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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

My brief encounter with a famous love story...even better than Booker?

Here comes the  Man Booker longlist again.  With an eclectic list of  authors  from around the world, it's refreshing to see that  three out of the thirteen on the list are debut novelists, and more than half of them are women. All these novelists have the freedom to write about what's closest to their hearts - something that would not have been possible in pre-war Britain.

This week I visited Carnforth Railway Station in Lancashire where Noel Coward's legendary Brief Encounter was filmed in 1945. This  film was based on a one-act play entitled Still Life, written in 1936, which tells us more about forbidden love than anything else produced at the time.

The  story follows a brief illicit affair between two married people, an affair that is doomed from the beginning. Particularly poignant is the widely-held belief that Coward was writing about his own homosexuality in a world where he, too, was unable to love freely.The choice of Rachmaninoff's  Piano Concerto No 2 to evoke these sentiments was, to my mind, an act of genius.

In an article on the Noel Coward Foundation website it says, 'Can many of us go through a lifetime without meeting someone and feeling a spark of recognition that we shouldn't, an attraction that goes beyond the physical? What a terrible world it would be if our emotions and psyches were amputated at the altar (of marriage.) Heavy stuff. 

The screenplay itself covers less than seventy pages. Which proves, as always that  content (quality)is far more important than quantity.  In the current Booker shortlist Colm Toibin's The Testament of Mary is a mere 112 pages, as opposed to Richard House's 912-page tome The Kills.  I wonder if that's an omen? We shall have to wait and see.

The shortlist will be announced by September 10 and the winner declared on October 15.

From the refreshment room at Carnforth Station - the fictional Milford Junction with
Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson


   The pre-war luggage still sits on the station platform




Monday, 15 July 2013

One flew over the Cuckoo's nest - or did it?

The Cuckoo's Calling received unprecedented praise from readers and other crime novelists
The Cuckoo's Calling by - er - JK Rowling?
Congratulations to Orion's fiction editor Kate Mills  for admitting she turned down 'Robert Galbraith's' debut novel The Cuckoo's Calling. So she rejected the world's best selling author?  Well, good for her, I say, for having the  courage to admit it.
In a world of 'it wasn't me, Sir honest' when no-one seems to take responsibility for their actions, I found her confession quite refreshing.

One of my favourite examples of 'missing the genius' has to be the publisher whose rejection of George Orwell's Animal Farm  stated 'Animal stories don't sell in the USA.'

And then there's William Golding's original manuscript for Lord of the Flies.  An editor had attached a note to the top of the work stating  'This man will never make a writer.'

But back to the present. In the current 'Bookseller', a reviewer rates Julie Cohen's Dear Thing  'a cut above The Cuckoo's Calling.'  I've met Julie several times and she's one of those successful novelists who, as a tutor of creative writing, always encourages writers to follow their dream.

'It's a story that's close to my heart for so many reasons' she says on her website. 'I hope it touches you, too.'


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Summer has arrived (so have the silly headlines!)

'Smirking Svengali who'll make Murray a mint,' says a headline in today's Daily Mail doing its best to make us all groan. It refers, of course, to Murray's manager Simon Fuller whose aim is  to fill the star's coffers along with his own. But then there's something about Wimbledon that always seems to bring out the silliest headlines.

My favourite of all time dates back to 1987 when Pat Cash played Czechoslovakian Ivan Lendl in the men's singles' final. Czech v Cash wrote one clever sub who must have been waiting for that opportunity for years...  Incidentally Lendl, the former world No 1, joined Team Murray 18 months ago to 'head  the coaching operation,'  so he should be smiling all the way to the bank, too.

Football is another sport that has gained its share of clever headlines. Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious - is probably the Sun's most famous one from the year 2000.  Reporter Rodger Baillee wrote the story about Celtic's unfortunate defeat but we never got to know who penned those immortal words.

As for cricket - to my mind the best headline came from Mile Selvey in  the Guardian back in 2006 - True love comes from bowling a maiden over. How right he was.

And finally we come to rugby - Mike Tindall seems capable of making his own headlines without help from anyone.  But today he gave us the news we've all been waiting for; he and Zara Phillips are expecting a 'sub heading' of their own.  Congratulations to them both.  I bet the Sun's writers are having a (rugby) ball... 


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Anyone for tennis? (Or a haircut?)

  Once again Wimbledon has burst into our lives with tumultuous  tennis, the odd tantrum and, er, one or two very important haircuts.  If you are a Times reader, then haircuts are just as important as who's beating whom on the centre court, or so it would seem....

In an article by Lucy Bannerman  in today's edition we  learn that Suzanne Strong, the championship's official hairdresser for the last 30 years, has her money on Novak Djokovic. The World No 1, says Suzanne, has booked in for his second haircut in as many days, 'which may prompt anyone to read requests for a trim, like leaves in a teacup, to conclude that the Serbian star is preparing for a long week of photo opportunities.' Oh yes, obviously.

I would tell you a bit more of what Ms Bannerman has to say but she seems to be doing a very good job of padding out the story, in a desperate attempt to fill the page, without any help from me.

Ok - so here's a snippet: Women don't come in as regularly as the men - and female players stick to either very long or very short hair. Ah, that makes a lot of sense.  You would have your hair long or short wouldn't you?  Sorry, now where was I? Oh yes, the tennis.

Sorry, did you hear me yawn?  I forgot to add that Suzanne has cut Laura Robson's hair but never Serena or Venus Williams'...

Oh, I do miss being a journalist. I'd forgotten how much fun it was.