findingtimetowrite

Thinking, writing, thinking about writing…

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Top Reads for October

 

 

It’s been a slow month in reading terms for me (we won’t even discuss how slow it has been in writing terms…). And a few of the books have been rather a let-down. So here is my meagre collection of books (there are links to ones I have reviewed on the Crime Fiction Lover website):

 

1) Adrian Magson: Death on the Pont Noir

 

 

 

2) Amélie Nothomb: Ni d’Eve, ni d’Adam – the Japanese setting intrigued me, but I found the book self-indulgent and the love story a little trite

 

3) S.J. Watson: Before I Go to Sleep – I had such high expectations of this one (there had been such a buzz around it and even the shop assistant wrapping it up for me said she had found it creepy and exciting).  So, perhaps it was inevitable that I should be disappointed.  The memory-loss premise is an interesting one, but I guessed the set-up quite early on, which rather spoilt the rest of the story for me.

 

4) Amanda Egan: Diary of a Mummy Misfit – bubbly fun – handbags at dawn at the schoolgates!  But also a spot-on critique of the snobbery and competitiveness of private schools.

 

5) Sarah Dobbs: Killing Daniel

 

6) Alan Bennett: The Uncommon Reader - a delightful romp about the Queen descending into a mad passion for reading (actually, it does have the occasional ring of truth to it!). My favourite quote from that is when the Queen buttonholes the French president to ask him about Jean Genet:

 

‘Homosexual and jailbird, was he nevertheless as bad as he was painted? Or, more to the point, [...] was he as good?’

Unbriefed on the subject of the glabrous playwright and novelist, the president looked wildly about for his minister of culture. But she was being addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

[...] The president put down his spoon.  It was going to be a long evening.

 

7) Véronique Olmi: Un si bel avenir – not at all on a par with the riveting (if emotionally scarring) ‘Bord de mer’. This story of an ageing actress and anxious wife and mother, or even of female friendship, has been done so much better elsewhere.

 

8) Agence Hardy Bandes dessinées – I love the fact that there are so many graphic novels for grown-ups in France. This series is crime fiction, about a private detective agency set up by a glamorous widow, Edith Hardy, in Paris in the 1950s.  Beautiful recreation of very precise locations and period detail – a joy to read!

 

And my Top Pick of the month? Death on the Pont Noir – I adore the setting in a village in the Picardie region of France in the 1960s and am a little in love with Inspector Lucas Rocco.

 

 

 

Dreaming of Bookshelves and Writing Desks

 

 

Where has all my text gone to?  I posted this yesterday with a little blurb about how I cannot resist a good bookshelf, wherever it might be in the house.  And how my husband keeps sighing and pointing out the progress of technology in the form of e-readers.  But this morning the text disappeared! Ah well, what use are words when the images speak for themselves?

Working lavishly:

In the in-between spaces:

But where do we get most of the reading done? In the bedroom!

Political? Again!

We flush, wipe clean, repeat again.

Good worthy citizens, our voices boom with cheer.

Sweet righteousness,

Ensemble cast, assembled voices.

We order nicely yet succinct,

No extra words surge past our lips.

Incurious, you let drop wrong name.

But no apologies are necessary.

In an avalanche no single snowflake bears the burden

Of responsibility.

No Reflection

She had a way with mirrors

She tamed them with one look.

No periwinkled gape emerging, unplanned, confusing,

No fairytale abasement of princess lost and found.

She knew the score, the path, and scaling

Was her day job, to step on meek cadavers, to pursue, victorious.

Each face thought out,

Lip drawn in cupid perfection

With dervish undertones.

Eyes framed with agate offerings,

The brow? A work of art, unfurrowed and unhurried.

Regrets are someone else’s,

A sleight of mind, eclipse of hands,

And back we are, unwrinkled,

To smooth-held opinions and shifting granular sands.

Meanwhile, the portrait in the attic

Waxed crueller by the year.

