Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Happy Birthday to me (and Persephone Books)!

The wonderful Persephone Books celebrated their tenth birthday during my birthday month, March, and I thought it would be apt to pay them birthday wishes upon my own birthday.

It is rather apt to celebrate it today as sitting beside me is a copy of one of the Persephone published texts, The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett (much loved children's author of The Secret Garden, A Little Princess and Little Lord Fauntleroy and another Persephone title, The Shuttle, which I read at Christmas and adored), which arrived in a parcel today. Sent from one of the LibraryThing Persephone group members, it isn't a Persephone edition but the title is one I have been longing to read since first discovering Persephone Books last May and for the last few months it has been reprinting. I am looking forward to reading it, plan to immediately, in fact, and then later upgrade it to a Persephone edition.

Here is a synopsis from the Persephone website:

Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The Secret Garden (1911) are enduring bestsellers, but this 1901 novel is many people's favourite: Nancy Mitford and Marghanita Laski loved it, and some US college courses teach it alongside Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

Part I, the original Marchioness, is in the Cinderella (and Miss Pettigrew) tradition, while Part II, called The Methods of Lady Walderhurst, is an absorbing melodrama; most novels end 'and they lived happily ever after' but this one develops into a realistic commentary on late-Victorian marriage. 'Delightful... A sparky sense of humour combined with lively social commentary make this a joy to read' wrote the Bookseller. Kate Saunders told Open Book listeners that she was up until two in the morning finishing this 'wildly romantic tale whose hero and heroine are totally unromantic' (Daily Telegraph); the Guardian referred to 'a touch of Edith Wharton's stern unsentimentality'; the Spectator wrote about the novel's 'singular charm'; and the Daily Mail stressed the 'sharp observations in this charming tale.'

It sounds truly wonderful, does it not? The edition sent to me is only part one so hopefully Persephone's reprinting of this title is completed soon!

Speaking of non-Persephone editions: I was home in Glasgow for a long weekend and when I returned to London on Monday I brought some of my books back with me including an old Penguin copy of Virginia Woolf's Flush, which Persephone have also reprinted. Things as they are in the particular economic climate and my own personal circumstances I am attempting to curb my book spending yet indulge in reading Persephone titles where I can. I also own an old, second-hand copy of Persephone #61 A London Child of the 1870s by Molly Hughes.

I know I rave on and on about this lovely publishing house, so much so that one would suspect that I was on the payroll (oh if only that were true!) but they truly are beautifully presented books (that make ideal presents) and are charming, engaging and highly readable books. I would urge you to visit their shops (the flagship one in Bloomsbury or the newer and very quaint one in South Kensington) when in London or to subscribe to their mailing list and catalogue, which is a pleasure in itself. They publish forgotten masterpieces: books that have been overlooked and fallen out of print; not just charming and enchanting novels but cookery books, social commentary, journals, letters, essays and short stories. This article contains photographs of the shop on Lamb's Conduit Street that do its charm justice. Persephone Books are the whole package and I wish them many, many happy returns and success in the future.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

They Were Sisters

It is easy to determine why Dorothy Whipple is Persephone Books' most popular author: she is comfortably readable and engaging. Described by J.B. Priestley as the "Jane Austen of the 20th Century", Whipple is like a cup of tea on a cold and wet Spring day: comforting, soothing yet restorative. Also deemed as capable of making the "ordinary extraordinary" (Celia Brayfield in the afterword to They Were Sisters), Dorothy Whipple is a masterful story-teller, weaving a good yarn.

I consider Someone at a Distance as one of the best Persephones read so far (it closely follows Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary, which is a beautiful, charming and heartbreaking book) and reading a second Whipple novel did not disappoint; I will happily purchase her other two novels and collection of short stories that Persephone publish. They Were Sisters (the lovely endpaper of which is shown above) makes compulsive reading, a domestic drama, which is often harrowing. Lucy, Charlotte and Vera are the three sisters of the title who each marry very different men. Charlotte's husband is a bully who emotional abuses Charlotte and their children, to the detriment of their family and to Charlotte's health and happiness. Vera, on the other hand, marries a rich but boring man and lives a spoiled existence, which contributes to her own downfall. The novel focuses on the unsatisfying lives of these sisters with their older sister Lucy looking on, feeling and worrying too much but being quite content in her own marriage to William, despite their lack of children. The effect the lives of the sisters lead and the subsequent neglect of their children is traced in the story of Charlotte's daughter, Judith, and Vera's daughter, Sarah. I will not spoil the outcome of the novel or criticise its lack of feminism (it was written in the 1940s after all and being childfree by choice was not such a popular choice at that time) or even the stock male characters (excluding Geoffrey, Charlotte's husband, who is imbued with a realistic vileness) as these are flaws I can live with. They Were Sisters is an often unputdownable novel that examines the psychology of the sisters and children and tackles domestic violence in a forthright manner. Dorothy Whipple is twentieth century Jane Austen whose dramas in the drawing room are ugly, as opposed to romantic.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Short Story Weekends

