Monthly Archives: October 2009

Tables

Right children! We’re doing ageism and sexism today, along with any other -isms I may have forgotten to mention. If I could, this would be where I put my foot somewhere in the vicinity of my mouth, but my legs don’t bend well.

Logarithms have long been a little hard for me to understand. Not how to use them, you know; just understanding what they are, is enough to bring me out in a rash. The Resident IT Consultant despaired from almost Day 1 over his bad choice of wife, but there you are.

So, as Daughter and I were in Scotland for the Edinburgh Book Festival, we stayed with Grandmother. On our one free day we relaxed by having Aunt Scarborough over for a cup of tea. We always love to see her. I was just a little taken aback by Grandmother’s conversation starter which went like this: ‘Scarborough, do you happen to have any logarithm tables? There was someone at Oxfam who was looking for one, and we didn’t have any, so I said I’d look at home. I don’t seem to have any left, so wondered if you do?’

Grandmother’s age is, as I’ve mentioned before, a nice round figure, and Aunt Scarborough is five years older. I don’t think of them as old, honestly! I just don’t expect logarithms to pop up among the cups of tea and the biscuits. I should be ashamed of myself. Girls can do anything, and we are all still girls on the inside. Anyway, no logarithm tables anywhere. Grandmother works in the Oxfam bookshop, and generally likes recycling things.

slide rule

That will be why she swiftly moved on to slide rules. I know what they are. Could never quite use mine, because it seemed a little complicated. Daughter, on the other hand, didn’t know. So age can be useful occasionally. Grandmother brought out her two, and offered them to Daughter. We needed to know why she had more than one, and also got an explanation as to how she had worn another one out. It’s obvious, really. Grandmother used hers in the kitchen, to adapt recipes and things. As you do. At least if you are a physics graduate with an inquiring mind and like experimenting with things.

This week is science week in Manchester. Me, I think it’s a clever guise to get children to go and look at sciencey things, in order to get hooked, and then sign up for science at university when they’re older. Daughter wants to go, and I know just the person to go with her. (And for the record, the witch got top grades for both Maths and Science at school. She just knew when to give it up. In time.)

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The Meg Rosoff interview

Some of you may have cottoned on to the fact that I’m quite fond of Meg Rosoff. I like her books, obviously, but I also like her as a person – a lot. Our acquaintance began with me writing Meg as level headed a fan letter as I could manage, just prior to her winning the Guardian prize five years ago. Then I believe I went on to tell her I’m a witch, and that I knew she’d win the Costa, too.

That’s why Meg knows not to trust my predictions one hundred percent, but as you will see in the interview, she does believe in witches. Thank goodness.

When we first met, I fully intended to buy her a coffee or something, but she insisted she was buying. Meg searched her jacket pockets to see how much money she had, as she’d come out without her handbag. ‘Let’s see what we can get for £6’, she said. Afterwards she drove Daughter and me to Euston, almost getting us involved in some road rage on the way. Let’s just say that it was a novel experience for us country bumpkins.

Meg Rosoff

The reason I’ve delayed asking Meg for an interview has been that when you have an on-going, intermittent email discussion about anything you happen to think of, it’s actually quite hard to work out what to ask in a more structured meeting. So I kept putting it off, but when The Bride’s Farewell was published I felt now was a good moment. We turned out to be very incompatible for time, so in the end Meg seemed to decide she would be free when it suited me, which was very kind of her, as we were able to meet when I was in London anyway.

Very kind.

Meg’s books are dangerous. I looked through Bride while searching for questions, but found myself just sitting there reading it, again, with no thought of interview questions.

What we have in common, apart from age, is that we are both immigrants, so in the end I felt that was a good point to start our conversation. One thing I didn’t get round to, was seeing how our paths almost crossed as early as 1977-78, when we both ran around London having fun.

Oh, well.

They are starting younger

Bloggers are getting younger by the day. Unfortunately it’s not me who’s suddenly more youthful; it’s the ‘competition’ that’s picking up on the idea of blogging rather early in life. And let’s face it; the only reason I didn’t blog in the 1960s is the obvious one. I couldn’t type…

As I was saying, I have a new competitor, or maybe I shall be kind and call him a colleague. Bookreader is a reader of books, and he is only nine. But he is a good reader, and he blogs worryingly well. His blog is called The Books I Read and I suggest you have a little look. Not too long, mind, because I like to keep my customers.

Bookreader has so far only blogged about a few favourite books, but they are well selected. Unlike this witch he doesn’t mind telling it as it is. There is one that really doesn’t get many ‘out of five’. Honest.

And Another Thing

Seamless, said someone in the audience last week, when talking to Eoin Colfer about his new Hitchhiker novel. And she’s right. After a year of Eoin saying he wasn’t going to try and be Douglas Adams, he has got much closer than you’d imagine possible. And that’s good. Seamless means that we don’t really notice the change from one writer to another. I’ve read other sequels where the style is very different, and with good reason. You can’t be someone else.

