1. Ted and I, by Gerald Hughes, is due this autumn from The Robson Press. Publisher Jeremy Robson, a poet who gave readings with Ted Hughes, acquired the book after Ted Hughes’s daughter Frieda mentioned that her uncle had written a memoir about his upbringing in the Yorkshire village of Mytholmroyd.

    "Frieda and I were having a long lunch, and she mentioned that her uncle had written a memoir and asked if I’d like to see it. What a question!" Robson said at the London Book Fair this week. “It’s an evocative account of their childhood together, roaming the fields, fishing, shooting – all the material for Ted’s later poems, and a good deal more.”

    Gerald is Ted’s older brother. A former gamekeeper, he emigrated to Australia in 1952, but the brothers continued to write frequently to each other.

    Read more

     
  2. Mrs Winterson continued to have an effect on life choices far removed from her own experience: ‘She hated the small and the mean, and yet that is all she had. I bought a few big houses myself along the way, simply because I was trying out something for her. In fact, my tastes are more modest – but you don’t know that until you have bought and sold for the ghost of your mother.’
    — 

    Rather tough essay-review on Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? This quote happens to be something I rather sympathise with, even consider it to be something my own family members do.

    Sure, Winterson may be a bit larger than life, but some of her experiences are not that unusual, surely. Mars-Jones’ essay is perceptive, but borders on harsh for the most part.

    Adam Mars-Jones, LRB 26.

     
  3. Of all these famous visitors to the Island, however, it was Brian Ó Ceallaigh from Killarney who reaped the greatest harvest there. “An Seabhac” (Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha) urged him to go there to improve his Irish, and gave him a letter of introduction to Tomás Ó Criomhthain. That was in 1917, and it did not take him long to discover the spark in Tomás, and in order to spur him to action he read some of Pierre Loti’s and Maxim Gorky’s work to him, as if to suggest that if their sort could write great literature about the simple lives of fishermen and peasants, surely Tomás could do likewise. That was how Tomás’s diary Allagar na hInise and his autobiography An tOileánach (The Islandman) came to be written within the space of 10 years.

    The first to put pen to paper was Tomás Ó Criomhthain. The Blasket books generated controversy and debate on the Island. Writers were accused of misrepresentation – “that is not how it happened”; “all lies and invention”. Much of this criticism was inspired by envy. Behold, however, the result of their collective efforts up to and including our own time. Other less important books were written by Tomás and Peig, and by two of their sons, Seán Ó Criomhthain and Mícheál Ó Gaoithín (Maidhc File). Since then other books have been written by islanders – Seán Sheáin Í Chearnaigh, Máire Ní Ghuithín, Seán Faeilí Ó Catháin, and Seán Pheats Tom Ó Cearnaigh. They are all draining the last drop with melancholic longing for the past, while the Island where they were born and reared is now home to one-night strangers and stragglers – gulls and ravens – who merely pick the bones.

    — 

    History and Heritage of the Blasket Islands, Ireland

    These are the last two paragraphs in an engrossing selection from a booklet written by Irish writer Pádraig Ua Maoileoin. It appears, with attribution, on a Dingle tourism webpage with information on the Blaskets, a group of islands I’ve been interested in since reading Twenty Years A-Growing (in my twenties. Snap).

    I am intrigued by the visiting scholar’s introduction of Loti and Gorky to the Blasket writer. The whole extract is delightful, as is this earlier webpage on island life. I was kind of hoping that a youth hostel on one of the islands was still in action, but this site would suggest otherwise: now, it’s day trips only. Sigh.

     
  4. Peter has a range of river posts in this blog that are very appealing. I particularly like this one though, mainly for the story about the friend who stared at punks, and the Germans who wanted to buy ‘shirt’.