Monday, 31 October 2011
Sunday, 30 October 2011
Saturday, 29 October 2011
Friday, 28 October 2011
Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself, by Barbara Crooker
like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.
"Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself," by Barbara Crooker, from Radiance. (c) Word Press, 2005. Reprinted with permission.
It's the birthday of the biographer James Boswell, born in 1740 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His family was descended from minor royalty, and they had occupied the same land in Ayrshire for more than two hundred years. Boswell's father was a judge who insisted that his son study law. So James Boswell passed his bar exams in Scotland, but he didn't really like law and he didn't really like Scotland. Boswell loved gossip, drinking, and traveling, and he wanted to be in London, to be in the company of the rich and famous. He also wanted to be known as a great lover, so he bragged constantly about his love life.
James Boswell was a good writer with an incredible memory, and he started keeping a journal as a teenager, and he kept it for the rest of his life, filled with reflections and anecdotes about the famous people he befriended--Voltaire, Rousseau, Oliver Goldsmith, John Wilkes. Most of all he wrote about his friend Samuel Johnson. When Boswell was just 22 years old, he met Johnson, who was his idol, in the back of a bookshop. Johnson was 53, and he gave the young Boswell a hard time when he met him, but Boswell went back to visit him anyway and they soon became good friends. Over the next 20 years, Boswell followed Johnson around, and he always had paper and took notes constantly. Johnson was often frustrated with Boswell, and Boswell could be critical of Johnson, but they still liked to spend time together, and they traveled together through Scotland and the Hebrides.
After Johnson's death, Boswell spent years writing a biography of his friend. He used letters, interviews, as well as his own diary, of which he said, "A page of my Journal is like a cake of portable soup. A little may be diffused into a considerable portion." Finally, in 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson was published, and people loved it. There had never been a biography like it before. Instead of a dry recitation of facts, Boswell filled his book with personal anecdotes and vivid descriptions, and overall it was fun to read, and he made Johnson sound like a real person who wasn't totally perfect. It's still considered one of the greatest biographies ever written, and it's a big part of the reason why Samuel Johnson is still so famous today.
It's the birthday of The New Yorker editor David Remnick, born in Hackensack, New Jersey (1958). This is his first editing job. He worked as a sports reporter for The Washington Post and then as their Moscow correspondent, where his duties once included tracking down a hairdresser for his boss, Washington Post owner Katherine Graham, for her interview with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Soon he was researching and writing big stories from Moscow for the Post, and earning a reputation as rising star. One day, three of his stories from Moscow appeared on the front page of the Washington Post. Then his first book, Lenin's Tomb: The Last days of the Soviet Empire (1993), won the Pulitzer Prize.
In 1992, he started as a staff writer at The New Yorker, and six years later was asked to be the editor. When a room full of staff writers at The New Yorker heard that he'd accepted the post, they burst into applause -- a five-minute-long standing ovation.
He continues to report and write for The New Yorker as well as edit it, and he's also the author of a 672-page biography of President Obama, called The Bridge (2010).
It's the birthday of the children's poet and novelist Valerie Worth, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1933. She's most famous for her "small poems," poems for children about everyday objects, and she said "As a child, I preferred reading and writing to everything else, and I still feel much the same way. I was also greatly attracted to 'smallness,' perhaps because throughout grade school I myself was the smallest in my class. My favorite fairy tale was 'Catskin,' about the princess given three ball gowns--one like the sun, one like the moon, and one like the stars--packed up in a walnut shell; and the idea of such magnificence hidden inside so plain and tiny a thing not only fascinates me still, but also has served as a model for many of my poems." Her books include Small Poems (1972), Small Poems Again (1986), and Curlicues: The Fortunes of Two Pug Dogs (1980).
Here is the poem "Safety Pin":
Closed, it sleeps
On its side
Opened, it snaps
Its tail out
Like a thin
Shrimp, and looks
At the sharp
Point with a
From More Small Poems. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright 1976.
