Sadly the author M.C. Beaton’s son has announced that she died on the 30th of December, you can read the Guardian article here. She was 83 years old and I saw her being interviewed on the BBC fairly recently. I had never seen or heard her before so I was very surprised that she was a very ordinary wee Scottish woman, sounding very similar to me accent wise. Apparently she wasn’t happy with the ‘cosy’ description of her books:
“It is patronising and implies that my books, which are easy to read, must be easy to write. Nobody calls Agatha Christie cosy,” she told the Crime Hub in 2019. “To keep writing in clear well-balanced sentences takes a lot of hard work and if anyone doesn’t want a Glasgow kiss, swallow that opinion and put it where the sun don’t shine.”
Honestly she was such a typical Glaswegian woman, not to be messed with! In the interview I saw she came over as being very genuine and funny.
In the Guardian article there’s absolutely no mention of the many Regency Romance books that she wrote in a light parody of Georgette Heyer, those seemed to be churned out at such a rate that I began to wonder if they were being ghost written, but maybe not. I’m not sure if it was the interview below that I watched, but it’s interesting anyway.
I’ve talked about book inscriptions here before. I love to read the inscriptions in the secondhand books that I buy, but I never write in books myself. I just can’t bring myself to do it, although before I got married I used to write my name inside my books and even used pretty book plates at one time. Marriage cured me of that, I think it was probably something to do with the change of name! I’ve often thought about using post it notes to stick on books, just with my name and maybe the place and date that I bought it, but haven’t got around to actually doing that. But I would never write in a book that I was giving to someone, in fact I probably wouldn’t give a book as a gift unless I knew for certain the person wanted it.
Anyway, in last week’s Guardian Review section there’s an article by Elle Hunt about book giving and inscriptions and you can read it here.
Otherwise I’m probably just like you at the moment only more so as I also have Jack’s Christmas Eve birthday to think about. I suspect that it’s only the imminent arrival of visitors, even the family kind, that makes me get stuck into the housework. I’d rather read!
There were a few articles that really struck me in this week’s Guardian. The first one is titled Laws of Nature. Apparently a movement is gaining momentum that grants legal rights to natural phenomena such as rivers, lakes, trees and mountains. Robert Macfarlane investigates the rise of the new animism. I’m all for it if it means that such wonders of nature are going to be nurtured for future generations instead of being plundered and polluted for business purposes as they often are nowadays. But of course it’s not as simple as that. You can read the article here.
Novel Houses by Christina Hardyment is subtitled Twenty Famous Fictional Dwellings. I had it in my mind that writing books where houses are as much a character as the people was something that was done mainly by female authors, but of course I was wrong about that as you’ll see if you read the review here.
Have you read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy? I enjoyed them some years ago and I think that the new BBC1 dramatisation has been really well done. I hadn’t realised that Pullman had inadvertently invented the name Lyra. It’s quite a rare thing to do, but the inventors of Pamela, Miranda and Vanessa get a name check, however this article doesn’t mention that J.M. Barrie invented the name Wendy, from calling a little girl a ‘fwendy’ originally.
If we were lucky enough to have a daemon (animal manifestation of the human soul) what would yours be? Mine changes from time to time, but then I am a Gemini – allegedly! Having a red squirrel daemon appeals to me at the moment.
I suspect we’re all being driven around the bend by the political news – in the UK anyway, but the Guardian Review section has an article about the relationship with Europe that some well known writers have, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Mary Beard, Michel Faber, Sandi Toksvig and others contribute their thoughts to this article. The photo above is of Porto and it took me straight back there and the lovely trip along the river we had.
The Book of the Week is Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout which is apparently a set of interlinking short stories, but as I thought that Olive Kitteridge was exactly that – and not all that well interlinked – I’ll be giving that one a miss, but you might be one of the many fans. You can read about Olive, Again here. But I’m just saying – ‘Why oh why?!’
I’ll be reading The Life and Loves of E.Nesbit by Eleanor Fitzsimons at some point in the future although it will probably be quite a sad read as from what I know of her it wasn’t an easy life. You can read Sarah Watling’s review here.
I know so many people who adore cheese so I imagine that A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles by Ned Palmer will be a big seller, especially for Christmas, have a read here if you’re a cheese addict.
Lastly I’m wondering if any of you have read anything by the American author Laird Hunt. I found the review of his new book In the House in the Dark of the Woods interesting but I’m wondering if it might veer too much to the horror side for my liking. You can read Justine Jordan’s review of it here.
It’s ages since I’ve written a post about some of the articles in the Guardian Review which have particularly interested me – so here goes.
Patti Smith answered some questions here. I was particularly interested that she mentions Pinocchio as the book that she wished she had written. It has been on my Classics Club list for some time, I feel more inclined to get around to it soon now. I’m slightly perturbed that she had such anxiety while reading Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper – and that she actually threw up! She has never finished it. I completely understand her reaction to Villette though as I’ve also been so freaked out by the ending to a book that I had to rewrite it in my head, it was one by Paul Auster if you’re interested. Patti fell in love with books at a young age – I completely agree with what she says about Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.
A friend is reading Elton John’s autobiography Me at the moment and enjoying it, I plan to get around to that one sometime. I’ve never seen him live but Elton was such a feature of my young teenage life and even when I got married we had Jack’s Yellow Brick Road poster hanging on our bedroom wall, and here we are – both over 60 now and still enjoying Elton, in fact everywhere we went on that recent Baltic cruise we were being accompanied by Elton, he’s really popular in ‘the east’ especially Russia. I’ll never forget watching that concert in the USSR on TV when he was the first western pop star to play there. The audience hardly dared move, never mind sing and dance as they would have been doing here.
