Book reviews – “Period Piece” and “Moranthology” plus a shiny new book

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Oct 2014 TBRSee what I did there, in the post title? If not, zip down to below the reviews and you’ll see exciting news …

I seem luckily to have wriggled free of my feeling of being “stuck” (and thank you to everyone who commented on that last post or on Twitter or Facebook) as in the last day I’ve managed to finish two books (one of which I’d forgotten to list on that post, as it was a PDF downloaded and read on the Kindle app on my tablet, which obviously felt one or two steps too far removed from being an actual book to be mentioned) so the number of concurrent reads is now down to one proper one, one large hardback I’ve only dipped into, and that Sartre book that I am going to finish by the time I see a Murdochian friend next week …

Both of these books are written by women who use memoir as a means for telling a larger story. They’re two very different women, but there’s enough to tie these two reads together, I feel …

Gwen Raverat – “Period Piece”

(Bought 25 January 2014, Stratford-upon-Avon charity shop)

An absolutely charming book of reminiscences about her childhood and young womanhood in Cambridge, full of loving and affectionate portraits of family and friends, including a long section on her beloved uncles and aunts. It’s really evocative and charming without being twee or sentimental, clear-headed about people’s faults and foibles but celebrating their differences.

Wonderful descriptions of people, houses, gardens and the countryside are accompanied by adorable illustrations with amusing captions. She is, of course, known for her art and especially illustrations, and it’s lovely to see them here, alongside her own writing. I must have read this before (although if I did, it was before online blog records began, maybe even before the paper journals began) and it is certainly a book – as a classic of childhood memoir – that I will return to again and again over the years.

This has handily also filled in 1952 on my Reading a Century project!

Caitlin Moran – “Moranthology”

(8 March 2014, charity shop)

A collection of Moran’s newspaper columns which was clearly put out to build on the success of her “How to be a Woman” but was to me actually a more enjoyable and engaging read. When I reviewed the earlier book back in 2011, I wasn’t sure what I thought of it, and I’m left with a memory of lots of rude bits (or reclaiming of woman’s right to talk about whatever she wants to talk about) and a bit of missing  out on the idea that other people of the same age could have similar ideas. This one is more inclusive, more conspiratorial, even, and more enjoyable for that.

There’s a good mix of the silly (and very funny), the (very) serious (and on occasion tear-inducing), the very perceptive but not nasty (for example on the Royal Wedding and the tweets around it) and, probably her best pieces, those that draw on her childhood experiences of poverty and draw parallels with events, policies and perceptions that are happening right now. Those are the most powerful pieces in the book, and really have something important to say.

With additional framing comments which fill in the context and in particular delightfully describe her early attempts at journalism, all is well-written and highly competent, with probably just the appropriate amount of the read-out-loud hilarious.

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James Evans - Merchant Adventures reviewing for Shiny New BooksJust in – I was asked by the lovely folk at Shiny New Books (which is an excellent new books e-magazine, packed full of recommendations and reviews by readers just like you and me, with high production values and so much care lavished over contents and appearance) to review James Evans’ “Merchant Adventures”, out in paperback in November. I’m VERY picky about review copies, knowing only to ask for one or two if I’m sent a catalogue, taking on the rare random offer, reviewing books by writers I know are good or suspect I will like, and only requesting LibraryThing Early Reviewers books that I know I’m really interested in – all this not because I’m snooty or arrogant but because I’ve seen too many friends and bloggers drowning in a sea of review copies. However, Simon at SNB knows me well, and when they were offered this book about Arctic exploration in the Tudor Age, he suggested it to me and I gladly offered. I’ll flag up when my review is out in the January issue; in the meantime, do go and explore the current issue. There are Christmas lists to put together, aren’t there.

