Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Museum of Reading

A Museum of Reading

I’ve just finished Orhan Pamuk’s novel, The Museum of Innocence. No slim volume this…


I’ve been wanting to read it since I went to his exhibition at Somerset House. It was an exhibition of a collection of objects that became a physical manifestation of the novel.


Because this is a novel about the power of objects. And maybe how sometimes we can recreate our world through the objects that remind us of a world we might have been happier in. Objects can freeze time, after all, or transport us back or even forward to another time. Here’s the book of his museum of The Museum of Innocence.


So here is my own museum of my time reading The Museum of Innocence. First of all, and as you’ll see from the first picture, this isn’t a book that lightly fits into a handbag, so here are the views I could see from the different places at home where I read the book:

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Here’s the spot I finished the book, and decided to do this blog post.


This is some of the fuel I needed to read the book.


This is the squeaky gate that provided the soundtrack to the last few pages.


I planted these sweet pea seeds at the exact same time I started the book, here they are at the finish.


Here’s a lily I watched fade as I read the book. (I wish I’d taken a picture of its beauty at the start.)


But then again, here is the blossom on the apple trees. There was none when I started.


And here’s all the ironing I haven’t done as I read this book.


But at least I didn’t burn the house down.


And here’s my next book.


I was excited to see the name of the translator of The Museum of Innocence, Maureen Freely, because when I was living in Edinburgh with very small children, another mother pushed a book into my hands saying I had to read it. THIS IS US, she said. And at the time it really was. All those issues about being a mother and a feminist that weren’t being spoken about at all then, and yet here was someone actually talking about what we were going through. We loved Maureen Freely because she allowed us to start discussions for ourselves too, and so it was a pleasure to get her book down from the shelves. Now I’ll read it again and do a bit of time travel back to that time when there were times I just couldn’t see a way forward.

Btw, here’s an interesting piece by Maureen Freely about translating. In it she says this: ‘For me, it makes a welcome change from my old life, when I mainly looked after number one, wasting acres of times fretting about bylines and book sales and column inches.’ I hope by some chance she reads this, and so knows that in her ‘old life’, there were also very definitely people she helped through her words, and that her book is part of my own museum of life.


Wise Words, Happiness and Baggage

Wise Words, Happiness and Baggage

A strange mix of three things there, but let’s unpack…

First the baggage. Or Baggage, which is the name of a wonderful book Victoria Field has written about walking the pilgrimage route of the Camino. The baggage is the ‘stuff’ we take with us everywhere – regrets, hopes, memories, and in this case, a recent if amicable divorce. During the walk, she addresses her ex-husband and her own dreams for the marriage, ending with the realisation that the pilgrimage (and maybe life) has to be an act of faith not hope.
baggage launchThat sounds a bit po-faced and personal maybe, but luckily Victoria has the skill to make it work so as I read on, it became my story just as much as hers. I defy anyone to read the book and not want to take their own pilgrimage. It’s beautifully written too, I underlined so many phrases, that when I interviewed Victoria as part of her launch in Canterbury on Monday, I was in danger of quoting her whole book back at her, which is probably why she looks a bit scared here.


But how about this line which feels central to the book ‘ ‘Memory lanes walked so often they are deep channels in the landscape,’ and therefore now impossible to see over. Or this one, ‘I need to understand what happened between us, to find a story or to create a story out of the journey we made together.’

It’s funny too. Highly recommended AND Clive, her publisher from Francis Boutle Publishers, works out of a two storey treehouse… I know!

Secondly, there is Wise Words. This festival in Canterbury is so close to my heart, and strangely filled with the same sense of wonder as Vicky’s book. I got to run a day’s retreat there yesterday … in a yurt … in the middle of a secret garden … with Fiona from the Poetry Exchange … and a wonderful group of writers.

More beauty  needed? Here you are, some memories from the retreat… sometimes teaching creative writing is the biggest privilege – and the most fun – there is!




Virginia Woolf v Leo Tolstoy

Virginia Woolf v Leo Tolstoy

We’ve all wondered, haven’t we, who would come out trumps in a game of cards between our favourite literary figures. Or maybe we’re interested in speed – is Beatrix Potter faster than Marcel Proust…

So don’t fear… my favourite Shedworker is at hand to help out.

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Alex Johnson, aka The Blog on the Bookshelf, has come up with a Literary Trumps game which is just the thing for reading adults. As he says:

Trumps is one of the most popular card games in the world. In the past though, it has been limited to classic cars challenging each other over the tightest ‘Turning circle’, or making footballers go head to head in categories such as ‘International appearances’.

Literary Trumps takes a more writerly approach to the Trumps concept. So instead of deliberating over whether a Heinkel He 177 A-3 heavy bomber has a higher ‘Ceiling Altitude’ than a Spitfire Mk. XIV interceptor, you can now pit Leo Tolstoy against Maya Angelou, Mark Twain against Aphra Benn, Beatrix Potter against Jack Kerouac.

Only trouble is we need to fund it before we can play it. I have, so if you do too, I’m very happy to challenge you to a game. Or two. Details by clicking the box below….