Stuck-in-a-Book’s Weekend Miscellany

I’m off for the Bank Holiday Weekend, on yet another holiday. I am definitely spoiling myself this year! This time it’s to Gloucestershire – to the village next to the one I grew up in (although that one was in Worcestershire; we were right by the boundary. And when we moved there it was the county of Hereford and Worcester. England, amirite?)

I’ll leave you with some bits and bobs…

1.) I was excited to get an email from Ruth Franklin, who is writing a biography of Shirley Jackson – and there is a place where you can sign up for occasional updates, if that interests you.

2.) The other day, a man in his 60s on the London Underground leant over to me and said “Can I just say – my wife and I are fascinated by the fact that you’re reading a hardback!” I mean… sure? I showed him the book (Nuts in May by Cornelia Otis Skinner) and he said “I haven’t even heard of this book!” Did he think he’d hard of all the books?

3.) I was on the Underground to go and see Gypsy. Imelda Staunton was every bit as wonderful as all the reviews have said – and I believe the soundtrack album is now out.

4.) Darlene has written a fab review of Barbara Comyn’s excellent novel The Vet’s Daughter, and I’m not just saying that cos I get a mention.

5.) And I also get a mention here, but this link is because somehow I overlooked my friend Epsie’s insightful and delightful review of Boel Westin’s biography of Tove Jansson.

6.) Another review! Lyn of I Prefer Reading has made me desperate to read this book about Rex Whistler. Then I saw the price. It’s on my Christmas list…

7.) Reading reviews of The Shelf (don’t miss my eulogising about it here) made me go out and buy To The River by Olivia Laing (walking the Ouse and writing about Virginia Woolf) and The Whole Five Feet by Christopher Beha, about reading all the Harvard Classics. Anybody know anything about these? I mean, I’ve already bought them, but I’d still like to know…

14 thoughts on “Stuck-in-a-Book’s Weekend Miscellany

  • May 2, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I think you’re right about the county changes, Simon. Herefordshire and Worcestershire were merged into a single administrative entity from 1974 to 1998, but then returned to their historical form – or something very much like it. English local government boundaries remained remarkably settled for about 800 years up to 1974; since then those in charge seem to have been constantly tinkering with the structures. Readers with a nostalgia for the historic counties combined with a taste for murder mystery novels may well be delighted by Ian Sansom’s County Guides series of whodunnits:

    • May 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      Good suggestion!
      My chief recollection of the county split was having to get a new library card….

    • May 5, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      Oo, thanks for the link, Susan! I shall make my delight about COS properly known soon.

  • May 3, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Hello Simon, I have read and loved To the River and find that I wrote a blog post about it, too: It is highly enjoyable and beautifully written, and her take on both Woolfs is fresh and unusual. I went to a literary festival event where Olivia Laing appeared shortly afterwards – she’s an excellent speaker and a mellifluous reader of her own work. Unfortunately she was slightly derailed by an audience member who really hated Virginia Woolf and felt the need to explain this at some length.

    • May 5, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment Tanja – this sounds really wonderful, and I’m glad I impulse bought it.

      What a shame about that audience member! Why turn up to a talk about Virginia Woolf if you hate her? I guess they just love the sound of their own voice…

      • May 6, 2015 at 1:26 pm

        I don’t think she’d read the book. It was a now defunct little festival, and you could get tickets for all the events for about £75, so quite a few people went to everything regardless of interest. I suppose really it was one of those “Why didn’t you write a different book?” questions you always get at author events.

        Olivia Laing was on Start the Week on Monday, btw, talking about a new collaborative art project about starlings which is in the Brighton festival, so I must get along and see it.

        • May 6, 2015 at 7:40 pm

          PS I have just come home from hearing Robert Macfarlane read/speak. There was a question from an audience member ABOUT the sound of his own voice.

  • May 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    “Can I just say – my wife and I are fascinated by the fact that you’re reading a hardback!”

    Ha! Because, of course, the contents of a hardcover book are soooo much more worthy and intellectual than those within paper covers or depicted through software. What if you’d been reading 50 Shades of Grey? In hardback.

    • May 5, 2015 at 10:11 pm

      I know! It was so bizarre. But quite friendly, I suppose…

  • May 3, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Wow in a strange coincidence – I just finished Skinner (and Kimbrough’s) Our Hearts Were Young and Gay yesterday. In hardcover! I did not read it while on public transit however and so did not stir anyone’s fascination, sadly.

    • May 5, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      That IS a shame. ;)
      But, yes, what a wonderful book! I hope you enjoyed it too.

  • May 6, 2015 at 11:27 pm

    I added Nuts in May to my wish list, thanks for the tip.

  • May 12, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Hello Simon! What a lovely new site, very elegant. :)

    I too have read To the River (and written about it here, basically it’s lovely and I think you’ll enjoy it). I have also been dipping into In Search of Rex Whistler, mainly to look at the pictures which are beautiful and beautifully reproduced, hence the price. I hope Father Christmas is feeling generous!

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