Showing posts from June, 2008

Pen names...

Here's a story from the Welsh paper, Western News, on one writer's use of several different pen names. I find it interesting that some writers use various names, many times used in connection with particular genres. Maybe it's sad that one writer feels they can't write crime, comedy, and romance under the same names, saying much about our need to keep people in boxes - or genres, as they're commonly known. Having said that I have been thinking about having a couple of pen names as I feel that, whilst I've only got one novel out there, I 'should' be sticking to the distinctive style with which I wrote A Clockwork Apple. Apart from writing my Mum's book, and a non-fiction, I've also just begun on something which is, or could be, quite twee with a more popular attraction and so have been wondering what name(s) I could use. My Mum was born Joan Fitzgerald, even though her father's surname was Sanders - she took her mother's name on her …

Latitude Festival - 19th July

I have just learnt that I will be giving readings from A Clockwork Apple at this year's fabulous Latitude Festival. Latitude has a mega line-up, including Irvine Welsh and Hanif Kureishi. Details here. It runs from 17-20th July and I shall be there on Saturday 19th. It's also two days before my 35th birthday!!

Manchester Literary Festival

This year I shall be at the Manchester Literary Festival 16-26th October. Details here.


I was interviewed by Andrew Edwards for AllFM not so long ago. Link here:

I'm the second person interviewed on this particular programme, the third person is Clint Boon talking about the late, great Tony Wilson. And yes, I do hate the sound of my own voice!

Comfortable is not always comforting...

New is the keyword of the week, even though I feel anything but as I continue through life as if wading through diluted treacle. My Mum was moved from the hospital today to a 'home' in East Manchester where I'm told she is being kept 'comfortable' - with the help of morphine. It's amazing how important that one word becomes when a close member of the family is sick. 'Comfortable' can put a million restless minds at peace. It conjures up images of a chintz armchair beside a fire, a cat sauntering by. But it isn't in this case, nor, I suspect in most cases where the patient is dying or badly hurt. It simply means they are sufficiently drugged up and not lucid enough to give too much of a shit either way. And, it has to be said, comfortable was not a word that often appeared in my Mum's vocabulary so I'm sure she wouldn't be placing as much value in the word than her children are and if she was more aware that she had ended up in a …

Reading Turgenev - Two Lives - William Trevor

I stayed up late last night so that I could finish the first novel, Reading Turgenev, of the duet known together aptly as Two Lives. Reading Turgenev is the story of Mary Louise Dallon and her marriage to the older draper, Elmer Quarry, and the consequences of such a marriage are heartbreaking for both of them. The story builds slowly and poignantly, until, towards the end, the reader is hit (this reader was hit!) with the full and relentlessly prolonged picture of sadness and heartbreak and unfulfilled potentials and loves. It's terribly moving. I also love the way Trevor captures the rural Irish idiosyncracies, familiar as I am with them through the memories of my Dad, who also grew up in a deeply rural part of the West of Ireland. It's a much simpler prose than John McGahern who tends to rely more on specific dialect, but Trevor does it with the odd phrase in dialogue which absolutely rings in the authenticity. I haven't yet read My House in Umbria, the second of…


I'm still reading William Trevor's Two Lives, but have also picked up Berlin Poplars by Anne B. Ragde, about eighty-year-old Anna Neshov, a woman taken gravely ill on her farm in Northern Norway and her three sons, an undertaker, a window-dresser and the eldest who runs the family farm. I'm also reading a lovely book by Dorling Kindersley on Mythology.

The British Library Reading - Humanities Reading Room

I often write in the British Library, especially when I have to research at the same time. I've 'shared' on here before how, unlike my bog standard public library, it's a naturally studious area, which means people are necessarily quiet without having to be told. However, whilst I know of plenty of other people who have found the issue counter staff unnecessarily hostile, I've never really paid that much attention. I ask for the books I've ordered, and I queue and return them when I've done. But this week I was left absolutely fuming when I was 'barked' at to 'get behind the sign' - the sign being the one that asks you to 'wait here until called forward'. There was no queue and there were four issue staff sat behind the counter doing diddly squat - is it ok to assume that one can just go up to the 'sacred' desk and return borrowed book without too much of a drama? Actually, no. A woman barked: 'back behind the sign…

Vote for the Best of the Booker

Voting is open for the Best of the Booker. For me it was between Pat Barker's The Ghost Road and J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace, both of which made a significant impact. But I had to choose Disgrace in the end, it was the first Coetzee I read and it led me to read all of his other works during the Summer of 2004, no mean feat considering I had a long university reading list to get through, on which Coetzee was nowhere to be seen!


