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Holmes and Watson revealed

Holmes and Watson cover artI enjoyed this book. It is well written and scholarly without being pedantic or heavy.

However, I did find it odd reading a biography of people who don’t exist. For instance, as many biographers do, Ms Thomson speculates on what her characters were doing in the times not covered by the published stories. For real people this attempt to fill in gaps makes sense – they must have been doing something. But for fictional characters the true answer is ‘nothing’, and most of the time their creator probably didn’t give the question any thought.

Reading this book has made me want to know more of the real facts and I hope to find a good biography of Conan Doyle in the nearish future.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys the Holmes stories and who likes a stylish, fictional biography. If you haven’t read any of the stories you’ll miss out on a good deal of the references and nuances, so I suggest you get a few of them in before starting Ms Thomson’s work.

Cover art from goodreads.

BOOK REVIEW – MADDERAKKA BY MOTERWRITER

E A M Harris:

I’ve recently been reading about the literature of marginalised peoples (I’ll blog about it one day) so was drawn to this review. I haven’t read the book but it sounds fascinating. A romance that doesn’t ignore political realities must be unusual.

Originally posted on M C Raj Author:

Our Time Now – A review of the novel ‘Madderakka’

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass

Author M C Raj’s novel ‘Madderakka: A Romantic Journey Through Cultures’ is a love story that celebrates the human spirit in its highs & lows. The protagonists in this love story are not just a couple of individuals but representatives of two indigenous communities from separate parts of the world. Veeran is an Adijan, member of the so called untouchable caste from India while Ramona is a Sami woman from Norway. An anthropologist and a philosopher meet under special circumstances and romance blooms between them. They also discover the similarities in rituals followed and oppressions faced by their…

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The Dreyfus affair from a different angle

9780099580881I’ve enjoyed several of Robert Harris‘ historical thrillers and An Officer and a Spy was no exception. His stories take place over a wide range of space, time and subject: this one is fin de siècle France and the Dreyfus affair.

I suppose that most people will have heard of this major miscarriage of justice. I had a vague idea that Alfred Dreyfus had been wrongly accused of something and sent to Devil’s Island, a penal colony in South America, but beyond that I knew little. I now know a lot more. As a story of amorality, corruption and sheer wickedness it takes some beating. It is also a story of the power of the press and public opinion and seems very modern for that reason.

The central character is Georges Picquart, head of the French counter-espionage (called the Statistical Section). He is present when Dreyfus is thrown out of the army, in which he was an officer, for allegedly selling secrets to the Germans. Later, in his counter-spy role, Picquart discovers that Dreyfus was innocent and another man was the traitor. He gathers evidence and tries to present it to his superiors. But they are at first not interested and later actively hostile. Picquart has stumbled on corruption and cover-up at the heart of government and suffers for his attempts to put things right.

Although there is little actual violence there is no doubt that Picquart is in increasing danger as he refuses shut up and go away.

Picquart was a whistle-blower who seems to have spent some time trying not to be. I think we would recognise him today more easily than his contemporaries did. As an example of someone who risks his career and public persona, and even his life, to right a wrong, his story is worth reading in all historical periods.

The power of poetry to prolong a generation – an envelope full of verse

Yesterday I received my quarterly mailing from the Poetry Book Society. This time the book was When God is a Traveller by Cover ArtArundhathi Subramaniam, who writes in English but lives in India.

As always, there’s something appealing about the slim book of verse with an exotic title; something that encourages both reading and thinking. Inside the colourful cover I love the way the poet uses the page, laying out her poem to enhance it’s meaning and to guide the eye to the emphasised bits.

I haven’t had time to really study this book yet, but already I’ve found my favourite poem: ‘How Some Hindus Find Their Personal Gods’. The process is logical and sensible:

It’s about learning to trust
the tug
that draws you to a shadowed alcove

The seeker recognises the god as he who is

… content to play a cameo
in everyone’s life but your own.

Isn’t this kind of recognition at the heart of all spiritual experience?

Along with the book and the Bulletin I’ve also received a booklet, Next Generation Poets 2014: a selection of poems from writers who might be the leaders of poetry in the future. This is part of a major campaign by the Society to bring to their work to the public. They define the next generation poets as having published their first collection within the last decade. As might be expected, the photos and brief bios in the booklet indicate that most of the poets are quite young, though a few could describe their ages as ‘late youth’.

I wonder if someone who published their first collection at the age of 90 would still be of the ‘next generation’. I like the idea of this strange extension of life. How long does a ‘next generation’ last? Perhaps in twenty years time their spirit can look down from Heaven (or up from the other place) and watch budding poets reading their collection.

