Unpacking

unpacking
Phase I of unpacking an already heavily weeded library

Unpacking books was low down on our list of priorities, but the time eventually came to tackle the waiting boxes. No careful sorting at this stage, just transferring to existing shelves to see if the guestimated storage is adequate. And the answer is (huzzah!) it is! Sadly no “triangular wall of books” but at least it will be a whole wall, in what will be a guest bedroom. Hope guests won’t feel intimidated, just tempted!

There’s more art than science goes into arranging books, I feel, and I’m going to enjoy getting stuck into that when the time comes — though that may not be any time soon. I promise you will be first to get the update. Here’s a last look at how they were crammed into that pyramid.

Now those shelves, I hear you asking, who else had need of so much storage? The answer is Jeff Nuttall, who lived in this house for the last couple of years of his life, and whose books and papers filled all the space when we first came to view. Who he? I will leave that for another post; but if you can’t wait, there’s an informative Guardian obituary of this interesting polymath.

Going … going … gone

empty

For a brief time I had a little known affliction, perhaps not peculiar to me. Empty Shelves Syndrome. You may have experienced something like this when going through that crisis called Moving House.

Friendly strangers invade the building. Starting with the loft they denude all the book storage space and pack the books into “small” boxes (essential they aren’t larger because books are weighty). Then they transfer them downstairs ready for transport — along with everything else required on voyage — to a new home one hundred miles away. But still in Wales.

Now, of course you’d like to see some views of their latest resting place. Sadly, that’s not yet to be. Builders are due, imminently, to begin renovating and remodelling work on the new house which, after nearly two centuries, is set for another phase of TLC. So most of the reading matter is remaining packaged up, ready for easy movement and staying one step ahead of the builders.

As the building is roughly Regency period I’m at least giving a nod to its age by completing Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. That’s when I’m not unpacking boxes — those with no books in them of course.

Lest you’re disappointed and bereft because there are no books to see, here is a picture of the front door knocker of chez nous. A fantastic Mr Fox. An oblique Roald Dahl reference will have to do you. Very apt as he was born in Wales.

Fantastic Mr Fox

Carry on reading

calmgrove

 

As I warned readers nearly three months ago, that hiatic moment in blogging is imminent, the lacuna in posting is nearly at hand, the break in calmgrove continuity is virtually upon us — so here is the advice given on August 30th to help you avoid feeling bereft. Meanwhile, sister blogs MyNewShy and Zenrinji will be reverting to that good old television standby — repeats — until such time as the promised normal service resumes. Which will be as soon as possible! Remember: keep calm and carry on reading…

At some time in the imminent future — but not immediately — we shall be moving house, resulting in a hiatus in blog posting. DON’T PANIC!

(Yes, I realise that you won’t necessarily be thinking that the end of the world, or the end of your world, has come, but the thought helps inflate my already tiny ego.)

When this moment arrives you can assuage your anxiety by following these simple guidelines:

1. Reread this post. It’ll help calm your nerves (the clue, by the way, is in the title of this blog).

2. Read the other pages on calmgrove if you haven’t already. Some good stuff here — Holy Grails, Arthuriana, Exploring…

3. Click on Random Post this can usually be accessed via the calmgrove icon top left corner of your screen. Warning: don’t mix this up with Report this content just because they both begin with the letter R. And don’t be confused when the drop-down includes fewer and different choices.

random

4. Find your favourite recent post, scroll down and click on Related which — by the magic of the WordPress backroom androids — should lead you to posts you may have missed on the same or a similar topic.

5. Above all, during this period of uncertainty DON’T PANIC! Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Just remember, keep peeking at calmgrove. And carry on reading.

dont_panic
Wise words from Douglas Adams via http://vogon.com/megadodo/

The bourn from which no traveller returns

GB at night

Neil Gaiman Neverwhere:
The Author’s Preferred Text

Headline Review 2005 (1996)

In fairytales the overlooked, usually youngest son or daughter in a family commits an act of kindness that allows him or her to succeed where the other brothers or sisters didn’t. Sometimes the act of kindness is misplaced, as in the Arabian Nights tale of the genie in the bottle, and potential disaster follows. In this fantasy Scotsman Richard Mayhew comes to London and rescues a young woman from her pursuers, as a result of which his life is changed forever. He passes into London Below, supposedly the bourn from which no traveller returns. This is an Otherworld — at times a Dante-esque Inferno, other times reminiscent of Tudor or Restoration London — which has successfully reappeared in various modern guises, in Michael Moorcock’s Gloriana (1978) for example, Andrew Sinclair’s Gog (1967) and more recently in Miéville’s fantasies such as Kraken (2010).

