Tag Archives: Raymond Carver

The Literary London with Deborah Moggach

Next week is London Book and Screen Week in, erm, London. I will be heading down to the capital, my old home and haunt, to join in with some of the wonderful events on offer and also to head to London Book Fair. Over the next week in the lead up London Book and Screen Week asked five authors to revealing their favourite books about London on seven blogs and they very kindly asked if I would like to take part. I said ‘oh go one then’ and so toda the fabulous Deborah Moggach, author of Tulip Fever and These Foolish Things (aka the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, both of which my Gran and mother have raved about and I have still not read shame on me) shares her favourite literary links with London…

Moggach, Deborah new  6 – c. Urszula Soltys

MY FAVOURITE BOOKS SET IN LONDON

“Mrs Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf blew me away when I first read her – I was astonished at the way she sensitized me to the world, and how she explored feelings I had never quite put into words. This novel, about a woman preparing for a party, has hardly any plot at all, it’s all sensation. Nowadays I find her harder to read as she’s so terribly snobbish, but I loved this novel in my youth and still love its glimpse into a privileged world of West End florists and drawing rooms, a world that is long gone.

“Riceyman Steps” by Arnold Bennett.

This is one of my favourite novels by one of my very favourite novelists, who is little known nowadays but who was the most popular fiction writer of his day. Riceyman Steps explores a very different London to Mrs Dalloway’s – the murky region of Kings Cross where life is a struggle in the sooty back streets. It’s the story of a miserly bookseller and his faithful maid and it’s full of humanity. Just read it, you’ll thank me for it, especially as Kings Cross has now changed out of all recognition (it was published in 1923 but feels almost Victorian)

“White Teeth” by Zadie Smith.

This wonderful, fizzing, generous novel was quite rightly a huge hit. Its large, multi-racial cast explodes off the pages and it finally puts Willesden, much neglected until now, on the map. It’s also very funny.

MY BEST PLACE TO READ IN LONDON

Lying on the grass beside the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath. It’s the most peaceful place in the city, and every now and then one can plunge into the water and have a swim amongst the ducks.  And everyone else is reading too – mobile phones are forbidden. No distractions except nature.

FAVOURITE SCREEN ADAPTATION

I think it must be “Short Cuts”, which Robert Altman and his co-screenwriter adapted from Raymond Carver’s short stories. It’s a fantastic piece of work because it weaves the stories in and out of each other and creates a complex picture of Los Angeles. Or if it’s London you want – “Absolute Beginners”, adapted from the Colin MacInnes novel, which brings back the heady days of the 1950s, a decade which has largely been ignored and which I can just remember. Though unfortunately I grew up near Watford, rather than Soho.

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This year, London Book & Screen Week will be taking place from 13th – 19th April, uniting readers, writers, gamers and film fans, with hundreds of events taking place across the capital that celebrate stories and the written word in all its forms.  Events are listed at:  http://www.londonbookandscreenweek.co.uk/ You might just seem my face at some of them.

Big thanks to Deborah for taking the time to tell us all about her favourite literary links with London. I am actually wondering if I should get authors to do posts on their literary landscapes over the next few months, I don’t know about you but I would love to hear authors thoughts on the literary landscape that ignites them. What do you think? Anyway hopefully see some of your faces at London Book and Screen Week next week. 

If you have read Deborah Moggach’s novels do let me know your thoughts on them and where I should start? I would also love to know what books and films you love set in London.

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Library Loots & Latest Incomings

I do find it odd that only a few months when my ‘refurbished’ local library reopened its doors I was a little bit snobbish about it. I didn’t like the fact that it was self service and though the building still has its old exterior I weirdly missed the old interior and the fact that trying to find a book published after 2000 was pretty much impossible. However over the last week or two I have been converted and have been visiting a lot.

Unlike the library I did like (especially as it has a new swanky supermarket next door killing two birds with one bus journey) one tube stop away the one just down the road now always seems to have just the books I want or have been mulling over. It also helps they have been lottery funded and so they keep getting the latest books in pristine condition. It’s almost like going into a book store which as I am on a book buying ban and can cart a load off for free is ideal. This week I got four new ones to read…

  • The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington – I had not heard of this Penguin Modern Classic until I got an email from a reader last weekend telling me that the tale of Marian Leatherby’s committal to an institution by her family would be just my cup of tea, low and behold the library had it in pristine condition.
  • Solo by Rana Dasgupta – Libraries are great for taking risks with books and I have been watching the Not The Man Booker Prize with interest this year and was actually going to see if I could get any of the books listed for this year, I couldn’t but I did get last years winner which I have mulled over before.
  • The City &The City by China Mieville – I asked you all if I wanted to read this, pretty much all of you said I did and the library had it so it seemed like fate.
  • The Big Four by Agatha Christie – A graphic novel of Agatha Christie which sounds like it could be a James Bond novel only with Poirot. I think I will either love this or hate it but its something different to try.

