one-off at the wrist

Archive for the tag “literature”


I am always amazed by what you can pick up for a song if you keep your eyes open. Today my local library was flogging books for 20p each. I picked up about a dozen books, some to go for children at school, some no doubt to read they pass on, and a couple to definitely keep.


One is Quentin Blake’s Clown from 1996. I have loved his work since I first saw it as a child [either illustrating Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or an Agaton Sax adventure]. This is a wordless gem about a thrown away toy.



Brilliant work by Dave McKean. Storytelling for grown ups. Painters and poets and jazz musicians and mad men and kings and cats. McKean is a long-time collaborator with Neil Gaiman on The Sandman series. This huge 500 page brick of a graphic novel is much more ‘illustration’ than his usual cut up/collage/photo/drawing style, which nicely highlights his drawing skills.

finnegans wake illustrated

Looking like a wonderful book. All books of substance should be made this way. I wonder what is considered the most beautiful book ever made? Presumably a medieval handwritten and illuminated or a later hand printed and bound tome? I’d guess that any such book would have to [by our modern day standards] seem closer to an artwork/artist’s book?


hazy autumnal sun

Pouring down with rain outside and I’m minded of the smoky protective tint scrolling down the windows in Tyrell’s apartment in Blade Runner, Tetragrammaton Cleric John Preston peeling away the obscurificating window film to see his city for the first time through emotioned eyes in Equilibrium, Bob Shaw’s slow glass in Light of Other Days.


words on a blackboard

Probably for the third time in my life I am ‘going through’ the dictionary. Or rather I started doing so some time ago but the ‘project’ has lapsed. Naturally I mean a particular dictionary [different ones each time over the past years] and that does not equate to the whole English language; neither as it currently stands documented nor as it currently is in practice [a new word is added to our lexicon every ? days]. The process is simply; mark a word so far unknown and mark words that I have forgotten.


Having ‘accumulated’ several dictionaries over the past few months, dating back to the 1940s, it is fascinating to note words that have ceased to be in usage whilst arguably still being extant [is it possible to ‘uninvent’ or ‘decoin’ a word?]

Apparently there are now well over a million words in the English language [not including a vast number of specialist scientific words], though most of us know only around 50,000 and [unless we are Will Self] use less than 35,000 in everyday speech [I think in this age of ‘word poverty’ for most this is probably too high an estimate?]

My attention was refocussed to the endeavour today by the discovery of one of those little silica gel [I’ve always thought that would make a great name for a band] packets in a box, with the word Desiccant written on the side. Realising that I should/do know what that means but that the definition had momentarily escaped me, I remembered the dictionary marking ‘exercise’.

Words I particularly like are those whose definitions are modified nouns, as in Serendipity ~fortunate happenstance or Melancholy ~ beautiful sadness. Certainly given a cat’s nine lives I would happily give one over completely to the investigation of WORDS. And not just to become a world Scrabble champ.

Must get back to those daily words. At 50 words a day it will only take another 50 years. Remembering them is another matter though. I’ll have to use a blackboard.

Robert Walser

Unknowability. “I’m not here to write. I’m here to be mad.” Robert Walser.

Precision and eccentricity. The unexpected word. The micro-climatology of the sentence.


Snow White

As a lover of everything ‘fairy tale’, I am enjoying the slightly surreal and somewhat macabre images of young photographer Rebecca Heskey.


So the girl picks a rose; pricks her finger on the thorn; bleeds; screams; falls.

Angela Carter, The Snow Child


charles burns

So the last in Charles Burns’ trilogy is out. Can’t wait to see how it concludes; though I heard it is not a happy happy joy joy feeling ending. Great. A really interesting KCRW Bookworm ‘radio’ interview with the man here, just after the second book came out, explaining some of his motivations.

ss cb



So half way through my mission to read all of Anne Sexton’s poetry [all ten poetry collections], three weeks and counting. I must admit it would have been certainly ‘revolutionary’ at the time; 1960s height of the women’s rights movement, beginning of acceptance of autobiographical poetry, especially of ‘domestic’ everyday narratives, of female sexuality, of mental illness. But otherwise?

For me there is a lack of ‘poetic turn’. By which I mean interesting phrases/imagery that I find necessary for successful poetry [rather than volta]. I do not find ‘insight’ alone to be enough. Insight alone belongs better to other disciplines; philosophy perhaps?

As is my wont, I am mining the works for those instances that do inspire.

… the moving dead still talk
of pushing their bones against the thrust
of cure.

fugitive pieces

I’m sure if it had been PR’ed as a ‘Jewish Holocaust’ story many would not have bothered with it [I have to admit, myself included] which would have been a huge shame. I had, to be honest, assumed from the opening that the story was going to be more of a metaphysical, magic realist narrative.  Whilst I am rather disappointed it wasn’t I am glad I continued with it after the first section.

Time is a blind guide.
Bog-boy, I surfaced into the miry streets of the drowned city. For over a thousand years, only fish wandered Biskupin’s wooden sidewalks. Houses, built to face the sun, were flooded by the silty gloom of the Gasawka River. Gardens grew luxurious in subaqueous silence; lilies, rushes, stinkweed.

I: The Drowned City [excerpt]

The language is just scrumptious, like only a poet could construct? Lots of interesting historical facts; not just about ‘history’/WWII, but also about poetry/music/archaeology, etc.

I haven’t seen the 2007 movie based on the book, which I think I’ll give a miss, as sure to be ‘the story’, which whilst interesting is not the point of interest at all.

Noises never heard before, torn from my father’s mouth. Then silence. My mother had been sewing a button on my shirt. She kept her buttons in a chipped saucer. I heard the rim of the saucer in circles on the floor. I heard the spray of buttons, little white teeth.


Strangely enough having now read a couple of Anne Michaels’ poems, I find they don’t have the same weight. So for any that argue there is no difference between prose poetry and poetic prose, I’m afraid you are just plain wrong. Perhaps the difference is one of ‘voice’? That strange inflection that poets use when they read their works, which puts poetry closer to song then reportage. Perhaps it is a matter of expectation? You don’t expect prose to be lyrical, so rejoice when it is, but you do expect poetry to be lyrical so despair when it isn’t?

Perhaps only poets and scientists/reporters can tell good tales? The lyrical and the ‘straight’.

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