In Retreat

10 December 2011 07:54

Where is the best place to write? Your own home? Probably not, family life can often interrupt a carefully crafted sentence before it reaches the page. Coffee bars? These can be good until the pushchair brigade with its uncontrolled children arrives and...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

All the King's Men

22 November 2011 14:29

Anyone who enjoys reading thinks they have heard of all the best writers. There are those they have not read, but at least the name is familiar. Beware, sometimes one slips through the net. While Robert Penn Warren was winning three Pulitzer Prizes, the...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Dumbing Down

14 November 2011 14:22

This year’s Man Booker Prize for fiction is long gone and Julian Barnes is probably enjoying the money. But something I cannot forget is that the judges were charged with including ‘readability’ in the matters to consider when choosing the winner. I have...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Anyone Fancy Darjeeling?

30 October 2011 15:15

It is great fun to wonder what Indiana Jones missed when choosing his adventures. He didn’t have much time for literature, what with avoiding snakes, *** and fiendish devices, but he might have made an exception with the Hemis manuscripts. These, or so...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

First and Last Lines

18 October 2011 17:03

The two most important things in a book are the first and last lines, although it is a good idea to get the rest of it right as well. The first line must create enough interest for the reader to carry on reading. The last should be memorable and send...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

The Railway Children

29 September 2011 16:29

Sometimes I think books should not become films. ‘Tristram Shandy’ was never going to work and it didn’t. The wonderful ‘Alexandria Quartet’ became ‘Justine’, forgetting ‘Balthazar’, ‘Mountolive’ and ‘Clea’ in the process. Even the presence of Anouk Aimee...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

The St Cuthbert Gospel

15 September 2011 15:48

The St Cuthbert Gospel has a remarkable history. It is 1300 years old and is at present in the British Library. When St Cuthbert, lover of ducks and hermit of the Farne Islands, died in the seventh century he was buried on Lindisfarne. Nearly 200 years...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Celebrating Teletubbies

01 September 2011 08:42

A friend in America sent me some interesting photos of Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal, Missouri, where you can see the house of Tom Sawyer’s girl friend and the fence he painted white. It made me think of literary memorials. I imagine more people have...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Don't Forget the Cow

19 August 2011 12:09

How long does folk memory survive? Today not much longer than the last reality television program, but there was a time when tales were passed by word of mouth from generation to generation. I was reminded of this when reading the story of Guy of Warwick....

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Say What You Mean

07 August 2011 16:49

‘Say what you mean’, we have all heard that in domestic confrontations and elsewhere. But how often do people say what they really mean? ‘He’s very bouncy’ means ‘My rampaging Rottweiler is about to sit on your chest’. ‘Can I help you’ – never ‘May I...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Giving Up

19 July 2011 17:07

I don’t often give up on a book. Usually I keep going. There are books I am convinced have only been read by me. But every man has his breaking point and mine was reached with 'The Stranger’s Child' by Alan Hollinghurst. My difficulty was made more bitter...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Slow and Difficult

06 July 2011 17:18

Now that everything must be fast and easy it is a joy to find a project that ran and ran and people who were happy to dedicate their lives to its completion. The project was a very special dictionary and work lasted 90 years. The dictionary of Assyrian...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Julia Donaldson

08 June 2011 09:08

I am pleased to see that Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo is the new Children’s Laureate. She will be working hard to prevent library closures, a cause close to the heart of any writer. I am beginning to wonder, however, what is the purpose...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

The Linden Tree

27 May 2011 09:00

I have just returned from Berchtesgaden near Salzburg, a place famous for its fine scenery, delightful people and for once being the home of Adolf Hitler. His remarkable tea house, the Eagle’s Nest, is still there high in the mountains. His own house...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments

Another Lost Library

09 May 2011 09:27

I have written about the Villa of the Papyri before. It is still there and so, perhaps, is its lost library. The villa stands on the Bay of Naples a short distance from Herculaneum and, like Herculaneum, was overwhelmed by lava when Vesuvius erupted...

posted by Peter Stockwell with 0 Comments