Friday, May 18, 2007

Vexation with careless mistake by famous author

Also in today's blog
Reading in bed
Douglas Reeman's website
Mrs Reeman's first novel
Two comments from male readers please me

The titles on Mr Bookworm's bedside reading stack are even more eclectic than those on mine.

He is not a bookshop browser, but uses the public library and buys books "off the hedges" which is Guernsey-speak for the roadside stalls of vegetables, plants and books he passes on his walks round the island.

I was dismayed to be told by a Guernsey-born couple that these stalls are under threat from thieves. At least one stall, on a main road, has closed down because of pilfering.

When we first came to Guernsey in the Sixties and when we started to summer here in the Eighties, people could be trusted to put payment for goods bought in the open jam jars already holding coins and notes in case they needed change. Not any more it seems. What a sad turn of events. We read that standards have fallen to a very low level on the mainland, but somehow, foolishly perhaps, we hoped that the islands would remain the safe, law-abiding havens they used to be before drug-dealers targeted them.

Getting back to Mr B's books, at present the night table stack is topped by Sinfonia Napoleonica, a Spanish edition of Anthony Burgess's Napoleon Symphony [1986]; John Parker's Desert Rats [Headline 2004]; Café de artistas by Nobel-winning Camilo José Cela. In the back of this book is an article clipped from from a 1986 Time magazine headed "Spain's 'First Dissident'"…"not on the side of those who make history, but of those who suffer history."

Vexation with careless mistake by famous author

However Mr B's current reading is Alexander Kent's Signal-Close Action! described above the title as "Action under sail from the master story-teller of the sea."

The other night, while we were reading, cosily sandwiched between the electric blanket and the duvet, he suddenly gave a wordless exclamation of annoyance. When I asked the reason, he said, "I can't believe he could make such a mistake…or that his editor didn't pick it up."

The mistake he was referring to is on page 292 of the paperback 1982 reprint. See if you can spot it. It's in a comment made by Captain Thomas Herrick to Commodore Bolitho, the hero of 23 books until, in 1815, he was killed in action on his flagship, following Napoleon's escape from Elba and succeeded as hero by Adam Bolitho.

What Herrick said was : "There is nothing more you could do, sir. Even Rear Admiral Nelson was dismasted in a storm and allowed the Frogs to escape from Toulon. It's like seeking a hare in a burrow. With only one ferret, the odds of success are hard against you."

Perhaps I should explain that Mr Bookworm had the luck to be one of the many generations of schoolboys who were able to explore the countryside near their homes with a freedom few if any lads enjoy nowadays. As long as they were home by tea-time, no one worried about them. Consequently Mr B learned a great deal about wild life. He and his brothers kept rabbits and later in life, in his wildfowling years, he owned a ferret.

So he knew – as must many other Bolitho readers – that hares do not live in burrows and ferrets aren't pack animals.

Wikepedia tells us – "Hares do not bear their young below ground in a burrow as do other Leporidae, but rather in a shallow depression or flattened nest of grass called a form. Young hares are adapted to the lack of physical protection offered by a burrow by being born fully furred and with eyes open. They are hence able to fend for themselves very quickly after birth, that is to say they are precocial. By contrast, the related rabbits and cottontail rabbits are altricial, having young that are born blind and hairless.
All rabbits (except the cottontail rabbits) live underground in burrows or warrens, while hares (and cottontail rabbits) live in simple nests above the ground, and usually do not live in groups. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with longer ears, and have black markings on their fur. Hares have not been domesticated, while rabbits are often kept as house pets. The hare's diet is very similar to that of the rabbit."

Douglas Reeman's website

Alexander Kent is the pseudonym of Douglas Reeman at whose excellent website I learned that "Today the exploits of Richard and Adam Bolitho are featured in twenty-six novels, the lives and deaths of other men, equally heroic, in thirty-five Reeman novels." A prodigious output.

Mrs Reeman's first novel

I was also interested to read that Mr Reeman's wife, Kimberley Jordan Reeman, has her first novel, Coronach, coming out on October 15, 2007.

