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The Blether…

July 14, 2010 | No Comments


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Life’s been busy of late, steamy weather, wean-wrangling, sick dog, I could go on but I won’t at the risk of sounding whiny. So what’s been happening? 
Injury TimeWell, Beryl Bainbridge passed away at age 75, another gone of that particular breed of female British novelists who perfected the short, dark, comic form. Several notable obituaries are on-line including one from her friend A. N. Wilson, and a resurgence of interest in her work, notably The Bottle Factory Outing and Injury Time (good luck finding them!). Who are the heirs to Sparks, Murdoch, Bainbridge, Carter, and Fitzgerald and is such spiky, feminist, morbid and wry work a purely British (and perhaps Canadian) phenomenon, or is there an American sisterhood? Fodder for thought in another post…
W. S. Mervin has been named US Poet Laureate, and given his reputation combined with his age and more than 30 books, an unsurprising choice. I reviewed his latest work, The Shadow of Sirius, as part of an Urbanite column in 2008, and quoted my favorite line: “often we did not know / that we were happy / even when we were not / how could we have known that / at no distance.”
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A NovelIn the July 5th issue of The New Yorker, James Wood reviews David Mitchell’s new novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, and takes him to task for not being ‘Mitchellian’ enough. Mitchell’s gifts are so prolific, Woods argues, that he mustn’t waste them on historical meanderings, regardless of how brilliantly executed, he should be more concerned with the ‘present palpable intimate.’ An exceptional writer, Woods implies, has a responsibility to the present day, and must provide the reader with a “moral or metaphysical pressure,” aka Beckett, Tolstoy or Conrad. Do our brilliant writers have an obligation to write in a particular fashion? It’s an interesting, and somewhat political notion. As an aside, I was gratified by Woods’ enthusiasm for Mitchell’s Black Swan Green (2006), a novel that has been overlooked, especially in the US. I suspect my love for it stems from a similar source as the English-born Woods – it’s setting during the Thatcher years in Britain coincided with my own lumpy, cringing, coming-of-age.
And in case you haven’t noticed while we’re on the subject of coming-of-age, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird celebrates it’s fiftieth anniversary. Now there is a woman to admire, who knew when to say ‘my work here is done‘ and put down her pen… 

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