The Painted Veil

Having recently bought you news of a film not to see (Amazing Grace, scroll down a bit), I can now counter myself by a positive recommendation: The Painted Veil (2006; out on DVD), based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Forget all the pyrotechnics and special effects, there is nothing like a movie based on a good book. (Atonement being a recent case in point.) The Painted Veil is produced by the two main actors, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton.

The title of the book is taken from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s sonnet "Lift Not The Painted Veil Which Those Who Live." Here’s a brief plot summary from Wikipedia: Shallow and lost Kitty marries the intellectual and passionate Walter Fane, bacteriologist, who is madly in love with her. Kitty has an affair with the "perfect" Charles Townsend, assistant colonial secretary of Hong Kong. When Walter finds out of their affair, he leaves Kitty with an ultimatum. Heartbroken, Kitty decides to accompany Walter to the cholera-infested mainland of China.

Crime-fiction reviewed on blogs

Excerpts from some recent reviews of crime-fiction books:

Glenn at International Noir Fiction reviews Mari Jungstedt’s "Unspoken". Writes Glenn: "There’s plenty of dark stuff in the book, in an unspectacular way–no serial killers, nobody returning from the dead, nobody plotting to kill the Prime Minister–but that, I think is one of the strengths of the majority of new crime novels coming from Scandinavia. The authors seem to find plenty of threat and drama in ordinary life."

Crime Fic Reader (It’s a Crime!) reviews Die with Me by Elena Forbes. "This is a page turner of a novel, densely plotted, with an abundance of welcome and deep characterisation.  I could not find a unique selling point (USP), as, in a nutshell, it’s a police procedural, set in London; but that defies the list I started with at the top, all of which mark out Forbes as taking a new and very contemporary view of what is happening in British society today."

Crime Fiction Dossier/David Montgomery (among others) celebrates Dave White’s first novel When One Man Dies. "When One Man Dies introduces New Jersey private eye Jackson Donne, a decent detective who wants nothing more than to get out of the business. Unfortunately, things keep happening that make it impossible for him to quit. (I won’t spoil the plot for you – read the book yourself.) White has accomplished quite a feat, writing a PI novel that is both traditional and fresh. He’s one of the best new talents to join this much-beleaguered area of the genre in some time."

Material Witness on Arnaldur Indridason’s Silence of the Grave:…"Indridason paints the harsh landscape with its dark winters and endless summer sunlight in the  context of the struggle of its people to understand it and survive it, and makes it a living, breathing entity, influencing the story as much as any other factor. Iceland and the Icelanders seemed utterly inseparable in a way that is not common in much crime fiction where it would not be difficult to imagine lifting a plot and all of its characters entirely free from one locale and dumping them into another without the story losing a beat."

Equiano comes to Kingston

"A new play performed by the award-winning MeWe Youth Theatre. Written and directed by Ann-Marie Olufuwa, this enjoyable new work is based on the life of Olaudah Equiano who wrote a celebrated autobiography detailing his life in captivity and his fight to become a free man. Olaudah became an inspirational figure in London in the movement to abolish the slave trade. Adventurous, informative and uplifting! The performance lasts 1 hour ten minutes, followed by a short panel discussion with distinguished guests."

Date: Thursday 25 October 2007
Time: Matinee 2pm; Evening 7.30pm
Location: Arthur Cotterell Theatre, Kingston College, Kingston Hall Road, Kingston KT1 2AQ
Website; EmailPhone: 020 8547 5409.

If you can’t get there but are interested in the topic, I strongly recommend that you do not watch the movie Amazing Grace, now out on DVD (as I did recently, in the mistaken idea that it would be an interesting and educational family experience): it is among the worst films I’ve seen. The first scene involves Wilberforce seeing from his coach window two men beating a horse. He gets out and tells them to stop. One is about to attack him when the other says "Hang on, Jim [or whatever], I recognise that man, that’s William Wilberforce. He’s against slavery. Let’s leave him alone". Wilberforce gives them a baleful look, gets back into coach: men are last seen patting horse and trying to help it stand up. It goes downhill from there. (Equiano does feature, but not meaningfully. I cannot bear to write any more on this time waster, though.)

A map by any other name

Rscmap1072_4 Via Going Underground blog (whose title is Tu be or not Tu be, pretty good, eh?) you can see, and indeed buy, various products based on this latest in a venerable line of London non-underground maps at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) website.

Here is a link to the RSC press release explaining the rationale for the map. "The lines include: lovers (red), mothers (pink), fathers and daughters (green), villains (light blue), heroes (dark blue), strong and difficult women (turquoise), warriors (black) and fools (orange). Interesting intersections include Henry V who meets on the warrior and hero line, and Lady Macbeth on the strong and difficult women and warrior line."

A Half Life of One is (nearly) born

Link: View From The Pundy House: On becoming a publisher.