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Talking of Christmas lists, I have moved my Wish List from Amazon onto these pages. I do try not  to buy from Amazon these days (although I do sell my books on there; I have statements about that on my book website), so it felt weird to keep my Wish List on there. So I laboriously copied it and rearranged it, took some things off it, and here it is! It’s coming up to Secret Santa season, so I’ve updated all of my TBR and the books reviewed here into my LibraryThing library (however, I do have about 150 books to mark as “read but not owned” and deaccession, as I’ve decided I’m not going to re-read them – but these do not affect the Secret Santas too much, as they will just shift categories in the collection). What are you reading at the moment? One at a time, or all together?

Current reading: As of this morning, I’ve finished “The Heavenly Twins” – I did SO much better once I’d found it on manybooks.net (a great resource for free, out-of-copyright books which you can download in a variety of formats) and got it on my Kindle rather than lugging the huge paperback around (however, I’m going to have to remember to go back to that for the introduction). Have you got stuck in a big book or otherwise into a reading rut recently? How did you climb out of it? I’m certainly considering picking off a few smaller ones once I’ve read that Introduction!

 

Is it just actually that I read too MUCH?

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tall pile of books

This many! This is how many I’m reading RIGHT NOW!

No, no, of course I don’t mean I read TOO MUCH in general, too many books over the course of the year. There’s no such thing, is there? There’s no better thing than reading lots of books (hobby: no better hobby; obviously it’s better to be running around giving all your possessions to Good Causes and generally doing good, but you know what I mean).

But I haven’t really finished many books recently – my last review was THIRTEEN DAYS ago and I’ve only finished one book since then, which is waiting to be reviewed. I do have gaps, but this seems particularly shocking. So I have started to wonder if it’s the number of books I am reading concurrently that’s messing things up a bit.

Here’s the thing: do you read one book at a time, or many? And, here’s the most important thing: do you think you’re more ‘productive’ if you only read one at a time – do you actually get through MORE books that way?

This is what I’ve always said I have on the go at any one time:

  • One larger or more “special” book (maybe a Persephone or hardback) which I read in the house, at the breakfast table, etc. This sometimes extends into two books, for example I won’t read a Persephone while eating, so I might have a Persephone on the night stand and a political biography, say, at the table.
  • One smaller and more portable book for in my handbag when popping into Birmingham or going on longer journeys. Now I’m trying to actually READ the books I have packed onto my Kindle, this can take electronic or paper form.

That should be doable, shouldn’t it. But the problem is, it doesn’t really work like that. Here’s what I’m reading at the moment …

  • Friday to Saturdayish I’m reading the New Statesman on my tablet at the table. Sunday to Tuesdayish, it’s the Saturday Guardian newspaper. Sometimes there’s a bit of struggling slowly through an Icelandic newspaper going on with the tablet, too, although that’s usually upstairs near my dictionaries. I LOVE the New Statesman and I have not once, in the year I’ve been subscribing, experienced Mag Lag with it (when you are still reading the last issue when the new one arrives), even though it’s an (almost) weekly. I like the e-version of the newspaper because I can skim it more. But these two do take away time from reading at the table.
  • I’m currently reading a big fat 19th century novel on the Kindle, which a friend lent to me in paper form, but I wasn’t doing well with the huge unwieldy paperback, so I downloaded a free copy from manybooks.net. I’m reading this at the table and in bed, and on the bus.
  • I have a book of essays from newspapers that I’m reading at the gym. Often the gym book is the same as the handbag book, but I don’t want to sweat all over my Kindle, so started this. I cycle and read for about an hour to 90 minutes a week, so that’s not going to get through much book, even at my speed of reading (for those concerned about my ability to read and exercise vigorously, I do an odd and self-invented form of interval training whereby I pedal very much harder every 5th page).
  • I have a hardback book on the history of the Tube which I picked off the TBR to look at and haven’t really looked at properly yet.
  • I have the terrible, terrible shame of Iris Murdoch’s book on Sartre, which isn’t very big but is a bit too difficult for me – so it’s “being read” but then being hidden on the back sofa under a pile of handbags …

I think that’s it, and it doesn’t seem too bad. Is it just because I’m reading a  big novel that I’ve got a bit stuck and low on the reviewing front? Should I just knuckle down and read one at a time? After all, I don’t have a problem with “having” to read a particular book, as I read my TBR in acquisition order and don’t get to make many choices based on reading mood there. Or should I carry on as I am?

