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William Simmonds: Court Barn Museum

… exquisite animals and one astonishing angel …

wood mouse william simmonds arts and crafts

The Court Barn Museum’s current exhibition displays an array of Arts and Crafts delights from William Simmonds including a number of extraordinary wood carvings which contemporary critics likened to Japanese Netsuke: smooth, polished, small images of nature including a wren encased in a box of furled leaves, a crouching group of leverets and this dormouse (above). This very personal exhibition includes Continue reading “William Simmonds: Court Barn Museum”

The Ghost A Cultural History : Susan Owens

Yesterday I listened enthralled as Susan gave a talk at the Chipping Campden Literature Festival about the book.

Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

… a fascinating book to curl up with … 

ghost supernatural spooks halloweenThe Ghost is a thoroughly fascinating book which traces the development of ghosts from warnings from the afterlife, through escapees from purgatory and then the devil’s playthings and finally to delicious, terrifying entertainment purely from the imagination.

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Thornhill : Pam Smy

Congratulations to Pam Smy – Thornhill has been nominated for The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2018. This is the only British prize to solely reward children’s book illustration.

Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

… perfectly paced and other worldly …

halloween ghost thornhill

This is a perfectly paced ghost story about a girl living next to a derelict orphanage.

Pam Smy carefully weaves together the stories of two girls in a beguiling mix of diary and illustration. The ghost, Mary, writes heartbreaking entries of her bleak childhood in the diary which is discovered years later by the lonely Ella, whose story is told entirely through unscripted illustrations. With no narrator to help, we are left to piece together the gaps in each story.

Pam then intersperses the diary entries and cartoon narrative with heavy black pages to represent sleep. The cumulative effect of these blanks, combined with the silent illustrations, recreates the detachedness of a lonely childhood and gives the reader delightful pause to think about and guess (deliciously) what might happen next.

The whole effect is intriguing, creepy and otherworldly by turn and builds to…

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A Christmas Carol : RSC

… sparkling classic woven with biographical context …

rsc christmas scrooge

What another version of Christmas Carol!? Yes, I thought that too. Except David Edgar‘s adaptation playfully weaves Dickens’ personal story and his drive for social reform between the familiar scenes. This adds a thoughtful depth and texture to this feelgood Christmas musical.

As the Evening Standard‘s reviewer wrote : ‘David Edgar’s politically charged new version, feels both plausibly Victorian and sharply relevant.’

With an excellent performance from Phil Davis as Ebenezer Scrooge and some great supporting actors including as John Hodgkinson as a most generous Mr Fezziwig and Brigid Zengeni as the bountiful Christmas Present, the production is a great success.

christmas fezziwig theatre

For more information, visit the theatre’s website here.

 

 

Argh : where’s your red pen?

I don’t post a review of every book I read.  Why?  I am not a professional reviewer so I’m not obliged to file copy;  and because this site is about celebrating good books not criticising the three stars and below.  However, if anyone is interested, here are the top five faults which stop me recommending a novel I have read or have attempted to read.

  1. Indulgent world building.  It’s like sitting next to an enthusiastic bore. I love your world.  Really I do.  I just don’t need that much of it, thank you.  I want the story.  And my own space to imagine and have fun on my own.  Go away.
  2. Jumping Po470acd1c55ec9b862106a42efd5ea110int of View.  You want me to get travel sickness?  Just jerk me from character to character.  In the same scene.  In the same chapter.  It’s like pinball.  Where’s your empathy?  Try reading it as if it were your first time.
  3. Too many adverbs, she added menacingly.  Stop putting your dirty, annoying, nudge-nudge paw prints all over my reading experience.  Trust your writing will suggest more than the words written on the page.
  4. And here we come to Point Four in my List of Things That Irritate My Reading Experience just in case you haven’t guessed and need it spelt out,  Exposition.  Take out as much as explanation as you dare.  I can work out what’s going on from the merest trace.  I’m a social animal, I’m trained to pick up nuances and hints, and as I am reading a book, it’s what I am expecting to have to do!  It’s fun.  Don’t do it for me.
  5. Getting from scene to scene.  Real life has lots of boring bits.  Yadda Yadda Yadda.  Do not write those bits in.  Think very carefully about including anything that isn’t the main story.  Cut to the chase and signpost it clearly.  If you want the reader to pause or set off in another trajectory, put in two or three sentences of well crafted place description, back story or exposition as a springboard.  Boing!  And off we go again.

Reading back over these points, it is obvious that good writing is like good architecture.  It stands up; there’s nothing extraneous; and you walk through marvelling at its simplicity and inherent rightness … without seeing a hint of any plans or scaffolding.

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