Showing posts from 2016

Two Thought Provoking Novels About Racial Oppression

Who could have imagined that in the 21st century and with a United Nations Council mandated to preserve the peace that a city could be subjected to a protracted siege and the bombardment of innocents? That a huge city could be destroyed by shelling?

If you are in any doubt about what the innocent people of Aleppo have endured and continue to endure then I commend to you a well-researched novel by Helen Dunmore.  The Siege was first published in 2002. Set against the background of the siege of Leningrad by the Nazis during WWII, the protagonist is Anna, a young woman with caring responsibilities for her novelist father and her five-year-old brother. Despite the horrendous circumstances of daily life Anna falls in love and the extended family shares a battle for survival in the beleaguered city.

Beautifully written, when it was first released the book received glittering accolades from critics writing for the more important British newspapers.

Literary writing of the highest order set a…

Clustering to free the imagination

As far as creative writing is concerned, I've been in a dry period for too long (hence the compulsive blogging, which at least maintains the writing habit). Am I suffering from writers' block? Probably. I  suspect that years of activities that rely on left-brain thinking (I was trained as an auditor in a former life and I regularly play chess, bridge, and computerised card games) have stifled my creativity. So I've ditched the card games and prescribed clustering (a technique also used as a team activity in the world of business, where it is sometimes referred to as brain storming)  in the hope that it will be the cure. I'm planning to build a habit of spending ten minutes or so on the technique each morning.

This technique was included in a creative writing module that I studied as part of my OU  literature Degree course. You are probably already familiar with it but if not  - the following has been culled from my course reader:
Clustering -  A technique developed by G…

A Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

I'm a fan of Mr McEwan's writing and this latest offering didn't disappoint. Set in 1970s England, a girl fresh out of Cambridge with a Maths degree is recruited to a junior post in MI5. She is tasked with recruiting an author whose writing, it is felt, will help to promote anti-communist propaganda. The plot turns into a love story with a surprising twist at the end. If you are a writer you might find, as an interesting bonus, an insight into a creative writers' thought processes amongst the pages. If you haven't yet read Ian McEwan's books I recommend his Booker Prize -winning Abandonment (made into the film starring Keira Knightley); Amsterdam; and The Children Act.

Stop Trying to 'Find' Yourself

Here's something for navel contemplators to meditate on -

The authors of The Path: A New Way to Think About Everything endorse the 2000-year old stance of Confucious, who thought that looking within was a futile exercise. Why so? Because it seems that there is no true self and no means to finding a self by looking within. Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh write that what you would find by undertaking this exercise is nothing more than a snapshot of that particular moment. Who we are at any given moment is ephemeral - it arises from our constantly changing interactions with other people.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies is, as you know, a contemporary classic. So, you might ask, how have I got to the age of xx without reading it before now. Well, I suppose it's because I didn't particularly enjoy the film all those years ago.

To be honest, I picked up the book at the library because there were lean pickings in the bin of books available for the Three Book Challenge by the time I got around to it. And I was pleasantly surprised, though I had to speed read because my three-week challenge ends today and I have to return the book to the library. Nevertheless, I was very pleasantly surprised - because, as you might expect from somebody who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, William Golding is a superb master of his craft.

First published in 1954, the edition that I have been reading was published for the William Golding Centenary in 2011 and has an introduction by Stephen King.  He writes that the novel is 'as exciting, relevant and thought-provoking now as when Golding publ…

Books Beyond Bedtime

Here's my reading list for the next couple of weeks -

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse - My second attempt at this book. I'm reading at the rate of around three chapters a night before nodding off. Now up to Chapter 48 and losing the will to carry on. Seems to me that there is a lot of padding to eke out the word count. I would have pruned, had I been the editor. Also, a list of characters at the front would have been helpful - I'm losing the plot, in more ways than one.
 Never one to back away from a challenge, I took up the Three Book Challenge at my local library. Select three contemporary classics from the bin, read them all in three weeks and claim your prize. There weren't many left to choose from when I dipped in. Some of them I had never heard about and would hesitate to call them classics. This is what I selected from the lean pickings  -

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit - Judith Kerr. Looking forward this this one, though it is children's book. Fictionalise…

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

Occasionally I open the curtains in the morning, take one look outside and decide that the only thing to do is grab a luxurious, usually to be avoided, mug of hot chocolate and climb back into bed with a good book. Which is what happened today. I had planned to plough on with the garden work but the weather is so miserable that it's impossible. It's so dismal that I can't even summon the enthusiasm to get to the gym. So I picked up Sepulchre by Kate Mosse instead. I started to re-read it a few evenings ago - usually a couple of (short) chapters before settling down for the night.

Recipe for divine hot chocolate as made in Spain -luxurious treat

I got into the habit of speed reading when I was studying for my English Literature Degree, and that's how I read Sepulchre for the first time. But I think it's worth closer reading. It's a novel, set it France, but packed with facts - a short biographical sketch of Debussy, a lesson in Tarot - and I'm onl…

Recommended Books by Professor David Lodge and his erstwhile student Ian McEwan

The Practice of Writing ' is a collection of prose pieces about literary fiction, drama and television adaptation' by Professor David Lodge  They were mostly written after he gave up his academic career to become a full-time writer. In his younger days Professor Lodge was known for his 'campus' novels and was famously instrumental in setting up the first M.A. in Creative Writing programme at the University of East Anglia.
Professor Lodge was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded a CBE for his services to literature He writes in his Preface to The Practice of Writing that the writers who he discusses at greatest length in this book all had an influence on this own writing. There are insightful pieces about, amongst others, D.H. Lawrence and Graham Greene, the latter of whom he met on several occasions. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the process of writing.

I am concurrently reading Professor Lodge's memoir - David Lodge Quite a …