The novels and children's fiction of Neil Gaiman I have read and would re-read and re-read again in an instant; his short stories, however, I have dipped into and back out again at random. Fragile Things has sat, a beautiful hardback that Gareth gave me for Christmas in 2006, (oh why oh why did I not have Neil sign it too when we went to The Graveyard Book reading and signing on Hallowe'en?) on the bedside table and the bookshelves in Glasgow and then in London and now lies beside me. I also have the book on audio with Neil Gaiman's own dulcet (and even sultry) tones reading; he makes a great reader and his voice has the rhythm and cadences to read his own eerie words, obviously he knows where to emphasise and where to pause and where to create suspense. For the Once Upon a Time Short Story Weekends challenge I thought that Fragile Things would be a perfect choice as Gaiman often mixes and blends elements of fairy tale, folklore, mythology and fantasy into his work. Besides, I am going home to Glasgow later this week for a long weekend and Gaiman as a travelling companion on my ipod nano will be better than the weight of the hardback in the hand luggage (along with the other book or two that I'll be packing). So, that was settled and I myself settled down to some reading along with his reading aloud.

Before you even reach Neil Gaiman's short stories in the collections, there is his introduction. No writer writes an introduction like Gaiman does: his introductions -mini introuductions to each and every short story- are as good as the stories themselves. It is joyful to read about the origins and inspirations of each story and the anecdotes provided about them. Gaiman's introductions are full of surprises: in Smoke and Mirrors Gaiman includes a story not included in the volume in the intoduction instead! He cheekily writes, "So for all of you who do read intoductions, here is the story I did not write [as a gift for friends who were marrying]" and then follows "The Wedding Present", which is a wonderfully creepy foreshadowing.

One of the things about Neil Gaiman that stands out, for me, is his love for writing and his dedication to his fans (what other writer spends hours at signings, until every last fan has been seen?) His introductions, his audio narrative of his work, his blog ... all are proof of this.

The first story in the volume is "A Study in Emerald" a pastiche of Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet where the rational world of Sherlock Holmes meets the irrational world of H.P. Lovecraft. Not having read Lovecraft I cannot say how faithful a depiction of his fictional universe, Cthulhu Mythos, Gaiman provides but his loyalty to -and cleaver tweaking of- 1880s Baker Street, London is concrete. I read A Study in Scarlet last month and it was fresh in my mind so I could easily determine Gaiman's influence and where he deviated from the original story into the myhthological universe set in London, England (as opposed to New England in Lovecraft), now known as Albion, ruled by the acient deities, The Great Old Ones, headed by the alien Queen Victoria. Having not, as yet, read all of the Sherlock Holmes volumes I did not fully grasp the twist ending but merely guessed at it ... having had my guess confirmed I can only marvel at the cleverness of Gaiman. I greatly admire literary borrowings and pastiches when they are done well and Gaiman excels at his attempt; "A Study in Emerald" rightly won the Hugo Award in 2004 for best short story.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Once Upon a Time...

... there was a girl who read books, blogged about them and completed challenges. With one thing and another (ahem, moving flat unexpectedly) I wasn't able to uphold my end of the R.I.P, challenge last year, despite fulfilling the reading part, so I am excited to approach Carl's Once Upon a Time (III) challenge this year.

I plan to embark on the Quest the Second challenge: read at least one book from each of the four categories (fantasy, fairy tale, folklore and mythology). In this quest you will be reading 4 books total: one fantasy, one folklore, one fairy tale, and one mythology. This proves to be one of the more difficult quests each year merely because of the need to classify each read and determine which books fit into which category. I ALSO plan to complete Quest the Fourth: read two non-fiction books, essay collections, etc. that treat any one or more of the four genres covered in this challenge, as well as participating in the Short Story Weekends! A heavy undertaking but one I look forward to with anticipation.

