Thursday, 29 May 2008

Events both bookish and not

Terribly sorry, but this might sound a bit of a brag.

I am ever so, ever so excited.

On Saturday I am going here ---------^^^ That's Port Eliot, where I will be joining Justine Picardie and DGR for a wonderful garden party in honour of Daphne du Maurier. I've been worrying all week about the weather, how many pairs of shoes to take (heels that sink in the grass just aren't a good look) and which books to bring along for the journey. Something du Maurier related, I have no doubt.

The other thing that's making me excited is this:

That's the Queen Mary 2 - upon which I shall be ensconsed next Sunday. My mother and I are flying out to New York this time next week, where I shall run around the art galleries like a crazy lady and try to get tickets for 'Gypsy'. Wonder of wonders, the ship has internet, so I will be able to keep you updated, at least once in the six days it takes to get back to Blighty.
Apparently there is a library, so that will be where I can be found, most likely.

But I need help! What sort of books are right for this luxury? Can anyone recommend anything?

So there we go - I can behave like Julia in 'Brideshead Revisited'. Or better yet, to tie it in with the Port Eliot event, I can conjur up the spirit of Daphne, who took the original Queen Mary back from America after the filming of the wonderful Hitchcock version of her book 'Rebecca'

Money slipping through the sieve of life

Someone (I think it was Stuck in a Book) made a casual reference to Abe books, and now I think my bank manager is going to be very cross with me!

I've got so many things to talk about, that I feel like I'm about to go mad! Books, and their related events, are taking over my life. I don't seem to be putting up much of a fight though!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Poem of the week

Another World

Last night the other world came much too near,
And with it fear.
I heard their voices whisper me from sleep,
And could not keep
My mind upon the dream, for still they came,
Calling my name,
The loathly keepers of the netherland
I understand.
My frozen brain rejects the pulsing beat;
My willing feet,
Cloven like theirs, too swiftly recognise
Without surprise.
The horn that echoes from the further hill,
Discordant, shrill,
Has such a leaping urgency of song,
Too lound, too long,
That prayer is stifled like a single notes
In the parched throat.
How fierce the flame! How beautiful and bright
The inner light
Of that great world which lives within our own,
Remote, alone.
Let me not see too soon, let me not know,
And so forgo
All that I cling to here, the safety side
Where I would bide.
Old Evil, loose my chains and let me rest
Where I am best,
Here in the muted shade of my own dust.
But if I must
Go wandering in Time and seek the source
Of my life force,
Lend me your sable wings, that as I fall
Beyond recall,
The sober stars may tumble in my wake,
For Jesus' sake.

by Daphne du Maurier, 1947

Cause for mirth

Viewing the delegate scorecard for the democrats on the BBC site, something struck me as slightly amusing.

Barack Obama has a total of 1,977

Hilary Clinto has a total of 1,779

Wouldn't you love to move a number so that they are equal? What problems that would cause!

P.S. It should be obvious that I have nothing to do today. I've already made an office Starbucks run. Oh dear.

On this day in 1849

Today, in the crisp air of some seaside place, Anne Bronte, wracked by the coughs that illness brought, ended her struggle and died.

In 1908, Ian Flemming chose to make his debut into the world.

Thus, with a twitch upon the thread, the muses call back to them one who was not meant to spend much time on this earth, and years later sent someone out to replace her - although obviously not of the same caliber.

Living the gothic

I've been in work for an hour now, and no one else has appeared in that time. I feel strangely like I'm living in a gothic novel. Can anyone suggest titles to read that will make me feel at home on this grey, windy and lonely morning?

A scene from Jane Austen

Stuck in a Book has just presented a number of his sketches from the first year of his blog, and one in particular made me laugh. Charting the number of viewers of Pride and Prejudice there was a very sharp increase when it got to the pond scene. Yes, I would have to say I agreed with him.

Anyway, the point of it was - what is your favourite scene from a novel? He chose the altercation between Lizzie and Lady Catherine. I have to say mine is a bit of a three way tie between the part in 'Middlemarch' where Will and Dorothea finally allow their love to blossom; The ending of 'Good Wives' when Jo gets her charming professor; and the scene in 'Persuasion' where Captain Wentworth declares himself.

