Friday 27 May 2011


My attempt to enact one of my new year resolutions - to join and participate in a book group - is floundering on the rocks of circumstance (and, actually, ineptitude).

My first attempt centred around Jane Smiley's A Private Life. I really enjoyed this novel, which intertwines a beautifully observed, sterile marriage with the major events of early modern American history, taking in theology and science en route. One cannot, however, number brevity amongst its qualities, and I could not make the time to read it before my local book group met. Incidentally, the book has now joined that previously cited pantheon, Books Enjoyed By Both My Wife And I.

Nothing daunted, I noted and bought the next selected tome, Rosamund Pilcher's The Shell Seekers, only to discover subsequently that the date for the group to discuss this novel fell during my visit to New York for the Book Expo.

It has not escaped my attention that the choice of books so far has fallen exclusively into the Large Novels by Female Authors category. If I ever actually get to a meeting, become an influential member and rise to the dizzy height of selecting a work to discuss, it may well be a haiku.


Wednesday 18 May 2011


The US arts and media blog Thirteen recently ran an interesting column on five books that ought to be made into films. We were delighted that 20% of these were Capuchin titles; namely The Conclave by Michael Bracewell, previously discussed in this blog. The website's film critic Alice Gregory says:
Martin and Marilyn aspire obsessively towards the best that a gilded 1980s London has to offer — filagreed china, bespoke suits, olives. But the urban aesthetes lead a predictably empty life, whose ups and downs correlate exactly to those of the stock market. There are healthy doses of conspicuous consumption, indulgent melancholy, and unbridled narcissism. It’s an allegory that could go real dark, real fast on screen. Do not allow Sofia Coppola to get her hands on this one; hire Todd Haynes instead. Ideally, this would be poorly acted.

Present and aspiring film producers, please take note.


Tuesday 17 May 2011


Observant blogees may have noticed a significant lapse in postings. Once again I trail my head in ashes* and sternly smite my breast, pleading pressure of other work.

The blog returns with the announcement that the new Capuchin catalogue is available. If you have requested a physical copy, you should receive one in the next fortnight or so. For those who (understandably) insist on immediate gratification, this link on our website will reveal a PDF which can be viewed online or downloaded.

Look out for another post tomorrow describing my failed attempts to participate in a book group.


*Sustainably produced from FSC approved wood sources and environmentally sensitive burning, naturally.

Wednesday 13 April 2011


The always stimulating Desperate Reader blogger has posted a thoughtful review of The Unbearable Bassington, by 'Saki'. For her perspicacity and taste, we may eventually forgive her for having read the out of print Penguin version rather than our edition. Although it is not an index of quality generally recognised by the world of culture, this book belongs to the relatively small pantheon of those enjoyed equally by my wife and me. As I wrote in an earlier, blog, the contrast between the cynically sparkling tone of the bulk of the book and the very powerful ending, is hugely powerful and affecting.


Thursday 7 April 2011


Continuing the theme of puffing pet authors, I've been reminded recently - listening to the fervid debates about workers in the financial sector and their considerable rewards - of a gloriously silly Mervyn Peake poem about same.


The men in bowler hats are sweet
And dance through April showers,
So innocent! Oh it's a treat
To watch their tiny little feet
Leap nimbly through the arduous wheat
Among the lambs and flowers.

Many and many is the time
When I have watched them play
A broker drenched in glimmering rime,
A banker, innocent of crime,
With lots of bears and bulls, in time
To share the holiday.

The grass is lush - the moss is plush
The trees are hands at prayer.
The banker and the broker flush
To see a white rose in a bush,
And gasp with joy, and with a blush,
They hug each bull and bear.

The men in bowler hats are sweet
Beneath their bowler hats.
It's not their fault, if in the heat
Of their transactions, I repeat
It's not their fault if vampires meet
And gurgle in their spats.

This is from the at least partially mis-titled A Book of Nonsense.


Wednesday 6 April 2011


I know, I know. Why don't I just change the name of this platform to the Leonard Cohen blog and have done with it. This post is really, however, about the very serious problem of book addiction. Despite a chronic lack of domestic shelf space, and the fact that the tome depicted to the east of this text (a new compilation of poems and song lyrics) contains very little that is not already burdening said shelves in other forms, can you blame me for crumbling before the sheer desirability of the format and design.

Besides, I felt the need to participate, via a commercial transaction, in the enshrinement of The Grocer of Despair into the canon of Everyman Pocket Classics. Can sainthood be far behind?


Monday 4 April 2011


It's interesting to ponder the vocabulary and style of language employed by the transport companies to whom we daily entrust our bodies. I have not yet become accustomed to having been converted from a 'passenger' to a 'customer', for example, nor am I any the wiser for my local overground train company having renamed itself (doubtless at tremendous expense and having furnished several teams of designers with lavish penthouse lifestyles for life,) First Capital Connect. Do we have other capitals? The company used to be called WAGN, which at least afforded the opportunity for its victims (I beg your pardon, customers), while stuck outside Welwyn Garden City for half an hour because a 'unit' had developed 'motion issues' (ok I invented that one) to construct amusingly critical variations using those letters.

Recently at King's Cross we started being told that the 'access' to particular lines had 'restricted access'. The idea of access to access is one which, if not swiftly pruned, leads to a nightmarish vortex of regression and self reference. I hope that the access to the access of the access doesn't also become restricted, then where would we be. The absolute corker, is of course, the bland reassurance that
There is a good service on all London Underground lines.
What was that Plato said about any lie being credible if it were big enough.