Petrona’s favourite one-man publishing revolution, Bill Liversidge, is seeking advice (above) about marketing his about-to-be-published book, A Half Life of One. I am going to buy and read this book when it comes out (my copy is reserved). I am sure it will be good, based on following View from the Pundy House for the past year or two. If any of Petrona’s readers have experience of self-publishing and author marketing (and I think one or two of you do), please do head on over to the Pundy House at the link above, and drop Bill a comment. While you are there, take a look around his blog, and you’ll see what I mean about the signs being propitious. (Don’t get sidetracked into too many wild parties in the comments while you are there. You have been warned.)

Mr Charkin has left the building

Mr Richard Charkin, Macmillan’s Chief Executive, has a new job. From 1 October, he takes over as Executive Director of Bloomsbury plc (publisher of Harry Potter). A sad side effect of this move is that he’s closing up the Charkin Blog: see Chark Blog – Pip Pip for details. This blog is, in my view, the most stimulating, literate, punchy and downright readable of all the book publishers’ blogs I’ve come across. So I shall be mourning Charkin Blog now that its lights have been switched off, but hoping also that some form of it will re-emerge post-October to brighten up our RSS readers.

Allan Ahlberg, childhood favourite

One of our family’s very favourite children’s authors, defined as enjoyed by the person reading out loud as much as enjoyed by the child herself, was Allan Ahlberg — I write "was" not because he is no longer with us, but because the children are now too old (they consider) for his books and not old enough to have their own children to whom to read them. But Each Peach Pear Plum is the perfect book for 0 year olds; The Jolly Postman, Burglar Bill and the Ha Ha Bonk Book adored by 5 year olds (the last of which has regularly driven me mad); and Please Mrs Butler, Heard it in the Playground, Friendly Matches and other poems spot on for 10 year olds. There are many more books besides (about 140 in total).

Mr Ahlberg is here intereviewed in the Times: Allan Ahlberg on how to get children to read – Times Online. And you can listen to a podcast of him reading from one of his creations, Funnybones, too. For me, one reason I enjoyed reading his books to my children is because I am too old (being 150) to have read them myself as a child. It has always been a wonderful experience for me, bookworm extraordinarie, to discover "new" authors across the generational divide in this way: J K Rowling, Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman — even Roald Dahl — being a precocious reader I was just too old to want to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (a charming book) when it first came out but remember my youngest two sisters reading it. Discovering Matilda (published 20 years later) about 17 years ago when my husband (whose blog nickname, MP, comes from an Ahlberg poem, come to think of it, "The Mad Professor’s Daughter") read it to his eldest daughter, was one of those "strike a light" moments. What a book!

Returning to my original topic, Here is Allan Ahlberg’s story, some happy, some sad, on Penguin’s website.

Win Tana French’s In the Woods

I absolutely should not be doing this, because I don’t want the competition for this competition (ha ha) but at this link: Crime Always Pays: The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books, you can enter to win a copy of the long-awaited (in my case) In the Woods by Tana French, just published in paperback in the UK. This is a very generous act by Declan Burke of the blog Crime Always Pays (link above) and Hodder Headline Ireland, the publisher.

Thanks, Declan — and while I am mentioning you I’ll just add that you have written a pretty spiffing crime caper yourself, The Big O, which Petrona can highly recommend. Not that I am trying to get into your good books to be one of the winners of your draw, heaven forbid I would stoop to such tactics.

Google presentations and sharing

Take your eyes off Google for five minutes and you miss a lot. Two recent announcements:

"The Google Email/Share button allows you to easily share or email any web-page with your friends. Your shared stuff page is publicly visible and allows you to share stuff with your friends and on the web. Whenever you see the Google sharing button, on our sites or any other, click it to share the current webpage in whatever way you prefer!" At the link, you can make a bookmarklet so you can just add an "email/share" option to any page very easily. (I’m going to try to do it on this one when I’ve finished the post. Later: well, this seems to be it. (??) ) There are a few other things you can do with it, also (see the Google page at the link).

Perhaps more usefully, or at any rate soberly, there is now Google Presentations, the company’s answer to Microsoft PowerPoint. Those familiar with Google Docs&Spreadsheets won’t be surprised to learn that Presentations is a collaborative way to make a slideshow. (GD&S has as a result shortened its name to Google Docs, probably a wiser decision than calling it GDS&P.) Anyway, to see what it looks like, go to your Google Docs page (or open an account), click on "new" over at the left, then click on Presentations. Other than that, there isn’t (yet?) much in the way of official announcements from Google, but here is the post on the official Google blog when the news was first given.

New editor of Tolkien journal

From The End of the Pier Show, my friend and colleague Henry Gee’s blog: "Well, here I am in Oxford, at Oxonmoot, the annual meeting of the Tolkien Society. This note is merely to tell you that everyone here looks quite normal. Nobody is dressed up as a hobbit or an elf (which will mean the event will get zero publicity, as the dressing-up is only aspect of Tolkien fandom in which the press is interested). I have just volunteered myself as the next editor of Mallorn, the Society’s annual journal. What have I done?"

My congratulations to Henry. And, as editor of the journal, he is calling for submissions. If you are interested, please go to the Mallorn‘s website for further information.