Friday, 19 February 2010

A Few Special Books

I'm preparing a school event about why books are special. Here's a preview of some of the books I've chosen.

First up is this beautiful catalogue of The Albertina Exhibition of Hundertwasser's Complete Graphic Work 1951-1976. I've treasured this since 1985.

And nearly twenty years later it inspired my daughter to make this.

Next, my most recently acquired special book and current favourite. The Margaret Rudkin Pepperidge Farm Cookbook beautifully illustrated by Erik Blegvad. I've wanted this book for ages and have often looked for it on Abe Books It's big and heavy and most likely to be found in the States and sellers don't want to ship to UK. But I found this one in England and now it's mine and I love it!

Lots of things make this book special - the quality of the illustrations, the years of wanting it and finally owning it to name but two. But there's more. The dustjacket was damaged and consequently I noticed that the hardcover beneath it had a different illustration. Imagine someone owning this book for years, cooking from it, loving the pictures and getting it down from the shelf for a child to enjoy without knowing it had a secret.

The care, outstanding quality and sheer generosity of the design takes my breath away. Erik Blegvad is one of the finest illustrators there is and deserves world recognition. Read more about him here.

And this copy is special to me because last week Erik signed it for me.

Next, a book that is simple, clever and utterly brilliant. Perhaps the most honest and the most accessible Don't Do Drugs message there is. If you don't know this book and you know a teenager buy it for them.

The House That Crack Built - written by Clark Taylor illustrated by Jan Thompson Dicks. Get it from a bookshop near you.

And now for the handmade books and a whole other level of special.

This beautiful book, The Firewood poem bound in wood is from Harrington and Squires All I want to say about this exquisite book is you have to hold it in your hands to believe it.

Here is another I treasure from Harrington and Squires - The Golden Key

Better pictures on their website

As I'm doing this I keep thinking of more books on my shelf that I want to include here. This is the last one for now though.

Last but not least but oh so very tiny.

It's small, but yes, you can read it.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Writing Away from Home

I seem to write more when I'm not at home.

I write more, I think more clearly and I sleep like I've been switched off. And I'm not talking about a going-off-by-myself-and-severing-contact-with-the-world-writing-retreat kind of experience. (Though I'd like to give that a whirl sometime.)

I've just spent three nights with friends and family and even though it was fun and busy I had some great writing sessions and made significant progress with my current story.

Despite the thrills and spills of the Winter Olympics, that got my heart going like the clapper on a cowbell, some committed movie watching, walks with the dog, long suppers, having a crossword on the go - despite all this, I was able to write. I wrote early in the morning, in the afternoons, in the evenings and had a couple of four am writes after which I went back to bed and slept like someone hit with a mallet.

It's been an extraordinary few days starting with torrential rain the day we arrived (the field opposite the house would have made a good location set for a film about Paschendale) followed by a blue-sky day where the sun felt warm and my son swam in the river. Then, this morning we woke up to a world whitened by frost.

It is, nonetheless, good to be home and I'll be back to my usual writing routine tomorrow - hopefully it'll go just as well as at the start of the week.