High Windows – Philip Larkin

When Philip Larkin’s High Windows first appeared, Kingsley Amis spoke for a large and loyal readership when he wrote: ‘Larkin’s admirers need only be told that he is as good as ever here, if not slightly better’.

Like Betjeman and Hardy, Larkin is a poet who can move a large audience – to laughter and tears – without betraying the highest artistic standards.

When reading Philip Larkin’s poems during my A-levels I never properly appreciated his poems, which is perhaps to be expected at such an age.   Now approaching his work with more life – and reading – experience there is something about his writing that makes it both highly pleasurable and challenging to read.

High Windows deals in some strong stuff; death, failure, and aging are constant (and looming) motifs threaded throughout the book.  It’s a sobering composition but utterly compelling which drove me on to read and reread each poem multiple times.

There is a lot of pleasant imagery also, to contrast with the uncomfortable themes which at the same time amplifies them. A real feeling of nostalgia bursts forth, the heart-warming and traditional (villages, seaside memories etc.), this is shot through with jarring images of decay and threats of hell. Larkin does enough to keep the reader off balance whilst examining the reality of life. Continue reading “High Windows – Philip Larkin”

Taal Volcano

With yesterday’s eruption, now seems as good a time as any to dust off the volcanic ash on the Taal volcano draft and finish writing it.

Located in Tagaytay, and in view of many fine eating establishments, this is usually a go to area for us, both for the beautiful view and the constant need to feed, inherent in all Filipinos.

With the Filipino branch of my family situated about 18 miles from the volcano its been a worrying time, what with power and water outages, as well as the ash cloud which has reached as far north as Baguio which is 145 miles away.  On top of all this, one of our dogs recently gave birth to seven puppies so we are excited to see them when we return, although worried for their little lungs in the meantime.

Taal is the second most active volcano in the Philippines and the world’s smallest active volcano, the photo I took, below, is from  a typical day, a view from, unsurprisingly, a restaurant in calmer times. Continue reading “Taal Volcano”

Renaissance Books

Wandering around the websites of various publishers, I was delighted and a little surprised to find one of my reviews was featured on the website of Renaissance Books, hereRenaissance Books are academic publishers offering a new, robust and independent platform for peer-reviewed scholarship on Asia Pacific, in particular East Asian Studies – principally in the Humanities and Social Sciences

From the website:

Renaissance Books was established in 1996 to promote gifted, aspiring authors and books of general interest. Later, its focus moved to East-West themes relating to people, culture and way of life.

In 2015, the imprint was re-launched in order to concentrate on scholarly reference in the Humanities and Social Sciences, publishing especially in the field of East Asian Studies, notably Japan and Korea, as well as Central Asian Studies. To this end, we have launched a new peer-reviewed Renaissance Books Asia Pacific Series drawing on recognized authorities from within the region and beyond, offering a platform for comparative and interdisciplinary works on historical and cultural themes as well as those relating to contemporary issues, especially in Politics & Economics, Conflict Resolution, Globalization, NGOs, Security, Human Rights and Media Studies.

As someone interested in learning, especially in light of the proximity to the subject area in my adopted home of the Philippines (where I look forward to being later in the year again), it is a publisher that deserves a lot more attention for the body of work that they are putting out.

Márquez Covered

On the particular day I took this photo – as with most days in Britain – it was bleak outside, overcast, an intense cutting wind blowing as background noise.  I needed something to brighten up the day and an idea for a post as well to keep the blog ticking over.

Casting about the house I came across these colourful beauties and it took me down memory lane, remembering the jaunts in Márquez’s creations, his flair for the dramatic, and the stifling days in which so many of those memories take place.  Although whether it was the days in the book or in real life is sometimes hard to separate.

For those yet to discover the wonderful Gabriel García Márquez, I can only encourage you with some old reviews found elsewhere on this site, and with a wholehearted shove to that particular shelf in your local bookshop.  You won’t be disappointed wherever you start. Continue reading “Márquez Covered”

The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands – Stephen King

As usual when reviewing any series of books, I won’t include the blurb but will plunge straight into a spoiler free review, so even if you haven’t read the first book, The Gunslinger,  you will hopefully feel enticed to start after reading this.

This is my favourite book of all eight Dark Tower novels for many reasons, it’s where this reader felt that the quest truly began,  and questions start to have their answers tantalisingly revealed, it’s a superb and strong addition to the series.

After a fairly relaxed beginning, the story builds up to become a tense thrill ride in its last half.  Not only do we see some strong character development, and our understanding of the rules of this universe – and of time’s malleability – solidify, but the journey’s locations and their inhabitants are a pleasure to discover.

What holds the attention and the delight of the reader  is the way in which the world is created, it feels ancient, decayed, and being torn apart, but there is always a tangible and logical nature to everything encountered.  It’s memorable and mysterious, glimpses of things familiar can be seen and much is left untold, and this is what gives the world its enchanting power over the reader. Continue reading “The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands – Stephen King”

chuffa chuffa choo choo – Emma Garcia

Jump on board the little red train as it chugs along the seaside and through the forest. Can you count the noisy birds along the way?

When I think of widening my reading, this isn’t the first book that comes to mind but with a flair for the dramatic actions and voices – and a baby – this can be an incredibly fun book to engage with.

This came into my possession from a free reading pack given by the NHS, and so naturally I grabbed it for myself, curled up in a corner and took my time to savour the feel of the thick card pages and bright drawings.  It’s still my go to book for Amelia purely for selfish reasons.

There is plenty of colour and things to point out and talk about, as well as the number and type of birds, there is variety in the settings from city to farmyard, and Amelia and I often find ourselves going off on tangents such as which farmyard animal smells worse. Continue reading “chuffa chuffa choo choo – Emma Garcia”

Windy in These Parts

On Christmas Eve a thud resounded out in the hallway and an expected package arrived at an unexpected time of the morning.  As an early Christmas present you can’t beat a book, and one by blog favourite Nils-Johan is always a joy to receive.

An unanticipated addition to the Wind series of children’s books, I look forward to indulging in this one, as I’ve loved every other book in the collection and have been enchanted by the qualities and themes of each story.

Whichever way the wind may blow this year, one constant is that the reading will continue across many genres, and with a return to the Philippines on the cards, a sun tan will also be a predictable outcome.  I hope your year will be a good one.