Not that anyone will probably notice but I’ve changed one of my widgets, my word count for my dismal NaNoWriMo project has disappeared, to be replaced with a word counter for something that came at me out of the blue whilst I was unloading the dishwasher this evening. I’ve just done more writing than I’ve done in a while and I’m already at 5%, yipee but I know it’s not a race (been there, done that, so not doing that again) and we’ll see how it goes. It’s a story for 9 – 11 year olds and requires very minimal research (unlike my other projects which require just too much) as it’s based in an area of London I know and whereas not strictly speaking autobiographical, the main character does go through some life events similar to what I went through as a child, so let’s see how it goes (repeating myself there), I know the rough outline, I just have to think of a few more details to round it off and (to be honest) make it slightly less depressing, considering it’s a kids book (not that I emphasise here my childhood was that depressing).
I made apple and raspberry pie today, based on Jamie Oliver’s blackberry and apple pie which he did on Jamie at Home last week, the recipe for which is here. My pie would have been blackberry and apple except I couldn’t find any blackberries, so opted for raspberries instead, I also (regretfully) missed out the stem ginger, as although as much as me and the kids love ginger, Mr. Lacer hates it, but other than those two details it’s pretty much Jamie’s pie.
Now I’ve been experimenting with different sweet pastry recipes recently and Jamie’s recipe, so far has to simply be the best and his technique of rolling the pastry in-between two sheets of greaseproof paper so that the pastry doesn’t stick to the rolling pin and so that it’s easier to move from worktop to pie dish is amazing, I normally come acropper when trying to transfer the pastry, with it tearing all over the place but no problems this time, so I’d definitely recommend his recipe and his technique. The filling wasn’t too sweet, which was good, the raspberries disintegrated quite a bit though, unlike the blackberries in the photo in Jamie’s pie, don’t know if that’s just my cooking or the difference between blackberries and raspberries, I will definitely be trying the recipe again with blackberries, although Mr. Lacer wants me to make the pie just with apples, also next time I might not be quite so heavy handed sprinkling the cinnamon on top!
Not actually that much reading getting done today; I finished the excellent A Thousand Splendid Suns after a mammoth reading session yesterday as I literally could not put it down, so after such a fine book the thought of going back to my ‘inbetween read’ The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters which I wrote about last week (yes I’m still reading it, in truth not much more than I’d read last time) does not appeal. What is it about the middle of books? You’re past the intriguing set up and not quite at the explosive finale, I think it can easily be where a book fails. In my limited experience trying to write novels, the middle is always the hardest to write, a question of sustaining interest.
So deliberately not reading The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, I’ve been reading a couple of interviews in The Paris Review interviews volume 1; Saul Bellow and Jorge Luis Borges. I like what I’ve read of The Paris Review Interviews so far, most of the writers come across very clearly as a likeable if neurotic and bitchy bunch, Saul Bellow’s personality didn’t really shine through though, perhaps because of the weeks of editing of the interview that had been involved afterwards, as described at the beginning of the interview. Jorge Luis Borges came across as very likeable though, we both share a love of epic stories.
Other than that I’ve been reading a rare (for me) copy of the New Scientist, I’m a scientist by training, well I was one pre-motherhood but I’m very unlikely to go back but I still enjoy reading New Scientist every now and then, I find some of the stories spark my imagination, to use the cliche, feeding my mind. Anyway what usually dictates me buying a copy is if the cover looks particularly attractive and this week’s cover got my attention.
The cover story, concerning whether political leanings are in the genes intrigued me, the idea that we’re genetically wired to vote the way we vote interested me. Obviously (as the article stated) there is no ‘conservative’, ‘labour’, ‘republican’ or ‘democrat’ gene but it showed how research is being performed that suggests certain possibly genetically linked personality traits keyed the person to be a Tory or a Labour supporter. Following the thought that if we’re all hardwired to follow one political party or another (loosely divided into the choice of liberalism or conservatism) was political debate worth it? It made the valid point that although the people competing for power may always disagree with each because it’s in their genes, political discourse can still provoke change, if you take the example the article used, in the middle of the last century they were debating whether homosexuality itself should be legalised and now at least the debate has moved on to questions about same sex marriage and same sex reproduction rights, proving that political debate is still worth it, genes or no genes.
I’ve finally caught up with the first of this year’s Richard and Judy’s bookclub reads, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and what an intense read it was, I felt like I was journeying alongside the two main characters; Mariam and Laila as they went through their pretty awful lives. Set in Afghanistan, during very recent history, it is fascinating reading about the domestic lives of people who appeared just as numbers in death tolls on the news, the wars, the mistreatment of women, fleeing, it’s all there.
I thought the physical descriptions of Afghanistan, in particular Kabul were fantastic, specially the descriptions of Titanic City, a bazaar in a dried up river bed, named after the movie that apparently spread through the city in an illicit craze in 2000 (movies were banned), I wasn’t sure reading the description whether it was true but I found this news story (BBC News) describing the Taliban’s clampdown on Titantic haircuts. Touches like that made the story appear more personal.
So where does it fit in my personal Richard and Judy’s bookclub chart? With me finding most of the books on the list so far excellent it’s getting hard to choose but I think A Thousand Splendid Suns is a toss up for currently 3rd or 4th place.
A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellory – every page grips you, scares you and tears at your heart.
- The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon – a very close second, it is deeply and beautifully researched invoking the sites, sounds and smells of the Crimean War.
- Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann – the description of the journey across Siberia is epic.
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – a very vivid description of life at a terrible period of time in Afghanistan’s history.
- Notes from an exhibition by Patrick Gale – just not my sought of book, far too ‘cosy’.