Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

Leonard Cohen on Hydra

July 20, 2020

In 1960 Leonard Cohen bought a house on the Greek Island of Hydra.

Once you’ve lived on Hydra you can’t live anywhere else, including Hydra. — Kenneth Koch

Leonard Cohen wished for somewhere quiet to write. He left Montreal on his first trip outside North America with a Canadian Arts Council Grant of $2,000 and one published book of poetry. He was writing a novel or trying to, blackening the pages three pages a day. Hydra seemed the ideal place, warm and sunny, especially compared with cold and grey and damp London. He arrived on Hydra with his green Olivetti. He had taken up an offer of Barbara Rothschild to stay on the island, only when he arrived at the house and mentioned her name, he was turned away by the housekeeper ‘we don’t need any more Jews here’. Leonard Cohen put a curse on the house and within six months it had burnt to the ground.

Prior to the purchase of his house, Charmian Clift and George Johnston offered a room in their house. He would sit writing on their terrace.

It was on Hydra he met Marianne and where he wrote ‘So Long Marianne’ and ‘Bird on the Wire’.

In a letter to his mother:

It has a huge terrace with a view of dramatic mountain and shining white houses. The rooms are large and cool with deep windows set in thick walls. I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion… I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical… I get up around 7 generally and work till about noon. Early morning is coolest and therefore best, but I love the heat anyhow, especially when the Aegean Sea is 10 minutes from my door.

What more could an unknown writer ask for?

He was part of a group of writers and artist and poets who used to meet at Κατσικάς Katsikas.

One of his friends Charmian Clift wrote Peel Me A Lotus her account of living on Hydra in the late 1950s.

They were all cursed. Charmian Clift killed herself after leaving Hydra, George died a year later.

His first concert in Australia was dedicated to the couple and he opened with ‘Bird on the Wire’.

We have photographer James Burke to thank for a series of photographs of these days in 1960 on Hydra.

A Theatre for Dreamers a fictional account by Polly Samson seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old girl, who with a thousand pounds left to her by her mother escapes from an abusive father. She reads a book Peel Me A Lotus by Charmian Clift, sent to her mother by the author a close friend of her mother, of life on Hydra. She remembers the friend of her mother from when she was a child and writes to her asking if she can find her a room to rent.

We start in 2016, Leonard Cohen has recently died, a very sad loss, and Trump has won the US Presidential elections. Word reaches Hydra ‘and spread rapidly like a stench along the agora. There were horrified groans, even from the donkeys, disbelieving splutters from every table, passer-by and boat. For a moment it was a comfort to think at least Leonard had been spared this.’

The Alchemist: four hundred weeks in New York Times best-seller list

April 24, 2016
The Alchemist 400 weeks New York Times best-seller list

The Alchemist 400 weeks New York Times best-seller list

Congratulations Paulo Coelho, Sunday The Alchemist four hundred continuous weeks in New York Times best-seller list.

What a way to end April 2016.

Not bad for a book that was first published twenty seven years ago.

Good books spread by word of mouth. Only rubbish needs marketing hype.

The Alchemist: seven years and one month and one week in New York Times best-seller list

September 6, 2015
The Alchemist seven years one month and one week New York Times best-seller list

The Alchemist seven years one month and one week New York Times best-seller list

Congratulations Paulo Coelho, today The Alchemist three hundred and sixty-nine continuous weeks in New York Times best-seller list. That is an amazing seven years and one month and one week. And it is at No 3.

Not bad for a book that was first published over twenty six years ago.

Good books spread by word of mouth. Only rubbish needs marketing hype.

Draw The Line Here

May 3, 2015
Draw The Line Here

Draw The Line Here

Memories are short.

Many have probably already forgotten the Islamists who walked into the Charlie Hebdo office and slaughtered innocent people.

Not English PEN. To mark the event and to commemorate World Press Freedom Day  they have a published Draw The Line Here, a collection of cartoons drawn in response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January 2015.

Draw The Line Here is a collaboration between the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation (PCO), Crowdshed, and English PEN.  It features cartoons drawn by British artists in the days immediately after the attacks. The work of 66 cartoonists is featured, including Steve Bell, Dave Brown, Martin Rowson, Peter Brooke and Ralph Steadman.

Proceeds from the book will be split equally between the fund for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo murders, and English PEN’s Writers at Risk programme.

