Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Man Booker Prize longlist announced

Some longlisted titles for the Man Booker Prize 2009

The longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2009 was announced today and contains 13 titles with authors ranging from previous winners A.S. Byatt and J.M. Coetzee to three Irish authors - Colm Toibin, William Trevor and first-time novelist Ed O'Loughlin.

The panel of judges includes Sue Perkins, Michael Prodger, John Mullen, Lucasta Miller and is chaired by James Naughtie. They have until 8 September to whittle the list down to the shortlist before announcing the winner on 6 October.

I am really excited by this list as it is so varied in theme and represents a broad range of literary style. It is my intention to read the longlist in time for the announcement on 6 October. I would like to run to the same timetable as the judges but I think faffing around will get in the way of me reading the list before 8 September. Wish me luck. I will start with Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall which I have heard so many good things about.

The Booker website is running a competition to win the new Vintage Booker collection which includes the following titles:

Amsterdam Ian McEwan
Disgrace J.M. Coetzee
How Late it Ws, How Late it Was James Kelman
Midnight's Children Salman Rushdie
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha Roddy Doyle
Possession A.S. Byatt
The Famished Road Ben Okri
The Gathering Anne Enright
The Sea, The Sea Iris Murdoch

These titles with their beautiful new jackets will be published in August. The competition closes on 1 August so good luck!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Bloomsbury at the V&A

Tile Panel by Vanessa Bell, 1926

The Victoria and Albert Museum is a Bloomsbury treasure trove. On display in the 20th Century Galleries are the above tile panel, a stove by Duncan Grant and an Omega chair. The V&A has a huge collection of Bloomsbury and Omega objects, many of which are on display in the current exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery. Sadly, the majority of the collection is not on display but can be looked at online in the V&A's search the collection site.

The V&A is my favourite museum as it focuses on art and design and its collections range from Jewellery to Fashion, Sculpture to Ceramics and, my favourite, it is the home of the National Art Library. The V&A has a fantastic book collection and is a great place to go to find out more relating to the history and design of the book. The collection ranges from Medieval manuscipts to modern fine bindings and includes the following Book of Verse by William Morris.

Book of Verse, William Morris, 1870

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Persephone Reading Week Challenge

Persephone Books Reading Week
Exciting news for all Persephone Books fans!! Paperback Reader and The B Files have joined forces and have initiated a Persephone Reading Challenge. The designated reading week commences on 24 August 2009 and the rules of the challenge are simply to enjoy reading books published by Persephone Books - whether one or ten it does not matter.
I am looking forward to reading The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher and re-reading some of Dorothy Whipple's fabulous novels. I also recommend Joanna Canaan's Princes in the Land.
Let me know how you get on!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The sale of a literary landmark

Godrevy Island, Cornwall

The beach that is said to have been featured in Virginia Woolf's seminal novel To the Lighthouse has been sold for £80,000. Upper Towans beach in Cornwall is located opposite Godrevy Island upon which sits the inspiring lighthouse.

Happily the new owner will not alter the beach in any way and it will remain accessible for all to enjoy.

Read more about the sale.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

An old Sussex custom

Horn Fair, 25 July 2008

On St James's Day every year (25 July) the small Sussex village of Ebernoe holds Horn Fair. A centuries old custom, the fair is a celebration which takes place on the village common and a main feature is the cricket match between Ebernoe and a local village. At the end of the day, the highest scoring batsman is presented with a set of horns as a trophy - traditionally taken from a sheep which has been roasting throughout the day on a spit in the corner of the common.

Over the centuries the fair has moved with the times - waltzers, burger vans and bumper cars are all present but many traditions have held fast. The Horn Fair song is one such tradition and is sung around the cricket pavilion once the match is over and the horns have been presented.

The Horn Fair Song

As I was a-walking one fine summer morn',
So soft was the wind and the waves of the corn,
I met a pretty dansel upon a grey mare,
And she was a-rinding along to Horn Fair.

'Now take me up behind you, fair maid, for to ride!'
'Oh no, and then oh no, for my Mammy she would chide!
And then my dear old daddy would beat me full sore!
And never let me ride on his grey mare no more!'

'If you would see Horn Fair, you must walk on your way,
I will not let you ride on my grey mare today,
You'd rumple all my muslin and uncurl my hair,
And leave me all distressed to be seen at Horn Fair'.

'Oh fairest of damsels, how can you say no?
With you I intend to Horn Fair for to go.
We'll join the best of company when we do get there,
With horns on their heads boys, the finest at the fair'.

They are the finest horns you ever did behold,
They are the finest horns and are gilded with gold.
So merrily, right merrily, to Horn Fair we did go,
A jolly brisk couple boys, and all in a row.

Ebernoe Horn Fair epitomises the stereotype of a quirky English rural custom, this is realised through the symbolism of the horns - the bawdy association with cuckoldry resonates with a time when there were many horn fairs across England, which were boisterous occasions and widespread seduction was then part of the horn fair tradition. The Horn Fair song completes this picture with its suggestiveness of sexual pursuit, seduction and horn associated euphemisms.

Horn Fair in the 21st century is upholding an element of rustic sexual flavour with the annual 'Dip the Lady' competition - you need to witness this first hand; just think, young women, bikinis and wet t-shirts - for the ladies the odd cricketer takes part (usually fully clothed). For the more faint-hearted - there are the traditional skittles, children's sports, hot air balloons taking off and the all important tea tent. The sheep roast sandwiches with mint sauce cannot be rivalled.

The fair is a reassuring sign that these rural customs are continuing, are still being upheld and enjoyed by younger generations and will, doubtless, continue for many generations to come.