since stifled humour.
In his humour he conceives a grand joke, and enforces it on the people of London, who, with grace good and ill, humour the King.
A boy meets a King, and from that fateful intersection of destinies is set upon a path that changes the minds of men, that reshapes the London and elevates the joke to something more than could have been imagined.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill is a short book, and is exquisitely written, reflecting the post-Victorian London of this alternative reality, stiff and uniform and lacking in poetry and humour. It rolls with a frantic mania, with characters wonderfully evoked by the force of their personalities, in the almost childish vibrancy of their emotions. And yet, at its heart, lies a debate, an examination of the nature of heroism, of patriotism, of humour and belief in an idea absurd.
It is a debate still relevant in a world confused and ever-changing, where ideas and ideals shift without thought and principles are mired by an overly complicated world.
Faded Sun Trilogy; CJ Cherryh
A bit of science fiction now. I absolutely love this book. It has dated a little but I think there is a real power in the way Cherryh portrays the immersion of a human into another alien culture, and the upheaval of that culture as it comes to terms with itself in the midst of a vast conflict and defeat.
Cherryh is aclever and intelligent writer, with her real strength being the bringing to life of another culture/mindset.
This book has always left me with a vague feeling of melancholy and wonder, which is a strange combination to have.