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Ways of Going Home - Alejandro Zambra

01 January 2013 by Nicky

Review :   Ways of Going Home - Alejandro Zambra

by Damian O'Neill

Born in 1975 Alejandro Zambra is a young Chilean writer who has earned a reputation as one of Chile's rising literary stars. He has previously published two short novels, Bonsai which won the Chilean Critics' Award in 2006, and The Private Lives of Trees which was published in 2007.

Like its two predecessors Ways of Going Home is a noticeably short work which contains both the core narrative of a novel and a separate account focussing on the work and influences of the writer who has created the core novel.

In the first section the unnamed narrator describes his childhood years under the rule of General Pinochet's military dictatorship which ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. He becomes friends with Claudia, an older girl whose family are active in opposition to the dictatorship while his own family remain passive to the point of collaboration.

In the second part the narrator becomes the author of the novel. While the author's parents are virtually identical to those of the narrator in part one, the role of the author's wife Eme, who seems to be the inspiration for Claudia, is less clear.

The book, which continues to alternate between the novel and the life of its author, is written in a fluid and compelling style and succeeded in engaging my interest. However this is the third short novel written with the dual narrator/writer format and it may not appeal to some readers.

Zambra's work has been described as unique and ground breaking and the format of his novels is certainly different and in marked contrast to the work of Roberto Bolano, the other acclaimed Chilean writer of recent years. Bolano's huge 1100 page novel 2666 contains scenes of relentless graphic violence against women and is both strange and exhausting. If you have yet to read either then I recommend you opt for Zambra.

Alejandro Zambra's Ways Of Going Home has been translated by Megan McDowell and will be published by Granta Books on 8 January 2013.

 

Alison Moore reads from "The Lighthouse"

01 December 2012 by Nicky

By Damian O'Neill

In the weeks leading up to this year's Man Booker prize, much of the speculation as to the likely winner focussed on Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and Umbrella by Will Self with some consideration of Swimming Home by Deborah Levy.

Little was heard of my own favourite The Lighthouse by Alison Moore.

The Lighthouse is a sad and haunting tale of a vulnerable man we know only as Futh who embarks on a solitary walking holiday in Germany in the wake of the disappearance of his mother when he was a boy, his subsequent upbringing by his lecherous and violent father, and more recently his failed marriage to a woman who has the same name as his mother. Virtually every character in the book is flawed or damaged in some way and the overall effect is dark and unsettling.

If you have not read it yet, do not be put off by my rather bleak sounding overview.

This really is a beautifully written book whose inclusion on this year's shortlist was thoroughly well deserved.

Alison Moore lives in Nottingham with her husband and her son Arthur. She will be reading extracts from her work at the Broadway Bookstore in Hackney in London on Wednesday 5 December. The event starts at 7pm and tickets are still available.

 

www.alison-moore.com

The Broadway Bookshop On Wednesday 5 December Alison Moore will be reading at The Broadway Bookshop in Hackney with Simon Okotie. From 7pm, £4.

 

 

Next year at the Courtauld Gallery

12 November 2012 by Nicky

'Becoming PICASSO: Paris 1901' opens in February and tells the remarkable story of Pablo Picasso's breakthrough year as an artist - 1901.


By Molly Price-Owen

Becoming PICASSO will focus on the great artist's  figure paintings - his very first masterpieces - to explore the young Picasso's  rapid development during 1901 - a year which was to see his reputation launched in Paris….

Pablo Picasso moved from Madrid to Paris, with the prospect of an exhibition with one of the city's most important modern art dealers, Ambroise Vollard. He arrived with around 20 paintings and barely a month to produce enough paintings for the show. He painted with feverish, creative energy, sometimes finishing three canvases in a day. He based many on his heroes - Van Gogh, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec.  After Paris, Picasso would never look back.

Despite his prolific activity, or perhaps because of it, as he was preparing for the exhibition, he received the shocking

Picasso



news that his closest friend, Carles Casagemas had committed suicide in a Paris restaurant in front of a former lover.  This had a profound impact on him.  He painted the death of his friend and his burial, muted in tone with strong outlines, and anticipate his famous 'blue period'. These were unseen publicly until the 1960s, when Picasso finally released them.  'The Burial' will be the centrepiece of the Courthauld exhibition…a valediction to his dead friend.

