Friday, July 7, 2017

A Snow Garden & Other Stories - Rachel Joyce

I found this A Snow Garden & Other Stories, in the children's section of a charity shop, and the cover really did look like a children's book. But it is definitely not for children. It is a set of seven stories, which are all linked by one picture. Personally, I didn't understand the relevance of the picture to each story, and felt it was a little contrived, but apart from that, I did enjoy all the stories. My favourite was A Snow Garden, followed by Trees. All the stories were quite sad, but there was an element of hope in each. It was a clever writing process, which was a bit confusing at times, but worked out well in the end.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Piranha To Scurfy And Other Stories - Ruth Rendell

I love short stories, and I enjoy crime fiction, but I have never read any books by Ruth Rendell. I had seen her characters come to life on the television, but never read their original stories. This collection of short stories, Piranha To Scurfy And Other Stories, was a great surprise, and I enjoyed them immensely. The macabre twist of the first story, the title cleverly reflecting a volume from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the disturbing nature, but satisfying ending of The Wink. The High Mysterious Union really reminded me of the Wicker Man, with its 'loving' community, and the Myth was wonderfully creative, with the idea of the Garden of Eden being in Wiltshire.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

nectar for food

a rabbit speaks:

he wrote poems about me
before i was kitten-born
black ink, no taste, smell
on paper, tree-like, thin
rustles beneath feet.

i did not hear them.
i lived, green fields
field banks
burrows dark, warm.

but i sensed what he said
he gave us names, lives
singled us to
within our kind.

now i am alone
live lone life.
myxie, he calls me
poem words
rabbits sniff, smell
butt blind, sickened
rabbit from my home.

i will die.
i eat bright colours
garden dark, dawn
petal flavoured scent
i am king, god
nectar for food.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Room With a View - E.M. Forster

It's a novel I aspire to.  It begins with a babble, Miss Honeychurch at table, her aunt in attendance; and it continues as such - a minimum of Forster comment and all narrative.  Of course, it would have been wonderful if Forster had come out, told life, love as he really saw it.  But he didn't, and we must live with this.  He tells the tale of girl expecting boy, not expecting the boy who turns out to be her true love.  And that is what is fantastic - the eternal love that is proclaimed.  And truth.  The girl belongs to boy.  And boy to girl.  The narrative entertains, and confirms this as it progresses.  Love is wonderful - the best we can get, if we can get it.  Read this, and read it again - if you believe in love (or maybe more so if you don't).  Each reading is an assertion of achievable purpose and hope.

I Sing To The Air - Padraig De Brun

A bird speaks:

I slouch, some beggar starved of hope,
Feasted on the stale discards of past,
Towards dawn. I am wing-tired, slow,
A body, prime-passed, not now dead,
Long dying. I think morning thought,
What birds do, their always living,
Being, since the hour birth begins.
And other thoughts come, as thoughts must:
"Remember soon!" I do no know
As day arrives what this day is.

'Round me - again I do not know -
I live it now - it is just there -
Are roof-tops, grey, acute, spartan,
Dense, green bush, barbed as dwellings are,
My dwelling, my unwelcome hearth.
And then wires, black, unearthed wires
Hum beneath feet, chanting on, on.

Others stand as well - I know this.
No need for thought as I awake.
They wait. I wait. There is stillness.
We watch the ever-present night.
It is tense now, alert, frozen,
The movements of creatures, studied,
Preyed upon. And it is soon dead -
Night must know this - the lamb of dark -
Night risen, always daily dead.

And without a sound, new doom falls,
Rises with seeing, sight of things.
The sun comes from the east, jewelled
Like Juliet - a star of day.
It slaughters what it finds, rest's sleep,
Scavenges the corpse it kills, dark.
And night, recently gloried, fat
Is gone. All dreams, shivering, pass.

And then the song. Others sing first.
I wait. I will remember. Day.
Until a voice - I know that voice.
There is a sweet, butterfly sound,
And notes, bright-coloured, gambolling,
Caressing thoughts as new lambs do.
And there is joy-ordinary
All about. The very air breathes
Delicious life, speaks memories,
High shrilling, not now forgotten.
And I reply, gladly reply,
Remember the known, always known,
And I sing to the air, loudly,
I sing day's coming to the air.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Endless Night - Agatha Christie

Okay, she can write.  That's how she made her name, I suppose - sold a few books.  And as ever there's an economy of style - "it's the narrative, Stupid".  Christie doesn't waste words; she keeps us on the action.  I was surprised in a "that's interesting way" to find myself making a link between Agatha Christie, The Doors and William Blake.  After that came a slight disappointment.  Endless Night, as expected, is rich with fantastic characters and intrigue.  To resolve her complex mystery, however - no, I didn't guess who did it - Christie does a complete character make-over towards the end; the villain suddenly acquires qualities, a history that had not been there before.  This left me imagining that the villain was a convenience - someone had to be guilty; and more importantly I imagined that like me Christie did not know who did it until she had invented her convenience.  The novel then loses its sense of being crafted from the start, clever clues and distractions woven into the plot - there were none.  As a result I will take a pause from her mysteries for now.  I will only return when I have forgiven her.  This should not take too long.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Bambert's book of missing stories by Reinhardt Jung

I fell up on this book, quite by accident, in the The Cook Book St Just, a treasure trove of second hand books. I have never heard of Reinhardt Jung, an Austrian author, before, but the story was translated by Anthea Bell, and I am a huge fan of hers, as she translates all the Asterix books, which I have loved since childhood.

Bambert's book of missing stories is about a writer who lives on his own, in the attic above a grocer's shop. Bambert is vulnerable, not able to be very active because of the pain he suffers, so he stays at home and writes stories, while the grocer makes sure that he gets everything that he needs. Bambert likes to sit and talk to the moon at night, and he has written a book called the Book of Wishes, which is made up of 11 stories. He decides to send them out, via balloon, into the world to see where they will land, and he asked the finders to return them to him, telling him where the stories have landed. Those locations then become the settings for those stories. Story titles include:

  • The Waxworks Cabinet - the story of a boy who was rewarded by the waxworks he cleaned up. This was one of my favourites.
  • The Strange Game - so moving as it was about a child living in Sarajevo during the war.
  • The Flight of the Dolls from Paris - a mysterious story about a little girl who found lots of doll parts on the beach.
  • Red Stocking, Black Coat - a story of a child living in a village ruled by a greedy count, and how the boy used cunning to make sure he was fed. It reminded me of an Aesop's fable.

This book is aimed at children, but the stories can be enjoyed by all. They are beautiful, and magical, some sad, but all hopeful, thought-provoking, and full of wisdom. I loved this book. It feel's like a treasure, and reminds me of other books, particularly Michael Ende's Neverending Story, or The Little Prince. Stefan Zweig, another favourite author of mine, is also Austrian. I love Austria, so it is a wonderful surprise to discover they have such fabulous authors. If you can recommend any more, please let me know!