The challenge takes place between March 21st (yesterday) and June 20th so that is three months to immerse myself in some heavy fairy tale/fantasy/mythology/folklore reading. I have always had a strong interest in this genre, especially fairy tales and feminist reworkings. I studied Angela Carter for my Master's thesis and took an elective course in the Brothers Grimm and the History of the European Fairy Tale so I relish revisiting some of this work and building upon what I have already learned; I hope above all to learn more about Jungian analysis and its roots in the fairy tale tradition.

This challenge has come around on the first weekend of Spring, albeit not by mere serendipity, it IS apt: this umbrella genre of everything wispy, beautiful, enchanting with wings is very Spring-like... I see myself reading magical stories under a tree in one of London's many parks on several occasions this Spring. I am happy the sun is out and my reading is likely to reflect that anyway.

I am reluctant to tie myself down to any lists as I am inclined to revolt against any strict guidelines I set myself and change my mind over and over so I am going to choose books at random and see where they fit in the categories of the challenge. I imagine that Angela Carter, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman will feature, although they would mostly be re-reads, and perhaps a grown-up fairy tale from Persephone Books (I think I am correct in thinking that one of their Springtime books to be published, Making Conversation by Christine Longford is described as a modern-day fairy tale in the vein of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day). Other than that, my inspiration for primary texts is non-existent just now ... my mind is blank so any suggestions based on my likes would be appreciated! As for the secondary material: I have numerous books on the genres in question, all of which look incredibly interesting so it will be difficult to restrain myself to two so I probably won't! I would like to read a lot of secondary material for this challenge as I already have a basis for study although I can never keep myself away from fiction, especially that containing fairy tale elements for long...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Thankful for mercies

I am glad to see Toni Morrison's A Mercy on The Orange Prize for Fiction's longlist; although there are an abundance of female American authors on the list this year I am thankful that more readers will be introduced to Toni Morrison. I could be wrong but I think that unless you have come across Morrison through academia or because you have a penchant for reading Oprah-endorsed bookclub reads then you do not necessarily come across her work unless by chance and the Orange shortlist offers this chance . Certain book groups, most likely library ones will attempt to read all of the longlist; libraries will invest in more copies of the books and display them well, as will bookshops; retailers -especially online- will offer bargain deals (hopefully a good one for A Mercy as it isn't published in paperback until June, after the prize is awarded.)

I was lucky enough to attend a reading and interview with Toni Morrison at the Southbank Centre in London on October 28th of last year, two days before the novel was published in the UK; I picked up a signed copy of the book (which I promptly devoured the day after) and heard the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning writer give a reading and an interview. I consider myself privileged to have experienced this; I missed her speak at Glasgow University in '99 and regretted it. It was the night following the day I moved flats in London for the second time in a month (the first time when I moved to the city), not by choice, and was the end to a rather stressful and exhausting week; it was also the first snowfall of Winter and a bitterly cold evening but my boyfriend and I put our big people's hats on and braved the inclemental weather. We weren't disappointed; what my boyfriend lacked in understanding of the reading (she read the prologue, which comes across as quite erudite when listening), he made up for in enjoyment of what she had to say, increasingly so when she turned to her excitement -and trepidation- about the Presidential Elections the following week.

The book itself is short, lyrical, tragic, epic, haunting, memorable, a prelude to the themes of Beloved and is undoubtedly feminist... the narrative and structure are beautiful, covering the viewpoints and stories of five women who are interconnected and who have all been touched and wounded by slavery, in their own ways. Set in the late seventeeth century, the novel explores the origins of slavery; its scope is epic but its shortness in length disallows strong character development, which is a regretful flaw as the women make interesting, intense and memorable characters. The language, its poetic quality, and the biblical themes are all powerful and I am thankful for small mercies when it comes to being introduced to Toni Morrison not merely by chance.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

A wander to the bookshop

Today I wandered along to the bank to deposit a cheque and to our wee (and fabulous) grocery shop to pick up some fresh bread, a Mother's Day card and a bottle of vanilla essence. The highlight of the trip though was in between stops wandering into the local bookshop. Whenever I have a chance, I drop in; I'm not in the position (or even the inspired mood) to purchase anything at present but I like to support small businesses by making them look busy ... or so I tell myself.