How do you do it? Have you noticed yourself getting through more books using one method or the other, single or many reads, if you’ve tried both? Or should I just go on holiday or get a cold and get them all finished?

 

Book reviews – “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Book Runner” and “Just a Little Run Around the World”

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Oct 2014 TBRAfter the last post’s unconnected books, here are two with loads of connections (I know it doesn’t really matter, but I like to have a little theme going). Not only are they books about a book runner and an actual runner, but they’re also both non-fiction and both created out of diaries or blogs. However, one was a richly rewarding and enjoyable read, while the other was frustrating and not so enjoyable. Which was which? Read on to find out …

Bill Rees – “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Book Runner”

(ebook on Kindle)

I don’t know when I got this one (IS there a way to tell?) but I can imagine that it was either free or 99p, and for that I am glad. Sorry! The book covers a long period of time in the life and career of this chap, who has various bookshops in the UK and France and also buys and sells books on the fly. This should make it very interesting, and indeed it would be interesting, were it not for the terribly annoying structure of the book.

The author has unfortunately seen fit – and on purpose, as he carefully explains in a section appearing late in the book which might have done better near the beginning (I wonder how many people actually make it to the end!) – shuffles everything around into disconnected chunks, yes, with the date at the top, which saves it from being utterly and completely confusing, but still very annoyingly. It’s not like one of those time-shift novels in which everything eventually makes sense: you get something from the UK in the 80s, then you’re in France in the 90s, then a year or two earlier, then off somewhere and some time else. It then becomes a series of disjointed vignettes, which are well-written and interesting in their own right, but it’s like reading random entries in a blog (maybe that’s how it was created) and you end up reading something mentioning an episode which doesn’t itself appear until several tens of percentage points further on in the book (remembering that I’m reading it in Kindle form). It’s a real shame, as it would have been a good book if it was shaped into a coherent narrative, but I lost most of the enjoyment through the skipping around.

Hilariously, many of the reviews on Amazon are simply complaining that it’s not “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner”. The clue IS in the title …

Rosie Swale Pope – “Just a Little Run Around the World”

(25 January 2014 – Stratford charity shop)

I’d heard about this woman’s epic and practically unsupported run around the world (she was sponsored by Runner’s World magazine and provided with kit by various companies, but ran alone for most of the journey) and was pleased to happen across her book on our charity shop ramble in Stratford at the beginning of the year.

When Rosie’s husband dies of cancer, she resolves to run around the world – as you do – to honour his memory and raise awareness of cancer; she also ends up raising awareness of and money for various charities along the way. Because this journey eventually takes five years, the book presents an outline of her journey and a series of vignettes (happily in order, or occasionally in well-signposted flashback) of her life on the road, concentrating mainly on the lovely people and animals (there is no sad animal stuff apart from a few partings) she meets along the way.

The frightening experiences are far rarer than the heart-warming ones, and her calm efficiency and resourcefulness – as well as an ingrained and passionate respect for ordinary people and careful intention not to allow herself to be frightened, but always think the best of people – get her through various scrapes and danger. She is humble, grateful for help when she has to ask for it, and very, very resilient (OK, extremely hard!), breaking several ribs along the way and not letting that stop her (she even runs through a set of dental treatment at one point!).

She wasn’t a newbie at adventure, having completed the Marathon de Sables and a single-handed Atlantic sail, so she has already tested herself and knows she can do it, but she’s not a machine, and it’s a heartfelt, moving book, respectful and celebratory of people, animals and nature. It made me well up a good few times.