There’s an interview with Elizabeth Strout. I am possibly the only person to have been unimpressed by her book Olive Kitteridge. I really disliked Olive and the whole thing seemed disjointed to me, but apparently it won a Pulitzer – go figure as some people elsewhere say. Are you a fan?
There’s a new John le Carre book out called Agent Running in the Field, you can read about it here. I have to start reading him again, I have so many to catch up with. It’s a Brexit novel, there’s no getting away from it it seems.
There’s ‘a wheen o’ crime fiction written about here, or maybe it’s just ‘a hantle’, there are five of them.
You can read about Doctor Zhivago and a CIA plot here.
I was sorry to see Evelyn Anthony’s obituary in today’s Guardian, but I suppose she did have a fair old innings. I devoured her books in the 1970s and have only just begun to buy any books by her that I see, I gave all my old ones away years ago in an effort to de-clutter prior to moving house, I’m sure you know what that’s like.
Anyway, if you’re interested in reading Evelyn Anthony’s obituary have a look here.
I’ve just realised that her obituary was published online on October 10th, but didn’t appear in the physical newspaper until October 31st. They must have a backlog to work through in the newspaper!
I thought you might be interested in reading some of the Guardian articles that I’ve been reading over the last week or so.
Today I read that the new series of The Great British Bake Off begins next Tuesday and for the first time they’re going to have one week when the show goes vegan, to reflect the fact that Veganism has become so popular in the UK recently. You can read about it here. It’ll be an interesting episode – whatever.
Still on the subject of food, there was an article on The not so humble potato with lots of tattie recipes, some of which I’ll definitely be giving a go. You can see them here.
As a child I used to look longingly at a neighbour’s World War 2 Anderson shelter, still standing in their garden when we moved to Dumbarton from Glasgow in the 1960s. I really wanted one! If our garden had ever had one it had been removed post-war. I thought it would be a great place to play in, a cute wee house of my own – if we had had one. There’s an article about them here. I still want one.
There’s also an article on stone-stacking which you can read here. I first came across this modern craze for stone-stacking when we went for a walk by the Water of Leith in the Dean Village area. I absolutely hated all the silly looking stacked stones which some man pretending to be an artist (I think) had decided to ‘enhance’ the river with. I had no idea that it had been taken up by lots of other people with the result that popular natural beauty spots are being ruined. Leave no trace has always been the message for people who are keen to do things in the great outdoors. If I ever come across any more of these stone piles I’m going to make a point of kicking them over and restoring the place back to what it should be, for the sake of the wildlife as much as anything else.
It’s ages since I read an article in the Guardian about padlocks being affixed to a bridge in Paris, causing damage to the bridge, and that’s another daft thing which has spread around Europe anyway. I noticed that the stone bridge at Dunkeld has had padlocks attached to the metal lamp standards on it. I suppose the padlock manufacturers are happy about it though!
Over the past few years some of the better known authors have been complaining about the paltry payments that most authors receive from publishers, and I had thought that with someone like Philip Pullman heading the campaign that something might actually happen. You can read the recent Guardian article about it here if you’re interested.
Evidently publishers paid no attention to authors’ complaints as things have got even worse. This is something I’ve known about for years as I do know quite a lot of authors and there are very few nowadays who can afford to be a full time author, it’s best viewed as a hobby for your spare time.
One of the problems is that publishers know how thrilled writers are to be actually published in the beginning and so they take advantage of them. Publishing is obviously a large and lucrative industry, but it must be just about the only one that treats their ‘golden eggs’ as if they are the last thing that has to be thought of. I find it particularly shocking that the person designing the book covers is usually paid just as much or more than the author gets, and we all know how bad the covers often are. The people at the top in publishing just seem to be incredibly greedy, I’m sure we’ve all noticed that even editors and proof-readers seem to be rarities now, so there must be hardly anyone actually on publishers’ payrolls.
Still the price of books just continues to rise, that’s just one of the reasons why I love secondhand bookshops as the books are so much more affordable, but apart from that you never know what treasures you might find, whereas an ordinary bookshop’s stock is usually very predictable.
I know that Persephone books have lots of fans, and I’m fond of them myself but I really don’t know how they can justify charging £14 for what is after all just a paperback in a shade of grey. Quite classy looking maybe – but overpriced.
Elsewhere in the Guardian I was pleased to see that a new book by Helen Dunmore has just been published. It’s a collection of short stories called Girl, Balancing. I still have a lot of Helen Dunmore’s books to catch up with, in fact I had only just ‘discovered’ her when it was announced that she was terminally ill. I’ll probably support a local library though and borrow it.
Having just read this post through I realise that I sound like a grumpy old curmudgeon – not that I’m worried about that!
It’s ages since I did a post on Guardian Review links, that’s not because there were no interesting links, I just didn’t get around to them, anyway here goes:
In last Saturday’s Review I enjoyed reading Acquired tastes – an article about food which was inspired by the writer discovering that Dorothy Wordsworth had eaten black pudding.
There’s a new book out about Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson, you can read a review of it here.
You might be interested in A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War by Patricia Fara.
From The Independent – As a tribute to his father David Bowie Duncan Jones has launched an online book club featuring his father’s favourite books David Bowie Book Club The first book to be read is Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor. If you’re interested you can see Bowie’s 100 favourite books here.