Anyway, my local bookshop is shown on the left-hand side. No, I don't know why there is a giant "42" in the photograph or why the dog is fixated on it ... I can only imagine that the dog is querying 42 being the answer to the question.

It's always lovely to have a browse amongst the new titles, make a mental note of ones to add to the collection at a later date, and to scour the second-hand stacks for those telling green covers; nothing from my watch list today unfortunately - I may have had to raid the piggy bank if there was! I am also on the hunt for what I imagine will be an elusive green Virago copy of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, one of my favourite books, let alone Virago. Alas, I re-emerged empty-handed as I so often have of late but just now is not the time for buying books but for reading them.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

First Love

"Love is strange. Love is beautiful. Love is dangerous. Love is never what you expect it to be. Here Penguin brings you the most seductive, inspiring and surprising writing on love in all of its infinite variety ... United by the theme of love, the writings in the Great Loves series span over two thousand years and vastly different worlds. Readers will be introduced to love’s endlessly fascinating possibilities and extremities: romantic love, platonic love, erotic love, gay love, virginal love, adulterous love, parental love, filial love, nostalgic love, unrequited love, illicit love, not to mention lost love, twisted and obsessional love…" (Penguin Books)

Great Loves and Great Novellas, Penguin published a beautiful collection of twenty seminal literary works on love in 2007. So far I have read two in this form, First Love by Ivan Turgenev and Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin, and another, Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, in an earlier Penguin edition many years ago. They make beautiful books: light, classically designed paper cover with beautiful words inside. Giovanni's Room I read a few weeks ago and found to be evocatively tragic, haunting and beautifully written; First Love was an engaging read last night in bed but it didn't, for me, possess the intensity of the Baldwin evocation of love.

With a very brief prologue concerning the post dinner part conversation between the host and two friends about their first loves and the refusal of one guest, Vladimir Petrovich, to recount the story aloud -as he would not do it justice in the telling- and subsequent documenting of the story in written form instead (reminding me of the opening of Henry James' Turn of the Screw), the scene is set for the recollection of a devastating first love. Vladimir, aged sixteen, is holidaying in the country with his parents whilst studying for the entrance exam to Moscow University when he meets and falls in love with Zinaida, the beautiful twenty year old neighbour next door who is the daughter of an impoverished Russian princess. Zinaida is attractive and charming with a host of suitors with whom she flirts and plays games that include forfeits of kisses. Vladimir is infatuated with her, as only teenagers -of both sexes- can be infatuated in the throes of first love: naive, crushing, absorbing obsession and plays page to her queen. The novella moves through his immature infatuation to the impotent jealousy, "Jealous Othello, ready for murder, was suddenly transformed into a schoolboy" of a child who realises the object of his affection is in love with an adult; the identity of Zinaida's love is a betrayal, one I won't reveal.
The novella certainly brought back memories of consuming, crushing and ultimately childish first love.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Not that beautiful

The only thing beautiful about The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst is its writing and narrative, which are rich and sublime. That is not a double-edged compliment, just truth: the content is ugly, insidious and shallow but it is intended to be, in a discomfiting satire of 1980s London. Nick is a homosexual aesthete writing a PhD on the style of Henry James whilst living in the Kensington Gardens family home of his friend from Oxford, Toby, who he has always been secretly attracted to/in love. The family are upper middle class, father Gerald is a pompous Conservative MP, in love with The Lady (Margaret Thatcher), married to Rachel -who comes from money- and their other child, Catherine, is manic-depressive. The narrative of the novel runs through three separate sections: 1983, 1986 and 1987 and the development of Nick into an inexperienced and naive gay man who meets his first lover to the corrupt and corrupted Nick who has seen it and participated in it all with his secret lover; Nick enters the world of subterfuge in a class in which he never belongs through the satirised Eighties of Thatcherism, economic crisis, Conservatorism and the outbreak of AIDS within the gay community.

