Scotland – from the Guardian

the Guardian

Yesterday’s’s Travel section of the Guardian is a Scotland special, so if you want to see some lovely photos of Scotland have a look here for sailing.

here for hiking’walking

and here for eight of the best beaches.

Bookish thoughts

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!

Guardian bookish links

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.

Guardian links

Here we are at another Saturday already, I can’t believe how quickly each week flies past nowadays, there’s another Guardian review section to read today, and I found quite a few interesting articles in last week’s that you might find worthwhile reading too.

If I find a novel features a house to such an extent that it becomes character then that’s usually a big plus for me. I love houses in books, art, crafts, bookcovers — whatever, I’m right there in that house, so I enjoyed this article about famous fictional houses, there are a lot more than Manderley. Do you have a favourite fictional dwelling? Or just a favourite house? Do tell!

I’ve never read anything by Louise Welsh but I read this article about her working day. I hadn’t realised that she lives in Glasgow, near our old stamping ground.

The American author Robin Hobb features in the interview, interesting although again I haven’t read anything by her.

There’s a good article on picture books and novels for tots to teenagers. Although I don’t have any small people in my life nowadays (well not in this country anyway) I’m still drawn to children’s books and sometimes I just have to buy them if the illustrations are particularly gorgeous.

Sarah Dunant’s article is amongst other things about how the historical research that she used for some of her books hadn’t been done 25 years ago. Mainly though she’s writing to promote a BBC Radio 4 podcast – When Greeks Flew Kites, and I believe that anybody in the world can listen to the radio programmes in general.

Some Guardian links

I’ve been watching and really enjoying The Durrells on TV and I read a lot of their books way back in the 1970s, so I was interested to see that there’s a new biography of them out now, by Michael Haag called The Durrells of Corfu. It looks from the review though that it might be a bit of a missed opportunity as according to this article by Kathryn Hughes (who seems to know a lot about that family) Haag has stuck to the previous Durrell mythology as written by themselves and has ignored the even more interesting aspects of the family.

There’s a roundup of new thrillers here if that is your interest.

I’m interested in reading a new book called How to be Human by Paula Cocozza which is about an urban fox.

Donna Leon fans will want to read this interview. She tells why she has turned to eco-detective fiction. I have to say that I’ve never read anything by Leon but I know that Joan of Planet Joan is a fan so I’m going to give her a go.

Every Guardian Review section seems to increase my list of books to read, but I can’t not read it!

Guardian Review bookish links

In Saturday’s Guardian Review section there’s an article by Ben Blatt that might interest you, it’s about the favourite words of particular authors, the words they most use and what they tell about that author. You can read it here.

There’s a review by Colin Kidd of a new biography of Oliver Cromwell by David Horspool. Oliver Cromwell: England’s Protector. An interesting read, although I’m not a mad royalist – I can’t stand Cromwell who didn’t just cause mayhem in England, he spread it up to Scotland too, doing much the same as certain contemporary people of his type are getting up to in the Middle East nowadays, but even more so in Ireland, where he is still hated.

We had a very busy weekend, donating boxes of books to a second hand bookshop for re-sale on Saturday, then travelling miles to go to a second hand booksale on Sunday, and buying another twenty books or so! But more on those books another day.

Bookish Guardian links

I recently enjoyed reading Helen Dunmore’s book The Betrayal, the first book of hers that I’ve read. So I was sad to read that she is seriously ill with some form of cancer that has a poor prognosis. She has written an article about facing mortality.What do we leave behind when we die? she asks.

There’s a new book out about Raymond Chandler and his work called Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality by Fredric Jameson. You can read an article about it here.

The author Elizabeth Strout writes about her working day here.

The retired MP Roy Hattersley has written an article comparing Brexit with Henry VIII’s break with Rome. You can read it here.

And just because I love Bogart and Bacall below is a still from The Big Sleep.

Bogart

Guardian links

Spookily – just as I have started reading Shirley Jackson’s books, up pops a biography of her called Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin. You can read a review of it by Sarah Churchwell here.

There’s also an article by Frances Spalding about the Joan Eardley exhibition at Modern Art 2 in Edinburgh – the one we went to a couple of weeks ago, you can read the article here.

