1. I’m so sick of my yahoo email account being hacked that I’ve decided to shut it down. It’s been the email attached to this blog, so please note that if you want to contact me, the address is different now. I’ve altered the About page accordingly.
2. For several weeks now, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a non-fiction writing course. The upshot is that I’ve ended up thinking I might as well concoct my own. Most of the courses I’ve looked at focus on reading and commenting on appropriate books, and I figure that while writing is always hard, reading is sort of what I do. So I’ve made a list and a schedule and if anyone would like to join me in reading and thinking about any of these books, that would be lovely (descriptions below are not mine but come mostly from amazon). This is the schedule for posting:
Creative Non-Fiction Reading
21st April – Bluets by Maggie Nelson
‘A lyrical, philosophical, and often explicit exploration of personal suffering and the limitations of vision and love, as refracted through the color blue. With Bluets, Maggie Nelson has entered the pantheon of brilliant lyric essayists.’
Mid-May – Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered To Do It by Geoff Dyer
‘It is more of a travelogue than the self-helplessness book suggested by its title. But the journey logged is less geographical than psychological – an edgy ramble through the mind of the author as world traveler. In these 11 short vignettes, Dyer recounts vividly the particulars of a decade of wanderlust. Instead of a sequential narrative, Dyer gives us, “an endless accretion – a kind of negative archeology – of material.”’
Mid-June – Ghosting: A Double Life by Jennie Erdal
‘Ghosting is a remarkable account of one woman’s life – or, to be more accurate, lives. For fifteen years, Jennie Erdal had a double existence: officially she worked as a personal editor for one particular man – Tiger – but in reality she was his ghostwriter and in some mysterious sense his alter ego. During this time she wrote a great deal that appeared under his name – from personal letters and business correspondence to newspaper columns, novels and full-length books. Ghosting moves from a vivid evocation of an austere upbringing in Fife to superbly rendered portraits of the people with whom Jennie Erdal worked at a London-based publishing house. This moving and beautifully written memoir is laced throughout with rich, quiet comedy and profound insights into what it means to be human and to live in language.’
Mid-July – The Mirador; Imagined Memories of Irène Némirovsky by her Daughter by Elisabeth Gille
‘When Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française was first published, the world discovered a new great writer. Even in France, however, Némirovsky had been more or less forgotten for years, until her youngest daughter Élisabeth Gille, only five years old when her mother died in Auschwitz, wrote a book to bring her back to life. In 1992 Gille published this fictionalized autobiography of the acclaimed novelist, who had led a sparkling life in Paris as one of the most successful and prolific European writers of the 1930s before being arrested as a Jew and led to her death in 1942.’
Mid-August – Thin Paths; Journeys In and Around an Italian Mountain Village by Julia Blackburn
‘Julia Blackburn and her husband moved to a little house in the mountains of northern Italy in 1999. She arrived as a stranger but a series of events brought her close to the old people of the village and they began to tell her their stories. Of how their village had been trapped in an archaic feudal system and owned by a local padrone who demanded his share of all they had, of the eruption of the Second World War, of the conflict between the fascists and the partisans, of death and fear and hunger of how they hid like like foxes in the mountains. ‘Write it down for us,’ they said, ‘because otherwise it will all be lost.’ Thin Paths is a celebration of the songlines of one place that could be many places and a celebration of the humour and determination of the human spirit.’
Mid-September – Man with a Blue Scarf by Martin Gayford
‘A beautifully produced paperback edition of the literary artbook hailed as one of the best and most continually fascinating books about painting in recent memory. Lucian Freud spent seven months painting a portrait of the art critic Martin Gayford. Gayford describes the process chronologically, from the day he arrived for the first sitting through to his meeting with the couple who bought the finished painting. As Freud creates a portrait of Gayford, so the art critic produces his own portrait of the notoriously private artist, recounting their wide-ranging conversations and giving a rare insight into Freuds working practice.’
Mid-October – The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane
‘The Wild Places is both an intellectual and a physical journey, and Macfarlane travels in time as well as space. Guided by monks, questers, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists, both living and dead, he explores our changing ideas of the wild. From the cliffs of Cape Wrath, to the holloways of Dorset, the storm-beaches of Norfolk, the saltmarshes and estuaries of Essex, and the moors of Rannoch and the Pennines, his journeys become the conductors of people and cultures, past and present, who have had intense relationships with these places. Certain birds, animals, trees and objects – snow-hares, falcons, beeches, crows, suns, white stones – recur, and as it progresses this densely patterned book begins to bind tighter and tighter. At once a wonder voyage, an adventure story, an exercise in visionary cartography, and a work of natural history, it is written in a style and a form as unusual as the places with which it is concerned. It also tells the story of a friendship, and of a loss. It mixes history, memory and landscape in a strange and beautiful evocation of wildness and its vital importance.’
3. Finally, I was delighted to find that I’d been ‘freshly pressed’ by wordpress for the post I wrote on James Lasdun’s account of internet stalking: Give Me Everything You Have. The post was also featured as one of their Friday Faves, which is a sort of ‘best of’ freshly pressed for the week. This was really lovely recognition for an elderly blogger like me (7 years next month) when, as any blogger knows, you can often feel like you’re just posting away into ether, not sure whether anyone still likes what you do.
I was then brought firmly down to earth by finding out that Bloomsbury had had their annual bloggers’ tea party and I hadn’t been invited. I’m not sure whether, as an introvert who generally dislikes parties, I’m allowed to be miffed about this. Although I am a bit, as I have assiduously reviewed almost every book they’ve sent me. Honestly, I am so forgettable. So the motto of this week is definitely: you win some, you lose some!