Cleaning the Palate with Two Unusual Books

lesignorantsÉtienne Davodeau: Les ignorants. Récit d’une initiation croisée

Davodeau is a French author/illustrator of BD, Richard Leroy is a small-scale producer of dry white chenin in the Anjou region of the Loire valley. The project is very simple: they spend a year together, learning from each other about vineyards, grapes, the soil, but also about books, writing and drawing, storytelling. Wise and witty words and illustrations ensue about the world of publishing and bandes dessinées, and a down-to-earth view of the wine-making world. We find a vivacious exchange of ideas (sometimes confrontational), two adorable strong-headed main characters and simple drawings that give you room to breathe and enjoy.

The 'real' Richard Leroy in his vineyards, from
The ‘real’ Richard Leroy in his vineyards, from

A complete surprise and a delightful book that left me with a long TBR list of graphic novels and an even longer list of wines to try! I also like the humble premise of ‘ignorance’ about each other’s profession, with both friends eager to learn from each other.

The book has been translated into English under the title ‘The Initiates’ by Joe Johnson, published by NBM Publishing.

Wendy Cope (ed.): The Funny Side

This is, as the editor explains, a very personal selection of 101 humorous poems – not funny poems, not light verse, no long essays about definitions, simply poems that have amused Wendy Cope at some point in her reading and writing life. Some of them are laugh-out-loud funny, some are more droll or curious. Some are very well-known indeed (such as the limerick ‘There was a young bard of Japan’ or Dorothy Parker’s summary of suicide methods), others are a pleasant new discovery. Finally, there is a third category, those that leave me with an ‘Oh, is that all?’ feeling of disappointment. But that’s fine, because we all find different things amusing.

funnypoemsMy personal favourites are (unsurprisingly perhaps) on gender themes or mocking the life of organisations: May Swenson on ‘The James Bond Movie’, Liz Lochhead’s ‘Men Talk’ and Simon Armitage’s ‘Very Simply Topping Up the Brake Fluid’ (anyone who’s been patronised at a garage will love that one) for the first, Julie O’Callaghan’s ‘Managing the Common Herd’, Hugo Williams’ Desk Duty’ and Gavin Ewart’s ‘The Meeting’ for the second.

But, for a taster, I’ll share two very different poems in their entirety. Facetious? Perhaps, but they brightened up my day.

Scintillate by Roger McGough
I have outlived
my youthfulness
so a quiet life for me

where once
I used to

now I sin
till ten
past three.

Alma Denny: Mrs Hobson’s Choice

What shall a woman
Do with her ego,
Faced with the choice
That it go, or he go?



24 thoughts on “Cleaning the Palate with Two Unusual Books”

  1. Unusual indeed, Marina Sofia. But they both sound delightful in their way. What an intriguing idea to spend a year with someone who has a different profession and learn from that person. So much possibility there. And although you’re right that we all find different things amusing, it sounds as though a lot of Cope’s choices are good ones. Nice way to break from from one’s reading pattern!

    1. There’s an even shorter one by him, which was probably too savage a humour to include in this collection:
      i wanted one life
      you wanted another
      we couldn’t have our cake
      so we ate each other.

  2. The Davodeau does sound charming I must admit. Loire Chenin is rather underrated, the sort of wine that loves food. Are you able to source some of Richard Leroy’s wine to try it for yourself? It would be the natural next step…

    1. Of course I did a quick search and they are not easy to find, his wines (very small production and highly sought after). I will have to chat to my local caviste and see if I can pre-order or something.

  3. Do love anything that raises a smile! McGough sounds worth exploring…

    Mrs Hobson’s Choice made me think of Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife – a fab collection – you seen it?

    1. I’ve read some of the poems (Queen Herod, Mrs. Midas) – it is very clever and funny (albeit a fierce kind of humour). I may have to get the full volume, you’re right!

  4. I loved Wendy Cope’s first collection and that McGough poem is a hoot – off to add this volume to the wishlist….

  5. What a lovely post, and a nice change from the crime with both sounding wonderful. I love Mrs Hobson’s Choice, it made me chuckle, it is such an art to say so much in so few words.

  6. Les ignorants sounds right up my alley. I’m going through a Belgo-French BD phase. Thanks for sharing, on to the wish-list it goes!

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