"Coronach is a historical epic of the eighteenth century, spanning forty-four years and three generations, and is set in Britain, the Caribbean, America, and France on the eves of their respective revolutions." You can read an extract at the site.

We are also told she had attended one of Douglas Reeman's readings "at Toronto's Harbourfront complex as a fan of the Bolitho novels. In 1985 they were married in Toronto, the culmination of a romance credited at least partly to Richard Bolitho, and on a date which, quite coincidentally, was that fictional hero's birthday."

Two comments from male reader please me

I had begun to think that Adrian Weston was my only male reader, although I try hard to make this a unisex blog.

So yesterday's comments from Frederick and writer Richard Havers were particularly pleasing.

I also made an unpleasant discovery about the misuse of comments. More about that on Monday.

If I were a TV presenter, I'd conclude with "Have a lovely weekend!" Do you share my irritation with their habit of saying, "Have a great evening" etc?

But then Mr Bookworm and I fume every five minutes when watching TV, not that we do a lot of it. Maybe younger viewers don't mind all these irritations. Constant hand movements. Bad vowels. Horrible hair styles. "Absolutely!" etc.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fantasy Island...a must read?

Also in today's blog : Hesperus Press
Constable Robinson and Sir Walter Scott

Fantasy Island

It will be interesting to see if Fantasy Island by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson [Constable Robinson £7.99], about which Jeff Randall wrote
in the Business supplement
with yesterday's Daily Telegraph, will soar to the top of the bestseller lists.

After reading Randall's column about it, had I been in a bookshop yesterday, and seen the book, I should have been tempted to buy it.

Randall [see photo] writes : "Read this book and weep. In a week when three London town halls rejected official immigration figures for grossly underestimating the real numbers, Fantasy Island sets out in exquisite detail the lies, damned lies and statisical legerdemain that define Labour in office."

"So, who's behind this excoriating work?" Randall asks.

The surprising answer is Larry Elliott, economics editor of The Guardian, and his joint author is Dan Atkinson, a former Guardian journalist who works now for the Mail on Sunday.

Randall continues : "Their theme, which I crudely summarise, is that on just about all issues of importance to ordinary folk – personal finances, health, education, immigration, unemployment and defence – the season is about to change: from Blair's illusory everlasting summer to a cold, dark winter."

Constable Robinson

At the Constable Robinson website, we're told, "In December 1999 Constable & Co Ltd and Robinson Publishing Ltd combined their individual shareholdings into a single company, Constable & Robinson Ltd.
Constable & Co founded in 1890 by Archibald Constable, grandson of Walter Scott's publisher. Robinson Publishing Ltd founded in 1983 by Nick Robinson.
We publish primarily in the following areas: biography and autobiography, current affairs and world politics, general and military history, health and psychology, travel and endurance, landscape photography, crime fiction and literary fiction."

You can read about Sir Walter Scott's publisher here

Extract : "Constable made a new departure in publishing by the generosity of his terms to authors. Writers for the Edinburgh Review were paid at an unprecedented rate, and Constable offered Scott 1000 guineas in advance for Marmion."

Whether Constable Robinson are equally generous with their authors, who knows?

Hesperus Press

I spent an enjoyable hour reading two catalogues [Spring 2007 and Autumn 2007] from Hesperus Press.

As I may have mentioned before, it was reading Rudyard Kipling [see photo] as a child that convinced me that newspaper journalism was the best training for a would-be writer.

Now there's a note in my diary that, in August, Hesperus will be publishing Kipling's Something of Myself in their Modern Voices series. This autobiographical sketch was the last work Kipling [1865-1936] wrote.

Hesperus also have a presence at
where I read "Hesperus Press, as suggested by the Latin motto 'Et Remotissima Prope', is committed to bringing near what is far - far both in space and time. Works written by the greatest authors, and unjustly neglected or simply little known in the English-speaking world, are made accessible through new translations and a completely fresh editorial approach. Through these classic works, the reader is introduced to the greatest writers from all times and cultures."

Unfortunately this, and the rest of their MySpace text, was in white text on a pale blue background, so I had to "select" it to read it easily. I hope they will change to black on white. It may not look as artistic but it's a lot less off-putting to site visitors.

