elsie katz's blog

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I've come to the party late. I don't read much fantasy. IMO it has its work cut out matching the greatness of Beowulf and The Odyssey. It's an unfair fight- modern genre fantasy against the BIG realities of the Old Days. In truth the only reason I picked up a copy of American Gods was that I was in a hostel in Portugal and it was the only English book on the shelf. And .... It's brilliant! Neil Gaiman has a deft hand with the Gods. He managed to...

As I walked out one Midsummer Morning - Laurie Lee

I love it! A tale of a young man on the road, busking with his violin in England and Spain. The date 1933. So even if Laurie was playing for pennies down the road at the local shops he would be giving me something new. Past times. He's good. Here's Laurie on backstreet Southampton. 'The streets near the water appeared to be jammed with shops designed more for pleasure than for profit, including tattooists, ear-piecers, bump-readers,...

Bloody Snow!

Damn and Hell. I was all set to compete in the Teignmouth Poetry Slam tonight. Looking at the settling flurries outside my window I don't think a single contestant is going to be there. We all live at least 10 miles away, some as far as Bristol and Dartmoor. The contest starts at 8pm, railways, roads, none of its going to be workable. Oh well I've got my act prepared for...whenever.

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano

Brilliant even in translation, Bolano's tale of wandering delinquent Mexican and Chilean poets is based on his own life (Arturo) and his mate (Ulisses). It's nonstop, wide canvas, multiple narrative. Women sometimes take the stage, suffer worse consequences from their rambling life and some emerge alive. Kerouc had 'memere' to go home to after his road trips, half the time Arturo doesn't know where Mum is or if she is Ok, life under General...

Visitor

My optician advised me that because I have a 'complex prescription' if I see flashes or floaters in front of my eyes I should get to A & E straightaway as it could be a detached retina. Eight nights ago I was reading in bed. I thought I had a speck of dirt on my left lens but no. I have a little spidery thing that swivels round when my eye moves. Sunday morning at RD & E was quiet. I was seen in under 3 hours by the eye nurse. I would...

Truth and Beauty a friendship by Ann Patchett

Two friends, one now dead the one living writes about the friendship. I don't think I like Lucy, her friend. Ann gives us a selection of Lucy's letters to Ann who she often addresses as 'dear pet' They seem twee, shallow, lacking in reciprocity. 'you will have make do with being my favourite bagel, my favourite blue awning above some great little cafe where the coffee is strong but milky and has real texture to it.' Why all the poetic...

Winds of Change

No it's not my boyriend's bean stew I'm talking about weather, gusty breeze, longer days, shivering in the sun. A feeling that the year is cracking open like a hard shelled egg.The usual 'stay or go' dilemma coupled with awareness that choice can be a soft bed to sink into. I'm doing new bits of paid and voluntary work, helping with mental health training sessions for student doctors and nurses through Experts by Experience, also waiting till my...

The Colours They Are Fine by Alan Spence 1977

When I read Alans' sequenced tales from boyhood up to leaving Glasgow for London and returning for Hogmanay .a line from the opening'Tinsel' hit hard. Wee Aleck is reading his Wonders Book of the World and 'nothing in the book was like anything he had seen'. I was 19 then and from Wembley Park. Ok no-one in my family was called Janet or John and I had a lot of aunts mostly living abroad who were all called Eva or Trude but the houses, the...

Giving new writers a chance - Radio 4 should help us

Radio 4 is our only well-known channel which is about words not music. Where do they get their material from? The formats often feel 'tired' and threadbare. How do 'us lot' get in there? I suspect unless we are very lucky or a known name our work sinks to the bottom of a barely glanced at submissions pile. Could one of our editors approach them and get a regular half hour, call it 'easy as Abc?' or something. It would be win-win because Radio 4...

In The Womens' Library - photocopying my work

Some of my past work is in the Womens' Library, currently housed on the top two floors of the London School of Economics. Back in the days of second stage feminism I wrote opinion pieces, book reviews, poetry and a short story for the Edinburgh Women's Liberation Newsletter and my pieces are in files on shelves in the open collection. I decided to photocopy them while they were still there. The Women's Library, previously the Fawcett Library has...

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