Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “Books”

ghosting

photoNot everyone uses words in the same way, and Jennie Erdal shows the funny and frustrating effects of someone with a different take on what the ‘right word’ is, in ‘Ghosting’ (Canongate, 2004), her extraordinary book about life as a ghost writer.

“Once I used the word humility, as in ‘I felt a deep sense of humility‘ – to explain how Tiger had felt in the presence of a woman he very much admired and who had borne a heavy cross. I was confident he would love humility. But he didn’t.

‘Isn’t it the same like humiliation?’ he asked. Read more…

Design Week | We Like | 26 Characters

Design WeekSo great to see that a project I’m involved in, 26 Characters, is this morning’s Design Week We Like pick… Having received my copies in the post a couple of days ago, I’m not surprised – it’s a lovely thing, with beautiful illustrations.

 

B is for Borrowers.

The book sees 26 children’s literary characters – from Mary Poppins to Merlin – reimagined by 26 writers (of whom I am one – see A Father’s Duty) and 26 leading illustrators. 

This book came about thanks to The Story Museum’s 26 Characters exhibition in Oxford. We writers were asked to respond to portraits of leading authors taken by celebrity photographer Cambridge Jones. The author subjects, including Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman and Julia Donaldson, were dressed as their favourite childhood literary characters for the portraits, which featured in the museum’s inaugural exhibition.

Our written responses to the portraits had to be in the form of a sestude – a poem of 62 words exactly (26 in reflection – 26|62 – a form of verse invented by writers’ collective 26 to reflect our name, itself inspired by the number of letters of the alphabet). Each of us was given a letter of the alphabet as our starting point, and the completed sestudes were then passed to the illustrators.

My letter was B, and Paul Pateman, aka Pâté, did a fabulous job illustrating my sestude about Pod & Arrietty from The Borrowers – illustrating the B with a giant pencil clasped in a Borrower’s hands. ‘B’ is for beautifully done, Paul…

 

Pic by Cambridge Jones

Pic by Cambridge Jones

Here’s the portrait which inspired my little poem: Ted Dewan and his daughter Pandora dressed up as Pod and Arrietty. I’m looking forward to visiting the exhibition proper in a couple of weeks’ time but I’ve already relished seeing authors throw off their inhibitions to personify a favourite character from a childhood book – just look at how gleefully Malorie Blackman embodies The Wicked Witch of the West!

 

Malorie Blackman as The Wicked Witch of the West

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 26 Characters booklet is available here, priced at £5.

Related articles / sites:

http://www.designweek.co.uk/we-like/26-characters/3038329.article

http://www.26.org.uk/index.php/2014/04/26-characters-at-the-story-museum/

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sara-sheridan/childrens-books_b_5153274.html

https://www.facebook.com/events/599353783488397/

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#shelfie, #26xmas

Twitter #shelfie

#shelfie, a glorious, literary take on #selfie (this year’s word of the year, according to the Oxford Dictionary), has been trending on Twitter for the past couple of weeks.

It’s the kind of trend I’d normally be right on top of (see Wordy Wednesday: Selfie), and the fact that I’ve been reluctant to add my bookshelf pic to the mix doesn’t reflect the busyness of the season, instead demonstrating that ego plays as much part in a #shelfie as it does in a #selfie (in fact, since I’m no longer a teenager, possibly more…). Ok, I admit it: I want a #shelfie that suggests erudition and hidden depths of character – who wouldn’t? Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: bibliotherapy

The Novel CureBibliotherapy: like shopping therapy, but with sensible shoes…

I don’t know about you, but whatever the difficulties I’m facing in my life, whether it’s struggling in my relationship with my step-family, having a bit of a middle-aged crisis or suffering from a God-awful hangover, a good book usually helps. While it may not sort things out, it does the next best thing – delighting, distracting and developing my mind.

This week’s problem was that I was running out of time: Wordy Wednesday was due, and I hadn’t had a chance to think about posting, when a friend sent me a link to The Novel Cure, by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin. Bibliotherapy indeed!

Promising prescriptions for everything from pessimism to broken hearts, The Novel Cure is a beautifully produced gem of a book. The website even has an alphabetical ‘Surgery’ that lets you search for your ailment and read up on its cure.