Corporate Speak

Have you ever played Corporate Bingo?  In my cubicle days, we used to play it at meetings or on training courses: we’d choose some typical corporate buzzwords, write them down on a piece of paper, and try to see how many of them would be uttered within a designated timeframe.  The one with the most correct ‘hits’ would mutter ‘Bingo’ sotto voce and be declared the winner.  This was the period when I could not write anything outside of work, because I felt weighed down by the jargon.

The poem below might make it clear why I prefer to use a pseudonym in my creative writing, for fear that my corporate clients may recognise themselves and me in this. It’s all a bit of good fun bingo – play along!

Worldwide employees

Corporate-ly

 

Blue sky thinking got us far, but leadership is now about

moving cheese, being humble, fearless, SMART,

all that resilient bouncing about of yellow balls

and off-site team building.

 

We action our deliverables,

bid stakeholders sit and learn.

We share and lip-synch when above-board,

while under the iceberg we hoard and fester.

 

No band-width for emotions unadorned,

no availability for unmediated connection.

We bang for the buck with coerced abandon,

munching our carrots, testing our sticks.

 

All I know is: the feedback sandwich is getting stale,

so last year, as is the corner office with parkside view.

Don’t pause to gaze, don’t ponder the disconnect!

You know the urge to disimpress.

 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

Friday at last!

You know when you’ve had a week of muddiness, forgotten appointments, lost documents,  running to stand still, nothing ever quite working out first time…? And then one smile, one small gesture, one call from a friend can change everything?

Well, the lovely friend who worked this miracle turnaround in my mood is Sharon from World of Woosha, who has nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award.  She writes wonderful poetry – and it’s not just me who says so, two of her poems have recently been selected for an anthology! Just ‘listen’ (that is the operative word) to this autumnal haiku:

Towering tree trunks

wrapped in twilight mist, capture

words from root to leaf

Doesn’t that make you want to read more?  Please go and visit her blog, if you don’t know her already, and say hello from me.

I know some people think blogging awards have a whiff of chain-letters and teenage conspiracy about them, but I have to admit I still get excited about them.  I love the opportunity they give me of discovering interesting new blogs.  After all, it’s a personal recommendation from another writer whose style and opinions I respect!

BUT does the world really need to know another random 7 facts about me? I think not.

So instead, I will nominate another seven bloggers whom I really look forward to reading and whom I think you might enjoy too.  As usual, they can choose (or not) to take up this award. In fact, they are so good I am sure that many of them have the award already, but if not, I hope they will now and I hope you like them.

The journey towards first-time publication: My Pen Name Only

A young poet, risk-taker, lover: KD DeFehr

Completely mad, completely addictive poetry that will sear you: Nicholas Gagnier

Honest, insightful blogging about the hard work of writing: Vikki from The View Outside

The epitome of thoughtful expat living in Japan: Mona McDiarmid

Funny, fierce, undaunted seeker of narrative truth: Workin’ With What I’ve Got

Haunting poetry that takes your soul prisoner: Claudia Schoenfeld

Thank you again, Woosha/Sharon, and a good end of the week to you all!

Semolina Pudding

When all is said

some word remains,

hanging smartly, hanging loose.

When all is done,

some deed compels

to scratch afresh, to find new root.

They’ve mocked enough the pale surmise,

they’ve overcooked that sweet surprise.

They’ve rattled, counted beans of their trade.

They’ve filed all corners and watered down juice.

It’s all here.

Queen Blandness.

To fill with your meaning,

Take on your colours,

Succumb to your fears.

They Keep Me Here

They keep me here,

those lips puckered up for good night kisses,

the tooth fairy duties,

odd chuckle in the night.

 

They keep me sane,

those questions about fairness, children who have

nothing, polar bears drowning,

how drains and bridges work.

 

They wash away anger

with silly puns and toilet jokes,

songs half-remembered,

the la-la shrieked out loud.

 

They ground me.

Clip my wings.

