Bookends #8 Sept 2018

My Bookends post is where I share just three things that have sparked my interest from the multitude of news articles, blog posts and announcements that drop into my email box.

On a day when the incessant and torrential rain here in the UK reminds us that summer is no more, I hope that my three selections this week will lighten your mood a little,

This week brings an article about one author’s approach to the problem that besets many writers – the temptation to edit while still creating.

Book: Still waiting for inspiration…

love is blindI had chance for a good old mooch in a bookshop this week but wasn’t all that excited by what was on offer. The shop was pushing Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter (doesn’t interest me because I don’t much like her style) and of course the latest offering by Robert Galbraith.

Two authors whose work I’ve enjoyed in the past both have new novels hitting the shops this month. William Boyd’s Love is Blind came out this week. I used to be a big fan of his (Brazzaville Beach was my favourite) but haven’t been that excited by what he’s produced in the last few years.  i’m toying with getting this because it’s set partly in St Petersburg which is always a draw for me.  The publishers blurb describes it as a “sweeping, heart-stopping new novel. Set at the end of the 19th century, it follows the fortunes of Brodie Moncur, a young Scottish musician, about to embark on the story of his life.”

I’m also mildly interested in Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks, again whose early work seems stronger than the more recent output. According to the blurb this novel  “brings together a city’s urgent present with its inescapable past. In this urgent and deeply moving novel, Faulks deals with questions of empire, grievance and identity, considering how, as individuals and societies – we learn to make peace with our history. With great originality and a dark humour, Paris Echo asks how much we really need to know if we are to live a valuable life.”

Blog Post: What is the most acclaimed yet unread novel?

When I saw this headline come through on my feed from the Paris Review blog feed. If the question had been phased a little differently and asked about acclaimed but unread books in general my answer would probably have been Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I’d love to know how many people bought this and never got past page 10….  But the question was about novels so I guessed War and Peace.

I was wrong.

The answer is a book I have never heard of by an author who also is completely unknown to me.

Marguerite Young’s Miss MacIntosh, My Darling is a twelve hundred page novel published in 1965 which is set in the American mid west. Neither the plot nor the structure are straightforward it seems. The length alone would be off-putting (any book would have to be absolutely stunning to keep my attention over that length) but one extract shows that the narrative style would also be a challenge.

And his night was his day, and his day was his night, for his twilight was his dawn, and his dawn was his twilight, and his moon was his sun, and his sun was his moon, and his beginning was his end, and his end was his beginning.

Maybe that makes more sense if you’ve had a few glasses of wine first.

Here’s the Paris Review article

Any other contenders for acclaimed but little read novels?

Article: Slaying the dragon of fiddling with your text

I have a lot of sympathy with the author Daniel Torday who describes himself as a “a tinkerer by temperament.” By that he means he finds it hard to resist the temptation to rework material he has already rewritten instead of making progress with new content.

I do that all the time.

It means it takes me forever to finish a piece of text; whether that’s an essay or a blog article or a piece of creative writing. I know the advice is to crash out a firs draft no matter how bad it is, and only then think about revision. I have tried that more than once. It does not work for me.

Daniel has however found a solution that works for him. He calls it bizarre. Read about his approach in this lithub article 

And so that’s a wrap for this episode of Bookends. Have you found anything new exciting and to read this week that might entice me?


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

21 thoughts on “Bookends #8 Sept 2018

  • Judy Krueger

    I have read only one William Boyd novel, Ordinary Thunderstorms, and was quite impressed. Which were the early ones you liked? I saw that article in Paris Review. I had heard of the author but had no idea the book was that long! Your excerpt made me feel I had already hit the wine.

    • The Ice Cream War and Brazzaville Beach were the stand out novels for me Judy.

  • wow, never heard of Young either, my interest is pi piqued! I would have guessed Ulysses

    • seems quite a few people are on the same wavelength as you

  • Jenny

    Most abandoned is probably Ulysses. I doubt I will ever start it again. LIfe’s too short! I do hope to read more Virginia Woolf, having been absolutely wowed by Mrs Dalloway when I first read it in my late 50s, though I had up on To the Lighthouse in my 30s. I think some books are worth revisiting with the benefit of maturity.

    • Thats a good point about maturity giving us a fresh perspective. I read Jane Austen as a teenager but it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I fully appreciated her

  • I’ve never read any Boyd and feel like I’m not sure where to start. I do have Ordinary Thunderstorms in the 746 though, so that’s probably as good as place as any!

    • Jenny

      @Cathy746books – I definitely recommend starting with Ordinary Thunderstorms. I too find Boyd a mixed bag, but this one is up there, in my view, with his best. Other great Boyd books: An Ice Cream War, and Brazzaville Beach. Steer well clear of A Good Man in Africa.

      • I’ll echo the praise for Brazzaville Beach an Ice Cream War. I don’t remember reading Ordinary Thunderstorms though

    • Glad to see Jenny gave you a better answer than I could on this one

  • Don’t feel bad you hadn’t heard about the praised novel no read; I speak for all Americans when I say we haven’t read it either. I would throw David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest into the pot of books no one really read. It seems you can only “get” novels if you know all the same references he did. He’s like old Robin Williams comedy: one reference after the next, so keep up or feel stupid.

    • Well I shall not feel too bad now that I haven’t read Infinite Jest – I’ve looked at it a few times when shopping but always put it back

  • I’ll join the chorus. I don’t know whether to invest time in William Boyd or not. The publisher has sent me a copy of Love is Blind and I am pondering whether to read it because I abandoned Sweet Caress after 50 pages.
    My guess for the ‘most abandoned’ novel would be Ulysses. I abandoned it the first time I tried to read it, (but have since read it four times and now it’s my Desert Island Book). But the first time I found it boring!

    • Ulysses would be a good contender as would Finnegan’s Wake I suspect. I gave up on Sweet Caress too.

  • I’ve read Paris Echo and will be recommending it overall, though I had somewhat mixed feelings about parts of it. The Boyd is on my TBR – like you I think his newer stuff has been a bit hit or miss, but fingers crossed. Haha – that quote is priceless! I’d have guessed Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake…

    • Well it seems quite a few of us are uncertain about Boyd. One of us has to read it so they can tell the rest of us whether it is worth the effort. Who will be the brave reader???

      • Haha – well, it’s on my list but not till November…

  • I know what you mean about both Boyd and Faulks – Private Eye has a good piece about them on its books pages this week. I hugely enjoyed the beryl Bainbridge novel I read this week, and while I know that doesn’t count as a discovery – talk about being late in coming to the party – it was for me.

  • I’m waiting for the new Boyd from the library. Like you, I have found him a bit hit and miss so he isn’t someone I am automatically prepared to spend good cash on.

    • Thats where libraries are so valuable – no guilty feelings about money wasted if you don’t like a book.


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