Saturday 15 January 2011

Stuck-in-a-Book's Weekend Miscellany

Happy weekend, one and all. Hope the weather where you are is a little less gloomy than Oxford... roll on spring. But, before that, roll on a book, a blog post, and a link. Today's Miscellany is a little more verbose than most...

1.) The link - (which is actually a blog post, I suppose.) The other day I reviewed Remember Remember by Hazel McHaffie, a novel with the theme of dementia. I intended (were I to summarise in a single line) to write something along the lines of 'This is a good novel; the second half is rather better than the first half.' That would save me an evening! And it is - a very interesting idea, executed skillfully and with feeling. Re-reading the review, from the author's p-o-v, I realise that my quibbles seemed to dominate, and my praise perhaps get a bit lost. But I didn't really have to try and work out the author's p-o-v, because Hazel got in touch - and has written this response to my blog post.

I've got to say, I felt flattered that Hazel thought my blog post worth responding to, and read her thoughts with much interest. I was rather mortified to realise that my review had come across worse than I meant it to (Hazel and I have since exchanged friendly emails!), but it also made me want to say something which is perhaps controversial. I do believe that the very worst writer (which, of course, Hazel is not anywhere close to being) is somehow on a higher plane than the best reviewer/blogger. To be creative is so much more valuable than to analyse creation. So my view, really, isn't that important, in comparison...

That sounds negative about blogging, doesn't it? It wasn't meant to - rather I wanted to celebrate writers. Of course, blogging can cross over into 'creative writing' territory, but generally I admire those wonderful people who create novels - and must remember to be humble as one who merely writes about them.

Oh, and my failure to get on board with Aaron in Remember Remember does (as I have told Hazel now) put him in the same category as Mr. Rochester, Mr. Knightley, and Heathcliff!

2.) The blog post - is Pamela's beautiful list of 'Simple Pleasures'... which just happens to include Miss Hargreaves...

3.) The book - is Vanessa Gebbie's new short story collection, Storm Warning, which sounds intriguing. I reviewed an earlier collection by Gebbie forever ago, here. And here's what her publisher (Salt) have to say about Storm Warning:
Storm Warning explores the echoes of human conflict in a series of powerful stories and flashes inspired by life with the author’s own father, an ordinary and gentle man who fought and was decorated in WWII, but who suffered the after-effects for the rest of his life.

The conflicts range from conventional warfare through violent tribal clashes to historical religious persecution. Gebbie’s viewpoints are never predictable. War veterans are haunted by events that echo louder and louder. A prisoner sees the violent execution of a friend and mentor, a boy hides from a necklacing, a young student escapes the fighting in Iraq in the hope of continuing his education in the West and a woman tells what she knows of her parents’ torture.

Echoes of conflict are often explored from the child’s perspective. A young girl witnesses an attempted escape over the Berlin Wall. Another is present when her grandfather, a writer, is targeted in the Russian Cultural Revolution, and two small boys are unwilling bystanders to atrocities in African inter-tribal conflict.

The people in these stories are not those who go down in history. They are the ordinary troops. They are the powerless, caught up involuntarily. All are tested, sometimes to breaking point, in this extraordinary collection as Gebbie pulls no punches, exploring the surreality of conflict, the after-effects of atrocity and sometimes, the seeds of atrocity itself.


  1. Oh dear. Well if I can add anything, I thought your review sounded positive. Positive enough to encourage me to purchase it, which I did! I look forward to reading it, especially after reading Hazel's viewpoint.

  2. I'm on a mission to change your mind about Mr Knightley!

    Like what you said about writers being more valid than reviewers. I agree, to be creative is a wonderful thing.

  3. Well, Storm Warning is certainly one I won't be picking up. The publisher's statement was more than I could bear. I really am a wimp, I just can't read about atrocities.

  4. I've had a similar message from the estate of Douglas Adams.

  5. Thanks so much for the mention!
    I'm honoured!

  6. Daniel - I'm very pleased that you did! Do let me know if/when you write about it.

    Nicola - I think the best thing for me to do is reread Emma, as I'm basing my thoughts on having read it back in 2003, when I was 17. Things may have changed in my head now...

    Nancy - forewarned is forearmed! I am a wimp too...

    Colin - I'll visit you in prison.

    Pamela - you're welcome :) It was such a lovely post.


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