The title refers to the model of beauty, coined by William Hogarth in his The Analysis of Beauty, the double 'S' of the ogee shape, Ogee the name given to Nick and Wani's business venture. The cover pictured above shows the line of beauty; I have the BBC adaptation tie-in edition and I prefer to attach images of the books I own but it is a beautiful design. Conversely, tainting the beauty (as the novel sets out to do in so many areas), line of beauty also refers to the lines of Coke snorted by Nick and his lover. The brutality and uncompromising nature of the novel's events, the ugliness of it all, is rather unnerving and left a bad taste in my mouth; the homophobia and the superficial nature of people are, in particular, shockingly loathsome in their matter-of-fact depiction. I enjoyed the book (I found it dragged some in the middle section), I greatly admired the writing, I have respect for Hollinghurst depicting this shallow time but the written line of beauty does starkly contrast against the ugliness of the content, which is the point, I guess. The book is challenging, without you realising it until its explosive end, and particularly unsettling.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Books I am Most Looking Forward to in 2009

I think a list is in order today.
There are many books that I am looking forward to being published or reprinted this year:

1. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

I am a huge fan of Sarah Waters. I have read all of her work, so far, my favourite being Fingersmith, a wonderful Victorian Gothic tale that uses Wilkie Collins' The Women in White as inspiration. I am lucky enough to have have heard her speak a few times (three, I think) and have my copies of her books signed. The Little Stranger is a ghost story and I highly anticipate it to be pleasurable and chillingly satisfying. I also hope that I manage to attend a reading of this book by the author. It's due to be published in June.

2. The Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Another installment of the Discworld is always something to look forward to! According to Wikipedia (and implied by the title), this outing of Ankh-Morpokians will feature the Unseen University wizarding (and the Orangutan LIbrarian) football team... I'm laughing already. It will be a long wait until October.

3. The Children's Book by AS Byatt

As yet I haven't read much Byatt, and what I have read (short story collection The Little Black Book of Stories) didn't wow me but I can't resist the temptation of a book about books in an imaginative setting, like Inkheart for adults. This title is expected in May.

4. Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons

Virago Press are reprinting this "sprawling, delightful, eccentric fairy tale", as Amazon describe it, with a preface by Sophie Dahl (who writes modern fairy tale like fiction of her own). I eagerly await its publication (due early April).

5. The World that Was Ours by Hilda Bernstein and Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey

Both of these (along with Noel Streatfield's Saplings, which I already own) will be published by Persephone Books as Persephone Classics next month and will be added to my collection. Although I love the dove grey Persephone covers, the Classics are also beautifully presented and are cheaper, which is important to me just now: I buy so many books that it is great to make a saving here and there!

6. Making Conversation by Christine Longford

Speaking of Persephone Books, this is one of their forthcoming Spring/Summer's titles. I know nothing of this yet except for its pretty endpaper (not a surprise) and that it will be accompanied by a new Persephone Lives series title: The Other Elizabeth Taylor, about Virago popular author Elizabeth Taylor and written by Nicola Beauman (Persephone founder) herself.

7. Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde

A new Jasper Fforde series! woo-hoo!
According to US Amazon the premise of this series is set in a "world where social order and destiny are dictated by the colo[u]rs you see."
This is out in July and it's going to be a great summer of reading.

8. Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker

Bloomsbury are reprinting six titles this summer (July), all of them -like Persephones- forgotten classics (including Virago Modern Classic The Brontes Went to Woolworths). This title sounds like a treat and is one of Simon's at Stuck in a Book "50 titles you must read but may not have heard about".

9. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A collection of short stories due to be published in a couple of weeks that I am really looking forward to reading. I greatly enjoyed her novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun.

10. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

The paperback edition of this novel is being published in April too. I have heard good things and look forward to it along with the others.

All of these books excite me, some will be pre-ordered, all will be purchased (well, if my financial situation improves), all will be read (I hope) and hopefully enjoyed and finally reviewed.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Virago Modern Classics

I consider myself to be a bit of an aspiring bibliophile; I own an impressive amount of books and enjoy collecting them. Since May I have consciously started to collect the old -and quintessential- green spined Virago Modern Classics (I started to collect Persephones at the same time). Above is a photograph I recently took of the VMCs I have acquired so far. I have a few more at home in Glasgow and about double the amount in other editions: the newly published pastel coloured Viragos from the VMC list, 5/8 of the beautiful harback designer textile covered 30th Anniversary Virago Modern Classics and my separate Angela Carter collection boasts a few Viragos (as well as a couple of the green ones above). When I am more financially stable I plan to add and add and add to my burgeoning collection but with a list of over 500 titles, it may take me some time to track them all down! My pride and joy is The Brontes Went to Woolworths, which is quite rare and normally expensive, but which I managed to snag in Oxfam books for £2.49! Luckily (for other people) Bloomsbury are reprinting it later this year, as it is a lovely joyous read about the wonders of imagination, but I do adore my green copy.

