I am currently working my way through two-hundred-and-seven submissions for an anthology of poetry and prose I plan to publish early in 2021. It’s an interesting experience. As a first stage I’ve taken to dividing pieces into three groups: Shortlist – those that are clearly good and likely to make the final cut; Longlist –… Read More Searching for good writing…
I confess to have been prompted to this mini self-assessment by Andrea Badgley’s post Writing More Means Doomscrolling Less, and as a follow-up to my own Missing Work Already? It’s not the kind of thing I normally do; I’m not a natural “look at me” kind of person – though I am belatedly realising that… Read More “So how’s the not working / writing more thing going…?”
I really liked Benjamin Myers’ “The Offing”. It’s a gentle, inoffensive coming-of-age tale; romantic with a small ‘r’. Like most things, “The Offing” is far from perfect: perhaps it tries a little too hard early on before it gets into the swing of itself; and most sixteen-year-olds simply wouldn’t have the nouse to do some… Read More “The Offing”
I daresay a case could be made to argue that it is only when a novelist is writing short stories that you get a true measure of their abilities: the need to be economical but not too sparse; the creation of a plot that is coherent but not over-blown; the establishing of character without having… Read More “The Shell Collector”
Sometimes you can do nothing about it. Unbidden a phrase or a sentence will pop into your head and not let go. It could be something new, or the need to change something old – but let’s hope not borrowed!! Today gifted me one of those mornings. Reeling a little from a writers’ group the… Read More The 4 a.m. alarm call…
Today is the first ‘new Monday’; the first whole week where I can decide what I do with my time, how much I write. Staggeringly it is a month since I wrote The Daunting Prospect of Reinvention – and what’s more bizarre is that it feels as if I have been footloose and fancy-free for more… Read More Missing work already..?
It bothered me that I took so long to finish reading Colum McCann’s “Let the Great World Spin” – but in the end it was simply of question of ‘it’s me, not you’… I needn’t have worried that it was a reflection on the quality of the book, because it isn’t: “Let the Great World… Read More “Let the Great World Spin”
Because it seems to me that I’ve heard nothing else for the last 9 months. Yes, it’s clearly dreadful; and yes, it represents an unprecedented threat to our lives, to our ‘normal’; and yes, we all need to be mindful, aware, considerate etc. Indeed, in the early days when lockdown was a novelty, I doubt… Read More Without Covid, what would people talk or write about?
I am a registered Goodreads.com author. I had hoped that membership of Goodreads would allow my work to reach a wider audience. In support of this ambition – and possibly naïvely – I have twice indulged in Goodreads’ ‘giveaway’ promotions. The basic premise is that you offer 100 e-books to Goodreads members in what is… Read More The Impossible Readers
From its earliest origins in aural tradition, poetry has inevitably tracked the metamorphosis of language through time. You only have to reflect on the differences between Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Larkin to see how poetry maps not only the journey of a civilisation but its language and mores too. Perhaps poetry takes a little while… Read More “Homie”
At the end of this month I’m giving up work. More or less by choice. It is a step that has been labelled in various ways by various people, me included: ‘retirement’ seems the most common, with the upcoming period a ‘glide-path to retirement’ – after all, I’m not officially qualified to be there yet…!… Read More The Daunting Prospect of Reinvention
There is a section toward the end of Philip Roth’s “The Human Stain” where one of the book’s characters, Ernestine, confronts the author/narrator about her life and the life of her family, African-Americans from New Jersey. What follows from Ernestine/Roth seems to me – a white, non-American – a brilliant and powerful exposé of racism,… Read More “The Human Stain”
According to the trade publication, The Bookseller, in the UK today – Thursday 3rd September 2020 – some 600 books are going to be published. Yes, 600! On one day! Books from ‘big’ publishing houses as well as the myriad of independent and Indie publishers. The suggestion is that this figure represents a catch-up from… Read More Did you know this? Stunning…
Carolyn Forché’s “In the Lateness of the World” is a collection of poetry about which it’s very easy to be ambivalent. Not because the work is insipid or dull – far from it! – but because for me it veers toward both extremes on the good-bad poetry continuum. If I start with the more negative… Read More “In the Lateness of the World”
Some books just don’t travel well through time. “To Have and Have Not” is, I suspect, one such. There are all too obvious examples of where some of the words Hemingway uses – and the prejudices expressed – are clearly not acceptable to a modern twenty-first century readership, and the dated nature of language is… Read More “To Have and Have Not”
Although I first came across Anthony Doerr through his novel “All the Light We Cannot See”, if you wanted a more subtle introduction then his collection of short stories then “Memory Wall” wouldn’t be a bad place to start. The stories are engaging and well-written, and you somehow feel ‘safe’ in Doerr’s hands. The subject… Read More “Memory Wall”
I wonder if that’s what ‘Life’ does, getting in the way, forcing us to take our eyes off the ball, allowing us to forget what’s important… In many respects it’s also the easy option, isn’t it? A kind of abdication. Knowing what matters to us, believing in it, keeping the faith – all of that… Read More Rediscovering what’s important?
“Thirteen Ways of Looking” is the novella headlining this collection where it is joined by three much shorter stories. Although the subject matter of each is different, they all share a number of characteristics like tone, voice and style. More importantly, they also have in common the fact that they are really well-written. I admit… Read More “Thirteen Ways of Looking”
Call me old-fashioned, but… I’m currently reading a novel – a proper novel, published by a reputable and global publishing company – in which a heinous crime has been committed: an instance of the 21st-century malaise of using ‘amount’ when one should use ‘number’. Who got it wrong? The author in the first place? Or… Read More Number vs. Amount: why is it so difficult?
We often encounter difficulty when trying to reconcile our memories of events with what actually happened. In the almost inevitable mis-match, our mind plays tricks on us, and what we have recently learned and how we have recently lived gets in the way and colours the past. Pressed to recall his own life, the challenge… Read More My latest novel – “A Pattern of Sorts” – published today!