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I’ve just finished the lovely Gwen Raverat book I mentioned in my last post, and I’m contemplating whether to go Kindle or paper for my next read … Have any of my readers read either of these books (or run around the world?). What do you think of books constructed from diaries or blog posts – do they always work? And, of course, what are you reading as the nights draw in?

State of the TBR – October 2014

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Oct 2014 TBROops. I knew the wonders of the September TBR weren’t going to last – have a look at the Book Confessions category to see how this has come to pass! Well, it’s not too bad still, and having lots of books to read can’t actually be BAD, can it? And if you go to author events and other events with books, it’s rude not to pick some up. Rude and unsupportive. So.  I’ve done 30 of my Century of Books now, with two on the go (will I ever finish the Sartre book, though) with a few coming up in the next block of reading.

Oct KindleAfter spending a couple of trips catching up with books on my sadly neglected Kindle, I’ve decided to post the Collections view of it every month, too. This constitutes my Kindle TBR, although it should be noted that the Classics collection includes “Middlemarch” and all of Hardy, Austen and the Brontes “just in case” I should be stuck somewhere with only my Kindle and a burning need to read classics. So really it’s the top 5 collections and Travel classic we need to worry about. Let’s see if I can pick some off every month. I make it 55 to be read (eeps!)

Oct currentCurrently reading – I’m working my way slowly through “The Heavenly Twins” by Sarah Grand, borrowed from my friend Laura. It’s a good, Virago-esque story about female emancipation – unfortunately, it’s a bit of an unwieldy volume, not really safe for reading at mealtimes, so it has to be saved for reading in bed and on the sofa. Gwen Raverat’s “Period Piece”, complete with her charming illustrations, is handbag sized and has been travelling around with me and almost finished – it’s a lovely evocation of a turn of the 20th century childhood, and I really don’t want it to end (surely I’ve read it before, though?)

Oct nextComing up we have a nice selection of transport, sewing, history and social history, so I’m looking forward to all of these. I have quite a scary book writing schedule (which I might be publishing later on my new books website) so I’ll have to work hard to build in reading time …

Have you read any of these? What are you reading in October?

Book reviews – Almost English and Becoming Iris Murdoch

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Sept TBRTwo books that I can’t really link this time – it does happen. They didn’t even come off the same part of the shelf – the Mendelson was in the normal run of the TBR, and the Iris Murdoch book was acquired at the IM Conference, but I couldn’t resist dipping in to it. I’ve just realised that I’ll have to photograph and post my TBR tomorrow – it’s not quite the sleek, svelte thing from this month’s picture, but I’ve got some cracking books to read, so who cares!

Charlotte Mendelson – “Almost English”

(25 Jan 2014 – a Stratford charity shop)

I seem to have read all of Mendelson’s novels so far (this search gives you the post about buying this one, too) and she specialises in quirky family situations, carefully observed and full of humour and pathos. This one was, happily, no exception.

It’s the story of 16 year old Marina, who has a set of embarrassing elderly Hungarian relations and has tried to escape by choosing (instantly regretting doing so) to attend a boarding school for her A-levels. The other main character is her oh-so-English mother, also living in the stifling family flat, having mislaid her husband, and trying to cope with her in-laws while sleeping on the sofa and keeping her clothes in a sideboard. Events are set in motion when the past comes back to haunt the family in particular ways, but it’s also strongly character-driven, and a good, rich read because of these two aspects.

It manages to be fresh, funny and affecting, with shades of Jane Gardam’s “Bilgewater” and Anita Brookner’s flat-dwelling European families in the school and home scenes respectively. The two protagonists are beautifully and sympathetically displayed, yet with an insight into their flaws and the ways in which they manage to make things worse for themselves. The descriptions of the elderly Hungarian ladies’ home life and forays into English society are both hilarious and poignant. First ‘love’ and yearnings for adulthood, and the agonies of both teenagerhood and worries in later life are convincing – a very good read.

