Friday, 17 December 2010


The delicious Grub Street Press recently issued South Wind through the Kitchen, which is a charming collection of favourite passages from the writer and cook Elizabeth David, selected by various people. It is no coincidence that the title of the Capuchin Classic South Wind (by Norman Douglas) overlaps with the David anthology. Douglas and David became friends in Capri - where our novel is set, albeit under another name - and Douglas is mentioned several times in Grub Street's book.

If you haven't yet completed your festive acquisitions, what better a pair of books to present to a loved one who appreciates great writing and fine food?


Thursday, 16 December 2010


I have been stimulated by a discussion on Facebook, initiated by a Friend of a Friend (there must be a Facebook term for that) which aims to unearth the best ever rhyming couplet in pop music.

One of my favourites is from a musically quirky and eclectic and lyrically ingenious group called Slap Happy (featuring the cartoonist, musician and all round maverick polymath Peter Blegvad). Their albums are full of brilliant, literate, referential lyrics that would put many writers, let alone pop lyricists, to shame, but the one that sprang especially to mind is, from a song called Michelangelo,
Pope's on the phone, calling Buonarroti
But he's not home, he's gone a little potty.

And to offer just one example from the peerless Leonard Cohen:
I fought against the bottle, but I had to it drunk,
Took my diamond to the pawn shop, but that don't make it junk.

I'd be keen to read your nominations.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Here is a delightful missive from Nielsen Bookdata, who maintain the most widely used bibliographic database in the UK. A book has no real existence until it is registered with NBD, and there is a fiendish system of categories and sub-categories into which each book must be placed. NBD is here reporting on an updated version of these categories, recently released.

Howard Willows, Senior Manager Data Development of Nielsen Bookdata, the editor of the scheme notes: “Overall, perhaps the most significant additions are categories for Fantasy Romance, in both adult and teenage sections. The term 'Young Adult' has been replaced by 'Teenager' throughout, as research showed that 'Young Adult' carried connotations of explicit material that was not always justified or intended. The Computing section has been overhauled and updated, and finally recognises the concept of Social Networking.

Other signs of the times include new categories for Budget Cookery, Outsourcing and Energy Efficiency. We already had a heading for Financial Crises & Disasters.

Examples of modifications of headings include changing Global Warming to Climate Change and extending Olympic Games to include Paralympic Games.

The other additions and changes taken individually are perhaps not particularly eye catching (though mathematicians will be thrilled to see that Bayesian Inference now has its own category)."

This brought to mind other categories that may be necessary to reflect modern social and writing trends. We surely ought to have:

Autobiographies of sportspeople who have not reached 25 and have therefore had no real lives to of which to speak

Pointless, saccharine, animal-based books which only sell to desperate shoppers on Christmas Eve

Over-priced extracts, repackaged under a spurious theme, (often a contrived anniversary) which are already available from the same publisher much more cheaply.

Your suggestions welcome.


Wednesday, 1 December 2010


The lovely Hodges Figgis bookshop in Dublin, Ireland's largest, is currently running a Capuchin promotion. The shop dates back to 1768, is referred to in passing in Ulysses, offers some 60,000 titles over four floors and has even been a publisher. The Ulysses reference runs thus:
She, she, she. What she? The virgin at Hodges Figgis' window on Monday looking in for one of the alphabet books you were going to write.