The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Iron Book of British Haiku

It has been a while since I have recommended a Haiku Anthology so I wanted to bring your attention to this brilliant collection which is published by the Iron Press. I have bought quite a few titles from them by mail order, although this one I got from a bookshop many years ago.
I have covered, in some of my other Haiku Anthology posts, both traditional Japanese humourous Haiku (Haiku Humour: Wit and Folly in Japanese Poems and Paintings) and contemporary American Haiku (The Haiku Year and The Unswept Path) so I thought I would give our wonderful British Haiku poets some air time.
My edition was published in 1998 and features British poets from then, and going back to the 1950's and 60's. The editors, David Cobb and Martin Lucas have been featured a number of times on my Haiku of the Week (see my sidebar), as have many of the other poets inside this book. Most of the prominent British Haiku poets are represented here, over 70, and it was the first major British haiku collection of its type
The format of the book is lovely, with the pages emulating the traditional parchment type of paper of the old Japanese form. The book has a simple aim, 'to present the best work of British haiku poets writing in English and Scots'.
An excellent addition to the library of any Haiku enthusiast, especially those who like the contemporary form. I have re-read this book many times, it has given me lots of pleasure over the years and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Jane Austen Holiday

I was looking for a different type of holiday earlier this year, a literary holiday. I wanted to see what was on offer so I took a look on the internet. I have seen a few in the past, but abroad. When I looked in January the ones that I found were really expensive for just a few days, so I decided to do my own.
I spoke to some of my friends who are avid readers to see what their response would be, and they were very enthusiastic and thought it was a lovely idea.
I started looking into locations. There are a lot to choose from in the British Isles, some very obvious like Haworth for the Brontes (which we have already visited), and others less obvious if you use your imagination. I wanted an area we were less familiar with or we hadn't visited extensively before, with some nice countryside, and a literary connection, either to an author or a novel, or both.
After scouting for accomodation, and also other things to do (we don't want to be literaried out!) Hampshire, the home of Jane Austen won for our first Novel Holiday.
Going for a week, later in the year, we have agreed to read 2 books to discuss while away, one a Jane Austen naturally, and another contemporary novel, just to mix it up a bit. I already had a copy of Emma to read and nobody else had read it, so that was easily settled. Emma it was.
The second novel was more tricky, and it felt quite a responsibility to pick, not necessarily a likeable book, not too heavy or too easy, but interesting enough for people to want to read it and provide discussion material on our holiday. I settled on The Blue Fox by Sjon. I have heard quite a bit about it on the blogs, lots of interesting reviews and recommendations, and it seemed to offer something for everyone, plus it is not too long.
There are four of us, and we have a lovely wooden chalet in the New Forest itself. There are lots of Jane Austen locations to visit nearby, where she lived, the areas that influenced her, and Winchester cathedral where she is buried. There is also the forest, the coast and lots of other things to do. It is a while off yet but I am really looking forward to it.
If it goes well this year there may well be scope for doing other locations in the future. Anyway, I am about a third the way through Emma, and really enjoying it, so I had better get back to it.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett

This book was one of my acquisitions from the book swap last year that I held in work. It is a collection of short stories that I thought, from the blurb on the back, were all different stories of people on a boat fleeing the potato famine in Ireland in the 1800's, but this only applied to the story of the title. The rest of the stories were on various subjects with science and scientific breakthrough's being the common thread.
The story of the title was the last one in the book, so you begin with the other very short stories first, some of which are only 10 pages long. Ship Fever itself is more substantial at 100 pages.
I read the first story and found it so dull I remember very little about it, other than it exploring 'the hybridization of the edible pea'. This phrase entertained me more than the actual story.
The second story was set in Uppsala in Sweden, a place I have actually visited, so it grabbed my attention initially, but this also faded and I could feel myself rushing the end to get it out of the way. At this point I considered giving up on the book entirely.
I then re read the blurb on the back, to try and reconnect with why I had picked it up in the first place, and most of the comments were about the title story, so I headed there instead and skipped the rest.
It starts with a letter written in 1847 from a Canadian in Ireland to his wife back home, about how dreadful the conditions are there during the famine. Her friend Lauchlin Grant reads her the letter. He is a doctor and has always loved her. Feeling inadequate against her husbands exploits, Lauchlin, in a fit of determined heroism, signs for a job at Grosse island, meeting the immigrants on the ships as they arrive from Ireland to administer necessary health measures before ushering the immigrants further upstream to Quebec and Montreal.
If only it was that simple. Lauchlin, and also us as readers, receive a severe wake up call, as the conditions on the ships and their wretched cargo of destitute people are described in horrific detail. The scale of misery goes beyond anyones imagination. It is in these descriptions that the text grabs hold of you and you are moved to plow onwards, to find out what the outcome is going to be for these characters. This story not only explores issues of survival, but also the value of family, and the problems faced by those who find themselves aliens in another country through no fault of their own.
This story saved the book for me and is evidently why it is the only story referred to in the blurb on the book. It is a highly moving account of a desperate episode in history and I cared for the people caught up in it. It almost seems as if the other stories in this book are from another writer. To me Ship Fever is the only story that I will remember from this book, and I am glad that I gave it a go. You can read an interview with Andrea Barrett about Ship Fever by clicking the link.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

March Roundup

How lovely are these dewdrops reflecting their surroundings. They were are from a list on a website called Environmental Graffiti, called Captured in Morning Dew (click the link for the other pics). This one is by Dylan Parker, click the link for his Flickr page. A beautiful picture for March.

Read - 2 and a half books
Completed -
The Zahir by Paulo Coelho
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett
Currently reading - Emma by Jane Austen
TBR Pile - 80 books (according to Good Reads) with 2 books added...
A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
The Blue Fox by Sjon
Challenges -
Completed Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett as my collection of Short Stories.
Currently reading Emma as my Jane Austen choice.
Wishlist Additions -
Brooklyn bu Colm Toibin
Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
The Year of the Hare by Arto Pasilinna
A Year in the Woods by Colin Elford
Discoveries -
Kneehigh Theatre - Totally Brilliant!
Events -
Bob Golding playing Eric Morcambe in Morcambe at the Liverpool Playhouse. Excellent!
Hansel and Gretal by Kneehigh Theatre (see above) at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. Really inspiring, great fun and fantastic music. Loved it!
Organising a literary holiday for myself and some like minded friends. Details to follow in another post soon. Very exciting.
Hope you all enjoy a lovely Easter. Its lovely to see everything growing again, and to enjoy the spring and some plans coming together.

Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye