Events

Our forthcoming events are listed below. We would love to see you here, but seating is very limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.
To book, please visit our online shop

You can also call or email the bookshop on 020 7229 1010, bookshop@lutyensrubinstein.co.uk to reserve your tickets.

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FORTHCOMING EVENTS

Tuesday 6th June, 7pm (£10)
NELL STEVENS on BLEAKER HOUSE
More Information and Booking

Tuesday 21st June, 7pm (£10)
ADAM PHILLIPS on IN WRITING
More Information and Booking

Wednesday 28th June, 7pm (£10)
BELLA POLLEN and JULIA SAMUEL in Conversation
More Information and Booking

FORTHCOMING BOOK CLUBS

Saturdays at 10.30am – STORYTIME
Half an hour of reading for the under-five set, just turn up!
Storytime returns on Saturday 29th April

Wednesday 24th May 2017, 10.15am – JUKE BOOKS
To take part in Juke Books, please email bookshop@lutyensrubinstein.co.uk

Wednesday 24th May 2017, 12.30pm – CHILDREN’S LITERATURE FOR GROWN-UPS: THE SUBTLE KNIFE AND THE AMBER SPYGLASS
To join this book club, please email tara@lutyensrubinstein.co.uk

Wednesday 31st May, 12.30pm – LUNCHTIME CLASSICS BOOK CLUB: THE PAINTED VEIL
To join this book club, please email claire@lutyensrubinstein.co.uk

Monday 12th June, 11.30am – DAYLIGHT BOOK CLUB: SO LONG SEE YOU TOMORROW
To join this book club, please email claire@lutyensrubinstein.co.uk

Date TBC – NON FICTION BOOK CLUB: DOWN BELOW
To join this book club, please email claire@lutyensrubinstein.co.uk

Thursday 29th June, 1pm – CRIME CLUB: STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
To join this book club, please email claire@lutyensrubinstein.co.uk

Friday 30th June 2017, 11.15am – DAYLIGHT BOOK CLUB: AMONGST WOMEN
To join this book club, please email claire@lutyensrubinstein.co.uk

PREVIOUS EVENTS

Tuesday 16th May
JENNY LANDRETH on SWELL

Tuesday 25th April 2017
JOANNA MOORHEAD on THE SURREAL LIFE OF LEONORA CARRINGTON

Thursday 6th April 2017
JEAN HANFF KORELITZ and PAUL MULDOON

Tuesday 21st February 2017
AMOR TOWLES discussed A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Saturday 26th November 2016
POPPY CHANCELLOR: Cut it Out, a Christmas Papercutting workshop

Tuesday 22nd November 2016
ARTEMIS COOPER discussed ELIZABETH JANE HOWARD with SELINA HASTINGS

Tuesday 25th October 2016
RORY STEWART discussed The Marches

Tuesday 4th October 2016
BEN MACINTYRE discussed SAS: Rogue Heroes

Tuesday 20th September
TED SANDLING discussed London In Fragments

Tuesday 28th June
HISHAM MATAR discussed The Return with WILLIAM FIENNES

Tuesday 21st June
ANITA BROOKNER: A panel discussion
Chaired by Juliet Annan, with Carmen Callil, Rachel Cooke and Tessa Hadley

Thursday 9th June 2016
EMMA CLINE discussed The Girls with Alexandra Heminsley

Tuesday 24th May 2016
PHILIPPE SANDS discussed East West Street with KATE FIGES

Tuesday 17th May 2016
JOHN PRESTON discussed A Very English Scandal with ROLAND PHILLIPS

Tuesday 19th April 2016
LISA OWENS & ANNA RAVERAT in Conversation with FRANCESCA MAIN

Tuesday 16th February 2016
ELIZABETH STROUT discussed My Name is Lucy Barton with CRESSIDA CONNOLLY

Tuesday 8th December 2015
ADAM PHILLIPS discussed Unforbidden Pleasures

Wednesday 28th October 2015
GARTH RISK HALLBERG discussed City on Fire with Tom Sutcliffe

Wednesday 30th September2015
Grief… and Happiness: MAX PORTER and JACK UNDERWOOD were in Conversation

Tuesday 29th September 2015
SEBASTIAN FAULKS discussed Where My Heart Used to Beat

Wednesday 9th September 2015
An Evening of Debut Novelists with: COLIN MACINTYRE, LAURA BARNETT, ANTONIA HONEYWELL & CATRIONA WARD

Wednesday 2nd September 2015
BILL CLEGG was in Conversation with ROLAND PHILIPPS

Tuesday 1st September 2015
ELENA FERRANTE: A PANEL DISCUSSION
With CATHY RENTZENBRINK, JONATHAN GIBBS, SUSANNA GROSS and TESSA HADLEY

Thursday 13th August 2015
DAVID GATES and STUART EVERS were in Conversation

Tuesday 14th July 2015
HARPER LEE: A PANEL DISCUSSION
with HADLEY FREEMAN, PHILIPPE SANDS, LOUISA YOUNG & ISABEL ADOMAKOH YOUNG

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
WOMEN IN CLOTHES
Conversation & Clothes Swap with LEANNE SHAPTON

Tuesday 16th June 2015
JAMES WOOD discussed The Nearest Thing to Life

Tuesday 2nd June 2015
HADLEY FREEMAN discussed Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies.

Wednesday 27th May 2015
GERBRAND BAKKER & PER PETTERSON were in Conversation

Tuesday 19th May 2015
Doctors Dissected
MARTIN SCURR & JANE HAYNES were in Conversation

Tuesday 12th May 2015
Germany & Britain
GILES WATERFIELD and NEIL MACGREGOR were in Conversation with GINA THOMAS

Tuesday 5th May 2015
On The Wilder Shores of Love
GEORGIA DE CHAMBERET discussed the life and works of Lesley Blanch with ELISA SEGRAVE

Wednesday 29th April 2015
Love, Sex & Other Foreign Policy Goals
JESSE ARMSTRONG in Conversation with NED BEAUMAN

Tuesday 21st April 2015
Who Governs Britain & Get it Together
ANTHONY KING and ZOE WILLIAMS in Conversation

Tuesday, 3rd March 2015
ALEXANDRA FULLER discussed Leaving Before the Rains Come

Thursday 26th February 2015
DANA THOMAS discussed Gods & Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano

Tuesday 25th November 2014
WILL SELF and IAIN SINCLAIR discussed JG Ballard

Tuesday 28th October 2014
EMMANUEL CARRERE discussed Limonov with ROBERT MCCRUM

Wednesday 15th October 2014
TIMOTHY DONNELLY was in conversation with ADAM PHILLIPS

Tuesday 1st July
ADAM PHILLIPS on Becoming Freud

Thursday 29th May 2014
JOANNA RAKOFF discussed My Salinger Year with RACHEL COOKE

Wednesday 28th May 2014
KATHRYN SIMMONDS in conversation with ADAM PHILLIPS

Wednesday 21st May 2014
KARL OVE KNAUSGAARD in conversation with STEPHEN GROSZ

Tuesday 13th May 2014
PATRICK NESS discussed More than This with VIV GROSKOP

Tuesday 6th May 2014
NED BEAUMAN and ZOE PILGER were in CONVERSATION

Thursday 24th April 2014
ALICE GREENWAY and REBECCA HUNT were in conversation

Tuesday 25th March 2014, 7pm (£8)
BEN MACINTYRE on A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

Tuesday 18th March 2014
REBECCA MEAD was in conversation with FERNANDA EBERSTADT on The Road to Middlemarch

Tuesday 4th March 2014
BEN WATT was in conversation with JOHN NIVEN

Thursday 6th February 2014
JAMES LASDUN was in conversation with ADAM PHILLIPS

Monday 2nd December 2013
Nina Stibbe was in conversation with Nick Hornby

Wednesday 27th November 2013
Adam Phillips was in Conversation with Lisa Appignanesi

Wednesday 30th October 2013
Emily Berry was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Thursday 5th September 2013
THE RUM READINGS

Wednesday 28th August 2013, 7pm
SUNDAY NIGHT MOVIES
Leanne Shapton in conversation with Craig Taylor

Thursday 15th August 2013
The Interestings and Clever Girl
Meg Wolitzer and Tessa Hadley in conversation.

Tuesday 16th July 2013
Philipp Meyer discussed The Son with Chris Cleave

Thursday 11th July 2013
Holland House
A Talk by Linda Kelly

Tuesday 2nd July 2013
The Woman Upstairs
Claire Messud talked to Kate Figes

Monday 1st July 2013
Ruth Ozeki and Matt Haig were in conversation with Jamie Byng

Thursday, 6th June 2013
Curtis Sittenfeld Discussed Sisterland with Viv Groskop

Wednesday 1st May 2013
Ron Rash discussed Nothing Gold Can Stay

Tuesday April 30th 2013
William Sutcliffe and John McCarthy were in conversation with William Sieghart

Wednesday 27th March 2013
Oli Hazzard was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Wednesday 13th February 2013
Stephen Grosz and Andrew Solomon were in conversation with Cressida Connolly

Wednesday, 6th February 2013
Lucy Hughes-Hallett discussed The Pike

Monday, 21st January 2013
Don Paterson was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Wednesday, November 28th 2012
Connie Bensley was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Wednesday, September 12th 2012
Jane Draycott was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Monday, September 10th 2012
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi discussed Jerusalem with Giles Fraser

Wednesday, August 1st 2012
Leanne Shapton discussed Swimming Studies with Craig Taylor

Tuesday, July 3rd 2012
Ned Beauman and Nick Harkaway discussed The Teleportation Accident and Angelmaker with Roland Philipps

Thursday, 21st June 2012
Kate Summerscale discussed Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace with India Knight

Tuesday, 12th June 2012
Adam Phillips discussed Missing Out with Giles Fraser

Monday, 28th May 2012
Chad Harbach on The Art of Fielding

Monday, 23rd April 2012
Ben Macintyre discussed Double Cross

Thursday, 19th April 2012
Peter Stamm discussed Seven Years with Adam Thirlwell

Wednesday, 21st March 2012
Philip Gross was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Wednesday, 14th March 2012
Sadakat Kadri was in conversation with Barnaby Rogerson

Wednesday, 22nd February 2012
John Fuller was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Thursday, 9th February 2012
Lavinia Greenlaw was in conversation with Ted Hodgkinson of Granta Magazine

Tuesday, 31st January 2012
Laura Del-Rivo and Michael Horovitz were in Conversation with Julian Mash

Tuesday, 22nd November 2011
Cressida Connolly and Vendela Vida were in Conversation

Thursday, 17th November 2011
Adam O’ Riordan was in Conversation with Adam Phillips

Wednesday, 28th September 2011
Bernard O’Donoghue was in Conversation with Adam Phillips

Thursday, 23rd June 2011
Hisham Matar was in Conversation with Philippe Sands

Tuesday, 31st May 2011
Evelyn Juers discussed The House of Exile

Wednesday, 25th May 2011
John Burnside was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Monday, 23rd May 2011
Nicola Shulman discussed Graven With Diamonds with Alan Jenkins

Thursday, 19th May 2011
Wilson Stephens Jones Decorative Arts Sale

Wednesday, 11th May 2011
David Miller and David Flusfeder discussed Today and A Film By Spencer Ludwig

Wednesday, 20th April 2011
Christopher Reid was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Sunday, 10th April 2011
James Frey discussed The Final Testament of the Holy Bible with Kate Muir

Sunday, 23rd March 2011
Jennifer Egan discussed A Visit From the Goon Squad

Thursday, 17th March 2011
Jesse Norman discussed The Big Society with Anthony Fry

Wednesday, 16th March 2011
Jo Shapcott was in conversation with Adam Phillips

Wednesday, 26th January 2011
Emma Forrest discussed Your Voice in My Head with Jon Ronson

Wednesday, 24th November 2010
Geoff Dyer discussed Working The Room

Wednesday, 17th November 2010
Adam Phillips discussed On Balance

Wednesday, 3rd November 2010
Justine Picardie discussed Coco Chanel: A Life

Wednesday, 15th September 2010
Rebecca Hunt and Ned Beauman discussed Mr Chartwell and Boxer Beetle

News

May 21, 2017
Amaryllis on the Silver Screen

It was book group this morning and we were discussing Patrick Hamilton’s searing novel of London just before the outbreak of war, Hangover Square: a sad, lonely schizophrenia sufferer and his mad obsession with Netta, the beautiful but cruelly indifferent object of his desire. It is a novel that positively reeks of cigarette smoke and alcohol as the protagonists puff and imbibe at a really astonishing rate but the unfortunate fact that the author was thoroughly familiar with his subject and themes gives the book great realism and poignancy.