‘C,’ for instance, is for Carelessness, with The Little Prince being proscribed as the cure… ‘K’ is for Killjoy, with Daniel Defoe’s Roxanna, the ultimate good-time girl, set to silence your inner party pooper. One of my favourites (and one of the most apposite) prescriptions is that of The Remains of the Day for Procrastination, which shows how, by trying to avoid uncomfortable emotions, untold opportunities for happiness and success pass us by.
A book for dipping into again and again…

The Novel Cure - Remedies

bib•lio•ther•a•py
noun \ bi-blē-ə-
’ther-ə-pē, -’the-rə-py:
the prescribing of fiction
for life’s ailments (Berthoud
and Elderkin, 2013)

Are you weary in Brain and Body? Do you desire a Positive Cure for your Pessimism? Do you require Bronte to re-boot your Broken Heart? Do you despair of your Nose? Can Fielding open your Flood Gates? Or Pynchon purge your Paranoia? May we administer Austen to curb your Arrogance? Hemingway for your Headache? An injection of du Maurier for your low Self-Esteem? Are you Shy, Single, Stressed or Sixty? Are your Vital Statistics in need of some Spark? May we massage you with Murakami? Ease your pain with Woolf or Wodehouse? Do you require the Very Book to lessen your Loneliness?

 

“Don’t gobblefunk around with words…” BFG

Just a quick note to wish you a happy Roald Dahl Day!

It seems highly appropriate to be celebrating Dahl and his darkly humorous stories on Friday 13th this year.
Roald Dahl Day

Amongst Roald Dahl’s enduringly popular works are:

James and the Giant Peach

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Matilda

The Witches

Fantastic Mr Fox

The Twits

Danny, The Champion of the World

George’s Marvelous Medicine

The BFG

It’s difficult to choose a favourite, but if I had to, I’d choose Danny, The Champion of the World, because the warmth of the relationship between Danny & his dad makes me cry. Which is your favourite?

La Petite Princesse

princeanouka cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve finally worked out who Noukie, my friend, and the child star of my previous post reminds me of: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s hero, The Little Prince. I have ‘7 Pieces of Wisdom from The Little Prince’, by GPS Guide, which I stumbled upon yesterday, to thank for this insight.

LP

‘Le Petit Prince’ was first published in 1943, and has since become the most read and most translated book in the French canon. It has been translated into 250 languages and sold 80 million copies: as my much-thumbed copy is in France, I went for a wander in Sherborne this afternoon to make this 80,000,001. And at Winstone Books, a lovely little independent bookshop on Cheap Street, I found this particularly pretty pocket-sized edition, published by Collector’s Library.

Re-reading it this afternoon has confirmed my intuition: Noukie really does resemble the Prince, sharing his innocence, profundity and charm. “On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,” says the Prince (One can see only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye): a sentiment that could have come straight from Noukie’s lips. Read more…

Is that book alive?

river My partner is careless with books, cracking their spines so they stay open more easily; folding down corners so that he can find his place; using them as extemporised coffe mats to protect the arm of the sofa. Books which go to him pristine, their pages crackly with promise, are likely to come back ringed with coffee stains, their covers cracked, stitching loosened, pages turned down. (Disclosure: I’m by no means perfect when it comes to looking after books and have even been known to read them in the bath, leaving them swollen and wrinkled.)

The book he’s reading at the moment, however, is a signed, first edition: Piers Paul Read’s true story about the survivors of a plane crash who resort to cannibalism to survive (for some reason Nick thought this would make hilarious reading for our plane journey across the Pyrenees with the kids). He sits up to read this, holding it in two hands, never opening it beyond 120° and using a proper bookmark. He has also given the kids strict instructions not to tickle or splash him when he’s reading it down by the pool during our holidays. (Just realised that I have written ‘holidays’, rather than ‘holiday’: it must be from spending too much time in France, where it’s always plural – les vacances.) Read more…

dig a little deeper

61K0InWjL4L._SX385_My nephew Sebastian had a panoply of changed words and meanings:

“Effisgator!” he used to shout as my sister drove down the M4: it took a while to work out that this digger-loving three year old was spotting yellow JCB excavators (this was pre-Bob the Builder so perhaps inspired by Dig Dig Digging?).

“Stacky backy mash boe!” This was Seb’s frustrated two year old’s version of ‘just back off [or similar four letter words ending in **ck] and leave me alone’. (I might adopt that one myself: it would certainly save on the swear box donations.)

“Hinxie needs some milk”. This was Seb (aged 2 1/2) trying to say ‘Think he needs some milk’, when he was worried that his crying baby brother Alex might need breastfeeding. From then on, Alex was known as ‘Hinxy’, later ‘Hinx’.

Be good to hear your own versions of baby-talk, family expressions and phrases and names that just don’t feel right if you change the order around…

orderly conduct

images-2

Have you ever noticed how, when you talk about couples you know, you say their names in a particular order? In our family, for instance, we always say Jilly and Colin, never Colin and Jilly, and Sue and Donald, not Donald and Sue… Somehow it would feel wrong if you changed the names around. Why is that? The lyrical quality of the word order, perhaps? Your subconscious mind taking over and letting you know who matters most? Read more…

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