Frances White – “Becoming Iris Murdoch”

(12 September 2014 – bought at the Iris Murdoch Conference)

A short biography in the Kingston University Press Short Biography series which covers Iris Murdoch’s life between 1945 and 1956, when her character  and life were being shaped in terms of their emotional, spiritual and intellectual aspects, as she moved between Europe, Cambridge and Oxford, a succession of relationships and losses, and the first publications of her literary and philosophical careers.

The introduction places the work in the context of the author’s own life, interests, attitudes and theoretical leanings, as well as those of Iris Murdoch, and this personal aspect and voice continue throughout the text, making it appealing and approachable while retaining the necessary intellectual content and rigorous scholarship. I should mention here that I was absolutely bowled over to read mention of my own (unpublished) research into IM and the ‘Common Reader’ (I did check with Frances, and this was a reference to my work!) and I was moved by the book in general, as it takes a generous, clear-sighted and human approach, different in tone, content and concentration from all of the other biographies, and just as valid, of course. Her mention of her only meeting with Iris Murdoch was a lovely treat (even to someone who vigorously champions “reception theory” and is supposed to dismiss the author as almost unimportant in the reader’s encounter with the novels).

In the book, we follow Iris Murdoch from a mass of doubts and uncertainties, poised at the very start of a long and distinguished career, dealing with a chaotic personal life, to the relative calm and stable waters of her late 30s, ready to get on with writing her body of amazing and much-loved work – it proves very worthwhile to look at this period almost in isolation as a forerunner to the much-discussed later life, and it also serves to reclaim Iris Murdoch as a scholar, writer, intellectual and PERSON, rather than the poster-child for Alzheimer’s she has had a tendency to become.

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Katharine D'Souza Park Life Deeds not Words

Katharine D’Souza with “Park Life” and “Deeds not Words”

I went to an excellent spoken word event at Brewsmiths Cafe in Birmingham last night to celebrate the Birmingham Reader’s Map, an initiative set up by Pigeon Park Press to record the stories, poems and plays being produced about Birmingham and the Black Country. Author Katharine D’Souza was there with her excellent novels, “Park Life” and “Deeds not Words”, both of which I’ve read and reviewed here, as well as several other writers. We had readings from several books and a poem, Birmingham did its usual thing of showing me that everyone I know knows everyone I know, and I caught up with friends from locally, book groups and BookCrossing.

Ryan Davis "27"

Ryan Davis “27”

Of course, there was a tempting table of books, but I only came away with one, “27” by Ryan Davis. It’s a thriller set in Birmingham’s music scene (the title refers to the age at which many rock and pop musicians have died) and looks fun (but hopefully not too gory – I might have to get someone to pre-read it for me). Do have a look at the Reader’s Map, and regular readers, do let me know if you fancy reading about some of these local authors and I’ll see if I can set up some interviews or features …

Book reviews – Welcome to Biscuit Land and Are We Nearly There Yet? plus four acquisitions

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Sept TBRWell, my TBR is not really looking like this any more, as I seem to have been all about acquiring books in September. More on that later: first I have reviews of two memoirs, both interesting and affecting in their different ways. I read both of these on my Kindle, as I decided to take it on my recent trip to Kingston and London, to escape having to carry too many books around (I solved this issue by almost immediately buying five books. Oh well). I had a couple of train journeys and some nights alone in my hotel, so got through quite a lot, and I’ve decided to share the index to my Kindle on my TBR posts in future, as it’s so easy to click-click-click then forget you have them!

Jessica Thom – “Welcome to Biscuit Land”

(Kindle e-book, no idea when I acquired it)

Jessica is the young woman with the neurological syndrome, Tourette’s, who people may recall meeting on Stephen Fry’s TV series about language and words. She blogs at Tourettes Hero, and this book shares a year in her life, I imagine drawn from earlier blog posts. As with the “Moonlight Blogger” book, the format does make it a little bit disjointed, with episodes from daily life interspersed with more general explanations, but it’s still very well worth reading.