As an end-note, these are the VMCs I am especially on the look out for in green:

Lolly Willowes or the Loving Huntsman by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Poor Cow by Nell Dunn
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim
She Done Him Wrong by Mae West
Olivia by Olivia
My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather (the Klimt cover)
Love by Elizabeth Von Arnim
A Model Childhood by Christa Wolf
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
The Weddingby Dorothy West
Any green Margaret Atwood books
The Aloe by Katherine Mansfield
The Camomile by Catherine MacFarlane Carswell

Monday, 9 March 2009


A friend sent me a panicked message today, "help! what's that fabulous story where the man turns into the cockroach?" Amidst my laughter at the uncanny timing (having just read and reviewed it), I promptly returned with ""Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka. Then ensued an interesting chat ranging from a similar story "Axolotl" by Julio Cortazar; to an anthology A Hammock Beneath the Mangoes: Stories from Latin America, in which it appears and which I must pick up at some point (in second-hand condition as it is long out of print); to Latin American Magical Realism and its superiority to Westernised Magical Realism (I think the backdrop of South America lends itself to this form of writing); to a interesting one-sided rant (on my friend's part) about Murakami and how his writing can come across as only being written because he's Murakami; back to narration by animals/insects and a little monologue by moi about great non-human narrators such as Colette's Le Chat or Jose Eduardo Agualusa's narrating gecko Eulalio in The Books of Chameleons, which took us back to Magical Realism, and Gregor Samsa, which returned us to "Metamorphoses" and full-circle conclusion.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Baking Banana Bread and Other Stories

Baking Banana Bread and Other Stories makes a quaint title for a collection of short stories, I think; somewhat like Mary Norton's Bread and Butter Stores (Virago). Alas, it is not a collection that yet exists, nor that I am reviewing but refers to the banana bread I currently have in the oven. It is my first attempt and I'm not a frequent baker so I am somewhat nervous.

The other stories? I don't actually think I have any ... I'm not feeling very creative today, I'm afraid. I may do later once I have a tummy full of light and fluffy (I hope) banana bread. I imagine that the pretend stories would also be light and fluffy but wouldn't smell nearly as good (not that the smell of new books isn't divine, because it is, but the smell of my banana bread is very promising).

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

What's life without drama?

My book journal tells me that it has been two years since I read any plays. The last drama in my life was Peter Schaffer's Equus in March 2007, unless you count seeing Spamalot before it ended this January. I used to read (and study) a lot of plays but the only Tennessee WIlliams I had a chance to read before now was A Streetcar Named Desire, which I enjoyed, so I picked up my copy of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with anticipation. I wasn't disappointed; the play contains a lot of raw emotion, family tension and energy, which I imagine transfers well onto stage.

Consisting of three acts, Cat tells the story (over one afternoon celebrating Big Daddy's birthday) of the deteriorating marriage between Brick and Margaret/Maggie/Cat; of Big Daddy's diagnosis of Cancer and what that means for him and his family; of Brick's drinking problem; of his grief at his friend Skipper's death and their homo-erotic relationship; of suppressed sexuality; of the not-so-subtle hint of scandal ... all of these stories and lies (or mendacity, as Brick describes the root of his disgust, the permeating theme of the play) are brutally exposed on the page/stage. Yes, Cat is dramatic.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Happy Birthday to You, Dr Seuss!

Thanks to Google and it's fabulous design today, I am informed that it is the birthday of Dr Seuss, which deserves a blog post. Oh, how I love Dr Seuss! I'm an adult fan; I don't recall reading him much when I was younger, except for The Cat in the Hat; now I try to share Seuss books with the children in my life. Speaking of which: I bought My Many Coloured Days for my sister many years ago from the book shop in the Tate Modern Gallery Bookshop on a trip to London (now I live here). It is unlike other books by Seuss and is about feeling differently, of different moods and emotions (colours) on different days and reminds me of some things I have read about Autism and how children on the spectrum can relate to the world in colours (and the colour spectrum). I heartily recommend it, for young and old. "Some days are yellow. Some are blue. On different days I'm different too." What it lacks in characteristic Seuss visual imagery (has its own illustrators), the book makes up for in whimsy.

I think I will try to fit in a quick re-read of Green Eggs and Ham this afternoon; I can't think of anything more delicious and celebratory!