There are other tempting titles in the Hesperus catalogues which I hope to write about in future blogs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My comments on your comments

10 May, 2007 Gillian said...
I recently did a 1 day "Drawing on Buildings" course at the John Soane Museum and it turned out to be far more interesting than I had expected. We were given access to parts of the museum not usually open to the public: his drawing studio, his model room (we sketched buildings), and his collection of architectural drawings. These included some early drawings by Adams - it was heartening to see that drawing didn't come naturally to him in his early days either. I can highly recommend the course - the museum is a fascinating place to work in.

Anne : Thanks for mentioning the course, Gillian. Sounds just up my street. It's some time since I signed on for an art course. Have done several at West Dean and at Can Xenet in Mallorca/Majorca.

"Can Xenet is a 400 year old manor house idyllically set amid 25 acres of cornfields, almond and fig trees. The large rustic barn, used as a studio and for alfresco lunches, lies between the swimming pool and the croquet lawn.

A varied and excellent menu includes some regional dishes and students may help themselves all day to drinks which are provided in a special fridge for them in the barn. Tapas, wine and cocktails are served on the terrace every evening. All wines, liqueurs, coffee and drinks are included and there are no extras whatsoever in our holiday.
The school offers courses for beginners; courses for students of mixed ability and workshops for advanced students and professional artists. These courses are advertised in the Artist and Leisure Painter from January-March and take place mainly between April-October."

I also went to Venice with the Can Xenet people and had a marvellous time.

09 May, 2007 Judy Astley said...
"He wasn’t faithful to his wife. I wondered why she didn’t value him more; so many women, including me, would happily have changed places with her."

Interesting - perhaps the wife DID value him, till he started cheating on her. Judy

Anne : We have only Elizabeth Jenkins' word for it. Sir Eardley Holland died almost 40 years ago at the age of 87. His obit is here. He was married twice.

I think it was rather silly of EJ to waste her life longing for someone who was unattainable.

09 May, 2007 Helen said...
I am often amazed when I find out the a partner of one of my friends and acquaintances are being unfaithful. I often refuse to believe it. But it is not possible to see what is going on in other peoples relationships. Maybe Dr Holland's wife was glad he was having sexual relationships with others, or maybe she had lost respect for him. When you lose respect for your husband it is usually the death noll for the relationship.

Anne : Other people's relationships can be baffling. Someone I've never heard of before, Allan K Chalmers, wrote "The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." Change the second 'something' to 'someone' and I'd agree with him.

I don't often leave comments on other people's blogs but did add one to Danuta Kean's piece on the future of reading.

If you haven't already discovered it, this is an excellent blog by someone with a keen understanding of the publishing "industry".

More about West Dean

"Edward James was born in 1907 into a world of privilege. He inherited the West Dean Estate on the untimely death of his father in 1912. He is perhaps best known as a passionate supporter of Surrealism, a movement that was born from the political uncertainty and upheaval between the wars. Surrealist artists escaped into a world of fantasy and irrationality. Edward was an early enthusiast of Surrealist artists and supported them by building up a collection of paintings and art objects that subsequently came to be accepted as one of the finest collections of surrealist work in private hands."

"He also provided practical help, supporting Salvador Dalí for about two years and allowing Magritte to stay in his London house to do some paintings."

The West Dean website is well worth a browse. They offer many other courses besides art.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jilly Cooper

Every morning, after breakfast but still at the table, I go through five newspapers or magazines, clipping pages to keep. A recent addition to this hoard was
"The world of Jilly Cooper, novelist"
from the 5 May issue of the Telegraph magazine from which I have borrowed the photograph taken by James King.

This clipping will be filed in the back of my copy of Riders, now shelved in the space behind newer books.

Talking about her 20-year-old Olympia typewriter, called Monica [!], in an interview with Isabel Albiston, Jilly is quoted as saying, "I use scissors to cut and paste when I need to move things about. I know using a computer would be much easier but there is always a danger of accidentally wiping the whole thing. I haven't got round to using the internet yet – there never seems to be time between books."