Imprison me with love.

Know not what they do.

Nor ever will.

I swear.

Newly Discovered…

This is the joy of reading: that there is such a vast world out there waiting to be discovered… And you find new authors, new books, new genres, new countries to fall in love with.

This is the anguish of reading: that there is such a vast world out there, which you can never hope to explore in its entirety.

It feels at times like the explorers of two-three centuries ago faced with a rather blank map of Africa.  Where to go first?  What part of this vast continent was truly deserving of your time and attention?  Since you could never hope to cover it all.

For the time being, I continue to be somewhat haphazard in my meanderings.  I have not completely ruled out any genre, nor any country or time period.  But I do try to stick to what is easily accessible at present, hence my discovery of contemporary French literature (I had read mainly the classics, and mostly for schoolwork before).

So here are some of my new favourite things:

1) Veronique Olmi: Beside the Sea

Completely shattered after reading this – and yet I could not set it aside. Not the easiest of reads, especially if you are a mother yourself, but it exerted a powerful fascination. A language at once simple, unadorned, conversational and yet poetic. The back story is merely hinted at, never overtly stated. You are never in any doubt about the outcome, but what is remarkable is how the book shows just how fragile the barriers between ‘normal’ and ‘depressed’, between ‘normal’ and ‘dysfunctional’ families are. There are no easy distinctions and that very dangerous slippery slope is there for any one of us…

2) Pascal Garnier: The Panda Theory

This very dark, yet also quite funny and odd little book is the story of Gabriel, who shows up unexpectedly in a completely nondescript Breton town on a Sunday in October.  He seems taciturn yet amiable, maybe a little odd, and he gradually insinuates himself into the lives of disparate members of the local community.  He is an excellent listener and he offers to cook for people, with no ulterior motive whatsoever as far as they can tell.  While cooking a shoulder of lamb for the Portuguese bar-owner, José, he listens to the latter’s anxieties about his wife, sick in hospital. He gently turns down the flattering attentions of the pretty hotel receptionist, even as he cooks calves’ livers for her. He buys a saxophone off a couple desperate for money, although he does not play the instrument, and becomes involved in their sordid lives as well.  He wins a giant cuddly Panda at the funfair and gives it to José for his children.

Yet all is not as it seems.  Occasional flashbacks suggest a more troubled past life for Gabriel, who seems less and less cuddly as the story unfolds.

This is also the story of a small group of outsiders, people drifting at the periphery of society. These loners and no-hopers have somehow found each other and created an artificial family, clinging to each other and to some last shred of humanity.  Gabriel brings this group together, watches them reach their peak of happiness and knows from experience that life for them can only be a disappointment hereafter.

If I say that this is a novel about ‘existential angst’, it will probably put off any would-be reader.  Yet this world-weariness and anxiety are conveyed beautifully through an intriguing storyline, limpid prose and a dialogue of searing sincerity.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

3) And four new crime fiction series that I look forward to reading in more depth. You know me and my love for exotic locations!  Alison Bruce’s DC Gary Goodhew series (set in Cambridge, UK), Adrian Magson’s Inspector Lucas Rocco (set in France) , Jeffrey Siger’s Inspector Kaldis (Greece) and Leighton Gage’s Chief Inspector Mario Silva (Brazil).

What have you recently discovered that made you want to get up and do a jig?  What do you want to share with everybody (or – hush! so good you want to keep it all to yourself)?

 

Commuter Paradise

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Newspapers and gadgets are props

covering the hollowed glaze of non-looks.

How to avoid searching too deep,

meaning best left formulated by others,

through shopping sprees and TV,

in front of which you fall asleep.

 

With pendulous lids and bags dangling on hips

they shuffle along, spilling on platforms,

thundering the footbridges with their cadences of resignation.

Sleep-flushed faces in the dank reek of stations at dawn,

they come and go,

and in their tread I detect fear

of letting down,

of being let go.

Post Navigation