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Seasonal Readings

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This is the time of year when I get most of my reading done. I think few pleasures beat snuggling up with some hot chocolate, a hottie, and a good book. Turn off your TV & read instead! Or just get some ideas for gift-giving. Here are some of my classics for the winter months…

Ghost Stories of M.R. James (UK | US)
No winter can go by without a few ghost stories, and M.R. James is my most favouritest ghost story writer. His stories are understated, and often not fully resolved, as I think is only proper for a ghost story. Some of them are also amazingly simple, but once you read one, you just can’t get enough! If you can find the old BFI films of ‘A Warning to the Curious’ and ‘Whistle and I’ll Come to You’, they’ll make perfect Christmas entertainment too.

In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu (UK | US)
Le Fanu is M.R. James’s literary predecessor. His stories tend to be longer, but still as uncanny. I particularly recommend ‘Carmilla’.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (UK | US)
The classic sensationalist novel. This is a brilliant page-turner. I think The Woman in White has the best villain, and The Moonstone has the best detective.

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (UK | US)
If you’re into Victorian sensational fiction, this is another one for you. I don’t know why it isn’t better known. There’s a film with Stephen Mackintosh too, but I’ve never been able to get hold of it.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (UK | US)
I haven’t actually read the book, but the film was wonderfully terrifying, full of fog and apparitions. If you can get hold of it, I highly recommend watching it on Christmas Eve. Otherwise, I’m sure the book is quite as excellently chilling (if not more so).

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (UK | US)
My favourite books in the world. Ever. I’m completely potty about this trilogy. I re-read the books every winter, and listen to the audiobooks whenever I can’t sleep, or need a bit of comforting. The unabridged audiobooks narrated by Philip Pullman are perfect, but don’t bother with the Radio 4 adaptation.

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (UK | US)
I’ve just started this book, though it’s been on my reading list for years. Admittedly, my interest in this is greatly stoked by my obsession with HDM, but it’s a seminal work on the Arctic, and an engaging piece of nature writing in itself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list. Leave your own recommendations in the comments if you like! :)

16th November, 2009  // Literature // tags: , , , .

Pen & Penelope

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Every morning for the last four five weeks I’ve woken up with the best intentions. I would write a blog post. A blog post of such searing erudition and delight that every knitter who read it would never more see knitting in the same way. A blog post of such hilarity that there would be knitters everywhere giggling at the most inopportune moments of daily work, causing chaos in traffic and disrupting important meetings. Every day I’ve been blindsided by trivialities such as driving lessons, dentist appointments, gardening, a trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, several inspirational TED Talks, guitar playing, the snooker, bright shiny objects, impromptu cinema visits, too many good books, etc, etc. Which only compounds my belief that it’s the small, insidious, day-to-day things that you need to watch out for, and be on your guard against. And now here I am, writing this rather humble, vaguely uninteresting post… But thank you to all you lovely readers who wrote to inquire after my absence; it was entirely unintentional!

Penelope & the Suitors by John William Waterhouse

When I haven’t been very blatantly procrastinating, I’ve been a bit like Penelope (excepting the suitors, oh and the weaving), knitting by day and undoing it all by night. I’ve been pretty patient about it though, and I presumptuously attribute this to the fact that I am now no longer a “beginner”. Ripping out huge chunks of knitting, or knitting an enormous swatch just because you don’t feel like stopping – these are not actions that non-knitters or “persons who knit”, seem to understand. They stare at me in horror when I tell them it’s all got to go. All that lovely work! So I’ve taken to ripping alone and unseen, because I’m a little bored with explaining… “No really, it’s OK. It’ll save me work in the future. Besides, this is one of the best things about knitting!” I secretly suspect that Penelope loved the process of weaving as much as she loved Odysseus, or why would she hit on such a solution?

As to why my knitting wasn’t working out… It was really amazingly simple, when I stopped trying to do it the wrong way. Fortunately, Rowan Scottish Tweed is a hardy yarn that doesn’t mind a good deal of frogging and re-knitting. It’s also very rustic & well-suited to keeping warm in the country. I’m testing it right now. :)

country knitting

country knitting

country knitting

I took some shots today and the pattern should be up soon. It will be a perfect present for gentlemen (or ladies) for whom you can’t easily find gifts. If you can guess what it is, you can get a free copy! ;)

November is a busy month. There’s National Novel Writing Month, for a start. Writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is a feat I’ve accomplished twice before. It’s utterly mad, and utterly fun; you must join if only to receive the pep talks from Chris Baty & other famous authors. And if you do, don’t forget to add me as your writing buddy! Also in November is the illustrious WoollyWormhead’s Mystery Beret. How exciting! I think these two challenges will complement each other perfectly, and help me forget about the increasing gloom of winter…

28th October, 2009  // Life, Writing // tags: , , , .

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