Thursday, June 26, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Saturday, June 7, 2008
I’ve been tagged to answer the following questions by Catherine Hawley
1. Who’s your all-time favourite author, and why?
Probably Wilkie Collins. He was a friend of Dickens’, & was as interested in social reform as his friend was, just in different areas. He was particularly concerned about the status of women (mind you, he did maintain what the Victorians called an irregular household). His thrilling or exciting stories are neither thrilling nor exciting to modern readers, but all his books* and stories are well-written, I enjoy his use of language, and the depictions of the society of the day.
*I exclude ‘Ioláni; or,
2. Who was your first favourite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favourites?
First one I can remember (and almost certainly was the first as I used to like Noddy) was Enid Blyton. I progressed through her books up to the Famous Five, and then moved on to Malcolm Saville. My children have all read Blyton & enjoyed her, and in fact I have reread many of them as I have read them to my children (I have read the entire Five Find Outers (and Dog) series out loud to my youngest daughter and it became an awful chore). The lack of more than about three different plots make them hard going, especially when read together. My two youngest children have taken to Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine stories, they belong the the Malcolm Saville Society, and I have taken them to
As a teenager, I read all Michael Moorcock’s prolific fantasy outpourings of the late 60s & early 70s, and I still enjoy his writing – although mainly his non-fantasy stuff now, Mother London, the Pyat quartet, although I have just read The Metatemporal Detective (which is a sequence of short stories) and enjoyed it very much. My first favourite adult author would have been, I think, Mervyn Peake.
3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favourite authors, and why?
It’s a while since I’ve been able to add an author to my list of favourites – partly because I’ve not been impressed enough with the writing, partly because the majority of what I read is non-fiction. Long before the film was around I read and very much enjoyed The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez, and was very disappointed to find that at the time it was the only one of his books that had been translated into English. My eldest daughter, in all seriousness, suggested I learned Spanish in order to read the others.
4. If someone asked you who your favourite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?
Wilkie Collins, Robertson Davies, Iain Banks, Mervyn Peake, Michael Moorcock, Gladys Mitchell, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers, John Buchan, John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson, Freeman Wills Crofts, Kazuo Ishiguro, Beverley Nichols, Eden Philpotts, Emile Zola, Bill Bryson, Michael Innes, C H B Kitchin, Nikolaus Pevsner, R Austin Freeman, Iain Sinclair [the further down the list they get the more reflection was required]
And so I tag
Jane Badger and
Friday, June 6, 2008
On Wednesday I went to a lecture at the Royal Institution by Heston Blumenthal. I probably wouldn’t have gone except I took my wife who is a food technology teacher, although I did have a vague interest to hear him & see how he came over as a speaker. The lectures last an hour, with a half hour after for questions. Unfortunately Heston’s hour consisted of playing a recording of one of his TV programmes (the Christmas one), pausing it & commenting on it. I hadn’t seen he programme before, but even so found the whole thing a bit of a disappointment, and something of a cop-out by Blumenthal; although it was a novelty to taste frankincense I could have done with a lot more talking (his presentation lacked polish & rehearsal, too). My wife saw his main development chef talk at
Far better than this was the RI lecture I went to on Monday, Feast: why humans share food by Martin Jones. Admittedly the speaker, Martin Jones, is the first George Pitt-Rivers Professor of Archaeological Science at the
The subject was why humans, unlike other mammals, use meal times as a social activity, and used various disciplines within arachaeology (including palaeoanthropology, archaeobotany, archaeogenetics, & the archaeology of food) to provide some answers and a lot more questions. He explained how, at Boxgrove, the flint scatters from knapping can be plotted in three dimensions to the extent that it can be determined where the knappers sat, how their legs were arranged and at what point they got up to stretch their legs & sat down again. The subject was brought right up to date, and was followed by an extremely interesting Q&A session - the audience for this lecture asked much more intelligent questions than at Blumenthal’s (“why can’t I get a table at the Fat Duck?” was an example there).
At last we get round to the book connection: following the talk I bought Jones’ book, also called ‘Feast: why humans share food’ (Oxford University Press); although I’ve only had time to get about a third the way through, I’m enjoying it very much too, as much as the lecture but in a different way. I find when I read a book by someone I have heard speaking I hear their voice in the text – people usually seem to write in the style in which they speak. And I’ve also bought his earlier book ‘The Molecule Hunt: Archaeology and the Hunt for Ancient DNA’ (Penguin), which I have put aside for later in the year.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Book Rabbit is a combined social networking and book buying site. Before the anti-networking site feelings raise their heads, please keep watching, as this site is really rather different. Firstly you needn't network at all if you don't want to. You can just buy books with free postage (no minimum order) and a guarantee that they'll beat Amazon's price on the top selling 100,000 titles. Not bad for starters. But if you want to network, it is not about posting your parents' address online so their house gets trashed, oh no, what you do is you network your bookcases. Honestly. You have to have an account as yourself, so there is no hiding under pseudonyms, and on your profile, if you want to join in, you can post pictures of your bookshelves. There is some kind of intelligent tagging mechanism so that you can separate and tag parts of the picture to identify which book is which. You can also claim books as your own just by searching and clicking add to my books. You can then become "friends" with people whose bookcases suggest similar interests.
From a blogger's point of view you can also link your blog to your profile and the rss feed appears there. Very useful for increasing traffic. I was pointed to Book Rabbit by a post Juliet at Musings from a Muddy Island, and bless her she has become my first friend on there. Within five minutes I had also bumped into the author Sarah Bower amongst the bookshelves too. There is also a Book Rabbit blog, and discussion boards. As Juliet says, I think Book Rabbit might be rather fun. Sadly, fun for UK buyers only at the moment.