An awakened influence

An awakened influence

Charlotte Bronte describes the spirit of writing when it flows. This happens to me occasionally, and I’ve noticed you can’t wait for it before writing. It comes of its own volition but only once you start. It also makes you wonder if writers are as much...
The magic of great stories

The magic of great stories

Coming from a superb storyteller, this comment on the secret of the Great Stories is refreshing and insightful. It has long fascinated me how some of the best literature can grip you even though you know the ending – think of Jane Eyre or other Bronte...
All the details of the tree

All the details of the tree

A fine injunction to a writer, first to face truth and then to give unhidden all the details. Neither is easy.   ‘Face truth, wrapped in a puzzle. … You’ll tell Your tale in writing?  Make sure that you give Unhidden, all the details of the...
Portrait of a writer

Portrait of a writer

Iris Origo (1902-88) was an English writer who grew up in Italy and married an Italian. Together they bought and renovated an estate in Tuscany, La Foce, also creating a vast and beautiful garden which can still be visited. In addition, Iris wrote a number of books,...
China through Chinese literature

China through Chinese literature

Glad to highlight a new audiobook company dedicated to bringing modern Chinese fiction to a wider audience through new and sensitive recordings of English translations.Silk Gauze Audio allows you to get to know key Chinese authors and their works, also providing...
Forgetting and forgetfulness

Forgetting and forgetfulness

I like this questioning of cause versus effect in the writing – and reading – of novels.  Does writing and reading them compel us to remember, or is it our inability to forget which compels us to read and write them? Some novels allow us to forget...
A poet’s prayer

A poet’s prayer

In fact, a prayer for any writer. Having just read John Drury’s marvelous appreciation of George Herbert’s life and his vivifying skills of poetry, I am more conscious than usual of the need for such fortifying.  Drury’s Music at Midnight is, among...
The perfect spot, finally

The perfect spot, finally

From the multiple versions described by his wife, it seems it took many years and experiments for John Steinbeck to settle on the perfect writing space.  And in the end, he simply built it himself, with the help of a local carpenter. In homage to the name he gave to...
Writing on wheels

Writing on wheels

Another in a series of accounts by John Steinbeck’s wife, Elaine, of his perpetual search for the perfect writing space. This bright idea came of his frustration at one point of a writing room which had no sound insulation and therefore no privacy. But his...
Of centuries and cows

Of centuries and cows

These quirky comments by Steinbeck charmed me – first his reaction to the first room he chose to work in, and then his decision to move elsewhere on the old property they rented near Glastonbury. ‘We lived in an ancient cottage that was listed in the...
Of boats and books

Of boats and books

Another example of Steinbeck’s search for a perfect writing spot, in different houses, places, times of his life, as described by his wife.  She never entered these spaces without being invited, which on occasion led to some surprises.This is a writing room high...
All you need is love

All you need is love

Another description by Steinbeck’s widow of yet another of his writing spaces, which comprised mostly rooms but some other curious places.  Here a ‘room of one’s own’ is complemented by pervasive love. ‘Now I am married to Elaine and in...
Pencil and paper

Pencil and paper

Steinbeck wrote with pencil on the ubiquitous American yellow pad. Computers and word-processing came too late for him, and so I was curious about his wife’s assumption that while he would have liked and mastered them, he’d probably have stuck with...
When did you begin?

When did you begin?

Recently I read an old penny-paperback of The Grapes of Wrath.  I was about three-quarters of the way through when I left it on a plane – I hope someone picked it up and read it.  So I bought another copy of the same edition as it had a foreword by...

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