Monthly Archives: January 2009

It’s just general incompetence

It might as well have been Friday 13th yesterday, considering how useless I was with whatever I tried to do. Perhaps I can coin a new phrase, Friday 23rd?

I wrote a blog post and forgot to publish it. I wrote another post and published it accidentally while trying to preview. (Readers in the US and in Australia probably wondered what was going on if they caught the publishings and un-publishings in the middle of the night.)

I did at least one thing right (and somewhere I’ve come across the idea that you should count every little good thing about a day that otherwise feels bad) when signing up to go to the Campaign for the Book in Birmingham on June 27th. Alan Gibbons is working hard for this, and he sends out emails with more and more alarming news on closures of libraries.

I should write letters about it. But I hope that blogging can count as halfway to writing letters.

Could we have one big get-together about all this in Birmingham, please? Lots of people have promised to come, but there are lots more who have yet to say.

666 and counting

Don’t get your hopes up. I have not read 666 of the Guardian’s 1000 novels. What I have done, before this blog post goes and ruins the symmetry, is write, no publish, 666 blog posts. The number looks very pleasing on my stats page, and I do like sixes. Something to do with witches? And before you try it, my PIN number is not full of sixes, though my first library card number was.

So, this is List manias 3 to 7 for you, and the results are depressing. The Resident IT Consultant has not totalled the last two days’ worth of book titles, so I don’t actually know if they are an even 1000 or not. Assume they are. In that case I manage barely 20%, coming in at 154 books and 42 films. It’s been downhill all week, improving slightly with today’s War & Travel, which will be the belligerent nature of the witch.

‘The ever brilliant Bookwitch is spot on’ is another way to describe me. I do like to be appreciated.

Btw, Guardian people – today’s choice of lime green was inspired. I love it, but I can’t read it.

And here comes number 667…

Sjöwall & Wahlöö

We have actually paid for some books! Persuaded the Resident IT Consultant that he could do with the complete Martin Beck series by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, so he sent off for them. We now have a tottering pile of ten books sitting around. They look good, with new and matching covers.

Martin Beck pile

They have been translated by about four different people, so I have no idea how they compare. The books also come with introductions by ‘proper’ people, as Son put it. Proper like Colin Dexter, Val McDermid and Henning Mankell.

It’s funny how this growing wave of interest for Nordic crime works. Never thought these crime novels from my past, read by all my leftist friends, would re-surface. But it’s good.

What we shall do with the two or three old Sjöwall & Wahlöö novels remains to be seen. Keep them because they are the real thing, or get rid of non-matching duplicates?

The Caroline Lawrence interview

I don’t know how Caroline Lawrence feels about cats. I suppose I should have asked her. But that’s what she reminded me of, when we were talking. It’s the way she sat, curled up on her chair, by the desk in her study.

She is one of the most organised writers I’ve come across, with a far better memory or filing system than I ever had, even in my younger days. Over the years Caroline has remembered everything about the witch family, and she often sends us stuff in the post, for no apparent reason at all. Signed posters for Daughter, copies of books that her friends have written, and so on. Often emails to me with information on something new that I might want to know about.

And she travels and reads and goes to the cinema, and she still has time to write books. I think that’s 17 Roman Mysteries in about ten years, plus the extras. And all the school visits. In this interview Caroline explains why she is still not going to sit down quietly and rest.

Our White House

My memory is a little fuzzy now, but I think I may have expected Our White House to be a little bit like a house magazine. You know, floor layout, pictures of the rooms, and that kind of thing. I would have thought floor layout would be top secret stuff, had it not been for a published floor plan in the paper not too long ago. And in my mind I can never quite determine what I think the White House is. It’s not Buckingham Palace, but it’s not 10 Downing Street, either. The Americans do it their own way.

Until very recently I didn’t even know the address; 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Would come in useful, perhaps, should I want to send a Christmas card.

Our White House

Whatever I may think of the family vacating the White House today, the bookwitch approves of what the First Lady did for books. Laura Bush started a national book festival in 2001, which has grown and grown and grown. “It is a family event, open to the public and free. It focuses on author presentations and book signings.” In other words, just my kind of thing.

The book is a bit of a coffee table book for children. Our White House has everything (apart from the floor plans and pictures of the furniture). Over one hundred American writers and illustrators have pitched in with a little bit of theirs on the famous house. The aim is to inspire young readers and to “help confront historical illiteracy.” The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance is behind the idea of Our White House, and they also have more resources on their website.

You can find out what it was like for Lynda Johnson Robb when she moved in. There is a piece by her family’s doctor. The story about the young man in the orange suit, who suggested to John F Kennedy that the moon was a good place to go to, is fun to read. There is poetry, and there are paintings of the White House.

Our old pal from yesterday, Walter Dean Myers, writes about the slaves who built the place. There are plenty of stories about the early years, and there are maps of Washington, then, and now. Meg Cabot has a story, and so does her colleague Charles Dickens. First Ladies paper dolls, Presidents and baseball, a Hoover cartoon, Presidents’ speeches. 

It’s the kind of book you want to have lying around to dip into every now and then. I’m very ignorant of things American, so this is of great interest (even without the house magazine feature). The “snake” illustrating the first 43 is actually quite helpful, and today I can add a name to the 44? – Barack Obama. Maybe even try to draw a picture of him. And I hope his daughters have a good life in the house, and that they only encounter friendly ghosts.

Love That Dog

Before Hate That Cat came Love That Dog, and it’s caused tears to run down my cheeks again. Maybe I could do a piece entitled Quite Like That Sharon Creech?

The adorable Jack is back, or rather, he’s not back, because this came first. So this is the beginning of Jack, his introduction to poetry and the story of his lovely yellow dog. His dear Ms Stretchberry introduces Jack to computers and their spell-checking magic.

Ms Stretchberry also gets Jack and his friends going with the “let’s-invite-a-writer-to-our-school” idea. Jack’s hero is Walter Dean Myers, and a very nice poet he turns out to be.

This is first class feel-good writing.

List mania 2

Aha. I see what they are doing. Those cunning people over at the Guardian and the Observer are not actually listing the best of Love (yesterday) or Crime (today). They are simply compiling lists of their favourite books, or possibly books that must be listed. Then they sit down over their lattes or whatever you drink in the capital, and divide those books up into the seven categories.

I woke up to find today’s Crime already counted. 146 books on Crime. I have read 36 and watched another 7 as films. That’s only marginally better than Love.

As well as counting diligently, the Resident IT Consultant pointed out that there were no books by either Allingham or Marsh. How can they leave them out, and then list several books by some barely criminal authors? They listed the only Josephine Tey I haven’t read, but that’s OK. And I can almost forgive them for getting things so very wrong, because they do have two Sara Paretskys.

But, come on. Jurassic Park? There’s fantasy later in the week. And I have never thought of Brighton Rock as crime. There is crime, but it isn’t crime, surely? And Kim is crime too? OK, maybe. I’ll be generous. The Crying of Lot 49??? Crime? Of Mice and Men? Therese Racquin? I have missed a lot in my reading past, that’s all I can say.

I’m pleased they did Crime today, though, as it’s the Retired Children’s Librarian’s birthday, and she’s the one who got me started on the path to crime. Happy 77th!