Later next year , the Courtauld will showcase other masters -  'Collecting Gauguin' and 'The Young Durer: Drawing the Figure'. They are also promising us the breathtaking permanent collections of the Impressionists and Medieval and Renaissance Treasures.  Always worth another look; no excuses needed.

JK Rowling's first book for adults

11 October 2012 by Nicky

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

Reviewed by Damian O'Neill

 

I have never read any of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books but I can confirm that I have performed my parental duty, sitting and sleeping through a series of interminable and soporific films during which a lot of actors fly around on broomsticks, get chased by giant spiders and eventually grow embarrassingly old for the parts they are supposedly playing.The Casual Vacancy

And before reading The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling I had seen some scathing reviews of her story of life in Pagford, a fictional small town in the West Country where the death of Barry Fairweather, a liberally minded local councillor, creates a casual vacancy on the Parish Council.

According to The Sunday Times the book is "devoid of originality and grip and a sad exchange for the colourful inventiveness and spellbinding flair of the Harry Potter novels", while The Daily Mail in a baffling and near hysterical outburst condemns the book as "500 pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature". Even members of the Sikh community have joined in by condemning her portrayal of a young female Sikh, including a description of her as "moustachioed yet large mammaried", as an insult to their religion and community.

It is the complaints from the Sikh community which are particularly unwarranted and potentially the most damaging. Sukhinder Jawanda, the teenage daughter of Vikram, a hospital surgeon, and his wife Parminder, a GP and local councillor, is described as "the great hermaphrodite" and "the hairy man-woman" but the words are those of Fats Price, a white schoolboy bully and an internet troll who bombards Sukhinder's Facebook page with posts about hirsute woman. By contrast her father, a hospital surgeon, is "the most gorgeous man in Pagford" and her elder sister is "the cleverest girl in the six form" with "an aura of being aware, to the last hard-on, of her own attractions". Use of the phrase "to the last hard-on" might be regarded as unfortunate English but it is certainly not an offence directed at the Sikh community.

I believe that those Sikhs who have taken exception to the book are being over-sensitive and unfair to the author. A full reading reveals that nearly all the main characters have flaws in either personality or physical appearance. One of the achievements of the book is to create characters who, with a few exceptions, remain engaging despite their human flaws.

Howard Mollison, the leader of the council, is grossly overweight and probably, we are told, unable to see or wash his own penis; he takes advantage of his rival's death to pursue his aim of transferring the dilapidated and crime ridden estate on the edge of Pagford to the larger district council, and with little sympathy or time for local drug addicts he is determined to close down the local addiction clinic. And yet despite his blinkered and selfish political views and despite his unwashed penis, he is unfailingly courteous and charming and even employs the three teenage children of his bitter political rivals in his newly opened cafe.

Krystal Weedon is a 16 year old schoolgirl who lives with her drug addicted mother. She is violent towards other pupils and shouts racist abuse at Sukhinder Jawanda but she is also desperately trying to wean her mother off heroin while looking after her three year old brother, and despite her obvious flaws becomes one of the heroes of the book.

The Sunday Times compares The Casual Vacancy unfavourably with the Harry Potter novels but a better and more relevant comparison would be with nineteenth century writers like Anthony Trollope whose Barsetshire novels included similar commentary on political, social, and gender issues. And like Trollope it is Rowling's ability to create a wide range of interesting characters which engages the reader and drives the narrative forward.

The book does have some irritating features; while the middle class characters of conservative Pagford speak in standard English, those from the estate speak with a strangulated, garbled patois in which, for example, "No, he can do it!" becomes "Nah, 'e can doot". And "to the last hard-on" is only one of the several unusual phrases adopted by Rowling. But these are comparatively small matters.

The Casual Vacancy may have received a mauling from an array of critics but do be put you off, for despite its occasionally raw subject matter, it is both an entertaining and enjoyable novel, and a lively and interesting social commentary.

Damian O'Neill

Bronze

13 September 2012 by Nicky

Forget gold, silver and think Bronze - the title of the new exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Arts…a landmark show that celebrates the remarkable historical, geographical and stylistic range of this enduring medium. See outstanding works from the earliest times to the present day, spanning 5000 years. It features over 150 of the finest bronzes from Asia, Africa and Europe - many of which have never been seen in the U.K.

Molly Price-Owen is enthralled by it.

