At long last I’ve finished writing, editing, copyediting and proofreading my new book. Now I can read freely and blog again.
Last week a friend mentioned Les Murray’s extraordinary poem ‘Burning Want‘ which reminded me that I’ve been wanting to blog about Les Murray here for ages. And poetry is what I’ve been LONGING for while being down among the numbers for the last 12 months and more while working on my new book. Here are the first three stanzas of Murray’s devastating poem:
From just on puberty, I lived in funeral:
mother dead of miscarriage, father trying to be dead,
we’d boil sweat-brown cloth; cows repossessed the garden.
Lovemaking brought death, was the unuttered principle.
I met a tall adopted girl some kids thought aloof,
but she was intelligent. Her poise of white-blonde hair
proved her no kin to the squat tanned couple who loved her.
Only now do I realise she was my first love.
But all my names were fat-names, at my new town school.
Between classes, kids did erocide: destruction of sexual morale.
Mass refusal of unasked love; that works. Boys cheered as seventeen-
year-old girls came on to me, then ran back whinnying ridicule.
I’ve also started reading, along with the rest of the world, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. So far so excellent, and I can see why it’s knocked economists’ socks off everywhere. Apart from being exceptionally well researched and thought, it’s beautifully written, lucid, rollicking even. I’m also reading Clive James’s translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. So far I’m only up to James’s Introduction, which is mesmerising. What a brain, what an ear, what a writer. More about both these books when I’ve read them.
I also received a copy of my publisher Allen & Unwin‘s centenary history this week, which I’ve been reading over breakfast and thoroughly enjoying: A Hundred Years of Allen & Unwin, 1914-2014 by A&U founders Patrick Gallagher and Paul Donovan. Such fascinating history which I had no idea about before now. Here’s how it opens:
‘On 4 August 1914, England declared war on Germany and a new book publisher by the name of George Allen & Unwin Ltd opened for business in London with one Stanley Unwin at its head.’
According to the book, Stanley Unwin bought the floundering publishing house George Allen & Company to set himself up in business. This company has a wonderful history: it was founded by George Allen, a pupil and friend of John Ruskin, in a field in Kent in 1871 to hand print and publish Ruskin’s books, which kept it in business until Ruskin’s death in 1900.
My next blog will be about Les Murray, followed by, at long last, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.