Review: Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

Posted 11 April, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 4 Comments

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing
By: Diana Wynne Jones
Format/Source: Hardback; my copy

Diana Wynne Jones is best-known for her novels and stories – of magical fantasy – written mainly for children. She received a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, as well as two Mythopoeic Awards and the Guardian Fiction Award for Charmed Life. But she was also a witty, entertaining speaker, a popular guest at science fiction and fantasy conventions and an engaged, scholarly critic of writing that interested her.

This collection of more than twenty-five papers, chosen by Diana herself, includes fascinating literary criticism (such as a study of narrative structure in The Lord of the Rings and a ringing endorsement of the value of learning Anglo Saxon) alongside autobiographical anecdotes about reading tours (including an account of her famous travel jinx), revelations about the origins of her books, and thoughts in general about the life of an author and the value of writing. The longest autobiographical piece, ‘Something About the Author’, details Diana’s extraordinary childhood and is illustrated with family photographs. Reflections is essential reading for anyone interested in Diana’s works, fantasy or creative writing.

The collection features a foreword by Neil Gaiman and an introduction and interview by Charlie Butler, a respected expert on fantasy writing.

As you know, I love her book Howl’s Moving Castle (review). I’ve been meaning to read more of her books, but I also really wanted to read this book and learn more about her approach to writing. So I was delighted when I found a copy at the bookstore months ago and snatched it up immediately.

I don’t know how much I can say about this book. Reflections: On the Magic of Writing is a fantastic collection of lecture notes, essays, and letters from Diana Wynne Jones about writing, about her books, about historical narratives, and about her life. It’s a fascinating look at the author herself as well as, more importantly, her approach to her writing and about writing in itself. It’s quite illuminating, and encouraging in a way, and writers I think will find this book incredly useful in the little gems she talks about when it comes to writing. The pieces written by others–Neil Gaiman, Charlie Butler, and her sons–were also very interesting pieces about the author and the impact of her works. My favourites pieces in this collection were “The Shape and Narrative in The Lord of the Rings“, “Two Kinds of Writing?” (especially interesting), “The Value of Learning Anglo-Saxon”, A Talk About Rules”, “Some Hints on Writing”, “Freedom to Write”, and “Characterization: Advice for Young Writers.”

There’s not much else I can say about this book except that it was an interesting one and that I learned a lot about Diana Wynne Jones the writer and the person. Fans of the author’s works as well as writers will want to check out this book!

Rating: ★★★★★

Visit the author’s official website || Order the book from the Book Depository

Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 10 April, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

a.k.a the poetry edition! In retrospect I realised I could’ve strung a few of my poetry book reviews in a mini-review post, but anyway…The following are a whole slew of poetry books I read towards the end of 2016 (and just in time for National Poetry Month 😛 ). Included in this batch are:

If There Is Something to Desire
By: Vera Pavlova
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

I broke your heart. / Now barefoot I tread / on shards.

Such is the elegant simplicity—a whole poem in ten words, vibrating with image and emotion—of the best-selling Russian poet Vera Pavlova. The one hundred poems in this book, her first full-length volume in English, all have the same salty immediacy, as if spoken by a woman who feels that, as the title poem concludes, “If there was nothing to regret, / there was nothing to desire.”

Pavlova’s economy and directness make her delightfully accessible to us in all of the widely ranging topics she covers here: love, both sexual and the love that reaches beyond sex; motherhood; the memories of childhood that continue to feed us; our lives as passionate souls abroad in the world and the fullness of experience that entails. Expertly translated by her husband, Steven Seymour, Pavlova’s poems are highly disciplined miniatures, exhorting us without hesitation: “Enough painkilling, heal. / Enough cajoling, command.”

It is a great pleasure to discover a new Russian poet—one who storms our hearts with pure talent and a seemingly effortless gift for shaping poems.

I had been eyeing this collection of poems for some time, partly because of the book cover; it’s a great choice of title for the collection as well as poem featured as it is one of my favourites *thumbs up* Anyway, this is her first collection translated into English, which is pretty cool, and I enjoyed this collection from start to finish. Her poems are pretty short in general but the topics her poems cover are quite the range: love, sex, family, memory, motherhood, life. There’s nothing else I can really say about this collection except that I highly recommend it if you’re into poetry and/or are looking to read poems in translation 🙂

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: Samarkand

Posted 7 April, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

By: Kate Clanchy
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Few first collections in recent years have made the impact of Kate Clanchy’s award-winning Slattern, which gained her a reputation as a poet of great immediacy and wit. In this new book her range is extended dramatically. Samarkand is both a darker and a more sunlit collection than its predecessor. Inside, the reader will find surreal elegies; love poems of every humour; grim episodes from colonial history and meditations on home and distance as well as some practical advice on having sex with angels – all delivered with the effortless musicality of phrase and formal panache that are fast becoming Clanchy’s trademarks.

I purchased this book the same time I had picked up her Selected Poems (review) as I had read a few poems from here and found them interesting enough to just pick up the whole book. It arrived a little later than Selected Poems in the post so by the time I read this book I had already read a few of the poems it contained but I was nonetheless excited.

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Review: Selected Poems

Posted 6 April, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Selected Poems
By: Kate Clanchy
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Kate Clanchy’s poems are much broadcast, translated and anthologised. This Selected Poems draws together her three prize-winning collections, Slattern, Samarkand, and Newborn, published between 1996 and 2004. These are poems about men and boys, school and home, the foreign and the familiar, and the grand adventure of parenthood, but above all about love in all its forms, gathered together in a single volume. This volume is a perfect introduction to a witty, lyrical and truly accessible poet; and for long-term fans, an integrated and satisfying assembly of Clanchy’s very best work.

I first encountered Kate Clanchy’s poetry in an anthology collection of love poems (“Patagonia”). It took a second read for me to really notice the poem, actually, and it left me wondering why I didn’t notice it in the first place, it lingered in a longing and beautiful way. Since then I had been meaning to check out her collected works and just more of her poetry. I’ve been on a poetry sort of mood over the summer that I decided to check out a few of her books 🙂

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Review: Cat Town

Posted 5 April, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

Cat Town
By: Sakutaro Hagiwara, Hiroaki Sato (Translation)
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Sakutaro Hagiwara remains a singular figure in modern Japanese poetry. His experimentation with traditional forms led to his becoming the most significant pioneer of free-style verse in Japan. Hagiwara’s first book of poetry, Howling at the Moon, astonished readers and was an immediate success—two poems were deleted on order of the Ministry of the Interior for “disturbing social customs.” Hagiwara blends everyday colloquialisms with literary language to remarkable and unsettling effect. Through meditations on mundane images of nature like dogs, bamboo, grass, turtles, eggs, seedlings, frogs, and clams, his poetry palpably conveyed the “modern malaise.” Hagiwara expanded on “an invalid’s” perception of the world in his second book of poems, The Blue Cat. Both of his major published books are included here in full, along with a substantial selection of poems and prose poems from his other collections and a complete translation of Cat Town, a prose-poem roman. These works wholly transformed the poetic landscape in Japan for all future generations. Award-winning translator Hiroaki Sato, called by Gary Snyder “the finest translator of contemporary Japanese poetry into American English,” has also written an insightful introduction to this edition.

In an effort to expand my in translation reads and reading poetry from other countries, I picked up this title from the bookstore a few months back. The cover, of course, was quite welcoming (kudos btw to the NYRB for releasing this series of poets from various countries; Osip Mandelstam’s Voronezh Notebooks (review) was another from the series that I picked up), and the few poems I read whilst in the bookstore was intriguing, different.

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