Thursday, 18 February 2010

Recent Reads

Having revisited George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four recently, I liked it slightly more than the last time I read it, a couple of years back, but a lot less than when I first came across it.  It strikes me now as stunningly superb in its exploration of power, politics, language, etc, etc, but I find it tedious as a novel.  A long-winded cautionary tale.  I figure I might be in a minority with this view, but I'll stick by it... perhaps until the next time I read it.

I did have a Monty Python moment or two though, particularly when Winston was reflecting on the Thought Police and how it was difficult to anticipate when they would finally pounce.  Hence the YouTube clip at the bottom of this post.

I also read Magdalena Ball's recently published anthology of poems, Repulsion Thrust.  (The Writer's Almanac has been delivering a daily poem  to my Inbox for several months now and it's rekindled my interest in buying and reading poetry.)  Repulsion Thrust is a deceptively slim volume because it actually contains 79 poems, which I think should guarantee that it'll contain something for everyone.  There's a futuristic or other-worldly feel to many of the poems, which I found intriguing because it's not often that science and poetry dances hand-in-hand in quite this way, but physics (and quantum physics no less) certainly plays an interesting role in a number of these poems.  My copy is comfortably dog-eared now as I couldn't resist marking the poems that created the biggest impact on me, and that I'll undoubtedly be returning to.

At present, I'm reading Candi Miller's Salt and Honey - slightly more than half-way through - and thoroughly enjoying it.  Set in Africa, it provides a convincing portrait of life for the Khoisan (Kalahari desert-tribe) and their vulnerability when confronted with "civilisation".  It tells the story of  Koba, who witnesses the murder of her parents by white farmers, and who is then forcibly adopted and transported hundreds of miles from her homelands, her people and her culture.  While this may sound grim, it's not dealt with in a heavy-handed manner at all, and Candi Miller provides both a powerful story and a compelling read.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Came across the word deliquesce recently and am taken with it. Smitten. How many times I've said it, just to hear the sound of it running like a stream in my head.

I must have heard it before but never really took notice.  It means 'to become liquid, to melt away' (if, like me, it's trickled past you unobserved) and is one of the most onomatopoeic words I've ever come across.  It's a word that, when spoken, sounds as if it's turning to liquid and melting away.  It puts me in mind of water, streams, the ebbing of emotions.

I came across it in a wonderful poem called Talking to Ourselves by  Pulitzer prize winner Philip Schultz, which was featured in The Writer's Almanac on January 18th, this year (all details here).

He talks of listening, as an elderly neighbour mourns the loss of his wife, to:
his longing reach across the darkness with / each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

And of how his father would talk to himself when his vending machine business was failing:
his lips / silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.

It's a powerful poem and I've just ordered the anthology, Failure, in which it appears, so may be talking more about Philip Schultz in future.

(The photo was taken in Colby Woodland Gardens,  near Amroth, Carmerthenshire, UK, when we were there last June ... and in checking those details I found a photo almost exactly the same at the National Trust Colby Garden website, but this pic is mine!)


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

10 Journeys

Legend Press are promoting their forthcoming anthology of short stories, 10 Journeys, by profiling two of the contributing authors each day.  I'm featured, along with Josie Henley-Einion, here.  Oh, and that's not the Southern Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific or the Coral Sea behind me, but the Irish Sea from the trip last year.

I'm keen to see what the 10 Journeys cover will be like.  The whole book cover thing is exciting - well, for me it is (little things pleasing little minds and all that).  Not quite knowing how it's going to be, but feeling there's always quite a bit at stake on the outward appearance - the crucial outer wrapper to a story that invites and leads a reader in. What'll it be like?

Must admit I wasn't that fussed on the cover design for the 7 Days anthology ... initially. But what seemed odd for one edition, became interestingly quirky when Legend Press applied it to the 8 Hours anthology, and then a very clever branding device when they developed it by amping up the stylisation for 8 Rooms and the second edition of The Remarkable Everyday.  Now, I've become a fan of that slightly 70s psychedelic look and I'll be disappointed if 10 Journeys moves away from it.  Guess I'll just have to wait and see.