Saturday 31 May 2008

Spa Towns and Spending

On a whim, I took myself off to Malvern today. For those not in the know, it's a spa town in Worcestershire, not a million miles away from where I grew up. The Malvern Hills surround it, and are favourites for hill-climbers, but Malvern also posts some pretty parks, amazing views, and creditable secondhand bookshops. Thus, I read books, ate ice creams (well, just the one), bought books and fell asleep on a lawn. Beautiful weather, and a great day out - very much enjoyed myself.

AND I bought some books, as I mentioned. One of my favourite bookshops in the world is The Malvern Bookshop - two floors of an old house turned into a bookshop, so that all the rooms retain the feel of homeliness. Not bad prices, and they had AA Milne's autobiography on the counter. I als
o had the pleasure, perhaps unkindly, of listening to a lady trying to flog her valueless books to the friendly, but honest, shopowner.

Anyway - here's my haul.

A Talent To Annoy: Essays, Journalism and Reviews by Nancy Mitford ed. Charlotte Mosley - I saw this mentioned in the Mitford letters, and had a nice response from Mrs. Mosley today to an appreciative letter I sent her, so thought I'd add to my Mitfordmania.

Letters from Menabilly - Daphne du Maurier (ed. Oriel Malet) - letters between du M and Malet, can't wait.

Jennie - Paul Gallico - a few people have recommended this here. Peter the Flautist, Cornflower? I love cats, I love animorphism... what's not to love?

Flowers for Mrs. Harris - Paul Gallico - more Gallico for good measure. Anyone read?

The Sense of Humour - Stephen Potter - an anthology of British humour, with intriguing linking sections by Potter, such as 'Humour of Release'; 'Criticism by Parody'; 'Humour of Situation' etc. etc. - sounds invaluable, and probably very... humorous.

Friday 30 May 2008

Playing Favourites

First of all, the sketches for Year One are all now collected together, and the link is in the left-hand column. Phew, job done!

I thought I'd try a meme I saw at Tara's blog Books and Cooks, which originated on Heather's site Errant Thoughts. I added the 'u's myself...

1. Who’s your all-time favourite author, and why?

Too hard. My all-time top five are Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, AA Milne, Richmal Crompton and EM Delafield. There are quite a few other authors who are responsible for my favourite books, but these five prove consistent - they've written lots of book each which I consider amongst my favourites.

2. Who was your first favourite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favourites?

Good question! There are a few authors - like Stephen Leacock and, to an extent, AA Milne - who were amongst my favourite authors when I started reading non-children's books, and I haven't tested the water for some years. My favourite author as a child was Enid Blyton - because I read little else for years and years, I missed out on quite a few children's classics. It did teach me the joys of author-obsession, though...

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favourite authors, and why?

Barbara Comyns catapaulted herself from 'like' to 'love' with Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead. Tove Jansson is quite a new love, relatively anyway, but the top five I mentioned earlier have been steady favourites for some time.

4. If someone asked you who your favourite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?

Someone did, and the answer was question one! With further reflection... that's when I'd probably start talking about those who've written my favourite books (Frank Baker deserves a mention somewhere for Miss Hargreaves, even if Before I Go Hence wasn't a favourite novel) - and to wonder which of a modern crowd will merit the title. Angela Young? Janni Visman? Neil Grimmett? The list can only keep growing.

I'll tag some people - so many to choose from! - no pressure, but join in if you fancy it (and anyone else who wants to do it, of course):
Our Vicar's Wife
Random Jottings
Angela Young
Crafty Person

Thursday 29 May 2008

Words of four syllables...

Of late I've been having what can only be called a Pride and Prejudice fest. In the past few weeks I've re-read the book, watched the BBC 1995 version, and watched the 2005 film. My love of the novel - and it is rare enough to admire and adore something equally! - is well known. I don't think I've spoken much of the adaptations on this blog, though I daresay they've been mentioned on occasion.

1995 BBC... well, this is the
production which should be the benchmark for all literary adaptation. True, I saw it before I read the novel (I was 9 when it was released) but, even after discovering Jane Austen's work to be superior to Andrew Davies' working of it, I whole-heartedly love this version. Davies took the all-too-rare approach of using the novel's dialogue in his adaptation for the majority. Since Jane Austen is the finest writer of dialogue I have ever come across, not to mention the wittiest, it always seems vainglorious for a scriptwriter to inject their own pearls. Just don't. Stoppit.
And the acting! Every actor is perfect for their character, and Jennifer Ehle presents the definitive Elizabeth Bennet. Oh, and Colin Firth of course... (incidentally, did you know that collenferth is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning stout hearted?) One of my few reservations about this Pride and Prejudice is that we can't see the development of Lizzie's thoughts and affections as subtly and emotionally as they're presented in the novel, but of course this must be true for any adaptation; and Jennifer Ehle's wonderfully expressive eyes say more than most actresses could with pages of script. Every member of the cast was wonderful, and the series is one I could re-watch once a week for the rest of my life without reluctance.

2005 film... was there any point? Having made more or less the finest adaptation possible, could cramming the story into two hours be a worthwhile endeavour? There was never any chance for equally Davies' adaptation with so little time - the pace of Pride and Prejudice is frenetic; whoever said nothing happens in Jane Austen must, like most of her opponents, never have read her. And the casting and directing... Darcy is sulky rather than proud; Bingley daft rather than amiable. Keira Knightley does a creditable job, and would be worthy of applause, had not Jennifer Ehle set such a high standard. Blenda Blethyn's portrayal of Mrs. Bennet's is admirable - Alison Steadman was criticised for going over the top in the 1995 version, but on re-reading the novel I remember just how over the top Mrs. Bennet is. Even Dame Judi Dench isn't as good as her counterpart, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, in the role of Lady Catherine.
The chief culprits for this adaptation, though, are the scriptwriters. Ok, you can't fit in everything that's in the novel - but why change things? Why add things? Why take dialogue from the mouth of one character and place it another's? The Oprah-moment from Charlotte Lucas...
And the directing. The near-kiss once Elizabeth has rejected Darcy? Throwing in Wuthering Heights when things get dull, so that the hero must wander around the moors in the rain....
My reaction upon watching it today was not as severe as when I saw it in the cinema, but it has confirmed in my mind the brilliance of the 1995 version, and I shall clutch the DVD of it to my chest with glee. Or, indeed, I might put it in the DVD player.

Wednesday 28 May 2008


Well, some more sketches are now up and linked in yesterday's post, but there is still some way to go! Takes quite a while, though, and I'm not feeling 100%, so shall finish the job another day. Hope it proves an interesting, if slightly baffling, reference!

Finished Pride and Prejudice this evening (a re-read) and delighted in every page. I read it in 2001, and not since, so it has been a pleasure only heightened by anticipation. Of course, having re-read Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility this year, the danger is that Emma is just around the corner... and I really must give Persuasion another go. Though I've been told I'm probably not old enough yet to appreciate it... well, I'm only going to get older!

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Year One : The Sketches

These are the sketches from my first year of blogging - most of 'em only make sense in context, so click on them for a link to the relevant post. They're intended to be fun rather than demonstrating great artistic ability, I must confess, so in that light - enjoy!