Friday, 23 May 2014

May days

You have just two days left to vote for May-Lan Tan’s Things to Make and Break in the short-story collection of the Saboteur Awards: the voting page is here. May-Lan will be reading at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford on 31 May, when the awards will be announced.

In the last couple of weeks Agota Kristof’s The Notebook and The Illiteratehave been reviewed in the New Statesman and have been written about more extensively here, on the website of the US magazine Music & Literature.

I’m still away: the apartment I’m in is on the top floor of one of the two houses with terraces overlooking the river just down from the steeple in the photo above. There are (below) bears in the castle moat, and riverside walks, and forests, and an hour away a lake for swimming. Being a tourist is hard work. On 3 June I’ll visit the grave of Kafka in Prague on the 90th anniversary of his death.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

If I look up from my desk ...*

Above is the view from the window above my desk, early evening, overlooking a river in a small town in the south of the Czech Republic. There’s a passage in Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage where he lists some of the lovely places he’s been in order to get some writing done and then adds: ‘What they all had in common, these ideal places for working, was that I never got any work done in them. I would sit down at my desk and think to myself What perfect conditions for working, then I would look out at the sun smouldering over the wheat, or at the trees gathering the Tuscan light around themselves …’

This is basically to say: I am away. Until sometime in June, at which time I will relearn basic communication skills.

Meanwhile, the category shortlists for the Saboteur Awards are up for public vote to decide the winners, and you have until 25 May to go to this page and vote. For May-Lan Tan’s Things to Make and Break in the short story collection category, perhaps. You choose.

*Geoff Dyer: ‘of the many varieties of sentence I dislike there is none that I despise more than ones that proceed along the lines of “If I look up from my desk …”’