e a m harris

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Archive for the category “Books”

One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun tr.Jung Yewon

Korean literature is new to me. I’ve just bought this book and look forward to reading it. I don’t generally go for romance, but this sounds intriguing.

My thanks to the author of blog Word by Word for drawing my attention to it.

Word by Word

oe-hundred-shadowsEthereal, dream-like, accepting of their fate. South Korean working class literature.

Two young people work in an electronics market and slowly develop a friendship.

We meet Eungyo as she is following her shadow, causing her to become separated from the group she is with. Mujae follows her and stops her. Shadows rise and seem to lure one to follow it, something that others try to prevent, for it feels death-like.

Although it is never explained the constant mention of human shadows and their various behaviours provoke the reader’s imagination to ascribe meaning. Ill health and approaching death cause it to rise, and perhaps thoughts, reaching the limit of what one is able to endure. One shouldn’t follow it.

Their bond is formed as the environment within which they work is threatened with demolition. There is a subtle interdependency between the market traders, repairing and selling electronics, so when people who…

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Bird words

51umy7zgnll-_sx328_bo1204203200_I’ve just bought a lovely little book: A Conspiracy of Ravens compiled by Samuel Fanous.

It’s a list of collective nouns for birds. Apparently, creating these words was a pastime of hunters in times past. Now, thankfully, they are the province of word-hunters looking for novel ways of describing the world.

I’ve known a gaggle of geese and a murmuration of starlings since childhood, but most of the collectives in this book are new to me: a fling of dunlins; a pitch of orioles; a raft of auks! I wish I could think of a literary use for them.

Some of the names are so fitting. How about a paddling of ducks or an ostentation of peacocks? And some, like a bellowing of bullfinches, make me laugh.

With an interesting forward by Bill Oddie and woodcut illustrations by Thomas Bewick, this book is a real gem.

Travels of the imagination

1743363664.01.ZTZZZZZZBrowsing around the web I discovered a site called TripFiction, dedicated to reviewing books about places. The suggestion is that, if you have a trip planned, it’s a good idea to read stories set in that place before or during (or after for that matter) your visit.

I agree that this is a great and unstressful way of learning things about a place that you won’t learn from a guidebook. You’ll also learn about the author’s view of that place – does it matter if this colours your response when you actually arrive and see the real McCoy?

Guidebooks have their own appeal – they usually have the most enticing photographs. Only in children’s stories, like the Mr Chicken books, will you find pictures of your destination. I often browse the travel section in bookshops or libraries, just to imagine the journeys that I’ll quite likely never make – and in some cases wouldn’t want to.

Reading the reviews on TripFiction reminded me of another travel related site, Poetry Atlas which claims

everywhere on earth has a poem written about it

and gives numerous examples – some places, particularly the great cities, have huge numbers of poems about them.


Structo 15 now online for free

Taking the trouble to put work online and make it free for everyone is an act of true generosity. Thank you ShortStops for a great read.


Structo issue 15 is now online, in its entirety, to read for free. This most recent issue features 11 short stories, 17 poems, a feature on cover on design, an interview with three of our favourite cover designers and another with the ex-poet laureate of North Korea Jang Jin-sung. You can find more details, as well as bonus material such as audio recordings, at the issue page.

To mark the occasion, the physical issue is currently discounted from £7 to £5, so if you want one before they sell out, now’s the time! Head here to pick up your copy. That said, the most valuable thing you can do is read the magazine and tell a friend about Structo, as magazines like ours thrive by word of mouth. Share and enjoy.

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From Mimi Matthews blog – Jane Eyre and the Legendary Gytrash

An excellent demon for your next horror story. And a literary one, with contacts in Jane Eyre and Harry Potter.

Mimi Matthews

Snarling dog from Darwin's Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872.(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)Snarling dog from Darwin’s Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, 1872.
(Image Courtesy of The Wellcome Library, CC BY 4.0.)

According to Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, a Gytrash is a goblin or spirit which takes the form of a horse, mule, or large dog.  Typically found in the North of England, the Gytrash “haunted solitary ways” and often surprised unwary travelers as they journeyed alone in the dusk.  Jane Eyre herself encounters what she believes to be a Gytrash one bleak, January evening as she is walking from Thornfield Hall to post a letter in the nearby village of Hay.  Alerted to its arrival by a loud, clattering noise, Jane observes:

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Found poem – The Grandeur of Imperial China

3032-1I’ve been reading The Art of The Chinese Gardens published by China Travel & Tourism. It’s a beautiful book with photos and descriptions of some of the most important gardens in China.

Chinese gardens contain many named features – pavilions, rocks, viewpoints, hills, studios, temples and others – the Chinese seem to have a talent for inventing evocative and beautiful names. There are scores here.

Such titles lend themselves to found poems, and I’ve gleaned several from this book. I believe that for true found poetry I should have only used the findings, but I can’t help adding and, in this poem, the short connectors are mine.

