Wednesday, 29 September 2010

holmes, boom, old man's beard etc

Watching Sherlock Holmes--Robert Downey Jr is God.

Meanwhile, on a serious note, I was sad to read of the death of Holly Eley in the Times yesterday. About ten years ago when I'd lost confidence in my abilities as a critic, she sent me a series of about seven or eight seemingly random non-fiction books to review for the TLS, which by their very difference from the fiction I'd been writing about for years quite refreshed me. The last was the estimable She Moves Through the Boom, about what seemed then to be the Irish economic miracle.

How this reviewing came about was itself quite random. I phoned the TLS and got Holly. I explained that I wanted to speak to Lindsay Duguid about reviewing fiction. Holly talked to me about my work and when I asked her when Lindsay would be back, she said something like, 'I think I'd like you to write for me.' Two days later a parcel of four books arrived. We never met but I have always been grateful to her.

Went to the readings at the end of the first MSt residence of the 2010/11 year last night. Really enjoyed the students' work and that of the guest author, Tim Pears.

Funnily enough we'd been talking about In the Place of the Fallen Leaves when we were staying in Somerset. We'd been wondering about cider-heads and what it was about the drink that caused all the trouble. It was nice to see Tim again and he settled the point.

I thought the pieces he read from his new novel were very interesting. I know his early work, having reviewed both In a Land of Plenty and A Revolution of the Sun but this was different from those. There was a measured simplicity to his prose last night, which one suspects only comes with time.

Talking of Somerset, the above pics are the last of the holiday ones I'll post.

As far as Invisible is concerned, I'm really pleased that Blackwell is now stocking it.

Last weekend btw was partly spent working on an unusual Latin American subject request that involved researching the Mayan prophesy about cataclysmic events on 21st December 2012 and the problem of correlating the Mayan and Gregorian calendars. I had to research the subject and produce a short essay. I love my job!

Ho-hum, I can't work out whether SW is winding me up for some strange reason. Time will tell, I suppose. Which is where I shall end.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

batcombe, veg, initiate, invisible, lasa

Happy memories of Batcombe (see pics) and some rather lovely weather today. Went to the Plough at Kelmscott this afternoon. A week ago we'd be sitting in the garden but this time we were inside, as close to the wood burner as we could get. Good pint of Anniversary from the Lechlade brewery (which has now established a second micro at the Radnor Arms, Coleshill).

Went to the allotment at first light to harvest--first opportunity to get up there since the mini-break. The courgettes have slowed but I was really surprised by how many runner beans and cucumbers there were. If the weather holds I'll be lifting the spuds tomorrow morning. Rent day Monday evening.

The online course is well under way now and the MSt residence has started--tutes on Monday and Tuesday and the official launch of the academic year on Tuesday evening at Kellogg. Meanwhile, the proofs of the MSt anthology, Initiate, have arrived. I'm really pleased that sabon was chosen as the main font. The book will be published in early November. It's exciting to see how the decisions we made about the order of the pieces back in the spring look on the page.

The StreetBooks edition of Invisible is now available as a Kindle ebook and the Search Inside function is already available on Amazon for the paperback. Blackwell's will be selling advance copies from next week and I'm due to be interviewed on BBC Oxford's Jo in the Afternoon programme on Thursday 21st October. I'm to discuss the book and StreetBooks and something of my journey through life (currently thinking about what to include on the advance info sheet the producer has requested).

Can't quite believe I'm off to Toronto in just over a week's time. The Latin American Studies Association programme looks amazing.

Wondering if the Horse Shoe will be screening Downton Abbey, episode one tomorrow night. Hope so as we don't have a telly.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

somerset

Had a lovely three nights away at The Three Horseshoes, Batcombe, Somerset (http://www.thethreehorseshoesinn.co.uk). A great, friendly pub (with terrific beer, cider and food) in a beautiful setting, with amazing walks--lots of old cart tracks and green lanes.

More photos to follow but for now some pics of wild flowers, including montbretia (orange flower), which I can't remember having seen anywhere else--though I'm told I once saw it in Scotland.

I hope to post more regularly again now. The last few months have seen the preparations for the StreetBooks edition of Invisible--but also some very shocking family problems which have brought back some dreadful memories that I thought were long gone. It brought back many of the feelings that I referred to on the Scrapbook page of my website last year and which I thought I'd got over. How wrong one can be.

I think, though, that, with J's help--and with that of her family--I've managed to get things into some sort of perspective now. At the very least I realise that I can't change certain members of my family, nor their perennially bizarre and hurtful behaviour.

Nicer to think of wild flowers instead.