Books Language Life

The Corrections

A week in bed ill at least provided an opportunity to finish Jonathan Franzen’s breakthrough book. I know, only a decade behind the curve and I should be reading Freedom, ideally the uncorrected version.

The quality of his writing is exceptional, but I found the book easier to respect than to love. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this wonderful line, on Denise (for me the most vivid and exciting character):

Her heart was full and her senses were sharp, but her head felt liable to burst in the vacuum of her solitude.


Work life


Having made the mistake last week of allowing myself to be persuaded by my doctor that, because I had a virus, anti-biotics would be no help, this week I simply phoned, stated in no uncertain terms that I felt no better, and a script was left ready for me to collect.

Now the question is – do I keep to the stated dose, or if I double it might I recover twice as quickly? Whilst I think about this I’ll have to get on with the bit of copy editing and typesetting I need to get finished, despite the pounding headache etc., and consider whether I should say anything further to the publisher and author about the comment currently included in the text about strict muslim societies. I want it to be left in, so don’t want to be persuading others to take it out. And, after all, it’s not my decision. But, then again …


Journey to Armenia

Just emerging (I hope!) from a bout of flu. Bad for business but good for re-discovering some of the books on my bookshelves, most particularly Journey to Armenia by Osip Mandelstam.

I have this book in several forms, best in two editions from the Redstone Press: a spiral bound edition and as a beautifully produced ‘book in a box’. The text of both is the brilliant translation by Clarence Brown, with an introduction by Bruce Chatwin.

I did a search at the Redstone site, and sadly both editions are currently unavailable. However their diary for 2009 looks good and Santa, if you’re listening, the special edition of Ants Have Sex in Your Beer by David Shrigley would make a fine present.

But back to Mandelstam – some of the most beautiful prose you’ll ever get to read, from a great poet who perished in Stalin’s Gulag.

What is there to say about the climate on Sevan?

The golden currency of cognac in the secret cupboard of the mountain sun.

And if you haven’t already read Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned by Nadezhda Mandelstam (his widow) – don’t delay. Two of the most important books written in the twentieth century.