Friday 16 October 2009

Stuck-in-a-Book's Weekend Miscellany

It's that time of the week again - it's so nice to have a little place on my blog to mention things which wouldn't fit in elsewhere, or books which are going to be read gradually, so that you don't have to wait months to hear about them. I'm getting rather fond of my weekly miscellany, and I hope you are too.

You find me in a house of sickness. I'm not ill (yet) but my housemates are suffering from colds in various stages of heaviness... but today I made a coconut cake to cheer everyone up. I indulge in coconut cakes quite a lot now, since Our Vicar and Colin are both firmly anti-coconut, and thus it would be unfair to make them at home. Mmm... coconut cake... This isn't it, but it is a nice picture I stole from Google Image Search...

Sorry, distracted there. I *should* be telling you about the link, book, and blog
post which have hoved onto my horizon this month...

1) The book(s) - I've been meaning to read George Orwell's essays for a while, or at least dip into them, and when I spotted that Harvill Secker had just published two collections in rather fetching paperbacks (cover illustration a very good job by John Spencer) I wrote an email wondering whether they'd like to send copies to Oxford... which they did, hurrah! They are companion volumes - Narrative Essays and Critical Essays. The former has things like 'Bookshop Memories', 'Some Thoughts on the Common Toad', and 'A Nice Cup of Tea' - though also 'Looking Back on the Spanish War' which, if his excellent Homage to Catalonia is anything to go on, probably isn't very cosy. Critical Essays, as might be expected, investigates individual authors - T.S. Eliot, Rudyard Kipling - and literary topics, like 'Good Bad Books', which sounds fascinating. I'm looking forward to dipping into these, and might well report back later - but I think they're a safe bet for books worth having on the shelves, and there is no author who makes great writing seem more effortless than Orwell does.

2) The link - a while ago I reviewed Michael Greenberg's Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's
Life (which I thought captivating and very well-written, despite being out of my reading comfort zone). Do check out his website,, which is intended to be an interactive site meant to recreate the spirit and experience of the book visually. And do get hold of the book if you can, it's quite a find.

Another link? Oh, why not - Picador emailed to say that they'll be giving away a box set of the excellent Paris Review Interviews vols.1-4 - follow them on Twitter to find out more. (Incidentally, do many of you use Twitter? It baffles me. I do have an account, but have yet to use it properly...)

3) The blog post - well, there's been so much buzz about Susan Hill's Howards End is on the Landing, why not pop along to Bloomsbury Bell's blog and see what she has to say about the book which inspired the title, EM Forster's Howards End? I haven't read this novel yet, though I bought it a couple of months ago, and
Bloomsbury Bell's thoughtful review has intrigued me afresh. You can read it here.

That's all for this weekend, I'll see you on the other side...


  1. You really had me going with that cake! I was ready to compliment you on your presentation skills.

    Best of luck avoiding that virus, it's making the rounds all the way over here as well.

  2. We went to a movie tonight, and so many sneezes could be heard in the theatre. Yikes. I do feel, however, that coconut cake has medicinal properties!!

  3. Orwell's essays have, in my humble and completely non-expert opinion, stood the test of time rather better than his novels. I think you will greatly enjoy them. At the risk of calling down the gods and godesses of war etc. I'll add that I have the same view of Virginia Woolf!

  4. Sorry to hear about the house of sickness. Are you taking lots of Echinacea? I think it really does help to ward off colds.
    I am with your father and brother on the coconut cakes -- yuk. Are coconut cakes the new Marmite? I love coconut in curries and soups and even on its own, just not in cakes.

  5. Like Darlene I wanted to congratulate you on the presentation of that cake.

    I've read quite a lot of George Orwell's essays - they were published by Penguin a while ago in 4 volumes. Very interesting and the cup of tea essay is certainly good.

  6. Hello Simon! You must, must, must read Howards End! Forster writes so beautifully. The same theme of 'Only Connect' is continued into A Passage to India. While the lives of the Wilcoxes, Schlegels and Basts intertwine, answering the question: 'Who shall inherit England?', connection is much more difficult in India under the Raj. I made my students read A Passage to India this week! :)

    Good luck with avoiding the cold. Everybody's got it here too! See you soon.

  7. Should it not have been a lemon and ginger cake with a drop of honey?! Don't fall foul of germs (I too am trying to keep them at bay).

    I haven't read Howards End either (midway through Howards End is on the Landing however) but have loved the Forster novels that I have read.

    I covet the boxed set of the Paris Review Interviews so badly.

  8. The cake sounds lovely, and hopefully you'll avoid the cold. I've been down with a cold all week (although it did give me time to get some reading done!).

    Orwell's Narrative Essays sounds like a real delight, and I think now that I absolutely have to get Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer's Life. I haven't read Forster's Howard's End, but as a teenager A Room with a View was one of my favourite books.

  9. I am delighted that my blog features in your weekend miscellany - thank you!

    The coconut cake sounds utterly delicious - cake is the best way to get over a cold, that a pot of tea and a good book! Hope you don't become infected as well!

    I hope you enjoy Howard's End!

  10. Stay well! I've already managed to catch a cold (am over it now), but I'm afraid it's going to be a long winter! Coconut cake should definitely cheer everyone up! I think I need to add George Orwell's essays to my wishlist now that you mention them. And I think I am the only person not to have read or ordered Susan Hill's new book. Am hoping I might get a copy over the holidays...did I really say no new book buying?


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