I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve. Two things are coming up in 2012. The first is the February “WRITE YOUR MEMOIRS” course which is advertised on the home page at the moment. The second is starting in March. It is a creative writing competition and the winner will get whatever funds are in ‘the bucket’. The Bucket Literary Prize may grow to be a serious competition – who knows …. but for now it is just to fun. Tell your friends about it. It is open to anyone and I’ll post the ‘rules’ in late February.
Gyles Brandreth, Oscar Wilde and the Nest of Vipers, London: John Murray: 2010. The fourth in the Oscar Wilde series, Gyles Brandreth takes us on a journey driven by Oscar’s curiousity, genius and web of influential friends. An unsatisfactorily explained death – in this case the untimely death of the young Duchess of Albemarle – sparks the quest. The author’s father knew the writer and Wilde biographer, Robert Sherard, in the 1930s; his teacher at school in the 1960s was Wilde’s friend; and, Merlin Holland, Oscar’s only grandson, is an acquaintance. Based on these close connections and thorough research, Gyles Brandreth sits Arthur Conan Doyle, Dram Stoker, Sarah Bernhardt and the Prince of Wales down to breakfast to discuss their evening in the cemetery chasing vampires, and insists in the Afterword that it all really happened! He is so successful in recreating this late Victorian romantic coterie that I catch myself thinking that I must remember to tell … and realizing that it’s Brandreth’s Oscar that I’m thinking about. It’s entertaining and plausable and full of Wilde wit.♫♫♫
You’ll all be looking for books to read over the holidays so don’t forget to pop into my book reviews, listed in Recommended reading. All these books are in the local library (well, they will be when I return them) and they are all wonderful. Happy Reading.
- Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants. North Carolina : Algonquin Books, 2006. It’s a love story set in the Great Depression, but the passion between college boy Jacob (played by Robert Pattinson in the 2011 movie of the book) and Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), takes place amongst a cast of dwarves, fat ladies, clowns and roustabouts who bring Benzini Brothers Circus to country America. The setting, the animals, the history of this sub-strata world aboard a privately owned circus train are completely enthralling. Reviewers are calling it a big-hearted novel and the heart which beats the hardest belongs to Rosie, an elephant who is both mistreated and adored.♫♫♫
- Sebastian Barry, A long long way, London Faber, 2005. Willie Dunne leaves Dublin in 1914 to fight for the King. Barry’s writing style is redolent of Ella Fitzgerald’s singing — the poetry in his prose bounces the story along in the same matter-of-fact style and somehow, huge horrible themes sweep past us and we are never permitted to wallow. The political tension which festers back in Willie’s hometown, the detailed description of the Irish troops’ exposure to mustard gas, the awful treachery which leads to Willie losing his beloved Gretta, stay long after the novel is finished. I don’t think anyone writes better than Sebastian Barry.♫♫♫♫
- Robert Service, Trotsky. A Biography, Pan, 2010. I was a bit surprised when I finished reading Service’s well written and superbly researched biography at how much I didn’t know about this major twentieth century intellectual. I really only knew the history of Trotsky, the communist and Bolshevik but, after he fled the Soviet Union, he became an internationally renowned and admired public intellectual. His commentary was published in newspapers throughout the world. That’s who he was when he was murdered by Stalin’s hitman in Mexico and that’s why news of his death dominated the world press for a very long time. This is a powerful, moving and engrossing biography of a massively influential man.♫♫♫♫
Santa Claus’s adventure on Mount Everest this year.
On Mount Everest, this year, we saw puny trees, white snow, dark space and brown rocks and we had fifteen people. Five were looking down and ten were looking up. The Queen of England was up at Mount Everest too. She was wearing yellow, pink and purple. No offence but I think she looks about ninety-four or ninety-five years old. That’s younger than me.
“What’s that big bang, Santa Claus? said the Queen.
“I’m trying to make pigs into fairies,” I said.
“I thought we were doing scientific experiments on atoms!” she said.
“No, that’s boring. I’m doing this new thing now, making pigs into fairies”.
And it worked. There were twenty-five fairies trying to find food on Mount Everest.
The Next Best Present
By Ingrid Cliff
The Christmas lights danced on the face of the sleeping man, highlighting furrows of age and smudges of sorrow.
This was his first year without his wife … it seemed longer. Ginger always bought the presents, wrapped them with a beautiful bow, and laughed her tinkling laugh at protestations that he didn’t need anything. This year there were no presents … and no laughter.
A tear slid from his eye while he slept. Santa gently wiped it away. “Old friend,” he thought. “I wish I could bring her back, but there are some presents even I can’t deliver”.
The next morning, as I bustled around the room, waking the old man, I discovered a beautifully wrapped present under his Christmas tree. “Open it”, I said.
He gently undid the bow and peeled back the wrapping paper. As he ran his fingers over the blanket, the colour of chestnuts, he said softly to himself, “I always said her hair was softer than cashmere and her hugs warmer than the warmest blanket”.
I wrapped the blanket around his thin shoulders, enveloping him in its warmth. And I swear I heard tinkling laughter as he quietly stroked the cashmere.
The mighty Lawson and Terrafin save Christmas.
Once upon a time in the north pole far, far away, lived Santa plus Lawson and his pet skylander, Terrafin. As Christmas eve is here and Santa is packing his sleigh, Lawson and Terrafin hop in the sleigh just in case anything goes wrong. They set off to give presents to good children. Oh no! The sleigh has run out of gas. Bang! “Oh, no! What a nightmare!” thought Santa. Christmas is ruined! No it’s not. The mighty Lawson and Terrafin can travel across the world giving presents to good children. Terrafin can dig though Earth’s core so it will allow us to travel faster. So they brought gifts to everyone and all was restored for Christmas morning.
Lady Gaga’s Revenge.
At six o’clock on Tuesday morning last week, after I had a long sleep, Santa and Lady Gaga flew to Finland with me so that all three of us could have fun in the sparkling snow. Lady Gaga, who wore pink and purple clothes and had green sparkly hair, sang cheeky songs all the way to Finland while I ate cheese happily and Santa stayed sound asleep. When we got off the plane Lady Gaga threw snow at me and Santa but we thrashed her when Santa chucked a big snowball right at her face at high speed and her make-up melted away. She was so upset that during her concert that night, while she was sitting on Santa’s knee on stage, she embarrassed him by singing a naughty song about him.