Archive for May, 2010

Hurrah! The prize for 1970 has finally been awarded, and to a wonderful writer. If Farrell had actually got the prize in 1970 for Troubles, he’d have been the first person to win it twice, because The Siege of Krishnapur got it in 1973. A spur to reread his novels, and the brilliant biography by Lavinia Greacen, who has also recently edited his letters


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Not only has church fete season kicked off, guaranteeing a glorious summer of fairy cakes, second-hand fondue sets and the smell of freshly mown brass bands, hurrah, but for the next couple of months there’s event-gorging aplenty.

My wishlist at the moment, with budget, work, childcare and dogcare out of the picture:

Pat Boran reading from his memoir The Invisible Prison in Blanchardstown (tomorrow, 20th May)

La Traviata on 5th and 6th June

clashing partially with

1st – 6th June 2010
I want to be at Natasha Walter, Antony Beevor, the Gallery Press 40th, David Mitchell, Joe O’Connor and pretty much everything actually.

Dunlavin Arts Festival
18th – 20th June
Never been but is only an hour away and a few forebears farmed there.

5th – 10th July 2010
Anthony Horowitz, the Fish readings, Leanne O’Sullivan, Peter Sirr. Perhaps Michael Palin. 

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Secret Lives

I’m currently fascinated by The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings, as I was a Maugham fan in my teens, starting with the short stories, which I still enjoy, though it’s a long time since I read one of his novels or plays. Sometimes when I read a book and it drips through my mind like water, I wonder whether it’s my own lack of attention, these days, that’s the problem – I read with such greed and fascination as a teenager that the characters and plots spring right back into my memory as they’re dealt with in this biography. Maugham was such a prolific writer – perhaps too prolific at times, as he did rehash plots and characters endlessly – and so steely in his ambition to succeed, to be known, to make money, that he makes someone like me – who can barely prepare a shopping list – feel like a complete slattern. Such discipline and industry is needed to carry an idea through into a completed book or play, and to be able to complete again and again and again simply because one has decided to do it, is a trick worth learning. For all his well-earned wealth and celebrity, though, Maugham was unhappy and largely disliked, but he was ill set up for life by the loss of his much loved mother when he was only eight, followed by a swift rehousing to a dreary Kent vicarage, where he passed the rest of a pretty miserable childhood. 

I haven’t even finished the biography yet but I know another rereadathon awaits, of the novels at least. He’s not in vogue at the moment but The Gate had an enjoyable and beautiful production of The Constant Wife a couple of years ago – maybe there will be a little Maugham revival in the wake of this biography.

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Early Learning

I think I was looking for something to splutter about when I fell into this den of pinkness. I practically had the column written on gender stereotyping from an early age, and how impossible it was, etc etc, but when I actually looked at the photo, rather than just hauling my iPhone onto my high horse with me, I noticed that the blue section, equalling the boys’ section, does have the dolls, and toy kitchen appliances, and tea sets that I thought would be restricted to the girls’ section – and there aren’t any guns or cowboy outfits, so I make it Early Learning Centre 1 : Hart 0

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For days I’ve been thinking, will I rant about Hunky Dorys now, or will I wait and see what happens? And now it’s happened, the ads have been withdrawn, and somehow I haven’t the stomach to rake through it all again. The coverage was blanket, of course, but as Disgusted of SoCoDu I don’t know whether it was more irritating to listen to George Hook’s appreciative chuckles and comments along the lines of “well, if all rugby players looked like that…” or the item on the Moncrieff Show after the withdrawal of the ads, an item which sought to determine whether the ads were really sexist, or was it just those pranksters at Hunky Dory having a laugh at our expense? Erm. Gosh. Yes, it is a toughie, isn’t it?

Obviously the big news this week wasn’t homegrown, but the Browns and the Camerons packing their suitcases, and the keys of 10 Downing Street being shoved back in through the letterbox. So odd, somehow, this idea of the Useful Wife, Stylish and Supportive. The wives have been scrutinised from earring to ankle over the last few weeks as they smiled bravely and gripped their husbands’ hands; but it’s all barrelling down the tracks to SamCam now, at least Sarah Brown can hole up at home in cashmere socks and a slanket without having to dread her hipwidth or hosiery choices being picked over by the Daily Mail.

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