Oh dear - I'm detecting a theme!

Here for your reading pleasure is the scene from 'Persuasion'.

'Mrs Croft left them, and Captain Wentworth, having sealed his letter
with great rapidity, was indeed ready, and had even a hurried, agitated air, which shewed impatience to be gone. Anne know not how to understand it. She had the kindest "Good morning, God bless you!" from Captain Harville, but from him not a word, nor a look! He had passed out of the room without a look!

She had only time, however, to move closer to the table where he had been writing, when footsteps were heard returning; the door opened, it was himself. He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room,
almost before Mrs Musgrove was aware of his being in it: the work of an instant!

The revolution which one instant had made in Anne, was almost beyond expression. The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to "Miss A. E.--," was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily. While supposed to be writing only to Captain Benwick, he had been also addressing her! On the contents of that letter depended all which this world could do for her. Anything was possible, anything might be defied rather than suspense. Mrs Musgrove had little arrangements of her own at her own table; to their protection she must trust, and sinking into the chair which he had occupied, succeeding to the very spot where he had leaned and written, her eyes devoured the following words:

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart
even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."

Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from. Half and hour's solitude and reflection might have tranquillized her; but the ten minutes only which now passed before she was interrupted, with all the restraints of her situation, could do nothing towards tranquillity. Every moment rather brought fresh agitation. It was overpowering happiness. And before she was beyond the first stage of full sensation, Charles, Mary, and Henrietta all came in.'

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Caught between the pages

Rain, said the weather forecast, and my God, did it rain this morning! Torrents of the stuff, coupled with a chill wind that made it feel more like March than the end of May! The picture above was taken last July, when Oxford was doing a reasonable impression of Venice. The Punts don't normally sit on the path in the Botanic Garden!

Still, despite having rather wet feet all day, I've read 'Lolita' which was better than I had expected, and followed it up with 'The Great American Mousical' by Julie Andrews, which took all of fifteen minutes!
I am now happily wrapped up with 'The Rebecca Notebook', a part of which I feel like quoting.
Talking about her grandfather, Gerald's, fiction, Daphne du Maurier has this to say:
'Yet these two stories [Trilby and Peter Ibbetson] sounded such an echo in the emotions of the men and women of his day ... that they were read, and reread, and thumbed again, year after year, down to our time; and not only read, but in some inexplicable fashion deeply loved. When a novel can affect the human heart in such a way it seems to mean one thing only: not that the tale is exceptional in itself, but that the writer has so projected his personality on to the printed page that the reader either identifies with that personality or becomes fascinated by it, and in a sense near hypnotised.'

Hypnotised. Yes - I do feel that at times. Compelled to read more as well, certainly. I know exactly what she means.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Bank Holiday reading

So, it's bank holiday weekend, and I intend to go find some nice coffee shop and read until my eyes fall out - or I need to sleep!

This is my intended list.

- 'Lolita' - Nabokov
- 'Mary Anne' - Daphne du Maurier
- 'The Great American Mousical' - Julie Andrews
- 'The Progress of Julius' - Daphne du Maurier
- 'I am Madame X' - Gioia Diliberto

In amongst all this reading, I shall write some of my novel - although I can see myself becoming too absorbed with Du Maurier. Ah well - that wont be too painful!

Friday, 23 May 2008

I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls

Wiblingen Monastery Library, Ulm, Germany

Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (I hope to be here in two weeks)

Peabody Library, Baltimore (What a great name!)

Melk Monastery Library, Austria

Library of Benedictine Monastery, Admont, Austria

George Vanderbilt's Biltmore House Library (which would be a rather wonderful place to relax with a leather bound tome)

Codrington Library, All Souls, Oxford

Biblioteca Medicae-Laurneziana, Florence

Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Combria, Portugal

Inspired by Justine's post on the great people that staff libraries and are so helpful to those that need them, which included some pictures that made me go all weak at the knees with the carved and painted cielings, and the ever so high shelves, I went in search of more pictures. I found this site, the above are my favourites (I found more than I intended, and so I apologise for the length!)

