Reading & Writing

Bryant & May Go Mad & Take Me With Them

And so to our most recent batch of readers’ comments on where to send Bryant & May next. (This still makes me think of my mother saying ‘I think you’ve mined out that particular seam, dear,’ after volume 5). Monuments; When the British build a monument, they first have dinner inside it, cf. Crystal Palace, […]

Kicking Christie

Into this fan frenzy steps muggins… Yesterday I was on a panel at London’s literary crime festival in the Grand Connaught Hotel (as featured in Sherlock Holmes stories), discussing her with four aficionados; her being Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE, 1890-1976, known for 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. The panel, […]

They Don’t Get Out Much

Some authors treat public events as pyramid-selling sessions In yesterday’s Comments section, Ian Luck possibly overestimates the ‘incestuous circles’ in which writers move. In my experience very few of us even speak to each other. It’s true that there are a small handful of writers who make up for their woefully inadequate books by glad-handing […]

Popular Prose And The Public

I have always been fascinated with the physical acts of reading books. It’s something we don’t much discuss. Critics often seem to regard ‘readability’ as a bad thing, something to sneer at, but what is wrong with wanting to communicate clearly? Popular non-fiction can become academic and abstruse, littered with notes and references. But Jason […]

A Response To Giles Coren

Last week the TV presenter and feature writer Giles Coren wrote a column in the Sunday Times complaining about the awful pretentiousness of authors who thank others in their acknowledgments. Now, Mr Coren is a highly personable, light-hearted writer who takes after his genial father Alan, whom I’d seen and heard many times as an […]

To Say Nothing Of The Dog

I thought it was time I revived the old ‘Invisible Ink’ column here with some more of the forgotten authors that failed to make it into the Book of Forgotten Authors. Some authors vanish in plain sight, recalled by their most successful work, which comes to define an entire career. A friend of mine has […]

Your Attention Please: The Battle For Readership

My pal Porl just bought his first Kindle and thinks of it as ‘succumbing’ – I say read by any means necessary. Of the various devices above, I can theoretically read on all except one – but I don’t. Books and a Kindle are enough. Reading is declining in general. A teacher from Seattle tells […]

Nursery Rhymes: Not For Children?

You’ll guess I’m researching again when you read this. Most nursery rhymes have a reason for their existence. They didn’t simply appear. Some are based on the sing-song two-note repetitive motion of rocking a baby, like ‘Cry Baby Bunting’. There are rarely words used with more than two syllables, and some are based on peels […]

The Battle For Readers

  The battle is to get someone to read the book. I was once on a panel seated next to a very amiable New Yorker who stacked his books in front of him as if building a sturdy store display. In every answer he gave, he inserted a lengthy sales pitch for his new book. […]

Why Victorian Tales Aren’t As Easy As They Look

You know the drill; a hansom cab clatters down a foggy cobbled street, a man in a cloak runs through the dusk-dimmed East End, someone screams bloody murder…pretty much anyone can write a basic Victorian story, so well established are the tropes. Watch an episode of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and copy it, you can’t go wrong. […]