I haven’t read War and Peace. Have you?

books tv

How often have you been dating, interviewed, or even quizzed on Facebook and in a moment of panic told a porky when asked ‘have you read War and Peace’?

Mumble mumble mumble

Well, you’re not the only one… According to pollsters almost half of us claim to have read more than we have. The stats don’t surprise me. I know I’ve done it. Why? Because claiming to have read War and Peace instead of  Twilight means people will see our smarter and more cultured selves? I dunno, you tell me. It seems silly when you think about it.

With Tolstoy’s Russian masterpiece weighing in it at 1,225 pages, getting through the tome takes commitment , (32.63 hours worth of shopping, eating, gaming), and with twitter and the BBC serving up instant gratification versions, ‘enhancing’ your Good Reads account has never been easier.

The reception to Andrew Davies’ adaption was good, really good, but can a well received TV series transmit everything Tolstoy poured into his masterpiece? It’s a question that the Handmaids Tale recent televisual success has also left me wondering, (because, between you and me I  haven’t actually read that one either).

But, if you agree with Stephen King that ‘the word is only a representation of the meaning’ then its arguable that it doesn’t matter how many (or how few) words a story is told in as long as at least one of them captures the essence of its meaning. So with this theory in mind, when your teacher, mum, date next asks the question and you don’t have 30+ hours to spare, do you think checking out the twitter take, quoting King and saying yes will leave you guilt free?

I’m not sure, but i’d like to think to find out. And with that final kick of motivation… i’m off to read Tolstoy….

Napoleon invades Russia. Russian aristocratic families sent into a tizz. War ensues. French retreat. Russians celebrate. Lots of them marry.


Magical realism

A long time ago The Daily Post asked bloggers to think about Magic. How as adults in a modern and cynical world of science, maths and realism can we can reclaim a childish sense of wonder. This is my response.

(Carpeting the earth with dusky apple hues) 

Leaves like teenagers shake free their uniforms.

(Rose wine spilt over pastel pillow cases)

Skies tint to a shade Disney dreams to create.

(Dutifully taking colour ques from above)

Waves lap the shore like subdued pensioners.



Following Trumps inauguration

I am finding comfort in the words of Douglas  Adams;

And this computer, which was called the Earth, was so large that it was frequently mistaken for a planet – especially by the strange apelike beings who roamed its surface, totally unaware that they were simply part of a gigantic computer program. And this is very odd, because without that fairly simple and obvious piece of knowledge, nothing that ever happened on the Earth could possibly make the slightest bit of sense. Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe 


Postcards from the windy island

With Facebook and Wifi combining to facilitate mountainside alpaca selfie sharing and midnight Phuket love declarations, it’s easy to envision the demise of ‘wish you were here’ cards. (Especially if you’re sending them from deepest darkest Peru where a batch of postcards to your nearest and dearest costs the same as a weeks worth of food).

But how far can Facebook replicate the joy of a battered postcard turning up on a rainy afternoon? Can you imagine fridges without photoshopped snapshots or tacky tourist shops without racks of correspondingly tacky images?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how the postcard format can be used as a short story device and on my recent jaunt to Fuerteventura I wanted to use the missive to say something more. I’m keen to hear your thoughts on both how you think I did and whether there’s a future for postcards?

p.s apologies for the handwriting!

In the words of birthday boy Neil Gaiman; How to become a writer


Following  a tumbler request for advice on how to become a writer Neil Gaiman let us all in on the secret. Read on for the secret to literary success.

Write the ideas down. If they are going to be stories, try and tell the stories you would like to read. Finish the things you start to write. Do it a lot and you will be a writer. The only way to do it is to do it. 

I’m just kidding. There are much easier ways of doing it. For example: On the top of a distant mountain there grows a tree with silver leaves. Once every year, at dawn on April 30th, this tree blossoms, with five flowers, and over the next hour each blossom becomes a berry, first a green berry, then black, then golden.
At the moment the five berries become golden, five white crows, who have been waiting on the mountain, and which you will have mistaken for snow, will swoop down on the tree, greedily stripping it of all its berries, and will fly off, laughing.
You must catch, with your bare hands, the smallest of the crows, and you must force it to give up the berry (the crows do not swallow the berries. They carry them far across the ocean, to an enchanter’s garden, to drop, one by one, into the mouth of his daughter, who will wake from her enchanted sleep only when a thousand such berries have been fed to her). When you have obtained the golden berry, you must place it under your tongue, and return directly to your home.
For the next week, you must speak to no-one, not even your loved ones or a highway patrol officer stopping you for speeding. Say nothing. Do not sleep. Let the berry sit beneath your tongue.
At midnight on the seventh day you must go to the highest place in your town (it is common to climb on roofs for this step) and, with the berry safely beneath your tongue, recite the whole of Fox in Socks. Do not let the berry slip from your tongue. Do not miss out any of the poem, or skip any of the bits of the Muddle Puddle Tweetle Poodle Beetle Noodle Bottle Paddle Battle.
Then, and only then, can you swallow the berry. You must return home as quickly as you can, for you have only half an hour at most before you fall into a deep sleep.
When you wake in the morning, you will be able to get your thoughts and ideas down onto the paper, and you will be a writer. 
Solved it. I’m off in search of white crows…

Application to membership: Daphne Du Maurier fanclub

Had it not been for my insatiable interest in the uncommon, the Gothic and the antiquated (as found in Jamaica Inn), I would have dismissed Rebecca without trial. I found its literary predecessor Jane Eyre unrewarding and as a rule, find plot-lines hitched on ‘other women’ devices’ uninspiring.

But this isn’t a dissection of my literary palate, it’s a request for membership to the Daphne Du Maurier fanclub, (and a celebration of sleep depriving work). The author’s knack for dragging characters like Mrs Danvers into 21st heads is why I read Rebecca in 48 hours. Prose of the kind used in Jamaica Inn explains why I overlooked the romance’s blurb.

And, though there should be a world of difference between the smile of a man and the bared fangs of a wolf, with Joss Merlyn they were one and the same. Jamaica Inn

Mary was no hypocrite; she was bred to the soil, and she had lived too long with birds and beasts, had watched them mate. and bear their young, and die. There was precious little romance in nature, and she would not look for it in her own life. Jamaica Inn

I was rewarded for overstepping my literary borders with the freedom to roam through Du Maurier’s heroine’s lovesick head. Although I couldn’t relate to the pointedly nameless and submissive character, the depiction of her bought of love is displayed so vividly that even the most confident tinder user can’t help but sympathise.

He had not said anything yet about being in love. No time perhaps. It was all so hurried at the breakfast table. Marmalade, and coffee, and that tangerine. No time. The tangerine was very bitter. No, he had not said anything about being in love.

Not only did the writer’s characters and narrative style allow me to enjoy Rebecca, the skill with which Du Maurier manipulates her reader through plot twists, saw  a 21st century feminist rooting for a wife stifling chauvinist. I’ve never agreed with the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ idiom (where books are concerned), never judge a book by its genre however, was a rule I left Rebecca constemplating.


Autumn fireworks

Summer’s heat left him something to prove,

Few audiences rejoice the retirement of shorts,

The onset of radiators or winters barren branches,

And so,

Autumn imitated spring with his display.

Auburn, burgundy, mustard,

Shades stolen from a child’s palate,

Dolloped intermittently across his tired subjects,

beguiled into a last hurrah.