Surrounded by darkness

Recently I bought a copy of One Hundred Poems from the Japanese: poems selected and translated by Onehundredpoemsfromthejapanese_300_504Kenneth Rexroth. Years ago I borrowed this book from the library and loved it, but at the time I didn’t have spare money to spend on books.

Reading these clear and heartfelt short poems is to wander in a different world: a world of underground passion, verbal precision and appreciation of small things, many with wide implications.

My favourite so far is:

I go out of darkness
Onto a road of darkness
Lit only by the far off
Moon on the edge of the mountains.

This has the human condition so right in so few words: where do we come from? where do we go?

The original was written by Izumi, who I suppose is the same person as Lady Izumi Shikibu. She was a lady in waiting at the Imperial court in the tenth to eleventh century. Apparently writing poetry was a popular activity for courtiers at the time.

Would that the fashion had spread and endured. If our political scene contained more poets who knows what it might achieve.

 

Cover art from New Directions publisher.

The words of rhetoric

cover art from goodreadsI recently bought a book about rhetoricThe Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth. Subtitled How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase it gives information and examples of numerous rhetorical devices that will hopefully expand and improve the reader’s writing.

As a writer I found it fascinating and useful, but what I really loved was all those fancy names for the different devices. Words like polyptoton, aposiopesis, litotes, or epistrophe – how have I missed out on them until now? Did you know that the four names in the last sentence is a congeries (yes, that is singular and the plural is the same – like sheep)? So much grander than ‘list’. (And that verbless sentence is a scesis onomaton.)

Anyone can use rhetoric. When the main man in Dr No introduces himself as: ‘Bond. James Bond.’ he’s using a diacope (or verbal sandwich in English), as well as a scesis onomaton.

While the Greek and Latin words may take some learning, the English explanations are very readable and interesting. They open up a whole array of new understanding about what writers from Shakespeare to John Lennon have been up to.

Cover art from Goodreads.

A first poetry book is published “The Lotus of Fire”

E A M Harris:

An interesting story of self-publishing and the value of keeping trying.

Congratulations to Sharmishtha Basu on this milestone.

Originally posted on Sharmishtha Basu:

the lotus of fire 2

Thanks Teagan for telling me about createspace, it is amazing!

After pothi totally let me down on 2/10 (They pocketed my durgapuja gift of Rs. 3000. that my brother gave me because he knew I was dying to see my books in prints and then from 16/9/14 to this date- that book is nowhere to be seen, I again and again requested them about two things- 2/10/14 date and my name’s spelling, when they submitted me the final proof on 1/10 I noticed that they have misspelled my name in backpage still i ignored and submitted it thinking that they will keep the request of this stupid writer about publishing it on 2/10/14 I was stupid they proved that) I went to createspace smug as only I can be that nothing will come out of it! Can you believe it? They guided a total rookie like me into making my…

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A to Z Reading Challenge: My Answers

E A M Harris:

I love these questions and the answers; I may even do this quiz myself one day. In the meantime I pass it on for those of you who like to mull over your thoughts on books.

Originally posted on A Small Press Life:

I ran across this on Not a Punk Rocker. I enjoyed reading her answers, so I thought I would participate, too. It’s not as if I am working against a deadline today. Nope, I am not shirking my professional duties to write this post. Okay, so maybe I am taking a slight break. Yes, that is it. A break.

If you’re a long-time reader of A Small Press Life (and if you are, thank you!), you’ve probably wondered what happened to our own reader questionnaire series, [R]evolving Incarnations. Never fear. It returns this Friday.

Until then, there’s this.

Oh, and I’ve decided to do it backwards. Z to A, which is how my books are organized.

ZZZ-SNATCHER BOOK (LAST BOOK THAT KEPT YOU UP WAY LATE): I am a late-night reader, so this is a pretty normal occurrence. It helps that I work from home and set my own…

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A book worth buying and a charity worth supporting

E A M Harris:

A good read and a fundraiser for a vital service.

Originally posted on BRIDGET WHELAN writer:

Martlets Hospice anthologyI’m not making any excuses. This post is a brazen plug for a book that has just been published on Amazon. it is the work of 17 authors and is a very good read.  You will meet memorable characters on every page from the silent workhouse survivor to the wife who is right to be suspicious of her husband’s sat nav – but that’s not why I am asking you to buy it.
I edited the book and I think you will enjoy the Where Did that Come From? section at the end of every chapter where you will discover the source of each story. But that’s not the reason why I think you should  have Dancing with Words on your bookshelf.
No, I hope you will consider spending £7.99 on this hefty paperback (at 280 pages you are definitely getting your money’s worth) because it is a tribute…

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