Brave, honest, unflinching in her descriptions of how people behave towards her – good and bad – and of necessity using some swearing, etc. (not to say that Tourette’s is all about swearing, because it’s so much more, and less, than that, but there are swear words in there, so watch out if you’re easily offended), it’s a moving and anger-inducing yet also very funny book. You do get something of a feel for what it’s like to be Jess in her daily life (the “something” is not from a lack of good writing or explanation, but because it’s truly impossible to imagine what it could be like to get trapped in the world of tics but also draw immense joy in life and creativity from them) and she very usefully guides the reader through how she would like to be treated and things to look out for when interacting with someone with Tourette’s.

Although it is funny and life-affirming, it is also moving, and as Jess’ condition changes and deteriorates, it’s a testament to her hugely supportive friends and family and the NHS and those workplaces and officials that are understanding and caring.

Ben Hatch – “Are We Nearly There Yet?”

(Kindle e-book, no idea when I acquired it)

Hatch takes his family on a madcap, months-long driving tour of the UK, testing family-friendly hotels and attractions and trying to keep his young kids happy and his marriage together while compiling the guidebook they’ve been commissioned to write. But he has some health worries of his own, and then his dad receives a devastating diagnosis, and both sets of episodes, plus several involving their children are told in excruciating, harrowing detail.

While much of the travel stuff is amusing, especially when they visit Birmingham and stay in the Rotunda, the family stuff is so raw, like a cathartic therapeutic writing experience more than a professional narrative with the necessary amount of detachment. Don’t get me wrong – I feel for the author in his struggles with his identity within his family and facing up to an exceptionally difficult situation, but the harrowing medical details sit a bit uncomfortably with the warts-and-all but generally jolly travelling sections.

I did read on, and I felt guilty when skipping the more detailed medical bits as well as guilty for reading these details of someone’s life – I really would recommend you not read this book if you’ve lost a family member recently or indeed have elderly parents, as it might be a bit close to home. It’s not a bad book as such, but it was too uncomfortable for me.

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Sept 2014 11I’ve had a bit of a book-buying splurge, as I was in the local charity shops with some LibraryThing friends at the weekend, where I found a Maeve Binchy I’ve not read or got (how so?) and a Noel Streatfeild autobiography I didn’t know about at all, so that’s exciting. I saw a book that I wanted to buy a friend for their birthday, so I popped back to one shop today and found that book had been sold (of course it had) but there were some more lovelies, including this interesting Virago crime novel by “Amanda Cross” (pseudonym for Carolyn Heilbrun, apparently), which is way down a series but not a series I’ve ever seen before. I also, while calling M to check whether my big “Forsyte Saga” omnibus included books 1-3 or 1-6 (it was the latter, so I put down the copy of 3-6 I’d grabbed), remembered to check the state of my “I have 2/3 of each of the trilogies” Robertson Davies issue and picked up “The Salterton Trilogy”, of which I only had one volume already. I haven’t read any Davies for years, although I did read most of him in a big chunk back in the 90s, so this is a nice addition to the shelves. And I have been doing a lot of weeding lately (including finally getting rid of some an ex-friend gave me which I won’t read again and don’t need for sentimental reasons any more) so there will be space on the shelves for these, honest!

Have you read any of these? What about the ones I’ve reviewed? What are you reading at the moment? Are you as behind with your reviewing as I am?