It's the birthday of the British novelist Henry Green, born Henry Yorke in Tewkesbury, England (1905). He wrote most of his first novel while he was a teenager, going to school at Eton, a novel called Blindness (1926). Then he went to Oxford, but he mostly drank, played billiards, and went to movies. So he dropped out and went to work as a laborer in an iron foundry, a factory which made beer-bottling machines and plumbing equipment, and he used that experience to write his second novel, Living (1929). He wrote many more novels, and he's best remembered for Loving (1945), which TIME magazine named one of the 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Loving is what's called an upstairs-downstairs story; it's about a fancy country home in Ireland, parallel stories of the people who live there and the servants who work there.
Green wrote, "Prose should be a long intimacy between strangers with no direct appeal to what both may have known. It should slowly appeal to feelings unexpressed, it should in the end draw tears out of the stone."
Wednesday, 26 October 2011
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Monday, 24 October 2011
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Saturday, 22 October 2011
Monday, 17 October 2011
He told Contemporary Authors: "I believe in dedicated work rather than in 'inspiration' [...] I believe writing to be a craft like carpentry, plumbing, or baking [...] In 'culture circles,' there is a tendency to look upon artists as the new priesthood of some esoteric religion. Nonsense -- and dangerous nonsense moreover -- we are all hewers of wood and drawers of water; only let us do it as thoroughly and joyously as we can." (resume courtesy of the online The Writer's Almanac).
I have never read anything by GMB, but am resolved to do so. I agree with his analysis of writing, that it is a craft improved only by application, doing it every day (like painting, for that matter, or any 'art'). And I am interested in the same things as he is: culture, history and ritual. Talking of 'hewers', when pronounced, the Energy Secretary's name* sounds like 'hewn'. There is a quote circulating to the effect that the wise course 'going forward' is to grow vegetables and keep chickens. I have no garden at my rented house in Moffat, but early next year I will be making one two doors down at 21 Well Road, a property in which I have a shared interest. Watch out for signs of veg cultivation and the sound of clucking. *Chris Huhne
Sunday, 16 October 2011
Saturday, 15 October 2011
Friday, 14 October 2011
parade', married to a senior diplomat, meetings in the Kremlin, part of an ex-Prime Minister's entourage laying a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Red Square, receptions, cocktails at the Embassy, first nights - yes, you can get totally fed up with the whole business, aching feet in high heels, force-fed with endless banquets, polite conversation, trying not to drink too much or too little. Onyhoo. I am admonished and will try to do better again, in looser fitting clothes and lower heels, occasionally in startling hues of mustard and geranium. See you tomorrow I hope.
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
what I am; I want to catch a book,
clear as a one-way ticket, to Paris,
to London, to anywhere.
"Bookmobile" by Joyce Sutphen, from Coming Back to the Body. (c) Holy Cow! Press, 2000. Reprinted with permission.
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
And, "If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.' The first statement was by Jean Paul Sartre, in an attack on the author of the second,Francois Mauriac born on this day in 1885, died 1970, a Nobel laureate in literature. I re-read: Turgenev; Chekhov, Pushkin; Lermontov; El Romancero Viejo; T. S. Eliot; Philip Larkin; Kingsley Amis; Evelyn Waugh; Graham Greene; Roger Lewis and Andrew Barrow. To name but a few. Off the top of my head. Odd that so many are poets. I am going to an event for translators next week, at which I will meet someone who has lived a life which curiously resembles what mine might have been like, had I made different choices. He studied Spanish and Russian, as I did; lived in Russia and now lives and works in Spain. The similarities between Spain and Russia are not often remarked: they are both enormous countries on the edge of Europe, both suffered centuries of subjugation by an asian Islamic power, both had great empires and suffered revolutions and civil war. Only with such a history could there be a verb, as there is in Spanish that means 'to take the carpets up for the summer' (so that the floor is cool to the feet).