It seems to me that it might be worth a sex change and a vocation to God to be allowed to live in the Monastery libraries!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Book hatred

Here's something to make you pause.

We so often talk about the book we love, that have changed our lives, inspired us, or just generally made us happy, that we never pause to consider those that have bored us silly or infuriated us.

Here are my top three Book hates:

1: The Good Soldier - Ford Maddox Ford. I had to read this in third year of undergrad, and I didn't understand one single word, at least not in context. All I could think of as I tried to take it in was 'when I finish this, I can throw it at the door' which I promptly did as I turned the final page!

2: On the Road - Jack Kerouack. I have never understood 'beat' literature. Who on earth cares if someone wants to go on a drugged up road trip. Gah!

3: The Pioneers - James Fenimore Cooper. Dullest. Book. Ever!

What are your three top hates?

Life through a letter

Reading Dovegreyreader's thoughts on getting back into the letter writing groove has inspired me to talk about my own feelings. I feel like it should come with a warning: I will start ranting. I may not be able to control my ranting. Please consider yourselves warned!

It is impossible to say where my love of writing and receiving letters first started. I have always loved rushing down the stairs to the front door and picking up whatever has been put there, sifting through it for anything with my name on it. I suppose when I went to boarding school at the age of nine, it turned into a particularly important event for me. I lived ever so close to home (six minutes by car) and my reasons for going were two fold.
Firstly: I was sick of nannies. My parents were both working away from home, so I had a string of nannies for the first nine years of my life.
Secondly: I read Enid Blyton. I think that should explain most of my reasoning. Suffice to say it was nothing like what I had read!
Anyway, with boarding came the need to stay in touch, and so I gave as many people as I could instructions to write to me, which they duly did. I have a box (the kind office printer paper comes in) jam packed with postcards and notelets from people who clearly had little to say, but who wanted to stay in touch.
Books with letters in them enthralled me too.
When I became old enough to buy books without a parent peeking over my shoulder, I was invariably drawn to collections of letters. Doing a quick count round the room now, I have ... at least twenty four volumes of letters, ranging from Heloise and Abelard to Nancy Mitford, with a couple of royals, a prime minister, authors and a few actors thrown into the mix for good measure. There is nothing quite like a letter for showing a person in all their different moods.
What would a person make of me, if they were to read my letters I wonder? If they read the ones I wrote when I was fifteen, they would see a young girl, clearly bored in Physics lessons (where I wrote most of them) who thought she was in love with a boy named Tom (who subsequently turned out to be gay, and then died a couple of months after my 18th birthday in the Cayman Islands), was attempting to make him jealous, and was obviously very confused about her faith.
Not a bad little time capsule for something so 'mundane' as a letter, is it?

I think my true love of writing and receiving matured whilst I was away at University. There I truly was cut off from the world I knew, and I made every effort to ensure that my ties were still strong. When I went to Norwich to do my Masters, it became doubly important to write letters. It didn't even matter if the people I wrote to didn't respond, or wrote back via email or facebook. My thoughts were out there, and I had done my bit to keep the connection alive.
My studies into the workings of biography and autobiography also highlighted the importance of letters to me. Time for another review of my booksheleves. I have .... over 122 biographies and autobiographies (I stopped counting), which does not include those books which are biographical fiction (which is another thing entirely, and not meant for this post). How could those books have been written without recourse to the vast amount of letters that the subjects wrote - even if some of them (Henry James, I'm thinking of you) burned so many? Email is all very well, but it worries me slightly that the biographers of the future may find they lack something, because email is essentially a more hidden process (passwords and such, being - of course - private). I've had reason to revise this opinion having read the wonderful Before I Say Goodbye, by Ruth Picardie, edited by her sister after her death, but I still think that in general, when the biographer does not have a direct link to their subject, it will become a stumbling block.

For me, there is nothing in this world that makes me happier than finding a letter that isn't a bill or a bank statement (I've spent how much on books this month?!) on the floor. The thrill I get of posting things too, is very sweet.

I leave you with a wonderful extract from a letter that Joyce Grenfell wrote to her best friend Virginia Grahame. In the fifty or so years that they were friends, they wrote nearly every day, and when both were in the country telephone every day too.

'Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say that I live for your letters, but they are certainly one of the major joys of my exsitence. You have an amazing way of transmitting yourself to your pen, so that when I read I can picture you all the time.'

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Life and Death

It has been one of those days when the issues of life and death have loomed large.

Having heard over breakfast that the commons had voted to keep the age of abortion at twenty four weeks, I found myself thinking about it at work this morning. I've always been pro choice, but with the issue thrust under my nose, so to speak, I found myself wondering about my views and how far I would take them.
Although there is new evidence that suggests a foetus is more developed at 24 weeks than has been previously supposed, I really don't think that before a baby
has been born and can survive without the aid of tubes and breathing instruments it can be thought of as having the essence of what we term human. This is not to say that premature babies should not be allowed to survive. They definitely should be. My point is that reducing the age limit does not solve the problem that pro life supporters highlight. Science will always find new ways to keep premature babies alive, for good or ill. As a friend pointed out, in any case, most terminations happen now before ten weeks, which is mainly because doctors are less obstructionist in their practice - there is less need felt to send the expectant mother to therapy before she makes up her mind, which therefore shortens the time she is pregnant before having an abortion.

The other matter was something I read later in the day. On the BBC website, I read an article about a girl my age (23) who carries a 'right to die' card. It was interesting to read in the comments that a Dr would refuse to recognise the card, and he had the right to do all he could to keep the patient alive. It struck me at the time as a difficult point, because how was this card in any way different from a do not resuscitate order? Thinking about it, I suppose a DNR order comes into practise only when a person has though 'if I've been in a car crash, and the doctors are fighting to keep my heart going and then I flat line, well then, I don't want to wake up'. Whereas the right to die card carries with it the connotations of long term illness, and being fully conscious of what will happen to you when the decision is taken.
In terms of my own life, I agree with the right to die card, because I know that in terms of me having children, I am too selfish of my own freedom to want to have the responsibility of a child in need of full time care. I wouldn't wish the burden of my full time care on my parents, or indeed anyone else. To me, it's simple - although I know that for others the lines may be greatly blurred and other issues are in play.

I realise that what I've said may well be controversial, and perhaps even offensive. Can I just say that they are simply my own views, and I would welcome a discussion with anyone whose views differ, slightly or in the extreme.

Ode to Oxford

Earth has not anything to show more fair, wrote Wordsworth - and although I know he was talking about London at the time, today is one of those days that I feel it could be applied just as well to Oxford.

I love this city so much. It's grand and glorious buildings in that soft stone, that when cleaned of the grime of centuries, are so warm and welcoming; the narrow winding streets between colleges, through which one can meander and hear various college sounds; the fact that with very little effort you can be out into the countryside, in a little known pub or village. I find it so magical that I can be looking at buildings like the one above almost every day.

Tonight I was privileged to view the Botanic Garden after it closed, and have a tour, learning a few things along the way. Did anyone know, for instance, that the man who caused it to come into being was actually a murderer? He wasn't prosecuted because in the 1600s it was legal to kill a man, if that man had killed your servant!
The lower part of the garden belonged to Merton (whilst the rest belonged to Magdalene), and was offered in the 50s, when it had been flooded many times - the rent was offered at 2 and 6, and those wise gardeners paid 100 years upfront! Just think how much rent that would be now!
We stood by a great black fir tree, which twisted it's way up to the sky, looking for all the world like it was about to shake it's branches and settle in some new position. This was the tree that Lyra and Will sat under in 'The Amber Spyglass' and promised to return to each year. But it was also Tolkien's favourite tree ... and truly it did look like if one sat under it for too long, it might try to swallow you up!

There are times, of course, that I dislike Oxford. When it's been raining for two long, and you think the water meadows are going to take over the city; or in the summer, when I wish that what Pullman wrote was true, and there was another city above this one, where we could banish all tourists and mothers with small children! But these are small and insignificant things, and pale in comparison with how much I love this city, and the joy and inspiration it gives me.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Cornwall here I come!

