Willoughby Chase is a place

The fictional town of Blastburn features in these two novels

“The past fortnight I have been to Willoughby again,” as Daphne du Maurier did not write. With a number of other enthusiastic Joan Aiken fans on Twitter I have been discussing this author’s The Wolves of Willoughby Chase chapter by chapter. Our genial and generous host Ben Harris got us to consider literary points, to be creative with words and materials, and to ponder related matters.

The last month or so has also seen me blogging about Aiken’s Midnight is a Place, a novel set in the same or a similar universe and, as it happens, also featuring the fictional town of Blastburn. Both these distractions have proved immensely enjoyable and — as one of my parting shots — I pray your indulgence as I share a few thoughts and conclusions.

And if anyone who’s on Twitter is interested in the full range of tweets just search the hashtag #WilloughbyReads to see what the fuss is about.

Continue reading “Willoughby Chase is a place”

Man drawer mentality

Reclamation yard oddments

Observational comedy, which relies so much on the shock of the familiar, is a brand of humour which works only if the audience relates to the material. It’s the kiss of death for a comedian if their material rings no bells for the expectant listeners sat in front of them.

Let me give you an example of observational comedy that worked for me at the time, introduced by a British stand-up comic a few years ago on one of his TV shows. This is the concept of the man drawer.

Continue reading “Man drawer mentality”

Narrative shapes

In the misty Black Mountains

The author Denise Mina talks about stories in an interview in The Guardian Review (Saturday 27 April 2019); asked about the inspiration for her podcasting plot line (writes Libby Brooks) she segues into Western society’s addiction to certain narrative shapes:

They are so comforting, but it fundamentally impacts the way we receive information. So the anti-vaxxers have a much cleaner story than vaxxers. Everything doesn’t fit into a story, some things are just information.

This issue — about people responding more favourably to a narrative that follows a simple plot than random bits of information that make the picture more messy — is one that you may’ve noticed I come back to again and again.

Continue reading “Narrative shapes”

Close encounters

We’ve not long passed May Day, the waymarker for the second third of the year. I thought I’d just do a little crystal-gazing and a quick retrospective in the lull between reviewing one book and the next.

First, the scrying. May being Wyrd & Wonder month, with a focus on fantasy, I’m firming up what I’d like to read over the thirty days. In the photo above, going left to right, you can see my final (?!) choices for High Fantasy, Low Fantasy and Grimdark, and below these, Urban Fantasy, Portal Fantasy and my take on Fairytale.

Still to be decided are Magic Realism and Myth, but I have a shortlist for both; and which titles will emerge will be as much a surprise for me as it will be for you. Will they be as mainstream as the others or rather more obscure?

Continue reading “Close encounters”

Interlace

As I’ve previously posted here April has so far proved to have been a Month of Random Reading, positioned as it is between a March of Readathons and a May of Fantasy.

But, as is the way of things, my choice of reading has unwittingly pointed me in the direction of books that bear some relationships with each other, however slight. Those relationships have reminded me quite a bit of the art of interlace.

Continue reading “Interlace”

The meming of things

“Your face when…” (image: writerspace.com)

If you read my posts on a regular basis you will know this face applies to me. It’s fairly likely it applies to you too. The possibility that anybody who is a bibliophile — a bibliomane, even — recognises this reaction is high. That’s the power of the meme.

Memes might seem a new thing but they’ve been around a long time, certainly long before Richard Dawkins defined them in The Selfish Gene (1976) as a unit of cultural information, one spread by imitation and, like genes, subject to evolution and mutation.

So when I recently had a till receipt from a Waterstone’s bookshop I was quite taken by the meme included on the print out.

They say money can’t buy happiness, but I have a receipt from the bookstore telling a whole different story.

As with many memes, the ultimate genesis of which it’s almost impossible to identify, I wasn’t able to find a quoted source, but from the use of the term ‘bookstore’ I’m assuming it’ll be North American. But I liked its quiet wit: not only can buying books be a fountainhead of pleasure, but the notion that even a bookshop receipt is able to tell a story gave rise to a small smile.

Continue reading “The meming of things”

Gratuitous

Image credit:WordPress Free Photo Library

Feedback from other bloggers is the lifeblood of many an online outpouring. I know I look forward to these responses, and I try to give back my share of them to other bloggers.

But there is a certain kind of feedback that raises one’s hopes, only to dash them. Here is one example, of the type you may be familiar with:

You’re so interesting! I don’t believe I have read through a single thing like that before. So wonderful to discover somebody with some unique thoughts on this subject. Really… thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that is required on the web, someone with a bit of originality!

It’s been a while since I’ve visited flim-flam spam flummery on this blog. As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I occasionally check through spam comments to see if any genuine remarks have been hoovered up.

Mostly they haven’t.

Continue reading “Gratuitous”