Book reviews – The International Bank of Bob and Moonlight Blogger plus more acquisitions

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Sept TBRTwo books that have been inspired by online things here, with “The International Bank of Bob” being based on the author’s experiences with Kiva, and “Moonlight Blogger” being based on a blog by someone who works for the Chicago Manual of Style. I read Bob in a lovely new hardback and “Moonlight Blogger” on my Kindle while on my trip to Kingston and London for the Iris Murdoch Society Conference. More on the Conference below, as I got a bit over-tempted by the book table and second-hand book table. Let’s just say that the TBR is NOT less than a shelf now. But it’s not doing too badly, and I managed to read three books I’ve had on my Kindle for ages – watch this space for the next two, coming soon …

Bob Harris – “The International Bank of Bob”

(22 January 2014, birthday present from Linda)

A great choice of present from Linda. Bob Harris, a freelance journalist, was on a jolly assignment to review luxury hotels around the world for a website, but started to find an uncomfortable distance between the pampered life of the guests he was mingling with and the often visible poverty and distress of the locals and immigrant workers. Casting around for something to do to redress this imbalance, he comes across Kiva, the microlending site which helps people to make loans to entrepreneurs who are trying to make it at often a very basic level (e.g. borrowing money to buy a cow – just a cow, not a herd). I’m a big fan of Kiva and have made enough loans that I get enough repayments most months to fund a new $25 loan – this guy committed the whole of his $20,000 journalism fee to the project, and then decided to go and visit some of the projects he’s funded.

Harris has already travelled extensively, and he treads lightly, also not mentioning to the individuals he meets that he is their funder, although the fund administrating organisations do know. He goes through some of the Kiva field workers’ training process and explains a lot about how the organisation works and has grown, as well as going into thoughtful detail about how people choose who to loan to, which is quite surprising sometimes. I’ll certainly pick more people who say they want to use their profit to put their children through school, as this is a good way to relieve family poverty and raise the quality of life of a whole family.

Everything is explained and expressed clearly, honestly and respectfully. Names are changed where they need to be, and photographs are careful and often beautiful. There’s even an update at the end about how some of the people he’s met are doing.

This book explained a lot of the details of Kiva to me, and was also amusing where it needed to be, definitely not a worthy book, although hugely worthwhile reading.

Carol Fisher Saller – “Moonlight Blogger”

(Kindle ebook)

Saller is the author of “The Subversive Copyeditor”, which I reviewed back in December 2012. She works at the Chicago Manual of Style, which produces THE text by which American copyeditors work (OK, one of them, but it’s the one I go by, along with the AP Stylebook for journalism). This is made up of posts from her blog (this doesn’t seem to have been updated that recently although it’s worth checking), and very clearly so, using the format and dividing longer posts into two – I think it might have been nice to have some editorial input into this so as to make it a bit more of a smooth reading experience, but it did give a nice flavour of everyday posts dealing with all sorts of things. Plus I know how hard and time-consuming it is to turn blog stuff into a book, and I’d rather this was out there educating and entertaining people!

It’s full of good stuff about questions people have, the problems raised by the English language not having as many strict rules as people think it should have, and mistakes that editors as well as writers make. I enjoyed the pieces on writing the new version of CMOS, was pleased to see a mention of my editor friend, Kathy O’Moore Klopf, and I picked up some very useful hints about colouring the text of particular things you search for to help the editing process. So there wasn’t enough of it, and it wasn’t as shaped as I would have liked, but it was still good, entertaining and inspiring reading.

The Iris Murdoch Conference – “Archives and Afterlife”

I’m not going to do a full conference report here, but this was a great conference, from dinner with a few IM chums on the Thursday night to a packed programme on the Friday with a double book launch AND a concert AND a dinner on the Friday, the excitement of presenting my paper and attending lots of fascinating talks including one from Brigid Brophy’s daughter, Kate Levey, about BB’s letters and relationship with IM, and Janet Stone’s son-in-law, Ian Beck, with some previously unseen photographs of Iris and John, time with bestie Em and her daughters on the Saturday night and a fabulous walk around Kensington with a select band of Murdoch-aholics, to a trip to the National Portrait Gallery with three of them … Phew. But it was great. There was both a new books stall with some offerings I didn’t yet have and a selection of books discarded by eminent professor and writer on IM, Peter Conradi, so I couldn’t resist coming home with this little lot (the Iser is actually on the bibliography for my own research!)

Iris Murdoch conference books

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