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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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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 Goodwin's 'Lord of the Horizons', about the Ottoman…
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Christopher Fowler
Posted in
Reading & Writing
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 after-dinner speaker. Occasionally (and I suspect it's when he is…
14 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
Reading & Writing
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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 written mythologies, Victoriana, crime and magical realism, but publishers are unable to mention…
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Christopher Fowler
Posted in
Reading & Writing
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 me there is now a new generation of young Americans who do not read at all. UK figures show a startling drop…
17 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
Reading & Writing
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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 of church bells, which in the virtually silent rural Britain of yesteryear…
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Christopher Fowler
Posted in
Reading & Writing
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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. I couldn't blame him - I know this was good business sense but the technique doesn't work because readers are smarter than authors and…
30 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
Reading & Writing
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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. Except one can and usually does. Because Victoriana is nowhere as easy to…
27 comments
Christopher Fowler
Posted in
Reading & Writing
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Once we had an image of the Victorian lady author, a person of gentility and slender means, seated at her escritoire quietly at work on a sensation-novel. It was a job opportunity open to those who did not become tutors or lady's companions, the spinsters' choice. Well, it turns out things haven't moved that far on. The Guardian reports that writing is once more in danger of becoming an elitist…
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Christopher Fowler
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Reading & Writing
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He does have his own style, though, and it's hilarious. There are authors you avoid because you just know you're not going to get along with them. EL James, the well known erotic typist, is one. Joan Collins fought (and won) in court to prove that her delivered book was not 'unreadable', on which she's technically correct in that it consists of readable words placed in front of each other - check…
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Christopher Fowler
Posted in
Reading & Writing
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A far cry from the world of Wodehouse, perhaps, but written in the same spirit, are Maggie Armitage's weekly text messages to me. Here are a few from this week. Be thankful you're getting the short versions. I like to think of her writing in the same vein as EM Delafield's 'Diary of a Provincial Lady' - 'Diary of an Urban Lady', perhaps. Hello luv I am back from fire alert at UCH (University…
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