Some great reading this week. At the weekend I finished Penelope Lively’s Ammonites and Leaping Fish, A Life in Time. It’s a memoir, but being Penelope Lively she bypasses all the clichés. It’s a social history as well as her history; beautifully written which is a given with her as an author, and absorbing. It’s perceptive, observant, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. There is a little impatience with the ageing process but never self-pity. The only time Penelope Lively has disappointed me was Spiderweb, which I think was written not long after her husband Jack’s death, so might be forgiven as a potboiler.
I won’t go into all the structure of Ammonites and Leaping Fish. There are lots of reviews you could read. I rather like this one. But this is how the book begins:
This is not quite a memoir. Rather, it is the view from old age. And a view of old age itself, this place at which we arrive with a certain surprise – ambushed, or so it can seem. One of the few advantages of age is that you can report on it with a certain authority; you are a native now, and know what goes on here.
I borrowed my copy from the library, but there is so much in it that I want to return to it will soon be on my shelves. Continue reading
I may have to stop MasterB listening to the news; he seems to be adopting statesmanlike poses. What shall I do if he starts to brush his fur into an Osborne?
I just listened to Stephanie Cole reading one of Penelope Lively’s short stories, Licence to Kill
. It had all the hallmarks of classic Lively – a certain dry tone, economy of words, acute observation and insight into the human condition. I want to write to her to say how much I have enjoyed her writing over the last thirty years, but I don’t think she’s on Linked In, and even if she is, I’m not.
There are a few fan mail letters I need to write; thank-yous to people whose writing has informed, entertained and enthralled me all my adult life. Katharine Whitehorn’s Observer columns made me want to read the newspaper. Clive James TV columns in the same newspaper introduced me to literate, crafted reviews.
If anyone knows where I can send the thank-yous, please tell me.
It’s a perfect April evening here tonight. The skies are blue; there’s a stiffish breeze; the lilacs are swaying; the grass is a glorious green after all the rain. Just gorgeous.
I heard that May is expected to be cold and wet, but I am hoping that at least the May Day Bank Holiday weekend will be fine. The plan is to spend the long weekend on das Boot. The extra day means I can spend time with Mother, have a full day afloat and head back to London before the roads get clogged up.
It’d be good to do a bit of boat work; swab the decks; clean the outsides of the windows. That sort of thing.
I’m quite tempted to invite Katharine Whitehorn to stay. In her autobiography, Selective Memory, she commented that cleaning her boat put her in quite a different state of mind to cleaning her house. Maybe she’d like to keep her hand in. She’s a cat lover too, so she could enjoy NotCat and I could get to meet one of my heroines.