Archive | March 2005

Who’s your favourite character?

I always love fun and completely pointless things like this: the Independent has asked 100 ‘literary luminaries’ to nominate their favourite fictional character. I immediately thought of three and of course, three other b******s have already snaffled my beloved characters. They are:

  • Tintin
    He’s so honest, so plain, so lucky and just so teeth-rottingly good. And that little tuft of hair always gets me.
  • Tom Ripley
    From Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books. He is such a complete bastard and gets away with almost everything he turns his hand to, you can’t help but love him.
  • Zeno Cosini
    Italo Svevo’s hapless but strangely endearing anti-hero from the Confessions of Zeno. I haven’t even finished reading this book but my fondness for Zeno has already bloomed. He gives new meaning to the term loser.

So, who rates a mention in your fictional world?


Apathy antipathy

Not book-related (well, he reads them) but a quick plug for a new blog on the block, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Apathy Antipathy. Say hello to Kym.

Blogging for dummies

Omigod, I’ve seen it all now. For those times when you just don’t know what to blog about head on over to blogideas and they’ll give you some ideas. Hey presto. Allegedly interesting blog post. It’s like a creative writing exercise: you’re given a theme, and idea or an object and asked to write about it.  (Or you could get all meta and intertextual and blog about sites giving out blog ideas…or you could give up.)

A sample of their ideas:

  • 5 things you hate about your mother-in-law
  • A brush with fame
  • A family vacation gone wrong
  • Alcohol: your thoughts
  • Foods that have an aftertaste
  • Alternate uses for crayons


The fridge

You know those little boxes of (hideously expensive) words that you can stick on your fridge and make little bits of poetry? Now you can do it online. Your masterpiece will even be saved online. (Via Cordite)

The horror

A couple of bookish blogs are rolling out their ‘used bookstore horror stories‘. (This link contains all the others, if you get my drift). That is, horrific for the customer. Some of them reckon people who work in second-hand bookstores don’t like to smile. I can think of a couple of places around here where that is a very accurate description of the staff. In fact, I can think of a new book store where you are made to feel like a filthy heathen ignoramus for even daring to enter the shop.

I have lots of horror stories gathered on my journey as a customer but I have to reserve my capital letter HORROR stories from my time as a staff member of aforementioned stores. These horror stories don’t only apply to my dealings with customers. (Some background: the shop I worked in contained tens of thousands of books sorted roughly into categories. There was no order beyond that and no catalogue or database. There were not enough shelves for the books so about a third of them were in piles on the floor. All shelves were double-packed).

From my customers:

– You shouldn’t bite your nails, you’d be so pretty with long nails (seedy old man)

– Does Jane Austen have a new book out?

– I’m looking for a book, it’s got a tree on the cover

– Do you have the time? (Yes, it’s 11.30) Funny, I have 11.32.

– Have you read all the books in this store? (anyone who knows where I’m talking about will recognise the absolute ABSURDITY of such a question)

– This book should have been in the XX section but I found it in the YY section. Don’t you people know
your stock? (DITTO)

– Can you teach me to read?

– There’s a lot of books in this shop (Really? I hadn’t noticed)

– I bet this is a good job, you must get to read books all day (yeah, in between lugging boxes, vainly trying to clean up mountains of disorganised books, creating space where there is none for new stock and dealing with customers, I have HEAPS of time)

– Get away from the till or we’ll smash you

Too much is enough

There’s a ‘new’ volume of Larkin poems out, his ‘Early Poems and Juvenilia’. It’s reviewed in the Guardian by Blake Morrison. And Morrison rightly asks, do we really need more Larkin?

What next – the collected
library memos? A bibliography of the betting slips and off-licence
receipts? An anthology of extracts from his favourite porn mags?

Although his published work, before his death, was slim, this is probably for a reason. Larkin obviously felt his best was published and the rest was best left to the executors. As Morrison points out:

What he would have felt
about having his juvenilia resuscitated isn’t difficult to work out. As
a teenager, he developed the habit of sewing together his latest poems
into little pamphlets – and then commenting on them, mostly
disparagingly, in accompanying prefaces.

I have to admit a sly joy was gleaned from a reading of ‘Trouble at Willow Gables‘, Larkin’s schoolgirl novel that was never intended for wide publication. I don’t know that I’ll be rushing out to buy the new volume though. I don’t want my Larkin ruined. (Though the completist in me may decide otherwise).

Paglia rescues poetry. Apparently.

A few other blogs have already mentioned it but hey, what do I care if I’m slow on the uptake of this one. Camille Paglia’s new book, ‘Break, Blow, Burn‘ is her attempt to save poetry from the cultural theorists. I’m thinking perhaps she’s a little too late. Like all Paglia books though, as Clive James points out, this book is about poetry, but it’s also about Camille.