I successfully made my point and begged out of the wedding reception. Now I have train tickets, and in a few days I will have a ticket that allows me to have afternoon tea (even in my mind, that came out sounding posh) on the lawns of Port Eliot!

Now I just have to decide: To wear a hat, or not to wear a hat? Tis a dilemma!

Monday, 19 May 2008

Poem of the week

I'm going to post a poem once a week. It might be new, it might be old. Whatever it is - I hope you like it!

Lieserl Einstein

That summer waiting to hear about my GCSEs
I worked in an ice-cream kiosk on the beachfront
and met a boy expecting to study maths in London
who had a way of putting Mr Whippy in cones,
and away from the children dripping lollies along
the promenade, I let his fingers do sums on my skin.

Come September I was counting back the weeks,
trying to predict when the multiplication we had been
working on would be noticed, and I could understand
what my new physics teacher meant about the cat
in the box that’s just been poisoned which you can’t
be sure is dead until you lift the lid and take a look.

Throughout October there was morning sickness and
the cat was running around the house to the screams
of my mother, who called me a slut loud enough
for Mrs Evans and her hard hearing, while my father,
too stunned to remind his wife about the neighbours,
tore up my postcard of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Now it’s September again and I’m back at my desk,
my mother at home with her own second chance,
another summer gone, a new law of motion learnt,
comparing hair and eyes, the way we sometimes cry,
and the boy from the kiosk comes home when he can
and demonstrates that he also has a way with bottles.

Tonight, when you finally slept, I read about Einstein
and how even he with his head for figures could make
the classic miscalculation and get his girlfriend pregnant;
but they gave their daughter away, a wrong answer.
We will work this out. You are simply someone new
among our number that we need to take account of.

by Lorraine Mariner

Moral quandry

Oh no!

I have just found a lovely Daphne event at Port Eliot. It's half affordable, and looks to be exciting. Only trouble is I have to go to a wedding. Hmmm - it's a friend of the family (or rather my mother's) perhaps I can get out of it! Keep your fingers crossed

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Food stress

Family are coming round to lunch, and I'm cooking because both of my parents are awol.

I'm supposed to be cooking lamb, but on looking in the fridge I found that the boned rolled shoulder of meat that was supposed to be lamb, is actually PORK. I have simply decided to do what I was doing before, but with different meat.

I have no idea what caused my father to make the mistake! Hope it tastes alright!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Dr Who

Tonight Dr Who is playing a little literary game. We have an episode that involves Agatha Christie, and it's like spot the title! Sparkling Cyanide, Murder in the Vicarage, the list goes on. I think I spotted about 15, but I'll have to watch it again to check. Loved it!

1001 books

I've been browsing blogs that stuckinabook has linked to on his blog, and although I've not made myself know, I felt I had to link to exlibris, because they had a link to this - a wonderful challenge. The idea is to group the books into sets of ten, and then you have to read at least one from each group. If you've read one or more, then you can skip that group. What you end up with is a reading list! So let's see what I come out with!

1 - 10: Skipped: I've read #'s 1 and 9 (Never Let me Go: Ishiguro; and The Master: Toibin)
11 - 20: # 19: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: Haddon
21 - 30: # 30: That They May Face the Rising Sun: McGahern
31 - 40: # 34: Youth: Coetzee
41 - 50: Skipped: I've read # 42 (Atonement: McEwan)
51 - 60: # 54: White Teeth: Smith
61 - 70: # 63: The Blind Assassin: Atwood
71 - 80: # 71: The Romantics: Mishra
81 - 90: Skipped: I've read # 86 (The Poisonwood Bible: Kingsolver)
91 - 100: # 97: Jack Maggs: Carey

So that's the 100, and I need to read 7. I feel like I should do the whole 1001, and I might come back to it, but for now, I need to go out and scour the second hand bookshops of Oxford!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Blurring the lines between fiction and biography

This evening, I went to a talk at St Anne's with Justine Picardie and Professor Kathryn Sutherland (who wrote, amongst other things, the introduction and notes to A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Austen-Leigh) who were in discussion on some of the bigger themes and ideas that have developed from Justine's novel.

