Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Have a very merry Christmas - no, really!



(This is specially for Lynn Price over at Behler Blog, who has nothing but the sea in California to look at - hah!)

This NOT going to be a "Bah humbug!" post about Christmas, because I'm sick of all those journalists like Charlie Brooker and Will Self and - well, just about everyone who writes about Christmas - moaning on about wasting money on presents, hating spending time with extended family and eating and drinking things they don't enjoy.

I LOVE Christmas! And this year, weather and travel arrangements permitting, we'll have all three daughters and their partners, plus my sister, so nine of us, followed by a visit from another four plus baby and another three plus two little boys. Magic! I can't wait to see my little nephews opening what we've got for them.

I have just written a new Grace picturebook and in it I say "Christmas was Grace's favourite day of the year, even better than her birthday.She loves everything about it - the tree, the presents, going to church, singing carols and eating a big Christmas dinner. And so do I.

So a happy Christmas from Grace and me. See you in 2010!

Monday, 14 December 2009

My books of the year


(not all published this year adults' and children's)

I keep a reading log and have done it for years. I tend to leave out the masses of children's books, books read for review or research and - yes - the ones I forget! But when thoughts turn in December to end-of-year round-ups, it's useful.

My books of the year are not necessarily the best books but the ones that made an impression for some reason.So I'll begin with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, which I read quite early on in 2009. It was a tip and a loan from a daughter and I loved it.

With a title like that, it sounds as if it could be twee but very far from it; there are some quite hard to take stories about the German Occupation of the Channel Islands in WW2. But I loved the breadth of it. And am sorry it will be the one and only novel from its author, who died in her 70s close to publication.

Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama was anther good read and much more graceful than The Audacity of Hope.

A great find was Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon. It was apparently written in German but I found the English version very satisfactory. It's the story of a middle-aged academic who leaves his job and life on a whim to seek out information about a Portuguese writer. In that, he is like one of my favourite Italian authors, Antonio Tabucchi, who wrote Sostiene Pereira.

The Children's Book by A.S.Byatt was a significant though not unflawed read for me (I blogged about it early on in my career as Book Maven). But I did admire the breadth of it, even when it annoyed, and I found it always readable.

Julian Barnes's Nothing to be Frightened Of was a book I'd meant to read for a long time and beautifully written. It's about his obsessive fear of death and his atheism and as I read it I couldn't help wondering how the death of his wife Pat Kavanagh, the literary agent would have affected, and been affected by his position.

Children's books I've enjoyed this year are: Frances Hardinge's Gullstruck Island, which I blogged about, Kath Langrish's Dark Angels, Marcus Sedgwick's Revolver, B. R. Collins' The Traitor Game.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Cormac McCarthy's typewriter



Well, here it is. It was auctioned for more than $250,000 last Friday. The proceeds went to charity but it's not the money that bothers me - he can keep it or not as far as I am concerned. What bothers me is that a bestselling author was, until recently, using heritage technology to write his books.

(Oh and there is a little side order of "What was the buyer thinking? That putting their fingers on the keys would enable them to write bestsellers too?")

Anyway, I heard Ian Rankin and Philip Hensher discussing this on the Today programme (not its first appearance here and yes, I do hear it every day). Rankin does use a word processor though has no idea how to "move chunks of text around"; Hensher, on the other hand, writes everything in notebooks, though I suppose he has to type it up at some point.

On what planet and in what century are these people living? I got my first AppleMac in 1989 and was composing direct on to a screen by 1995. Nothing short of total breakdown of the National Grid would see me back on a typewriter or scribbling in notebooks (great for notes though; the clue is in the name).

I'm so glad I was young (enough) to benefit from the new technology - laptops, broadband, Internet, email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs etc. etc. I'm an unrepentant gadget-bunny and every new development has helped my writing forward.