Innocence and inanity

A literal translation of Môr a Mynydd o Lyfrau might be “sea and mountain (made) from books”

Bruno Vincent: Five Go Bookselling
Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups
Hodder and Stoughton 2017

Maybe you missed it but Saturday 7th October 2017 was Bookshop Day in the UK and Ireland. I was involved in the third Crickhowell Literary Festival so I could hardly be unaware of it. I picked up this bit of free promotional material to see if I’d changed my mind about this expanding series of “Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups”. I found I had not.

Following on from Penguin Books’ re-vision of the classic children’s mid-20th-century Ladybird picture books allied with cynical new texts (on Mindfulness, The Mid-Life Crisis and the like) Hodder and Stoughton sought to cash in on this nostalgia trend with their updating of the Famous Five books. Do they work?

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Last of the summer.* Sigh.

Looking up from square in Aix en Provence

A change is as good as a rest, they say, and in my case the rest and the change coincided. Eurostar took us all the way to Marseille, and a week exploring the historic and cultural heart of Aix-en-Provence — when we weren’t swimming in an hotel spa pool in the late summer sunshine — has recharged mental and physical batteries in just the way we hoped.

And now it’s back to more mental stimulation as the third Crickhowell Literary Festival kicks off. Details of what’s on offer this week is on the website here and I’ll no doubt summarise in time what I will have attended in my capacity as steward or as punter. As I look back at the month I see that I’ve been more busy on the literary front than I thought.

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Slow progress

A kind of holy grail moment: secondhand bookshop interior in Brecon, Powys

Remember Mount TBR? I’d aimed to read twenty-four of my tsundoku titles — books that I’d bought or otherwise acquired before 2017, not including library books and rereads — to achieve a notional Mont Blanc target.

By the end of June I’d managed twelve — just at my halfway point, so theoretically by September’s end I should have achieved another six to reach eighteen books. So how have I done?

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The Island of Pearl Snakes

Banda Api volcano erupting May 1988. The most recent activity began in April 2017

Joan Aiken’s Limbo Lodge (1998) is one of the most detailed of the Wolves Chronicles to date, certainly in terms of the chronicles’ internal chronology if not their writing history. I have copious notes taken over the years on the characters, on the Aratu language, on board games around the world, on the novel’s timeline and on its literary connections. Here I want to talk about the geography of the fictional island of Aratu, on Joan’s possible inspirations for it and why she may have set her story in this part of the southern Pacific.

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Dido and the Spice Islands

A display of Vintage children’s books on offer in Book-ish bookshop, Crickhowell

We last left Dido Twite in South America, about to finally sail back home to England. But Dido is finding out that things don’t always go to plan when she sets off on her voyages. She had been shipwrecked in the North Sea, transported whilst in a coma via Cape Horn to north of Alaska, thence to New England. With the promise of a return to England her passage was diverted to the east coast of South America. And now, surely, she must be deserving of that homecoming? No, for now she finds herself heading to the Spice Islands in the South Pacific!

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Who’s the baddie?

Arthur Rackham illustration for Jack the Giant Slayer

“Who’s the daddy?” is a Cockney phrase used to imply the dominance of the speaker — to which the statement “You’re not the boss of me now” could be seen as an optimistic rejoinder — but, too often, the daddy turns out to be a bad ‘un. The big bad boss figure — the bully boy or the strong-arm man, sometimes a threatening witch-like figure — is a powerful archetype which, reflecting real life, often appears in literature, from children’s tales to classical legends. The ‘baddie’ reaches their apotheosis in fantasy literature, where no end of baddies are the mainstay of the conflict that drives the plot along until, for the most part, they are defeated. Indeed, ‘Overcoming the Monster’ is claimed as one of the seven basic plots* that all narratives rest on.

I’ve been more than aware of these baddies in recent reading and so would like to explore this theme a little bit, though this post won’t be more than a very superficial skimming over of a deep ocean of antecedents, analogues, varieties and meanings.

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Blogs I follow (4)

Library card catalogues (credit: http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-a-card-catalog.htm)

We come now to the fourth (but unfortunately not the final) instalment in the Blogs I follow mini-series. Here is where I list the last few of the sixtyish WordPress sites with a literary focus that I’ve kept a watching brief on. Previous posts have featured creative blogs (both image and word-based) and those that concentrate primarily on book reviews. This post looks at blogs with a bookish bent (some reviews but mostly writing and authors), while those of a more miscellaneous nature (lifestyle, travel, philosophy … you get the drift) I’ll leave for a final instalment.

Again, these are mostly in random order, though I do separate active blogs from those which only post intermittently or may be classed as zombie blogs (still ‘live’ but to all intents and purposes ‘dead’) — though some I prefer to think of as sleeping beauties, waiting to be woken.

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