My Father’s Guru : Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson


Jeffrey Masson’s father’s guru PB Brunton, known in the family as PB, unlike Sri  Ramakrishna, was not given to ecstatic fits or animal possession. A small neat man with a pointed beard he inspired the devotion of Masson’s father Jacques and his uncle Bernard without performing any spectacular feats. Continue reading My Father’s Guru : Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Heather Rose : nothing bad ever happens here

Believing and belonging occupy a great deal of human life. What to believe? How to belong? All of it is a mystery that we fill with stories.

Heather Rose’s memoir nothing bad ever happens here is her attempt to tease out the stories that make sense of her life. A Tasmanian, and author of seven books, but best known for her prize-winning novel about  Marina Abramovic, The Museum of Modern Love, she has also run a successful advertising agency and raised three children while writing her books. Hers is a life of hard work and a relentless search for meaning and spirit. Continue reading Heather Rose : nothing bad ever happens here

Mary Ellen

My grandmother treadled the sewing machine

singing Irish songs and laying down the law

on subjects such as children drinking tea. 

It would be the black blood we would have.

From her I have such words as “skerrick”,

“smashed to smithereens”. When our mantlepiece fell down

she loaded up the marble chunks, and wheeled

the tipping barrow like a man. At ninety four

she marched along the tramtracks in her nightie

among the yawning street girls. 

To the polite young policeman offering a lift

“The only lift I’ll be getting is a lift under the ear!” 

From Ireland to the wheatfields by way of Curry’s pub

still the Junoesque girl behind the bar

keeping men at bay with the whips of her words.

Paul Griffiths : The Tilted Cup : Noh Stories

Sometimes one can be in the mood for a slender beautiful book, with short poetic stories and evocative illustrations. The adult version of a fairy tale really. And where better to find this than in the Cahiers Series published in Sylph Editions by the American University in Paris. The twenty-three volumes in this series have authors ranging from Muriel Spark to Anne Carson, from Lydia Davis to Simon Leys, with titles like Notes from the Hall of Uselessness to Nay Rather. For my first choice in this series, I chose volume twenty-two, The Tilted Cup by Paul Griffiths Continue reading Paul Griffiths : The Tilted Cup : Noh Stories

Stig Abell : Death Under a Little Sky

The path meanders east, and Jake pauses again for breath, and to rest his aching arms. In the last half hour evening has truly come, the shadows are long, the air settling into the cool of the night, the breeze dropping down to a decorous whisper.

Jake Jackson, a burned-out policeman whose marriage has run out of steam is on his way to claim the inheritance his Uncle Arthur has left him. He is suffering from the trauma of many years of police work and the sadness of a marriage where the inability to have children has dried up his emotional life. The bequest comes at a good time for him. His uncle has left sufficient funds so that he need not work, and a large house full of music and detective novels into which he can retreat. The fact that Little Sky is in an out of the way place suits him very well. He needs peace and time.

Soon Jake is wild swimming, taking a daily cold plunge. There is no bathroom in his house. He also starts running, working his land, doing boxing training. In spite of his rigorous attempts at self-improvement, he is often assailed by doubt and despair. Soon, however, he meets a young woman, the local vet (she makes her rounds by bicycle) and develops other preoccupations. When will he see her next? How can he develop a friendship with a woman who has a young daughter?

With the finding of a bag of bones, things become even more complicated, and Jake has deep concerns as to whether he is leading Livia (the vet) and her daughter into danger.

This book is labelled as Jake Jackson number 1, and the author has a three-book contract with Harper Collins, so he will live to fight another day.

I do like a good self-improvement book and Jake tells us about his ventures into cooking and exercise. He does a great deal of walking and reflecting on the nature of the countryside.  

The river is becoming more and more visible, at first like a blue shoelace dropped on the land, and then something broader, the rich mingled marine colours of green, blue, brown. A few gulls squabble and shriek above him.

I found this book to be a comfortable read, in the way an Ann Cleeves book or an Elly Griffiths might be. There is the remoteness, the surly villagers, the love story, the man healing himself. The crime is, at first, only in the past, but one of the better developments was the introduction of a female journalist who had studied violence and abuse in the deep countryside,and whose researches become relevant to the story.

There are perhaps not enough suspects. I worked out the culprit because most of the other possibilities had been exhausted.

What I really didn’t like was the use of present tense, but that is perhaps a personal idiosyncracy.

If you like a slow-paced novel with not too much violence you may well enjoy this.

I really would have liked to know more about Uncle Arthur who built Little Sky and the library.

…a huge library, primarily of detective fiction, the sort of books that had been given to him throughout his childhood. All of the great English authors from the mid part of the twentieth century: Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey. And long shelves of Americans, their gaudy covers gleaming: Chandler and Hammett and Spillane….

Uncle Arthur had a pretty good jazz record collection too.

I’m hoping we might learn more about him in the next two books, which of course I’m going to read.

350 pages of pleasant diversion.