Monday, 10 October 2011
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Monday, 3 October 2011
Sunday, 2 October 2011
Alis Ballance is our compere for *Moffat Book Events'* Jeans or Genes? on Sat 15th Oct 2011 9.30pm-6pm. Alis says:
I live in Moffat with my husband, Chris, and we have two wee boys, Calum
(5) and Ossian (2).
I taught languages in my twenties then got my Equity card and went into
professional acting when I reached thirty. I have been a green campaigner
throughout, having 'gone green' at the age of fifteen, despite being the
daughter of a very Tory farmer and very Tory doctor!
If I could have been born in Moffat, I would be content, because Moffat is
the place I feel at home, and I am really chuffed that at least my boys are
going to be local Moffat boys. However, I grew up, and very happily, on a
farm in Aberdeenshire, where I had a lot of freedom, cycling and running
around the countryside, climbing trees and putting on plays with my friends
to any captive audience.
Reading was really important to me - I can't imagine my childhood without
stories. My favourite book was 'The Bullerby Children' which was all about a
little girl on a farm in Sweden. So there was just enough I could recognise
in her life to relate to, but also there were lots of intriguing
differences, such as Swedish customs, plus she had two brothers, while I was
an only child. Enid Blyton books were a full-on addiction, especially the
Famous Five and the Big Adventure books.
But it wasn't just stories in books that I loved; I loved listening to
story-tellers, and going to the theatre and to the opera from an early age.
Although in some ways I was quite shy, I always enjoyed being the narrator
or acting in plays from an early age - I continue to be fascinated to become
someone else for a while when playing a role, to know how it feels to be
someone else. It is really only as I have got older and had my children that
I've started to be a bit more confident just being myself and not playing
As I seem to spend all my time campaigning these days, I really enjoy when
I get the chance to work in story-telling and performing again, so am
delighted to be involved with Moffat Book Events once more, having done a
reading for them at their Miss Buncle Married event back in the Spring.
Moffat Book Events have a flair for offering very special and creative
Angus Sinclair will be launching his The Moffalump at the children's story-telling session at Moffat Book Events Jeans or Genes? at Moffat House hotel on Sat Oct 15 9.30-11am. Angus was born in Edinburgh but came to Moffat when he was 10 days old. He went to Moffat Academy then on to secondary school in Edinburgh. He went to sea in the Royal Navy and then worked at the House of Commons in London until this time last year. He enjoys story-telling and learnt this when his own children were young. Moffat has always been his first home and he holds the countryside in huge respect. The story of The Moffalump is connected to sheep, the weather in this part of the Scottish Borders and a number of local stories, some true and some not. He hopes that the story of The Moffalump will be one that grows and that anyone with imagination, a big heart and an ability to laugh will look to contribute to it so that as the story gets longer the more it will be enjoyed.
Carolyn Yates As I am a biologist by training, my storytelling activities involve some science questions along the way. I was trained to use puppets as part of an education project run by Millgate House. The project involves using human-style puppets to engage pupils in thinking and talking about problems and questions related to the world around them and is called PUPPETS: talking science, engaging science. On Saturday I'll be bringing along Discovery Dog and Naughty Nora his niece to help me tell a story about who we are and how we inherit some things and develop others. A kind of genetic journey for little ones.
I was lucky enough to acquire two step sons when they were aged 5 and 3 and always read to them a lot. Mainly football annuals to the youngest! Of course they have long flown the nest but the eldest one now has two children, Henry 3 and Oliver seven months. The youngest son has a baby on the way. Henry already loves books and I have great fun choosing them for him. As the Literature Development Officer for Dumfries and Galloway I am in the ideal job for making sure I get hold of the best and most enjoyable books for young children. Meeting many of the authors recently at the Wigtown book festival give some an insight into why they write and illustrate particular stories. I managed to meet two of my favourite authors Debi Gliori and Emma Barnes and they are as lovely as their books! Perhaps you have to be if you write for children
When I was about ten or eleven my favourite book was The Wizard of Boland published in 1959 and written by Denys James Watkins-Pitchford MBE , a British naturalist, children's writer, and illustrator who wrote under the pseudonym "BB". I went on the net and found, to my delight, it's still in print. Though I don't approve of the picture on the cover now as that's not the wizard of my imagination.