The Grandeur of Imperial China

The Hill of Accumulated Elegance
The Imperial Vault of Heaven
The Palace of Nostalgia
This is
The Mansion of the Prince
The Mansion of the Prince of Gong

The Circular Grace Mountain Villa
House of Year Round Delight
The Wafting Fragrance Chamber
The Ten Thousand Volume Hall
Lady Young’s Pool

The Throne for Viewing the Waterworks
In the
Mansion of the Sacred Lord of Yan
He sees
An Ancient Theatre
The Grand Theatre of the Garden of Harmonious Virtue
The Tower of Heavenly Emperors

The Five-Pagoda Bridge
The Park of the Grand View Pavilion
Shuanqing Villa
We reach
The Villa of Secluded Beauty
The Emerald Grace Garden
The Hall of Happiness and Longevity

The Wellcome Book Prize 2016

A good summary of the books shortlisted for this prize. Thank you Little Blog of Books for the info.

The winner should be announced today, but I think all these books are worth knowing about.

A Little Blog of Books

2016 Wellcome Book Prize shortlist

Yesterday, I went to an event at the Wellcome Collection in London to hear the six authors nominated for this year’s Wellcome Book Prize discuss their shortlisted books. The annual award is open to works of fiction and non-fiction which engage with some aspect of health, illness or medicine, or “the ultimate human subject” as chair Anne Karpf said in her introduction.

The books on this year’s shortlist are:

  • Signs for Lost Children by Sarah Moss
  • The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink
  • NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman
  • Playthings by Alex Pheby
  • It’s All in Your Head by Suzanne O’Sullivan
  • The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

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The Petrona Award 2016 Shortlist (from Crimepieces)

For anyone keen on Scandinavian crime writing, this list of the crême de la crime could be a good guide to what to put on your wish list. The award is in memory of blogger Maxine Clarke.


Petrona LogoWe’re announcing today the shortlist for the 2016 Petrona Award.

Six top quality books from Finland, Sweden and Norway have made the shortlist. They are:

 THE DROWNED BOY by Karin Fossum tr. Kari Dickson (Harvill Secker; Norway)

THE DEFENCELESS by Kati Hiekkapelto tr. David Hackston (Orenda Books; Finland)

THE CAVEMAN by Jorn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce (Sandstone Press; Norway)

THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB by David Lagercrantz tr. George Goulding (MacLehose Press; Sweden)

SATELLITE PEOPLE by Hans Olav Lahlum tr. Kari Dickson (Mantle/Pan Macmillan; Norway)

DARK AS MY HEART by Antti Tuomainen tr. Lola Rogers (Harvill Secker; Finland)

The winning title will be announced at the Gala Dinner on 21 May during the annual international crime fiction event CrimeFest, held in Bristol 19-22 May 2016.

The award is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia and published in…

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Prose Poems

9781784101688img01The current quarterly book from the Poetry Book Society is Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo. The poetry is varied and includes several prose poems, some quite long.

Prose poems aren’t my favourite type of literature, but I am enjoying these. The rich descriptions and some quirky viewpoints are refreshing.

Apparently prose poetry is a relatively recent genre. A Japanese form, haibun, was in vogue in the 17th century, but in the west it was over a hundred years later that poets started to use it in its full form.

Reading about the early prose poets reminded me of a ‘tale’, which I read years ago – Landor’s Cottage by Edgar Allan Poe.

Landor’s Cottage reads like the start of a story, but it doesn’t get to be one. Elegant and detailed description lead to no action; it comes to a halt as the author says:

It is not the purpose of this work to do more than give in detail, a picture of Mr. Landor’s residence – as I found it.

I think it comes close to modern prose poetry, in its intent and richness, but it misses by being definitely prose. Mr Poe, leader in several literary genres, lost an opportunity to be a major model for, what was in his time, a new poetic form.

Today the form is popular with a lot of poets, but Ms Capildeo is the first I’ve come across who makes me want to take my interest further.


Calling to animals

I’ve recently been reading Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane; a book recording the wide range of words used to describe landscape in the British Isles.

Cover artThe meat of the book is a series of glossaries of the words the author has gathered, in most of the native languages and dialects. He gives us words not only in English and its regional dialects, but in Gaelic, Irish, Welsh, Scots and its dialects, Anglo-Romani, Cornish, and the French of the Channel Islands. I haven’t seen any words in Manx but they’re probably there.

Also included are some technical terms and poetic ones, particularly those of Gerard Manley Hopkins, who apparently went in for creating new words to describe the countryside.

Between the glossaries are a series of essays-cum-memoires on various landscape writers.

Browsing through the glossary on Livestock, I came across báini-báini, an Irish word for calling pigs to eat. Later in the list is chook-chook-chook, a Herfordshire call to chickens. In the same county you call your ducks with dilly-dilly-dilly and your poultry generally with kepp-kepp-kepp.

Horses, cattle, sheep all have their own calling words.

This made me think about the way we speak and call to animals generally, and it’s true that we use different calls for different creatures. Do they understand us? If you yell ‘Dilly-dilly-dilly!’ to hens, do they ignore you? Or do they come anyway hoping for a treat?

Many’s the time I’ve stood in a garden calling ‘Puss, puss, puss’ with no result. Is that because she doesn’t understand or is it because she doesn’t want to come? I suspect the latter.

Oddly, in my experience, we use general terms for most animals but call our dogs by name. I think that if we kept monkeys we’d call them by name too. It would be interesting to hear if anyone knows.

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