Bronze1

You should be prepared to almost faint

at some of the exhibits from 14th century BCE to the present day. Different sections focus on the Human Figure, Animals, Groups, Objects, Reliefs, Gods, and so on. It's arranged thematically so there's often a dialogue between antiquity and modern works: for instance, an Etruscan votive figure, (2nd C. BCE) beautiful in its simplicity, seems to have a conversation with Giacometti's 'The Cage' (1950). Other such juxtapositions take place throughout the rooms which make you gasp with wonder and delight.

Huge statues tower above you also, breath-taking in their craftsmanship: the detail on the folds of their robes, their faces, the curls of their hair and beards, which almost seem to blow softly - this is where a viewer sighed with amazement and nearly swooned. For these 3 men are Rustici's monumental ensemble of St John the Baptist preaching to a Levite and a Pharisee (1506-11) that for nearly 500 years was set above the north door of the Florence Baptistry. This is only one of the examples of Renaissance works.

19th Century to today include exhibits by Rodin, Matisse, Brancusi (whose deft brilliance stops you in your tracks) Picasso, Bourgeois, Moore, Hepworth and many more.

But among the earliest pieces is the 14th C BCE bronze and gold 'Chariot of the Sun' found in Denmark - a horse and chariot with a big ornate disc, representing the sun, behind it.

Other ancient arts comprise Chinese ritual vessels, Tibetan arts, Indian bronzes, African heads and Bronze2animals - and the masterpiece of Etruscan art, the 'Chimera of Arezzo' (c. BCE).

Many of these arts are so old you can hardly credit they still exist - yet here they are for us to see and believe and know they enrich our lives. Forget Gold Go Bronze.

Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2012

20 June 2012 by Nicky

by Molly Price-Owen

If you're longing for a cornucopia of pictures adorning the walls and sculptures on the tables and floors then the Royal Academy is the place to be. When artworks higgledy piggledy jostle for position, then beat a path to the Royal Academy of Arts.

The Summer Exhibition, now in its 244th year, continues the tradition of showcasing work by both emerging and established artists in all media including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, architecture and film. Over 11,000 entries were received this year, with more than 1,400 being accepted and now displayed.

It's the world's largest open submission contemporary art show, with submissions from all over the planet.

You either absorb it with relish and delight, or view it with doubt and derision. The array is, frankly, breath-taking.

Chris Wilkinson, RA, (Royal Academician) has designed an engaging structure for the courtyard: "From landscape to Portrait" twists a series of eleven wooden frames through ninety degrees which incorporates innovative seating for visitors.

Inside, this year firstly pays homage to Matisse's "The Red Studio". The chief concern of this gallery is colour, so it's filled with works full of vibrancy and bright brilliant hues to delight the eye. To see pictures by Philip Sutton, Frank Bowling, Bernard Dunstan and the late John Hoyland is uplifting.

Gallery III, the grandest space usually given over to large canvases, this year houses a quantity of smaller paintings, all jockeying for position and your attention. One of the problems, though, is it's so packed with works (over 550) you can't give each of them your full attention. The art to which I was particularly drawn was mostly by RA established members - Maurice Cockrill, Anthony Whishaw, Bernard Dunstan, for example. But there's stuff here like  lines of pegs painted different colours, or nails on a board their heads painted in various colours and many others which give rise to such bafflement one wonders why they were selected for the hang.   That said, other works like "IBM Thinkpad", "Songbirds", "News" and "Shades of Sunset" are worth a second look.

Two rooms are given over to sculpture: the first one shows a dialogue between photographs of buildings and balsawood models - a nourishing view. The second room has a frustrating display of small pieces which demonstrate little merit or originality… a hotch-potch of material… there I met a well-known critic, who's renowned for his candour and has no hesitation in not mincing his words: The show? "Contemptible" he said "I find it all contemptible… this (gallery) is like a jumble show at a village fete". Or a white elephant stall in a bazaar.

So take your pick when you go there, enjoy the work of today's artists; you might pick up a work by an emerging talent, - the majority are for sale - and in years to come perhaps you'll own one of the most sought-after pieces by one of the most revered artists of the future.

The Summer exhibition continues at the Royal Academy in London until 12th August. Click here for more information

God's Triangle - Ian Richardson

15 May 2012 by Nicky

by Mike Popham

God's Triangle is a fascinating account by a former BBC journalist of a missionary marriage in the early part of the twentieth century that went mysteriously and scandalously wrong. The triangle of the title refers to three Australians - the Rev Frank Paice, the author's great aunt Florence Cox, known to her family as Florrie, and one of their bridesmaids, Olga Johnston.