In my job I have to read a lot and not always of my choosing but I have just been on holiday so I had freedom to choose and took A Calendar of Love by George Mackay Brown. I had tried a novel of his but didn't finish it - his short stories are wonderful though so I really enjoyed this book.
I live in Castle Douglas and have lived in Dumfries and Galloway now for twenty years, having come from the north of England. I have an adorable re-homed ex racer greyhound called Jimmy who makes sure i get some exercise though probably not as much as we should as he's inherently lazy. I know Moffat very well, I have good friends here. Last year my husband and I bought Jenny Wren the toy shop in Castle Douglas. The original Jenny Wren was in Moffat of course and we used to come over for toys for nephews and nieces before the Castle Douglas shop opened.
Julia Eccleshare: I'm planning to make this a personal look at reading which will introduce some great new books by way of sharing where my reading comes from/ how I became a reader and how that along with many contemporary things influences what kind of reader I am now and what I think about books and what they do for young readers.
Basically, what I am interested in is the 'sociology of reading' . I want the audience to think about what they remember about their own reading as children and what they think books do for you as a child as a way of understanding what kind of books children might like today.
ER: Do you have children? If so, did you read to them?
JE: I have 4 children and I read aloud to all of them – but not as much as my husband. Mostly, I chose the books and he read them.
ER: What are you reading at the moment?
JE: I'm re-reading Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson diaries as I am interviewing her this week at the Bath literary Festival
ER: Where do you live?
JE: London – very near to where I grew up
ER: What are your favourite leisure time occupations?
JE: Walking in Scotland
ER: Do you know Moffat/Scotland?
JE: Yes. I have been going on holiday on the West Coast since I was 6 and I am a frequent visitor to relatives who farm in Melrose.
Alistair Moffat will be talking about his new book on DNA The Scots: A Genetic Journey. He says:
'Being a Moffat I know Moffat well and used to come to the town with my parents. Delicious Moffat Toffee was always brought home to Kelso but it never lasted. In the days when it was possible to get an education without saddling students with huge debts, I was lucky to go from Kelso High School to St Andrews University, then Edinburgh and then to the Warburg Institute at London University to do my research degree. I ran the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh for 6 years before working in TV for 20. In 1999 I resigned as Director of Programme at STV and now work a small farm between Selkirk and Hawick with my wife. I am currently writing a book called Britain’s Last Frontier, a journey along the Highland Line from Inverness, round the Mounth and down to Glasgow and all my reading is currently focussed on that. I just finished JM Barrie’s Auld Licht Idylls, laugh-out-loud funny. With animals to feed and look after as well as the other things I do, we have no time for holidays or even any days off. – ever. That means we have to run a daily schedule that allows a breather and the time between 6pm and 8pm is sacred, usually spent with the dogs, some wine and leaning on the gate looking at this year’s foals. Having had the wettest and worst summer in living memory, there haven’t been too many sunny evenings and that ain’t good. But hey-ho, that’s the thing about the Scottish summer. It gives you the winter to look forward to'.
( Interview with Moira Cox, Moffat's specialist on making the most of yourself to follow)
The grand finale to the day is Moffat House hotel's exclusive *Moffat Book Event's* slap-up afternoon tea:
* Sandwiches: Smoked salmon & cucumber and cream cheese
* Scone with cream and home made raspberry jam
* Apple & cinnamon cake
* Almond macaroon
* Raspberry cream mille feuille
* Lemon meringue tart
Unlimited refills of best Scottish tea
The event will be compered by Alis Ballance of Moffat CAN, and books will be supplied by Katherine Clemmens of Moffat Books.