Sunday, 28 March 2021
Books, beard, soup
Clocks have gone forward, the year already a quarter gone, and here’s a little stock-taking of recent and about-to-be books:
Spring Journal by Jonathan Gibbs, an urgent, angry account of the early months of Covid that borrows the form of Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal and is approved by the TLS: ‘Aiming somewhere halfway between cheap pastiche and serious homage, Gibbs hits his mark. He nails Autumn Journal’s casual, yawning metres and late-to-the-party rhymes, its balance of didacticism and doubt.’
Simple Annals by Roy Watkins. Comments emailed from early readers: ‘This book is a masterpiece’; ‘Simple Annals is quietly devastating’; ‘The intimacy and the perfectly targeted and delineated images are just very moving. Wonderful’ ; ‘What a find! It's so vivid and gripping’; ‘I have not been so affected by a book in a long time.’ Someone please write a review in a proper public space.
A Story that Happens: on playwriting, childhood and other traumas by Dan O’Brien: four essays written during the four years that Trump was occupying the White House, and during the aftermath of cancer, cannot be about just the craft of writing. If you order this from the website and would like a copy of O’Brien’s poetry collection Scarsdale added in free, write ‘Scarsdale’ under ‘instructions to merchant’ as you check through the PayPal; or send me an email.
Brilliant Corners by Nuzhat Bukhari (not published until May – printout of cover in the above photo, because finished copies not yet in – but copies available in April if you order from the website). A Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Abigail Parry: ‘A collection that is abstract and adamant, sparkling, ruthlessly sharp.’
I have grown a lockdown beard and I have cooked and eaten 22 recipes sent by CBe writers (documented on previous posts on this blog, January to March). Here is the 23rd: from Todd McEwen (The Five Simple Machines; Who Sleeps with Katz), ‘a smoked fish soup I invented myself’: smoked haddock, potatoes (waxy), celery, onion, turmeric, saffron, paprika, stock and wine and milk. This is a very fine soup. CBe has no ‘submission guidelines’ but if it did, here’s how they might begin: send me a recipe first, so I’ll know how your writing will taste.
Note: for technical reasons (wrong kind of leaves on the track?), neither Agota Kristof’s The Notebook nor Will Eaves’s Murmur are available from the website. But they are available to anyone who takes out a Lockdown Subscription.