In October 1912, Frank Paice sailed from Melbourne to become a Baptist missionary in India. He had recently become engaged to Florrie, then aged 24 and 'unusually tall for a woman in that era - about six feet'. It was two years before Florrie was finally able to join her fiance in Calcutta and, although their wedding took place soon after, the marriage failed within 5 years, leading to one of the most unusual divorce cases of its time.

Ian Richardson's interest in all this was aroused one day in Melbourne in 1997 when he happened to be going through some old family photographs with his widowed mother. They came upon a picture of a family group taken, they estimated, just before the Great War.

His mother 'dismissively identified' one of the three women in the group as 'oh, that's just Aunt Florrie'.

What particularly aroused Richardson's journalistic curiosity was his mother's reluctant admission that the reason the family didn't talk about Aunt Florrie was because of the failure of her marriage and the scandal that, she claimed, had resulted. She added that Florrie had died many years later in a Melbourne mental home.

God's Triangle largely consists of transcripts from Richardson's diary as he travels to Calcutta and Bangladesh, trawls through the records of the Baptist Foreign Mission, and writes persistently to the Freedom of Information office in Melbourne with various requests, painstakingly trying to fit what he calls the pieces of the jigsaw together.

In the course of his research, Richardson discovers Paul, Frank's son by Olga, whom he married after his divorce from Florrie. Although Paul tells Richardson he knew his father had been married before, he was surprised to learn that his father had once been a missionary in India.

Subsequently, Richardson discovers that, though the divorce hearing between Frank and Florrie had been held in public, and that, contrary to what his mother had said, there had been no press reporting of the case in the Melbourne press, the court had ruled that the papers in the case were never to be released.

Richardson puts this down to pressure from the Baptist Church and possibly the Freemasons.

In his dogged, determined way, and with the important moral support of Paul Paice, Richardson gradually wears down the legal authorities in the Victorian Supreme Court. Eventually his persistence is rewarded. To reveal why the marriage between Frank and Florrie did break down would be a serious spoiler. But Richardson's uncovering of the real reason for the divorce more than makes up for the inevitably one-dimensional depictions of the characters of Frank, Florrie and Olga. After all, Richardson never met them, and as the only witness to the triangle of the book's title was a centenarian who died in Brisbane during the course of his research, Richardson's ambition to make a film from his material should make the main characters come to life once more - on celluloid at least.

http://godstriangle.com/

David Hockney - A Bigger Picture

18 January 2012 by Nicky

DAVID HOCKNEY: A Bigger Picture

by Molly Price-Owen

See 'A Bigger Picture', gasp and prepared to be overwhelmed. The bright, brilliant colours,  the vibrancy and vivacity of the vivid images jump out from the walls of  the main galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts.  Spell-binding  and mesmerising.

This is no retrospective, which pleases Hockney enormously.

Almost  all the rooms are filled with recent work by the 74-year-old artist; much of it made within the past four years, a good deal in the past twelve months, although a few earlier pieces are included to provided context - for example the cool images of Californian life and Yosemite National Park, or the searingly hot pictures of the Grand Canyon, from the mid-60s (continues)

Hockney

David  Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture

21 January 2012 to 9 April 2012

Key. 153.01

David Hockney

The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 © David Hockney

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Just as Hockney revolutionised photographic  art with his awesome montages - hundreds of pictures overlapping each other to form one huge image - so he has transformed  landscape art.

Landscapes, Nature predominate: the artist wants us to see the bigger picture, both of the countryside around us and literally with the scale of the works on show. He brings us closer to the subjects, drawing us into the picture. Concerned with what Van Gogh called 'the infinity of nature' his recent work depicts a corner of Yorkshire that he examines with the same obsession as Monet with Giverny.

One gigantic picture covers the biggest wall in the gallery and measures a staggering 365.8x975.4 cm. 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate in 2011' is the centrepiece. (Woldgate being a road in the country outside Bridlington, East Yorks).  He evokes the 'floating feeling' of early Spring when the first leaves appear. The vegetation seems to move and grow with waves of energy in stunning greens, reds, purples and yellows.

A red path in the centre invites us into the wood to experience Spring, walk through the early flowers, then touch and smell the trees beyond. It's almost palpable, the effect is almost 3D.

This invitation is extended to many of his works - 'Come in, take a closer, a bigger look at Nature's grand performance and display'.  There are tunnels, roads and paths to explore with delight.

