Writing On Literature

  • Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of Georges Perec's death, a date I wouldn't have noticed without this informative blog from France 24 journalist Oliver Farry. Which made me come over all Je me souviens ... Twenty years ago to the day, in 1992, I remember I was at an event for the 10th anniversary of Perec's death. Ten years! He was barely dead at all. I've been thinking about this event a lot, especially since last year's Booker debate about Difficult Books. For anyone who missed it, a couple of the judges for the 2011 Man Booker Prize were perceived as making a distinction between books that were easy to read and books that were difficult. In 2011 (and it

    Mar 02,
  • For every reader who bemoans the end of the book, there's another announcing the advent of the future book. There are in fact two separate issues here. The first is how books are read (old-fashioned pages, Kindle, iPad) and the second is how books are written. I've offered my opinion on reading platforms here, but whether for Kindle or paper pages the writer's job remains essentially unchanged. Characterisation in a hardback will also work as characterisation on a hand-held backlit reading device. New gadget, same old reading experience. The iPad has more potential, both for readers and writers. The digital design studio ustwo recognised this some time ago, and used traditional nursery rhymes as experimental texts. By adding interactive

    Sep 16,
  • There aren't many upsides to being a regular visitor to hospital, especially if you work there. This is the message I sometimes received from the nurses last year when I was in the Oxford JR to have my knee sewn back together. This year, I ensured my regular summer bed on Ward 2A by breaking apart the other knee. I thought after a year of economic stagnation the situation might have deteriorated. Maybe the curtains hadn't been washed since last July (my enduring memory of a year 2000 birth at RUH Bath was of bloodstains on the curtain. Not the one round the bed. The one at the window). In fact the John Radcliffe Trauma Ward had been restaffing

    Jul 10,
  • In 2003, I went to Japan as Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo, a post that had evolved from the Professorship held in 1924 by the First World War poet Edmund Blunden. Blunden wrote the prose account of his wartime experiences, Undertones of War, in the shadow of the University's grand Red Gate referring only to some trench-maps and his anxious unforgetting. Blunden's time in Tokyo was immensely productive, inspiring new poems, edited texts, critical commentaries. He also kept up with his beloved cricket (there is a separate chapter on Cricket in Barry Webb's definitive biography). However, my own combination of interests meant that while teaching in his shadow I was presented with a literary scoop, or so I

    Feb 19,
  • At last. Christmas has gone away. Now that the advertising has died down, it might be a good time to say something reasonable about the Kindle, or at least more measured than their own trumpet-blowing that was everywhere during the gift-giving season. 'Think of a book. Sixty seconds later you can be reading it.' Possibly, but there's another step in between. You have to hand over some money. Instead of getting annoyed by this separation between source and consumer ('Think of a cow. An hour later you can be eating it.') the advertising made me think of a much older campaign, for razors, which provides an excellent analogy for the contest between books and e-readers. Despite what the techies

    Jan 11,