Publication of Draw The Line Here was made possible by a crowd-funding campaign launched in February.  Over 200 people pledged their support to the project, and will be receiving their copies of the book in the coming days.

It would be an excellent idea if Draw The Line Here was also available as an e-book, if on leanpub, pay what you like. 

Draw The Line Here includes a foreword by Libby Purves, patron of the PCO, who writes:

Some cartoons here are gentle, others savage; some merely encapsulate the bafflement and sadness of a world where mockery is met not with the proper response, a shrug, but with murder. Again and again the theme is of the fragility of the sceptical, laughing pencil: its simplicity and its splendour, the opposite of the vainglorious, meaningless squalor of the gun and the bomb.

Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, said:

We are extremely grateful to the PCO and to Crowdshed for choosing English PEN as a beneficiary of this project, and of course to all the cartoonists who have contributed to the book.  By exercising their own right to freedom of expression, these artists are helping to defend the free speech of others.

The publication of this book could not be more timely.  Sunday 3 May is World Press Freedom Day, the perfect time to stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.

Being a writer, a journalist, a blogger is a very dangerous occupation these days.

Raif Badawi was sentenced to weekly floggings for writing a blog.

To mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, English PEN has joined more than 50 free speech organisations and media groups in calling on governments to uphold their international obligations to protect freedom of expression.

The joint statement begins:

On World Press Freedom Day, 116 days after the attack at the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 11 dead and 12 wounded, we, the undersigned, reaffirm our commitment to defending the right to freedom of expression, even when that right is being used to express views that we and others may find difficult, or even offensive.

Mass closure of Lincolnshire libraries

February 3, 2015
Lincolnshire pop up library

Lincolnshire pop up library

Councillor Worth and his fellow undemocratic clods at Lincolnshire County Council have committed cultural vandalism. — William Hussey

We go round in circles.

Lincolnshire County Council decided upon mass closure of public libraries.

There was no public support, but hey, we are arrogant county councillors, our only interest is in getting our snouts in the trough. We don’ t give a toss what the public thinks or wants.

The Council were challenged in the High Court. Lawyer acting for the Council was forced to admit, not a single person in favour of library closures. The judge slammed the council for its arrogant high handed treatment of local people. A victory for the local people.

The Council could then have done the decent thing, heeded public opinion, listened to what the judge had to say. But oh no, mass closure of public libraries was back on the agenda.

At a scrutiny committee last week, its role as the name suggests, to scrutinise. The public were allowed to speak, but only for three minutes.

A councillor who tried to raise valid points, was cut off mid-stream, all discussion or debate terminated.

The committee rubber-stamped mass closure as they had been ordered to do.

This is what constitutes scrutiny in Lincolnshire.

Today the executive voted on the matter. The same executive who had decided on mass closure of public libraries.

It was a foregone conclusion, mass closure of public libraries.

County councillors who show arrogant contempt for the public.

County councillors who think they are above the law.

County councillors who are unfit to hold public office.

County councillors who should be surcharged for so far wasting nearly three-quarters of a million pounds of public money.

The decision to close libraries has no support, not from local people, not from writers, not from local councils, not from county MPs, not from government ministers. The Philistines that took the decision to close libraries are completely isolated. They represent no one other than themselves.

This is what constitutes democracy in Lincolnshire.

Out of 45 libraries, only 15 will remain, leaving 30 that will either close or be run by volunteers. Volunteers are making very clear, they are not prepared to be unpaid labour for a corrupt and rotten council. The 30 will suffer a slow death. Of the 15 on reduced hours, the Council is trying to privatise.

The public do not want to see their libraries closed.

Two fingers to the public.

And what do the library staff think?

The library staff are gagged.

Consultation is not going through the motions. Consultation is heeding what is said, then adapting policy accordingly.

The Council has a legal duty to carry out genuine consultation. In this the Council has failed.

A second Judicial Review?

As we have seen in Greece a Syriza grass roots revolution is required in Lincolnshire, not because local people want the trappings of power or wish to get their snouts stuck in the trough, but because much needed reform is required in the way the County Council functions, currently Lincolnshire County Council is not fit for purpose.

