Tuesday, 29 March 2011


I thought it was about time that I again interrogated my colleagues in order to ascertain with what forms of literary nourishment they are sustaining themselves. One cannot be too careful; sinister figures lurk in dark alleys, waiting to tempt the naive and unwary with unsuitable forms of prose. Here are the results, presented of course anonymously.

One colleague is reading One's Company: a Journey to China in 1933 by Peter Fleming, being an account of the Times Special Correspondent's eastern wanderings.

Another is learning about the grim connections between Hitler and Stalin's murderous campaigns in Bloodlands.

French maverick author, and challenger to British pronunciation, Michel Houellebecq is engrossing a third workmate in the form of Atomised, a novel which uses molecular biology as a metaphor for the 'atomisation' of modern society.

I am experiencing delightful frissons of psychological terror through the American gothic gloom of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories.

Are we a representative cross section, I wonder, and if so of what.


Thursday, 24 March 2011


As an admirer of Mervyn Peake since I first became a keen reader, I am delighted that his centennial birth year is being marked by a number of exciting publishing projects. The very useful page run by Sebastian Peake - one of the sons of the author - is a good place to view these books, as well as offering news of exhibitions and related events and products.

The most fascinating for me is the fourth Gormenghast book, which was begun by Peake during his terminal illness and then completed by his late wife. Recently rediscovered, it is being published as Titus Awakes. I've read the trilogy numerous times, and enjoyed the BBC adaptation (while remaining mystified that no-one has been inspired to make a feature film from the books) and will count the days until July comes and I can see in what directions - literally and metaphysically - this unusual collaboration took the character of Titus Groan.

Peake was a remarkable figure, creating work not only in many different literary genres (poetry, prose, children's books, plays) but also being a superb illustrator and accomplished artist. If I had to choose one piece to illustrate his unique approach and talents, it would be the remarkable, long narrative World War II poem The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb. I hope this commemoration and associated activity bring him to the attention of many more people.


Monday, 21 March 2011


The formidable Jane Austen has, it seems, the ability to reach across the centuries and assist with the complexities of modern relationships. The publisher Hodder has recently acquired - in what is reported to have been a 'fierce' rights auction - a novel in which a freelance journalist, reaching a mid-life crisis and anxious to find a mate, decides to use the Austen novels as guides for so doing. The book will be published in 2012.

It's an interesting approach and one less likely to end in tears, I imagine, than following the romantic template of Edgar Allan Poe, whose stories, it has often been observed, seem to suggest that there is no more desirable woman than a beautiful one who happens to be expiring from an ill-defined malady. I've just been rereading Poe's stories (a choice selection of which is presented in our very own The Dupin Mysteries) and finding them exquisitely well-written and faultlessly timed. Curiously the poetry, which I've also revisited and was anticipating more eagerly, has left me cold.


Friday, 18 March 2011


Firstly, let me apologise for the long delay between posts. Our parent company has been undergoing a restructure, and is now standing defiantly, hands on hips, saying 'Bring it on' to the world of publishing. See how down with the kids am I.

As a consequence of our little hiatus, it is likely that the March Capuchins will actually emerge in early April, but please watch this space for confirmation.

I thought I'd restart the blog momentum with a lovely snippet from The Bookseller news bulletin. I make no apologies for purloining this, as they took it from The Guardian.

In the brave new era of digital self-publishing, an unknown mystery writer in New York is managing to make headlines for him or herself by using a form of technology in use since Martin Luther's 95 Theses were posted on the door of a Wittenberg church in 1517.

Pages of a novel entitled Holy Crap are being plastered on lampposts up and down Manhattan's East Village - helpfully numbered, and with directions as to where to find the next instalment.

The whole article may be found here.

Perhaps this habit might cross the Atlantic? Keep an eye on those streetlights.