e a m harris

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Archive for the category “Comment, Opinion, Politics”

Delivery by Design: Stamps in Antarctica

I’m not a great fan of stamps and would never consider collecting them, but I found this description fascinating. I never realised that there were special stamps for Antarctica. The pictures are very evocative – in some ways more so than straightforward photos.

University of Cambridge Museums

Delivery by Design: Stamps in Antarctica, opening at The Polar Museum on Thursday 12 June 2014, will explore the history of stamps used in the British Antarctic Territory, Antarctica. A recent gift of stamps, printing proofs and original artworks made by Crown Agents Limited, with the assistance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to the Scott Polar Research Institute will accompany its already exemplary collection of stamps from the Polar Regions.

On display will be stamps, artworks and printing proofs that highlight Antarctic flora and fauna, depicting unique images of penguins and huskies; others commemorate many of the British expeditions that have undertaken Antarctic exploration to further science, detailing ships ploughing through ice and planes flying over frozen sea.

The British Antarctic Territory, the region where the exhibition’s stamps are from, includes all the lands and islands in a wedge extending from the South Pole to 60° S latitude…

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Prizes galore

Congratulations to Eimear McBride for winning the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction. It’s nice to read about someone pushing the envelope of the novel out and being rewarded for their courage.

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Also announced yesterday was the lower-key but still important HWA Debut Crown shortlist. The Historical Writers Association has decided that they too should have a range of  awards similar to those given by the Crime Writers Association (CWA).

It’s lovely to read about these successes. But I still wonder about those who don’t win them. Does the existence of a prizewinner affect other people’s sales? logo

As a reader I also wonder if all the hype and publicity skews what I read. While wandering round a bookshop I’m likely to pick up books I’ve heard of, even if I can’t recall why they seem familiar.

Does winning a prize affect a book’s long term sales? Or does it fade from popularity as fast as it would without the prize?

We seem to live in a world of awards and competitions. Is this a good thing? bad? totally irrelevant?

ABIA 2014 Book Awards shortlists announced

I don’t know much about the book scene in Australia, so I’m grateful to Booktopia for this information.

Redundancy and discount

I recently discovered that our language is full of obsolete words, threatened with removal from dictionaries and other places where words gather to be noticed.

drysalter coverAren’t they still needed? Can one write a historical novel without frigorific or charabanc? And how about the poets? Michael Symmons Roberts recently won the Costa Prize with a book called Drysalter, another threatened word.

I wonder sometimes how this rationalisation is managed. Perhaps the dictionary editors call the words into the office, one at a time, and tell them quietly, with overtones of regret, that they are no longer needed. Redundant! Having experienced the shock of the ‘we don’t need you’ moment, I can sympathise with those lackadaying words.

What sort of payout do they get? I’m not sure what the current requirement is, but if it’s a week’s pay for every year of work, then after a few centuries jargogle is going to get a good whack.

Does he have a leaving do? Or does he rush home and invest his money becoming self-employed, with an ad in Yellow Pages? Later he’ll send out flyers to historians and poets offering his services as a scene setter or a new rhyme. He’ll mention his hourly rate:

Anent this bargain price; ’tis discounted if you twattle me on Twitter.

Cover art from Goodreads.

Writ on water

Poets' graves in RomeThe BBC website today has an article about the Protestant cemetery in Rome. Among the numerous rich and/or famous people buried there is John Keats, who died at twenty-five.

It is so sad that he didn’t live long enough to know how popular his work would become and how his genius would be appreciated. He felt he was leaving no mark on the world.

Never one to deny what he saw as truth, he asked for this epitaph on his gravestone:

Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

Reading that made me wonder how we could describe those of us who write electronically. ‘On water’ doesn’t quite cover it; ‘on ether’ is a bit fanciful.

I do sometimes wonder what will happen to the billions of words written daily in websites, blogs, social media and others. Will they withstand any test of time? Does material stored on a hard disk slowly fade, first to a stuttery whisper and finally to a white hiss? Will the future be saddled with inaccessible diaries and letters on unreadable DVDs? If so how will future biographers manage?

Now that some of the material has taken to radio waves I picture it floating around the world and out into space to eventually saturate the galaxy with the thoughts of people who will be millenia dead by that time. Will future historians leap into faster-than-light spaceships and pursue the words of the famous across interstellar emptiness?

Keats’ works have proved durable, but part of that is that they were committed to paper.

Public domain picture from Wikicommons.

 

 

The programme is finalised… ta-dah !

An interesting literary festival in a lovely setting. I’d never heard of either the village or the festival before stumbling onto this blog. It just shows what can be found if one looks around.

Writers in a mobile residence

The writer in residence idea pops up in very varied places. I’ve just come across one for ‘residence’ on a train.

The US rail company Amtrak has begun a writers-in-residency programme, offering free or low cost trips for those wanting to use the unique environment created by a train journey to help get inspired. (Quoted from BBC report.)

For a full report, including a discussion from crime writer, Julia Crouch, of how a similar residential went, go to the BBC website or Julia’s site.

Although I often travel by train and enjoyed it, I’ve never tried writing on one. After listening to Ms Crouch’s description of her experience, I might just try it.

Literary quote – from a great woman

Helen KellerThe late, great Helen Keller knew what it was to be left out and overlooked. Like so many others she seems to have found her comfort in books.

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.

There is a lot in this quote to mull over, but I particularly like the idea of discourse between friends being sweet and gracious. She really had a gift for description.

Centenary year

I did a quick google on ‘centenary’ to see if any literary people of note came up. First time around almost everything was past its sell-by – mostly to do with last year, but some older than that.

I feel a rant coming on!

Why don’t site owners take down out of date stuff?

Nuff said. I tried again with 2014 in the search box.

This time I got a huge number of hits for the start of the First World War. One of them even had ‘celebrations’ in its title. Ugh! Who celebrates war?

It looks as if any other person or thing with a centenary this year is going to have to work hard to get noticed in all the war stuff. One I know about is Dylan Thomas, but I’ll be blogging about him in a later post when I’ve done enough research to sort of do him justice.

Among all the war hits there were a couple of golf ones: Hockley Golf Club and The British Golf Collectors Society. So I went in search of golf poetry. There’s quite a bit of it but most is definitely unserious.

One Gabe Anderson wrote this little gem which is one of the best summaries I’ve seen of anything:

Golf is a great sport
Driver hybrid wedge putter
From tee box to green

Columns and pages – a different look and feel

cover art

For National Short Story Day, Chuffed Buff Books put a series of short story extracts on their website. They are from their recent anthology, You, Me & a Bit of We, and included an extract from my story, Last Funeral but Two.

Natch I went to the site to read the extracts. When reading mine, for a moment I thought they’d changed it. Then I realised that this feeling came from seeing it in a wide column instead of a whole page.

I’m used to seeing my work in pages on screen and on paper, but I’ve never seen it in column form and I was surprised at what a difference that made. The whole feel of the story changed for me – it felt more abrupt and ‘temporary’ and the short lines meant I read it faster but more superficially than usual.

What sort of difference would it make to have it appear as an illustrated manuscript, on a tiny mobile screen, in multiple columns on a scroll one unwound while reading like the ancient Romans had? Is the kind of literature written partly a response to the kind of layout and materials available? I doubt if I’ll ever know, but it’s interesting to speculate that I could make an undying classic just by writing on papyrus.

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