WHSmith Lincoln: Paulo Coelho’s latest book

August 21, 2014
Adultery love isn't a feeling; it's an art

Adultery love isn’t a feeling; it’s an art

Having checked yesterday and been blatantly lied to

  • not true Adultery not shown on system
  • not true cannot order in store for delivery to store
  • not true have to order on-line for delivery to store

did WHSmith Lincoln have Paulo Coelho’s lastest book in stock?

Not known, as no could be bothered to unpack the delivery.

Maybe they would know later in the morning, say around midday.

Er no, as no one would have unpacked the delivery. The delivery would not be unpacked until the following day.

Later in the day, it was learnt WHSmith Lincoln had copies of Adultery, how many copies not known.

It is unbelievable anyone can conduct business in this slapdash manner and still remain in business.

Adultery, published last week, an international best-seller from an international best selling author, WHSmith has it on special offer at half price, only they do not know if in stock because no one can be arsed to unpack a delivery, let alone not as one would expect have on prominent display!

If you have an international best-seller on special offer, do you not have it in stock on prominent display?

It is little wonder WHSmith a failing High Street chain, permanent fire sales. The only surprise is that they remain in business.

Watersone’s Farnham: Paulo Coelho’s latest book

August 16, 2014
Adultery Waterstone's Farnham latest hardbacks

Adultery Waterstone’s Farnham latest hardbacks

Would Waterstone’s Farnham have Adultery, latest book from Paulo Coelho?

I did not have to ask, three copies on display by the door with new books. At least Waterstone’s Farnham on the ball, which is more than can be said for Waterstone’s Guildford or Waterstone’s Godalming.

WHSmith Aldershot: Paulo Coelho’s latest book

August 14, 2014


Heavy showers all day, as a result, only made WHSmith Aldershot a little before they closed. Twelve minutes to be exact, but would have thought already closed as shutters down, lights turned off. How to make customer welcome.

Layout appears random, I asked did they have Paulo Coelho’s latest book, which was published today?

Although the one and only girl, there appeared to be no one else in the store, tried to be helpful, she had not a clue what I was asking for, and I had to spell several times.

She looked it up, no.

I expressed surprise, said it was published today. She said try next day, when they had a delivery.

Delivery day was Thursday, ie today, and this had been confirmed two days ago, otherwise I would not have made the trip to Aldershot. Yes, delivery was today, but no one could be bothered to unpack the delivery.

It is little surprise WHSmith is a failing High Street chain, with permanent fire sales as the only way to stay in businesses. The only surprise is that they are still in business.

It is easy to see why people buy from Amazon, it is not only that cheaper, in this case near enough half price, it is that you get prompt service. Had I placed an advance order, I would have had delivery today.

Adultery published today, is an international best seller, from an international best selling author. Adultery has shot to Number One in most if not all countries on release.

Waterstone’s Lincoln: Paulo Coelho new book

August 12, 2014

Paulo Coelho has a new book, Adultery, out mid-August. Would the experience in Lincoln be any better than previous releases?

No, not aware of release, looked up on computer.

Due out Thursday, one copy.

This is a large bookshop, an international best-seller from an international best-selling author, the staff not aware, and one copy.

It is a reasonable expectation, that staff working in a book shop, have some knowledge of imminent releases from well known authors. At the very least would expect the store to supply briefing sheets to their staff.

One copy sold and they will have sold out.

On Sunday, Paulo Coelho with The Alchemist, three-hundred and fifteen continuous weeks, that is six years, in the New York Times best-seller list.

Adultery has in most if not all countries, leapt to No 1 on publication.

Note: There are two large Waterstone’s in Lincoln. The one checked was the one in the market, former Corn Exchange.

The Alchemist: three hundred and fifteen weeks in New York Times best-seller list

August 10, 2014
The Alchemist three hundred and fifteen weeks New York Times best-seller list

The Alchemist three hundred and fifteen weeks New York Times best-seller list

Congratulations Paulo Coelho, today The Alchemist three hundred and fftteen continuous weeks in New York Times best-seller list. That is an amazing six years. And it is at No 5. A few weeks ago, it was at No 3.

Not bad for a book that was first published twenty six years ago.

Paulo Coelho has a new book Adultery out in England middle of this week. Ask in Waterstone’s and they do not have a clue what you are asking for. And how many copies on order, even in a large bookshop as in Guildford, the former Ottaker’s flagship store (and far better run when it was)? Er, one!

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