Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Well, I got my new computer on Saturday and the machine is fine, but I'm struggling to get used to the strange environment. You know how new (i.e. up-to-date) software makes you feel as if you're working in a foreign language? AArrgghh! I've just touched something and the text is now huge and I can't work out how to get it back to normal. That's the kind of thing I mean. 

How are you all? Having a nice time? It's been so quiet at Hepworth Towers we would have been able to hear a Christmas tree needle drop, had any been dropping. But the tree I dug up from the garden is sitting in a tray of water and isn't losing any. 

We've been reading and cycling and fielding phone calls from our three scattered children, and that's about it. So today's post is on books, in the mode of that one they have in the paper every Saturday.

The book I am in the middle of reading:
I was reading Midwinter Break by Bernard Maclaverty for the second time in two months, to examine the craft of the author, but then someone gave me this for Christmas:

which is surprising and interesting and weird and quirky, but is difficult to describe, so here's what the first sentence inside the dust jacket says: 'Bluets winds its way through depression, divinity, alcohol, and desire, visiting along the way with famous blue figures, including Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Yves Klein, Leonard Cohen and Andy Warhol.' Actually, I could have described it but I'm feeling lazy. 

The book that changed my life:
Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. This is the creative writing book that sprung me from writing technical reports into creative writing - both non-fiction and fiction. I return to the book every so often for help and inspiration.

The book I never finished:
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. I tried twice and gave up  because I was bored. I've also tried twice to read Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, which I was enjoying but lost heart with because it was so wordy. I'll try again with this one.

The last book that made me cry:
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I like books that make me cry. I would like to write such books.

The last book that made me laugh:
It's one I return to for encouragement when I'm in the middle of writing a novel - The Unstrung Harp; or Mr Earbrass writes a novel by Edward Gorey. I've shared excerpts with you a couple of times, but I'm not sure you get it.

The book I am ashamed not to have read:
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver. A good friend (who doesn't read my blog) gave it to me and my heart sank, because although I think Kingsolver is a good writer, she uses twice as many words as I would like her to. I don't like wordy writing and avoid it. I also don't like this question, because I think that feeling ashamed not to have read a famous or lauded book is a waste of emotion.

The book I wish I'd written:
There's more than one, but let's stick to one of Kent Haruf's - the second one of his trilogy - Eventide. I love his spare writing, and his humanity.

(I just got back the text on my screen to the normal size and have no idea how I did it.)

The book I think is most overrated:
Stoner by John Williams. It's MISERABLE but mainly, I don't understand why everyone makes such a fuss of the writing. I am baffled.

The book I think is most underrated/maligned:
Mrs Vole the Vet by Allan Ahlberg. See my post on it - here. And read my review on Amazon here.

The book I most frequently give as a present:
When I first discovered Homestead by Rosina Lippi I gave a copy to all my close friends. Now I don't give books to people apart from to my brother, because I know how uncomfortable it is when someone gives you a book that is not to your taste.

The book I would most like to be remembered for: 
I can't answer this. Which one of mine will you remember me for?

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