I took a vast amount of notes, and I'll try to write it up as best I can - and I make no apologies for length! I will most probably have missed a few things, having been so interested in what I heard - if Justine is reading this, then perhaps she'll put me right, or even add some more thoughts! Some of the threads are particularly interesting to me, which I will write about in more detail, as they pertain to me, in future posts. For now, I wish to focus on Justine and Daphne.

Introductions are, I think, hard to get right. Not many people can strike the right tone, mainly because the speaker often senses that the audience wish them to finish as quickly as possible. This was not the case with Kathryn. Speaking eloquently, and calmly, she covered the usual biographical details, but also spoke on how there is a fault line between truth and fiction, and that sometimes it blurs. This is often the terms with which an imaginative writer constructs lives.

Justine started by reading the third epigram from the start of her novel, that came from Du Maurier's Second Thoughts on Branwell, where she says "It is impossible, with the Brontes, as with many other writers, to say when fiction ends and fact begins, or how often the imagination will project an imaginary image upon a living personality." She followed with the opening pages of her novel, which set the scene for the rest of the narrative.

As anyone can see (Kathryn said) from looking at the front cover, there is a constructed 1950s materiality to the book. We see a woman who is trying to write herself out of a personal crisis by writing Branwell's biography - although as Justine pointed out, he might not have been the best choice for writing out of crisis! Kathryn outlined the first three chapters, each of which deals with one part of the triumvirate narrative, which, she said, were studies in delusion, obsession and longing.

On being asked by Kathryn whether there was a particular point that had started her on the path to writing this novel, Justine spoke about her long love of both Daphne and the Brontes, and discovering during her time at University that neither was considered worthy to be studied, or even read very much. When asked by Virago to write an introduction to The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte Justine read a letter describing, in detail, Daphne's feelings that were the impetus for the starting point of the novel.

The idea of fact and fiction being mixed together was a major part of the discussion; Kathryn asked why Justine thought that the reviews she had received had been so mixed, if whether some people just didn't 'get' what the novel was trying to portray. Was Justine actually taking a big risk in fictionalising fact, in creating a novel that was strongly factual?
For Justine, she had never considered writing the story as anything other than fiction, that in writing, it was simply her point of view and in researching and talking to various family members and friends, there were at least ten versions of who Daphne was, so in reality, it seemed to be truer to write as fiction. Daphne's upbringing had already blurred the lines between pretence and reality, for she had said herself that she 'was born into a world of make belief and pretence'. She was at ease in a world that encompassed both (as her work shows) and it makes sense that Justine's novel would make use of this point also.

Even biography as we know it, Kathryn pointed out, cannot rely on fact alone. Using the original biography of Jane Austen by her family as an example, she suggested that there are few facts on Austen that we really know. Biographers who wrote after the family memoir cannot stick to the facts alone, and therefore use their imagination to fill in the gaps. The truth is difficult to hold.

From this subject, we moved to the theme of manuscripts, and how the idea of them had been weaved into the novel; how important they were to all three of the main characters. Both Daphne and Symington are drawn into a dark world of trade in manuscripts and it mirrors the world of fact and fantasy in which Daphne moved so comfortably (at least some of the time). Nowadays very few of those who write on works written long ago use the original to refer to. As Justine pointed out, those who now edit editions of Emily Bronte's poetry admit that they use transcripts - transcripts which were, in fact, copied by J.A. Symington, who - by his own admission - couldn't read the handwriting!

We moved on to audience questions, over which, for the most part, I will skim not wishing to try the patience of my readers. The confusion that had been highlighted by Kathryn earlier in the evening, was, I think, evident amongst a couple of those who asked questions, and Justine reiterated her view that she had not intended to write a biography. Lyndall Gordon (who wrote the biography of Charlotte Bronte, amongst others) was in the audience and remarked that there are often gaps in important places of a person's life, and the writer - biographer or not - is therefore able (and indeed required) to use
imaginative truth.

The most intriguing question - for me - came when someone asked whether it would be possible for someone to read the novel with no prior acquaintance with Daphne or her work. Justine couldn't imagine the possibility of someone reading the book without having even heard of Daphne. They may not know her work well, but the myth of the author herself is growing (helped indeed by Justine's novel) and it would be quite unusual, if not impossible, for someone to read Daphne without knowing who she was.

