Dear blogging friends, just a notice of a brief period of absence here at the Reading Room. I’m writing another chapter of my academic book and much as I dearly wish they would, formal writing and blogging just don’t seem to mix for me. I’ll be back Friday, or Saturday at the latest, and something similar may have to happen next week. My husband has been longing to recreate the conditions under which Colette wrote: she was locked into her room and only allowed out when the requisite number of pages had been pushed under the door. This was when she worked for her first husband, Willy, who ran a writing factory (and may well be one of the many reasons why she divorced him). My husband, who is trained in all kinds of new fangled production processes would love to exert the power of agile and/or lean manufacturing on me. Alas, my word manufacturing processes involve a lot of staring into space and going to find snacks. Neither lean, nor agile, then. I’ll leave you with a couple of items; the first is the six-word memoir which I heard about this morning, as a development of Hemingway’s six-word novel. Apparently there’s a book of them recently published, which came out of this contest here. There are some very good ones. I particularly liked ‘Saviour complex makes for many disappointments’ and ‘Wealthy woman escapes with handsome mailman’. Inevitably I had to attempt my own, which ended up (so far) as: ‘Reading, writing, loving, in various permutations.’ My husband’s was ‘What, now? I’ll do it later.’ I rather liked that but felt that the word count was the key. Had he been asked for 15 words he would have said, ‘Who do you think I am? Tolstoy?’ (and no, that’s a retort, not a six word memoir). If anyone fancies leaving one in the comments, I will be very impressed.

I’m very into simple, direct poetry at the moment. I’d leave more Neruda, but I can’t decide which bit. So instead, here’s something by Sophie Hannah, whom I admire. Have a wonderful rest of the week, full of lovely reading!

Soft Companion


He sat in the under-heated flat, alone,

Usefully passing time (he thought by choice),

Not missing anything, until the phone,

Brought him the soft companion of your voice,


And then he looked around himself and saw,

The scraps of clothing on the floor, in shreds,

And felt his keys hang heavy in the door.

He thought of powdered milk and single beds.


Unsure of him, you said, ‘It’s only me,’

Meaning not quite enough, but you were right:

Yours was the only face he hoped to see

And only you remembered him tonight.


22 thoughts on “Exeat

  1. No problem, since during your absences, I now have your book for easy re-reading (and what fun it is! It’s amazing how I’m reliving my life with Litlove). Meanwhile, I’m going to be away for a few days myself, so my hope will be that you’ll be back at it by the time I get back.

  2. Harriet – it’s nicer now I’ve put the breaks back in – why do these programs swallow them up sometimes? But thank you – I will miss you too while I’m away. Iliana – I couldn’t agree more – snacks are essential :)! Emily – I’m so glad it arrived ok. And how clever of us to coordinate our absences – we should do that more often!

  3. Verbivore – that’s brilliant! And thank you for your good luck wishes – I’ll need them. Dorothy – what a sweetheart you are! Thank you so much. I’m still inspired by your example of one good, dependable hour’s writing a day to get through your dissertation. David – oh you are pure class, my friend. I thought about writing you back a six word appreciation but it’s no good. It doesn’t begin to cover the necessary superlatives.

  4. As I’m in a crazy rhyming mood today (must be silly season or too much poetry reading):

    May the academic muses
    Light all the right fuses
    Words in showers fall
    And not one sentence pall.

    On the six word biog, all I can offer at the moment is:

    womb reader groom father bloom weeder.

  5. Good luck with the writing. I’m with Iliana–don’t forget the snacks! Love the poem, too 🙂 I’m a big fan of the six-word stories, a la Hemingway (For sale: baby shoes, never worn), but somehow it’s harder to distill my own story…I’ll have to think on that!

  6. Thank you, dear Ann – I’ll see you very soon. Dear Bookboxed – standing ovation for you my friend! I love the poem and the biog so much! The poem I shall repeat to myself for instant moral fibre when I hit the rough patches. Gentle Reader – thank you for your kind wishes (I promise to keep well stocked up on snacks :)). Those six word stories are fab, aren’t they? And yes, really quite tricky when you actually come to attempt one!

  7. Good luck on the writing. I had heard that about Colette (perhaps from one of your posts about her). Hopefully your husband won’t lock you into a room. I’d much prefer the snack scenario! 🙂

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  10. Navtej kohli – thank you so much for your kind comment and a very Happy Chinese New Year to you, too! Stefanie – LOL! That’s a brilliant one! Archie – that’s just excellent too! Oh bloggers, so much talent out there. We are wasted in our day jobs, sadly wasted. Danielle – you made me laugh! I haven’t been locked in, and I have certainly snacked! Academic writing is sooooo slow, but I’m getting there, gradually. Jacob – LOL! Your comments entertained me no end as well!

  11. Wishing you the best of luck with your writing! Flannery O’Conner used to sit in her chair for hours sometimes, waiting for the words to come. I guess she didn’t have access to Little Debbies, though.

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