There’s also an article about Doris Lessing’s books by Nick Holdstock, and you can read that here.

In this article Nick Holdstock writes that he had been asked to make an inventory of Lessing’s over 4,000 books. He had hoped that Doris Lessing’s books might have notes in the margins, clues to her work maybe, but very few of her books had been written in.

How do you feel about writing in books? I have to admit that I don’t write anything in books, not even my name, although when I was first married I did do that on bookplates that I stuck in my books. I think that was because I was putting both my own name and my married name on them. I had a friend who used to write her name and the date and place that she bought the book on the inside cover. I thought that was quite a good idea but I’ve never done it myself.

I buy a lot of old books and often they were originally gifts, in fact I’m just about to start reading Miss Mole by E.H. Young and I noticed that it was given to Evelyn Heaton-Smith from Rodi – in July 1937. I love that, I want to know who they were, what sort of lives did they have?

Partly I think that it’s because I have so many books that makes me not bother to write even my name in them. I can’t really understand why anyone would want to write notes in books – to themselves. But I do have just one of my dad’s books and he wrote his name in it, it’s one of the very few examples of his handwriting that I have. Mind you people tend not to write anything at all nowadays, everything’s done on computers.

Guardian links

I didn’t find an awful lot to interest me in this week’s Guardian review, but I’ve read and enjoyed a few Michael Chabon books in the past so I enjoyed reading this interview with him.

I also enjoyed reading this article about Vanessa Bell, but I won’t be going to the exhibition of her work which is on at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London. She is of course famous as being one of the Bloomsbury Group and sister of Virginia Woolf.

I’ve gone right off doing any road trips in England for the moment, after they voted for Brexit – I think it’s fair enough that I spend money holidaying in Scotland instead and doing something for the Scottish economy – hopefully.

I read on a blog recently that the Brexit vote could be described in Austen terms as 48% voting for Sense and Sensibility and 52% for Pride and Prejudice. That just about sums it up.

Woodsman by Ben Law

Woodsman cover

Woodsman by Ben Law was a random choice from a local library. I had never heard of him before but apparently he is well known through being on TV’s Grand Designs after having built a house in his own woodland Prickly Nut Wood.

This book is good in parts, Law tells the story of how he started out living in Prickly Nut Wood in a bender he made himself, later upgrading to a yurt before eventually building his own home from the local wood. But in the last chapter the author zips forward to 2037 and imagines life will be more land based with people taking the place of machinery due to a lack of oil. He doesn’t seem to have heard of green energy, the renewables that will definitely take-over in the future. He imagines the future as looking like a step back in time, it’s all a bit silly.

To begin with he didn’t have much in the way of woodland skills and apparently these aren’t easy to learn as in times past those who made their living coppicing and such were keen to keep their knowledge to themselves for fear of doing themselves out of work in the future. I’m glad to say that nowadays things seem to have improved and it’s possible to go on courses to learn woodcraft. Mind you I already knew a lot of the skills involved and I’m sure I learned of them through reading Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, as I recall he even explained how charcoal was made.

Ben Law started living in a bender in his woodland but decided to build his yurt when his first child was due, presumably his partner wasn’t keen to bring up a baby in a bender. But apart from that there is absolutely no mention of family life, except that he has three children.

I wish I had seen the Grand Design TV show which featured the house he built, but I gave up watching that programme because all of the ones I had seen featured enormous piles and much wrangling with banks for finances, really the programme should have been called Grand Debts.

Ben Law’s house is built more on a human scale though.

Ben Law House
As it happens there is an article in this week’s Guardian Weekend magazine about people who have bought woodland, it’s becoming very popular. You can read it here if you’re interested in it. In fact some years ago I thought about buying a small woodland – it was for sale at a bargain basement price, but the fact that there was a fairly busy road along the edge of it put me off because I suspect that it could be a place that people would fly tip their junk, instead of going an extra few miles to the municipal tip – you know how awful some human beings can be!

I’ve found the Grand Designs on Vimeo, the woodland is lovely, an idyllic place to bring up a family I think.

Grand Designs – Woodsman Cottage (Ben Law) from Nebruks on Vimeo.