Neverwhere‘s strengths largely lie in those fairytale motifs that much good fantasy draws from:  Continue reading “The bourn from which no traveller returns”

To savour, not hurry

Uttley garden
Alison Uttley photographed in her Buckinghamshire garden in the 1960s (www.alisonuttley.co.uk)

Alison Uttley
The Country Child
Illustrated by C F Tunnicliffe
Puffin Books 1981 (1931)

Alison Uttley, author of the Little Grey Rabbit picture books, was more than just a writer of sweet (some might say ‘twee’) tales of anthropomorphised animals for children. As well as a celebrated novel for older children A Traveller in Time she wrote a prolific number of non-fiction titles, as a glance at a list of her publications shows. Halfway between fiction and autobiography is The Country Child, which is in effect a true depiction of the author’s childhood but with the names changed. Continue reading “To savour, not hurry”

Patterns and Portraits

Möbius strip
Möbius strip

Diana Wynne Jones Deep Secret
Gollancz 1998 (1997)
No 2 in The Magids mini-series

I love Bristol. I love its hills, its gorge and harbours, its mad mixture of old and new, its friendly people, and even its constant rain. We have lived here ever since [1976]. All my other books [after the first nine, plus three plays] have been written here. [… ] Each book is an experiment, an attempt to write the ideal book, the book my children would like, the book I didn’t have as a child myself. — Diana Wynne Jones, in Reflections on the Magic of Writing (Greenwillow, 2012)

I used to live in Bristol. Ironically I had to move away before I became aware of Diana Wynne Jones’s writing but now, apart from her plays, books for younger children and a couple of short story anthologies, I have read all her other works save Changeover and A Sudden Wild Magic. And yet I still continue to be astounded by her writings, especially how she includes — magpie-fashion — all manner of curious things in the nest of her plotlines, and how she ruthlessly includes so much of her own life in her fiction. Including, in Deep Secret, a snapshot of her adopted town.

First things first. Deep Secret is predicated on patterns. Continue reading “Patterns and Portraits”

Poetry spam

negative

Now you may’ve heard of ‘poetry slams’ (confession: I’ve never been to one) so you may quibble at this post’s title: some mistake, surely?

But no, ‘poetry spam’ is what I meant. If you google Spam Lit or Spoetry or Found Literature you’ll get the gist — poems made from the nonsense titles or text in spams — or even the reverse, spam email text based on poetry.

I’m one of those sad people who trawl through my WordPress spam messages — to check if any genuine messages and comments have been mistakenly filtered out, you understand — and you may be one of those types too. Akismet (who despite the odd glitch efficiently sort out the gratuitous from the genuine) has recently netted five of these for me. (This is about average for every week or so, though it sometimes easily rises to double figures.) And while the spam comments didn’t fool me I found them strangely fascinating, with an enigmatic quality.

Continue reading “Poetry spam”

Interview with a storyteller

storyteller

Cheryl Mahoney’s pen portrait tells us she is a fantasy writer “living in California and dreaming of fairylands”. Her two published novels are in the Grimm tradition, but with a modern twist. The Wanderers was published in 2013 and concerns a talking cat, a witch’s daughter and a wandering adventurer who wants to live by the rules that govern the fairytale world, until it starts to go horribly wrong. The Storyteller and Her Sisters was published recently and is a story about twelve trapped princesses who must dance every night with twelve princes; but they are not the passive victims that the Grimm story would have us believe. Both titles are available in ebook and paperback format, with the second also on Kindle.

Besides novels, she also writes an excellent book review blog, Tales of the Marvelous, a title inspired by L Frank Baum’s confession “”Since I can remember, my eyes have always grown big at tales of the marvelous.” Here you can read discussions on books in a number of genres, from fantasy to detective, and from SF to historical fiction. I recently asked her about her approach to her own writing. Continue reading “Interview with a storyteller”