Hockney, born in Bradford, visited his late mother and sister who lived in Bridlington. After decades spent in California, he felt the pull of the countryside of his youth, so he made this seaside town his home.

This main room also comprises a sequence of 51 iPad drawings, but when Hockney agreed to do the exhibition, in 2007, the iPad didn't exist. The precursor was his iPhone and he began to draw on it with his thumb, using various Apps. He drew flowers every day, and then sent them to friends who were fortunate enough received fresh Hockney  blooms  daily! Then when the iPad was launched, Hockney moved to this larger tablet computer and pursued his production of digitally- aided drawings. He found its speed and versatility exciting and envigorating. He printed them out on a larger scale, and now they hang in the gallery. An excoriating delight for the vision, and many made especially for this exhibition.

In this wealth of Landscapes Hockney is making discoveries, boldly moving into territory nobody has explored before, and they express his love affair with the English countryside.

Another huge painting, 'Winter Timber' depicts the horizontal and vertical together: felled yellow and orange tree trunks appear to form part of the path leading us to the horizon, while the vertical trees form the corridor up which we are beckoned.  Again the colours burst with luminous intensity.

Sketchbooks and iPads are also on view, and a fascinating video film, where the artist set up nine cameras to film concurrently a walk through various landscapes: the result is eighteen moving pictures luring us into the woods, to persuade us to stroll along these enchanting wonderlands. This exhilarating  exhibition shows how Hockney has 're-landscaped' Landscape art:  It is an exuberance of colour, form, size but above all passion; a visionary experience (in both senses of the word), and highly arresting.

It should stop you in your tracks.

The exhibition runs at The Royal Academy in London from 21st January - 9th April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAVID HOCKNEY: A Bigger Picture

See 'A Bigger Picture', gasp and prepared to be overwhelmed. The bright, brilliant colours, the vibrancy and vivacity of the vivid images jump out from the walls of the main galleries of the Royal Academy of Arts. Spell-binding and mesmerising.

This is no retrospective, which pleases Hockney enormously.

Almost all the rooms are filled with recent work by the 74-year-old artist; much of it made within the past four years, a good deal in the past twelve months, although a few earlier pieces are included to provided context - for example the cool images of Californian life and Yosemite National Park, or the searingly hot pictures of the Grand Canyon, from the mid-60s.

Just as Hockney revolutionised photographic art with his awesome montages - hundreds of pictures overlapping each other to form one huge image - so he has transformed landscape art.

Landscapes, Nature predominate: the artist wants us to see the bigger picture, both of the countryside around us and literally with the scale of the works on show. He brings us closer to the subjects, drawing us into the picture. Concerned with what Van Gogh called 'the infinity of nature' his recent work depicts a corner of Yorkshire that he examines with the same obsession as Monet with Giverny.

One gigantic picture covers the biggest wall in the gallery and measures a staggering 365.8x975.4 cm. 'The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate in 2011' is the centrepiece. (Woldgate being a road in the country outside Bridlington, East Yorks). He evokes the 'floating feeling' of early Spring when the first leaves appear. The vegetation seems to move and grow with waves of energy in stunning greens, reds, purples and yellows.

A red path in the centre invites us into the wood to experience Spring, walk through the early flowers, then touch and smell the trees beyond. It's almost palpable, the effect is almost 3D.

This invitation is extended to many of his works - 'Come in, take a closer, a bigger look at Nature's grand performance and display'. There are tunnels, roads and paths to explore with delight.

Hockney, born in Bradford, visited his late mother and sister who lived in Bridlington. After decades spent in California, he felt the pull of the countryside of his youth, so he made this seaside town his home.

This main room also comprises a sequence of 51 iPad drawings, but when Hockney agreed to do the exhibition, in 2007, the iPad didn't exist. The precursor was his iPhone and he began to draw on it with his thumb, using various Apps. He drew flowers every day, and then sent them to friends who were fortunate enough received fresh Hockney blooms daily! Then when the iPad was launched, Hockney moved to this larger tablet computer and pursued his production of digitally- aided drawings. He found its speed and versatility exciting and envigorating. He printed them out on a larger scale, and now they hang in the gallery. An excoriating delight for the vision, and many made especially for this exhibition.

In this wealth of Landscapes Hockney is making discoveries, boldly moving into territory nobody has explored before, and they express his love affair with the English countryside.

