How to spot a reader

The surefire way to identify an eager beaver young reader is to listen to them.

How do they pronounce the words they’ve seen in print but never heard?

Do they — as I remember being sniggered at for doing — say “causal” instead of casual? Does that understandably precocious child pronounce “foregin” in place of that odd-looking word foreign? And — as I heard an adult enunciate when expanding his horizons into less mundane topics — does “esoteric”sometimes emerge (by analogy with “expectorate” perhaps — with the stress on the second syllable?

Continue reading “How to spot a reader”

Advertisements

In a spin

The City of Books, Aix-en-Provence (September 2017)

In yet another attempt to tackle my to-be-read pile I’ve decided to take a leaf out of the book put together by The Classics Club blog.

They have a concept called the ‘Classics Spin’, as detailed at https://theclassicsclubblog.wordpress.com/:

What is the spin?

It’s easy. At your blog, before next Friday, November 17th, create a post to list your choice of any twenty books that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the year (details to follow). Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

On Friday, November 17th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by December 31, 2017. We’ll check in here in January to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book!

This looks like a (just about) manageable challenge — this from one who never quite completes a challenge (looks like achieving Mount TBR for 2017 is going to be very tight). At least I know I’ve got twenty titles on my shelves that bit the bill! Here they are, in a sort of alphabetical order.

Continue reading “In a spin”

Rex Futurus

King Arthur by Julia Margaret Cameron

I have a confession: I’m not a fan of Arthurian fiction.

There, I’ve said it. Why so? It comes from a half century of involvement in Arthurian matters, from archaeological research to editing a society journal, during which I came into forced contact with innumerable theories about ‘rex quondam’ in fiction, in non-fiction and creative non-fiction. Some were plausible, most were speculative, and whole libraries of them were, frankly, preposterous. So in a way I’m the last person to be enthusiastic about this particular literary genre.

And yet, there are aspects I delight in. In amongst the many servings of clichéd tropes (many even falling far short of Steinbeck’s 1976 Malory-inspired The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights) there are gems that catch the eye. Three overlapping areas I’ve noticed concern the King himself, Merlin and the Grail, so I shall divide this discussion into these three sections. Also, along the spectrum shading from history to legend is another axis taking us from an imagined past to a future via a notional ‘present’. To keep things a little focused I shall confine myself to the 20th century; needless to say this is neither a comprehensive survey nor an impersonal one.

Continue reading “Rex Futurus”

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?

Continue reading “Innocence and inanity”

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.

Continue reading “Last of the summer.* Sigh.”

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?

Continue reading “Slow progress”

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.

Continue reading “Blogs I follow (4)”