This prompted me to take a look at Jilly Cooper's website, designed by Angus Scott, at whose own website I read, "To view this site you will need the Flash plugin…"

If there's one thing I hate on arriving at a new-to-me website, it's being told that I must have some gizmo I've been avoiding for years. The Wikipedia article about Flash tells us that 98% of US users have it installed. But that doesn't persuade me to install it and I wouldn't mind betting that Angus Scott would find more prospective clients with my mind-set than among the devotees of Flash. They're more likely to want to design their own sites than to pay him to do it.

The site he has done for Jilly Cooper isn't bad, although there's not much point in having a gallery of author photos if they can't be copied in one easy movement.

Jilly's input consists of periodic descriptions of her social life which includes fairly frequent trips to London to mingle with book world celebs.

My comments on your comments

I intended to post some today, but this week is being rather hectic.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Daphne du Maurier centenary

On Saturday afternoon, on BBC2, we watched Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in the film, made in 1940, of Daphne du Maurier's most famous novel Rebecca.

We had both seen it before, not when it was first made but probably in the late Forties, our late teens.

I had thought I might only watch the opening scenes in the south of France. I remembered being greatly amused by the performance of Florence Bates as the obnoxious Mrs Edythe Van Hopper for whom the girl to become the second Mrs de Winter worked as a paid companion.

Before she became an actress, Florence Bates was a lawyer, the first woman lawyer in Texas in 1914 at the age of 26.

However by the time Mrs Van Hopper had warned her ex-companion that she wasn't up to being mistress of Manderley, I was hooked, even though Olivier no longer seems as attractive as he did when I was a schoolgirl.

Rick Stein in Du Maurier Country

This was the title of BBC2's next offering. "The chef pays tribute to Daphne du Maurier as he searches for the sources that inspired her work in Cornwall, visiting the locations she brought to life in her novels."

An excellent production with interviews with D du M's children and some TV clips of interviews with the author. Rick Stein is a very engaging personality – which can't be said of all TV stars.


"Drama celebrating the centenary of Daphne du Maurier's birth, starring Geraldine Somerville. The progamme charts her unrequited love for American heiress Ellen Doubleday."

How typical of the media to focus on the possibility that du Maurier had lesbian tendencies. This programme ran for an hour and a half, but after 30 minutes I was bored and switched off, preferring to go to bed with the Virago Press 2003 edition of Rebecca which was reprinted nine times that year and in 2004, 2005 [twice] and 2006.

This edition has a 12-page introduction by Sally Beauman who was authorised by the du Maurier estate to write Rebecca's Tale.

Having re-read the intro, I'm inclined to agree with
Amazon UK reviewer Richard
who wrote –

"The book itself is a classic and was recently promoted in the media as something people *must* read. Well, yes, read the book by all means, it is everything the glowing reviews say it is.

Bear in mind, however, that since this book was being touted as an introduction to good literature (whatever that is!) you might expect that many people who were new to the book would be expected to buy it. If you're someone who has never read the book previously - SKIP THE INTRODUCTION!

If Ms Beauman had any concern about new readers, she doesn't show this in the rather overblown introduction in which she gives away the story complete with the twist. It is arrogance itself to presume that "everybody has read the book" because it is "great literature" and therefore think it is fine to blather on about what made the book great (it certainly wasn't any introduction I ever read).

I'd read the book many years ago and bought it for my wife who'd never read it. Ms Bauman was personally responsible for reducing my wife's enjoyment of the book to merely an appreciation of the quality of the prose that followed.

Buy Daphne du Maurier's work by all means, just skip the pointless and counter-productive ego-trip that Ms Beauman begins the book with."

Books about Daphne du Maurier

One of the best is her own book Growing Pains : The Shaping of a Writer, published by Victor Gollancz in 1977.

The Author's Note begins – "All autobiography is self-indulgent. Approaching my seventieth birthday, I find that I forget what happened a week ago but have a vivid memory of childhood days and the awkward age of adolescence, much of the latter period recorded in diaries which I kept from the year 1920, when I was twelve, until I married in 1932."

In 1991 I bought The Private World of Daphne du Maurier by Martyn Shallcross, published by Robson Books with a foreword by Joan Fontaine.