18th November 2013: According to a recent study it’s less healthy to drink coffee first thing than to leave it until mid morning. That’s okay. I can set my alarm for mid morning.
Stone-baked pizza with four types of cheese. Universe, I forgive you.
At Doris Lessing’s state funeral, George Osborne is a visibly broken man. We are all Nobel laureates now, says David Cameron.
Oblivious to Doris Lessing’s death, a thousand bad Kindle authors unfollow her on Twitter, because she didn’t follow them back.
The Learned Society of Wales meets to discuss the importance of Wales in the writings of Doris Lessing. It is agreed that Wales would have been important to Doris Lessing, had Doris Lessing been Welsh.
Revered Welsh novelist Julian Ruck leads public tributes to Doris Lessing. Her gigantic intelligence and magisterial prose revolutionised my early artistic consciousness, says Ruck.
Following Doris Lessing’s death, the pubs of Wales are deserted. Small groups gather in private homes to explore what her writing meant to them.
Nobel laureate and novelist Doris Lessing dead. Impossible to get into the centre of town because of the crowds of mourners.
October 20th 2013: My report on Revenant by Tristan Hughes for the Reading Wales blog:
As a reading group we often express the opinion that Anglophone writers should show an authentic Wales, that they should not perpetuate clichés or falsify Welsh experience, and that Welsh writers should write for Welsh readers, some of the time at least. Yet I personally was raised in Wales by English parents, feeling sometimes an insider and sometimes an outsider, and sometimes more engaged with landscape than with culture. I was both moved and comforted by the characters’ ambivalent relationship with their hometown, and I felt that their origin was both a privilege and a slight loss, as mine was.
10th October 2013: I would like to offer Alice Munro my personal congratulations on winning the Nobel Prize. She was a worthy opponent.
27th September 2013: My report on the novel, ‘Enoc Huws’ by Daniel Owen, for the Reading Wales blog:
The Reading Wales book group discussed Profedigaethau Enoc Huws by Daniel Owen. This was a new kind of selection for the group, a Welsh-language classic first published in 1891, perennially popular in Welsh and twice adapted for television. A translation by Claud Vivian, published in 1892, was recently revised by Les Barker and republished as The Trials of Enoc Huws (Mold: Brown Cow, 2010).
7th September 2013: According to the peer reviewer, (Me, 2009) is not how they cite their own research at Harvard.
I am a sick man. I am a peevish man. I am a disaffected man. It is getting harder to ignore the tumour growing inside my brain. In Cwmdonkin Park the other day I was stabbed by rods of light and pain, and I groaned and had to clutch the railings for support. In the last year or so I have let my appearance decline. A woman holding a two-year-old girl by the hand edged away, and I think, Geraint, it is good that such a sick man keeps his closest friend at the farthest end of the world.
31st August 2013: Atreyu, the young hero of The Neverending Story, is advised to set out on his quest alone, and without taking weapons. Me, I’m all for taking weapons. And some friends who are better in fights than me. And a laptop so I can update my Facebook status.
The sign outside the boutique said, ‘Look hot this season.’ So I went in and bought some thermal underwear.
I could have been a great leader in any field I chose. Sir Alex Ferguson is unlucky that I chose not to be a great leader.
10th April 2013: It is rumoured that she murmured ‘It is finished’ as she died.
19th February 2013:
Annwyl Preswyliwr/Dear Occupant
We are writing on behalf of your local council to raise your awareness of flooding in your area. We would like to ask the following questions.
1. The last time your home was flooded, did the waters reach:
a. Ten feet?
b. Twenty feet?
c. Somewhere near the top of Mt Ararat?
2. What do you believe caused the flooding:
a. Sky demons?
b. Welsh Nats?
c. The ConDemolition?
Please tick all of the above.
3. In the event of flooding, would you like the council to provide you with:
b. An inflatable dinghy?
c. An inflatable sex doll?
d. Liquid refreshment?
Please tick none of the above.
4. In the event of flooding, who do you think should have to clear up?
c. The Big Society.
d. David Cameron, and I want to see him down on his hands and knees, scrubbing.
Please tick d.
5. The last time floodwater came into your house, where there little bits of cack in it?
b. Shit, yes.
c. Yes, but not as much as I’d have liked.
We implore you not to tick c.
Sam Woodhead the backpacker was ‘within hours of death.’ I was within hours of Chester this morning. Works on the line.
Few pieces of music can coexist with a holy silence. Beethoven Piano Sonata No 26, ‘Les Adieux,’ is one.
14th January 2013: For Bangor, unlike —shall we say?— Merthyr Tydfil or Llaregyb, is not easily exportable. It doesn’t travel well. Those who live there know there is enough wickedness in its narrow valley to occupy the talents of a Dostoievsky, and a lot to spare. But its ore is not easily mined.
—Anthony Conran (7th April 1931-14th January 2013), The Cost of Strangeness.
11th January 2013: The claim that the biannual Rhys Davies Short Story Competition ‘could be your chance to make a mark on the writing of Wales’ would seem to be undermined by the fact that Rhys Davies’s short stories are not affordably in print.
All right —— I suffered: I became wise. But it was, at best, a self-centred wisdom, a reaching out that became almost grasping, a desperate attempt to avoid pain.
I winked, and became a one-eyed wanderer, a seer of convenient half-truths only, ignoring the fact I did not really belong.
Now I see your eyes, gentle, penetrating, telling me the wisdom you see in me is your own.
First published in The Swansea Review 21 (2001).
Sigurd Rides Away from Hindarfell
He chose freedom. Walking away from his parents, his teachers, he took the path that led to adventure, wresting a future from the dragon of the past.
‘I have no father.’ Instead, he found friends: the wisdom of Oðin’s rejected servant, the wealth and power of a royal house. Being sought, he lived out his life through others, not seeing his destiny lost in the flames.
They thought him a seer: they were wrong. A seeker of omens, superstitious, sententious, building his hopes on the gossip of sparrows, false promises of the rune-woman.
First published in The Swansea Review 21 (2001).
A Multitude of Virtues:
A brief essay about A Multitude of Sins, by Richard Ford
While the stories contained in Richard Ford’s third collection, A Multitude of Sins (London: Harvill, 2001), revisit themes and situations found in the previous two, their treatment shows much development. One notes that Ford is applying to the short story form the lessons he learned in the Frank Bascombe novels, and that he has outlived his companionship with Carver and Wolff. The collections show deep psychological insight worked into tales of the utmost simplicity: in ‘Privacy’ the narrator is aroused by the sight of a woman undressing in the window opposite his own, until he realises that she is old; in ‘Reunion’ he has a brief, embarrassing encounter with the man he cuckolded some years ago.
I am the author of three short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums: Stories from Denbigh Mental Hospital Told by Leading Welsh Writers, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016. I am a member by election of the Welsh Academy.
I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, 2017), and A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, 2017). In addition, I have translated fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros.