Sunday, 27 November 2016

walks and cycle rides, end of term, how to write like tolstoy, composer of the week, bill evans, sounds and sweet airs, british folk-tales, nell whittaker

Some lovely walks and cycle rides, despite it being so overcast much of the time.

Last Saturday morning was frosty, so I decided to go for a walk. The time I came off the bike a few years back, when it was icy, flashed into my mind, as it always does when I'm faced with such decisions. The photos above were taken during the walk - though please note that the spire of Bampton church is still in reality as straight as it appear in Downton Abbey. Not sure why it has such a lean on it in these pics.

It's almost the end of Oxford full term, which is, as always, hard to believe at this time of year. We were at the beginning of August and suddenly it's nearly Christmas.

About to order How to Write Like Tolstoy: A journey into the minds of our greatest writers by Richard Cohen. According to Claire Lowdon's review in the Sunday Times, it makes widespread mention of EM Forster's Aspects of the Novel, James Wood's How Fiction Works and David Lodge's The Art of Fiction - books I recommend to my students - so perhaps this will be another creative writing must. Claire Lowdon describes the book as 'a glorious patchwork of quotation and anecdote'. Continuing, 'It is a true commonplace book, the homage of a passionate reader to the writers who have provided his "main pastime" and "shaped [his] moral world".' I'm sure many book lovers will agree with the ideas of reading being their main pastime and of books shaping their moral world. The work also sounds like a great source of writing facts - Tolstoy's wife Sophia copying out seven drafts of War and Peace by hand, for example.

Love, as always, Radio 3's Composer of the Week programme - especially, this year, the series on Meredith Monk and Vaughan Williams (VW being an all-time favourite composer and also someone who lived at Leith Hill, which was at one time owned by one of my ancestors). Though what was a particular revelation and delight was the week before last's series on Bill Evans. Sublime music. Gorgeous jazz! I'd never hear of him before but what a fascinating life story alongside his works - tragic but utterly human. And this juxtaposition of life story and music is Composer of the Week's great duet! Yet where is the Bill Evans podcast, Radio 3!

Talking of music, I thoroughly enjoyed attending Anna Beer's talk at the Kellogg College Creative Writing Centre event on Thursday - not to mention the Kellogg Thanksgiving guest night dinner afterwards. I will be getting a copy of her latest book, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.

Yesterday, I bought a copy of British Folk-Tales and Legends: A sampler by Katharine Briggs. An idea for a project there. Also bought Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, which I've never read, and which will be part of my Christmas reading.

So excited to learn yesterday that J's goddaughter, Nell Whittaker, has won the Telegraph's 2016 Cassandra Jardine Memorial Prize!

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