Another huge painting, 'Winter Timber' depicts the horizontal and vertical together: felled yellow and orange tree trunks appear to form part of the path leading us to the horizon, while the vertical trees form the corridor up which we are beckoned. Again the colours burst with luminous intensity.

Sketchbooks and iPads are also on view, and a fascinating video film, where the artist set up nine cameras to film concurrently a walk through various landscapes: the result is eighteen moving pictures luring us into the woods, to persuade us to stroll along these enchanting wonderlands. This exhilarating exhibition shows how Hockney has 're-landscaped' Landscape art: It is an exuberance of colour, form, size but above all passion; a visionary experience (in both senses of the word), and highly arresting.

It should stop you in your tracks.

(the exhibition runs from 21st January - 9th April)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal Academy of Arts Exhibition Programme 2012

23 December 2011 by Nicky

ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS EXHIBITON PROGRAMME 2012

By Molly Price-Owen

It's going to be a busy year in 2012. Apart from the Olympics, we have the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and Charles Dickens is 200 years old. And the Royal Academy of Arts is looking forward to a cracking year with exciting new exhibitions on the horizon.

January, the Academy will present the first major exhibition in the U.K. to showcase David Hockney's landscape work; vivid paintings inspired by Yorkshire landscape, many large in scale and created specifically for the exhibition will be shown alongside related drawings, films and ipad drawings. Through a selection of around 200 works spanning fifty years  this display will be placed in the context of Hockney's extended exploration of and fascination with landscape.

In March the Academy will constitute a radical re-evaluation of the life and work of Johan Zoffany… not perhaps the best known of artists in the U.K., although, being born in Frankfurt (1733) he moved to London and adapted to the indigenous art and culture.

The exhibition will feature oil paintings and a selection of drawings, a number of which have been rarely or never exhibited before.

The famous annual Summer exhibition takes place in June - the world's  largest open art show.  It showcases work by both emerging and established artists in all media.

In July, Collectors Sterling and Francine Clark will loan 72 works : 'A TASTE FOR IMPRESSIONISM' . This comprises 72 exhibits, including 35 Renoirs, masterpieces by Manet, Monet, Pisarro, Degas among others.

'BRONZE'

comes in September: 150  global pieces from antiquity to modern day will be shown in a thematic arrangement. It will be totally cross culture ranging from

Asia, Africa and Europe: the medieval period offers rare survivals and the Renaissance too, in works of Donatello, Cellini among others.

Works by Rodin, Picasso, Giacometti, Moore will also be on display.

No such cross-cultural exhibition on this scale has ever been attempted.

 

 

How was it for You??

25 November 2011 by Nicky

It's a curious experience enjoying a book on Kindle - I've had mine for a number of months now and have read several books. Friends, acquaintances even strangers on the train ask what I think. "How is it?" they ask and  I have to say.."excellent" and if I don't mind accepting the invite to discuss I add "…but sometimes irritating".

 

I'm fortunate enough at the moment to be deep into working on a bicentenary radio programme for the BBC about Charles Dickens. So I'm happily enjoying Claire Tomalin's excellent new biography of the great Victorian novelist. HOWEVER I'm now 57% through and I'm getting an overwhelming feeling that I'm nearly finished.  I THINK that the remainder of the e-book is filled with photographs and footnotes etc Why don't I know? Well with Kindle the one thing I'm useless at is browsing. Once I've lost my place it can takes ages to get back to where I was.

 

So whereas the hardback reader will be able to gaze at contemporary images of Dickens as a young man, at Catherine his wife (I'm guessing now) I won't see these until I get there. It's bit like reading a manuscript except you can't look at any of the other pages before you actually get there. It's great for concentrating because there are simply no distractions.

 

But of course an e-book has one huge advantage. Its size. As I write I'm travelling on a train hurtling towards Exeter for a couple of interviews. So here is the enormous advantage - I'm pretty laden with recording gear not to mention overnight stuff and a change of clothes. My Kindle is safely tucked into my handbag and as soon as I finish this - I'll bring it out and enjoy finishing this highly recommended biography.

 

So yes, a Kindle is wonderful but it can be irritating. They need to sort out an internal light. You can't read in the dark without a torch just like an ordinary book and the speech to text voice is worse than Stephen Hawking. But I don't think publishers will abandon hard or paperbacks. You can't put an e-book on your book shelf and you certainly don't get the pleasure of lending one.


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