I've gone a week without posting which is only a reflection of my relative inactivity during the week. However, I am reading William Trevor's Two Lives and Foucault's History of Madness, the latter for research purposes. I've also been inspired by a couple of films this week, The Lives of Others - which I can't believe it took me so long to sit down and watch - which was amazing. And today I retreated to the cinema to watch Gone Baby Gone, which nearly had me in tears within the first ten minutes as it had nailed down the whole tone of the film right from the get go! Emotionally draining but well recommended. I'm also going to try and see Heartbeat Detector, a French film, this week as it looks too intriguing to miss.

New books

I've just bought, apart from the poetry, Foucault's Madness & Civilisation, Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth, and In Other Words, by Dominique Enright. All non-fiction which is where I'm at.

Spoon River Anthology

I know I shouldn't be spending quite so much on new books - I bought three new books on Friday - but I was walking past Daunt Books in Belsize Park and felt pulled towards the poetry section. I don't often buy poetry - and if I do they're usually anthologies, like Staying Alive, and Being Alive and the like. But today I bought Spoon River Anthology - which is not as the name suggests, it's by Edgar Lee Masters and I'm really looking forward to getting to know him better.

Amazon cliques

I regularly check my sales rankings on Amazon - why, I don't know, as I hardly understand what they mean, though I have tried, as they are not based on units sold or anything as simple, but how it is selling compared to others. But what has me interested now is the fact that, whenever I check, I'm looking to see the two rows of books on either side of it. One row says 'People who viewed this item also viewed items like this' and on the other it says 'People who BOUGHT this item also bought items like this' - something like that. I have decided to call these rows my cliques - as they are they are sometimes there, with my title, through thick and thin, and other times they have disappeared, only to be replaced by a new friend, such as something by Toby Litt. However, when I type in A Clockwork Apple on the front page of something different comes up. It used to be my book, and a plastic clockwork apple egg timer, but now Sebastian Barry's The…

Jack the Lad and Bloody Mary

This looks like an interesting book, Jack the Lad and Bloody Mary, by Joseph Connolly, reviewed in today's Observer. There is a complaint about the use of vernacular, but, considering I wrote A Clockwork Apple entirely in vernacular and resurrected words long fallen out of usage, I'm hardly in a position to comment - or maybe I am! Using vernacular of the period, in this case, in post-war London, is an attempt at bringing the reader not just into that world, that life, but also into the way in which the characters reason and emote in deeper ways than plain speak - it doesn't always work but when it does it ceases to be someone's 'story' and has succeeded in being someone's life. It has got my attention and will be on my 'to buy' list.

Moving, madness and maudlin

I've not got much news today. I've been busy looking for somewhere new to live. I went to see a little place (tiny! but about an inch bigger than what I have now) a mile from where I am. The area is fantastic. The rent is high. But there is some serious storage going on - as well as lots of shelves for my ever-expanding book collection - that's what did it really. The extra rent is worth it for extra shelving - especially when I consider I may (hope) be doing a PhD this year. Actually I received a letter from Goldsmith's yesterday to say I had been unsuccessful in securing help with the fees/bursary. I was actually quite nonchalant about it. After not having been put forward for AHRC funding with Manchester (still waiting to here from them re bursary) I was incredibly down for a while as I was dealing with the same situation as I had on my MA - and it makes me angry that postgraduate education is so DIFFICULT to undertake, simply because it always, always, boil…

The Road Home wins the Orange

Rose Tremain, author of The Road Home, has won the Orange Prize. Story on Guardian here.
It would NEVER have been my choice! I began The Road Home quite interested and quickly fell asleep, failing to make it even halfway through - there just wasn't enough depth. Good luck to her though - she'll be happy with the £30k prize!