I have also been lucky enough to get some more unsolicited books in the last week or four. Actually no I tell a lie two of these books I had emails asking if I fancied and indeed I did (I will pop a star next to those) but that’s not asking which I have banned myself from. A few I had already but are now in lovely new editions (such as the Atwood) or paperback editions have come out, so maybe I will do some more giveaways over the next few weeks – don’t forget there is a giveaway here at the moment.

  • Angels of Destruction by Keith Donoghue
  • Ransom by David Malouf
  • Waiting For Columbus by Thomas Trofimuk*
  • London Labour & The London Poor by Henry Mayhew
  • The End by Salvatore Scibona
  • The Alchemasters Apprentice by Walter Moers
  • To The End of the Land by David Grossman
  • Hypothermia by Arnaldur Indridason
  • Small Memories by Jose Saramago
  • Begginers by Ramond Carver
  • Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London by Julia Stuart*
  • The Complete Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Dogs & The Wolves by Irene Nemirovsky

The David Grossman has a bit of a funny story attached to it, not as in the story of the book which is apparently heartbreaking… let me explain. I was banging on about ‘To The End of the Land’ to one of my friends saying how much I wanted it and how I couldn’t ask for it or buy it myself only when I then, less than 24 hours later, finally sorted through all my latest books and other books I had been moving around the last week or two proceeded to discover I did indeed have it already! Oh dear, a sign of too many books on the TBR? Actually I don’t think you can have too many books on a TBR.

So what lovely library loots have you got recently? Been bought any books or treated yourselves to any? Have you read any of the above?

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Savidge Reads Short Stories

Yesterday I mentioned in my review of ‘Howards End is on the Landing’ by Susan Hill I mentioned the fact that the book made me think… a lot. It made me look at area’s in my reading that I am slightly weaker at, for example I am not big on science fiction and so maybe need to try a few choice authors in that field but that’s for another time and actually I have quite a few of those hidden away in my TBR boxes, plus I will be reading ‘1984’ in the next week or so for Book Group anyway. No there has always been a certain sort of books I’ve always had a problem with that Susan Hill’s latest book has given me an insight and enthusiasm for…

The short story! I don’t know why but I have always found short stories an interesting idea and then when faced with an entire collection either got bored, got very confused or found them all a much of a muchness. The only collections that haven’t done this were ‘The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secret’s’ by the wonderful Sophie Hannah, which I thought was superb and features the brilliant short tale The Octopus Nest and anything by Daphne Du Maurier. So the problem might be the authors I have tried in the past? Another problem might be the fact that I am reading the whole collection if it was a book (though I think with the Pulitzer prize winning Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout that is just what you are supposed to do) and that would sound like possibly an error of common sense and yet it took me reading Susan Hill’s words about taking a short story at a time.

So what I have devised on my bedside table (when you see the picture don’t judge me by the half empty mug as the photo was taken in the morning and I must have a coffee first thing or else) is an array of collections of short stories I have had on my TBR piles (not the boxes though will be having a rummage soon as have a fair few more) and so will be reading one or two a day before I go to sleep and gently working my way through the collections. So on the bedside table we have;

Bedside Short Reads

  • The Birds & Other Stories – Daphne Du Maurier (I know I will manage these)
  • Bluebeards Egg – Margaret Atwood
  • The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writing – Charlotte Perkins Gilman (from your recommendations and the library)
  • Mothers and Sons – Colm Toibin
  • Classic Victorian & Edwardian Ghost Stories – Various (may have trouble with multiple writers so this is a test but its almost sensational reading)
  • Dancing Girls – Margaret Atwood
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Other Tales – Washington Irving
  • Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout (does this count though?)
  • Beginners – Raymond Carver
  • The First Person & Other Stories – Ali Smith 

I will keep you updated as to how I get on! I have also, partly from reading some of Susan’s book and seeing its fine to have books you haven’t read lingering for ages and feel no shame, decided for now to give up the Ulysses Challenge. I think if I am going to read it I need to just do it straight, the deviating isn’t working. Maybe I will play catch up over Christmas. There were some other interesting idea’s I had from HEiotL but I will leave those for future posts.

So now I want to know what your favourite short story collections are. Are the above collections good starts to short fiction? Do you read them all with no breaks or do you deliberate over a collection and read in bits when the mood takes? Which author writes the best short stories that I simply mustn’t miss? What is your most treasured short story?

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