I feel that Eoin could be some kind of honorary little brother of Douglas’s. Like most others, I found And Another Thing to be more Hitchhikery than I’d thought possible. It’s very enjoyable. Someone said he’d not laughed reading this one, unlike with the other five Hitchhiker books. I agree to some extent, but wonder if that’s because we are not only older now, but the concept is less new and we have come to expect certain things, so don’t laugh out loud. But I could be wrong.

Eoin Colfer and And Another Thing

It’s good that Eoin didn’t seek to write this book. I think you do a better job when a little reluctant. So I was surprised at the Guardian reviewer’s comment that Douglas’s family allowed Eoin to write this sequel. They asked him to! There is a big difference.

To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t totally remember how we left Arthur and Co in book five. It’s been a while. But it was easy to get back into the flow, and it’s good that Eoin came up with his own plot, rather than use the notes Douglas left. I daresay we wouldn’t have had an Irish character without an Irish author, so Hillman Hunter is a fun invention.

The use of Norse Gods is also good. Would quite like people to settle on the spelling of Leif, however. I like it correct, and I don’t want both spellings competing with each other. And is it just my background, or is there some deeper meaning in Thor’s appearance and the fact that Arthur has some dislike for Thursdays?

Random Dent is quite lovely, really, particularly given the weird adults she’s surrounded by. Zaphod is better with the one head, but still stupid. Nice to see Trillian finding love. And I suspected Fenchurch would turn up, somehow.

Eoin hasn’t written a definitive ending, just really carried the story on a little. He’s left it so that we can stop here, or his idea of other relay authors taking over would be a feasible project. I would like to see poor Arthur sorted. He’s really a most unfortunate man. At least he’s getting used to his bad luck.

And there is something almost loveable about Vogons.

No Matter What

No Matter What

It’s got to the stage where I almost don’t care what Debi Gliori’s picture books are about, as long as I can just sit and feel all warm looking at the pictures. That’s silly, I know, but I do fall for cute and sweet.

No Matter What is cute and sweet, and so is Small, who is the small creature in this story. Small is feeling out of sorts, and tries to be really difficult to Large. But as we know, parents quite like their little ones, no matter what. So, Large is loving and kind and reassuring, while Small is worried that one day he/she will be just that little bit too bad in some way, to make Large love less.

Large loves Small. And so do we.

PS I was going to mention, especially, that there is an audio book that comes with the current No Matter What, with the story read by Niamh Cusack. But I forgot. There is, for when reading Larges are too tired to read, yet again, to their Smalls.

Die and death

Are you people OK with me ‘reviewing’ a book simply by glancing carefully at it a little? I was about to put ‘Deadly Peril, and how to avoid it’ aside, when I thought that there will be readers who will enjoy this. Young ones, most likely. Daughter has dipped into the book and exclaimed every now and then.

This book will help me outwit Piranhas. I could even evade Frozen Toilet Waste with its help. And I do want to, but on almost every page the list of things that will happen ends with the words ‘you will die’. Or ‘you are dead’. And other very similar messages.

Not my kind of thing at all. But there will be lots of people who will enjoy reading about how they may not die of whatever it may be. If you ask me, Tracey Turner has managed to mention an awful lot of things that will kill. And I’d rather not think about it.

I’ll bury my head in the sand, and no doubt there is an avoidance list for how not to suffocate when doing that. Which I will never find out about because I skimped…

Counting Stars

There are many good books, and there are many I wouldn’t have minded writing. A bit of fame, wealth and success sounds quite nice. But however good books are, I don’t get all fired up, thinking that ‘yes, I’ll start writing at once’. Books are for reading, as far as I’m concerned.

But there is one book, which could really get me going, and that’s David Almond’s Counting Stars. Unlike his usual fiction, this is a collection of short stories from his childhood. I can’t be sure, but I think the stories are real. They are snippets from things that happened to David and his family.

Counting Stars

They are really quite ordinary stories, and despite the fact that David is older than I am, and we grew up in two quite different places, I felt very much at home in David’s childhood. It’s almost as if it could have been me. And that’s probably why I felt that I wanted to sit down and write my own version of Counting Stars.

I almost certainly never will, but it’s a fun thought to have, just in case I find I don’t have enough blogs to write and books to read and everything else. I did start, actually. I wrote about the orange ‘high’ heeled shoes. The purpose with that story was both to tell the tale, and to let Offspring practise reading Swedish.

That’s the other little problem I have. What language does one use to describe one’s childhood? I find that it’s almost impossible to write satisfactorily about a child in Sweden using English. My proper written Swedish is rusty enough, and I’ve not kept up-to-date with how you say things today. The shoe story was written using very simple language, as if I was still five years old, using words that belong in the early 1960s. So that works. But it can’t be easily translated.

And anyway, who’d want to read it? David’s collection is both for, and about, his siblings and extended family. Would the owner of the orange shoes want to know how much I coveted them?