These jottings are, of course, merely my own views on what I heard. I hope I have been able to give an accurate picture of the thoughts and views as expressed by Justine and Kathryn, which were both insightful and interesting.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Talk on Daphne

This week has been a particularly interesting one for me. Having found Justine Picardie's blog, and reading about the du Maurier festival, and other bloggers thoughts on both, I have found a world that focuses on the subject I love so much and where the people in it give serious thought to what they read, and write sober and thought provoking posts.

Tomorrow I am going to carry on my 'Daphne' fest by going to listen to Justine Picardie in conversation with Kathryn Sutherland at St Anne's. It's going to focus on the relations of fiction to biography, something which has been much on my mind since reading Justine's novel, and was also a big part of my thinking whilst completing my masters in Life Writing at UEA last year.

Anyway, I'm very excited, and will report more fully tomorrow!

Books in 2008

My father issued me with a challenge just after new year: 'Thou shalt read one hundred books this year'.

Now, to those whose blogs I have just started reading, this may not seem like a huge number, but I'm used to reading a big pile during term time, and then hopelessly slacking through the holidays. Now I am in full time employment, I spend every spare minute reading - apart from those times when I'm writing my undoubtably unpublishable novel!

To start this blog off on the right foot, I am going to list the books I have read this year so far (February was by far the best - I read 15 that month - and then something happened and I read very few). Anyway, without further ado, here we go. I've split them into books I own and those borrowed from the library.

Denny, Joanna: Anne Boleyn
Diamant, Anita: The Red Tent
Faulks, Sebastian: Human Traces *
Faulks, Sebastian: Engleby
Ferguson, Rachel: The Brontes Went to Woolworths
Gardam, Jane: A Long way from Verona
Garfield, Simon: Mauve
Graeme Evans, Posie: The Innocent
Greene, Grahame: The End of the Affair *
Gregory, Philippa: Earthly Joys
Gregory, Philippa: The Boleyn Inheritance
Jones, Lloyd: Mister Pip
Lovell, Mary S.: A Scandalous Life
Lustig, Arnost: Lovely Green Eyes *
Mills, Mark: The Savage Garden *
Ondaatje, Michael: The English Patient
Picardie, Justine: Daphne *
Picardie, Ruth: Before I say Goodbye*
Rilke, Rainer Maria: Letters to a Young Poet
Suskind, Patrick: Perfume *
Weir, Alison: Innocent Traitor
Weldon, Fay: Letters to Alice on Reading Jane Austen
Williams, Kate: England's Mistress

Harris, Joanne: Chocolat
Delaney, Frank: Ireland *
Lewis, C.S.: Surprised by Joy
Fforde, Jasper: The Well of Lost Plots
Fforde, Jasper: Lost in a good book
Fforde, Jasper: Something Rotten

At the moment I'm reading 'Jamaica Inn' and 'The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte' both by Daphne du Maurier. I'm struggling a bit with the latter, because it's such fantastic weather out, and one simply cannot read about the wilds of Yorkshire in such heat. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, perhaps that will set me in the mood!

I was thinking of writing my thoughts on some of these books (especially those with *'s - which are my favourites so far) ... but I shall see how it goes!

I'm watching '84 Charing Cross Road' at the moment. I adore both the film and the book - in fact I have two copies of it, and am seriously tempted to buy the new Virago Modern Classic birthday edition. But I won't. I couldn't possibly. Methinks the lady doth protest too much!

Once more into the breach!

Hello everyone!

Even though I am probably talking to no one, I thought I should start by being friendly. I decided that I needed a new blog for purposes as yet unknown (although I suspect books and general writing will come into the mix quite a bit.)

I was led here by Justine Picardie's blog, who I admire muchly and I hope to post frequently. I do have another blog, however, which is over on livejournal ... just follow the link, I would be happy to see you there!

As you might guess from the name, I come from Oxford, where I live now, and I have a deep, and sometimes scary, passion for the printed word. This is me:

I look forward to talking to you all very soon!