However, the film makers had different ideas… they decided they wanted to make a film of Hangover Square but that the setting should be moved from the working class pubs to upper class drawing rooms and that the sad, shambling, lonely man should become a brutal, murdering psychotic and ne’er a drink was seen to be drunk let alone a hangover to be suffered… Americans seem particularly prone to eliminating the more disturbing aspects such as the death of Roger in Northern Lights – it just didn’t happen in the film. Why don’t they just write their own film rather than ruin an extremely good book? Needless to say and thankfully it was a flop so they didn’t bother with the rest of the trilogy and we were saved any more creative happy endings.

It set me to thinking about books being turned into films. Today, unfortunately, I feel a lot of books are written in the hope that a film (and lots of money) will be the result – these are not good books and should not be encouraged by making them into films, eg anything with the word ‘girl’ in it. Sometimes the film improves on the book but generally the best films are made from very good books. I have just been to see The Handmaiden which is transposed from Victorian London to 1930s Korea and it worked gloriously well – it kept the pace and the tension and the twists and the turns but clothed it in the beauty of the Japanese landscape and sensuous 1930s silks and satins.

In fact, most of the films I have seen recently have been adapted from books – Lady Macbeth, Their Finest, Nocturnal Animals– and I have really enjoyed them. I do think new books work better than classics that require longer and weightier treatment of a television series or radio dramatization although I did love the film versions of Dangerous Liaisons and The Age of Innocence. And they should never star Keira Knightley or Nicole Kidman or children… Unfortunately, some of my favourite children’s books have been ruined by wooden, precocious children such as the Narnia books – dreadful both on film and television. Others have fared much better: A Little Princess, The Secret Garden but a general rule should be that very few children can act – the marvellous Margaret O’Brien being a historic exception; as Beth in Little Women, she could melt the hardest heart.

Film is my other great love apart from books. As a child, I wasn’t allowed to watch television in the day time, but such a forbidden treasure was only the more tempting and, my father away, my mother would eventually give in rather than have me under her busy feet all day. So began my lifelong love affair with black and white melodrama and the Hollywood legends: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Veronica Lake, Robert Mitchum, Lana Turner, Katherine Hepburn – too many to mention but all adored. It was everything about that golden age: the clothes; the hairstyles; the intrigues and love affairs where lighting a cigarette and a smouldering glance spoke passion louder than words or action; the chiaroscuro that played over it all so hauntingly and transported me far away from school, homework, real life… I didn’t even mind that the 1939 film of Wuthering Heights only told half the story or that Greer Garson and her sisters wore crinolines rather than regency gowns in the 1940s Pride and Prejudice: I was in thrall to it all and remain so still.

We had a very interesting book group discussing Outline by Rachel Cusk: whilst not everyone enjoyed the read, it was agreed that she was an extraordinarily good writer and she gave us a lot to think about and discuss and we may even read another of her novels, Transit, which would be a book group first!

I also very much enjoyed my first non-fiction book group – with myself! Yes, sadly no interest as yet, but The Violet Hour was a really interesting read – it details how several literary figures confronted their death. It sounds depressing and morbid and no-one is more scared of the thought of a world without me than me, but it actually wasn’t and I only had the one panic attack!

May 5, 2017
Amaryllis: What the Dickens?

When I was a small girl, there used to be on television a short children’s programme called Hector’s House. This was in the days before children had their own programme channel, their own television in their own rooms. Hector’s House was the last children’s programme of the day and was shown just before the early evening news. This meant that a parent, usually the father, (these were still the dark ages, the mother would be doing her duty in the kitchen), would end up watching this particular programme with the child as he waited for the news – it was good quality time and although I don’t remember my father being particularly taken with Hector’s House (Hector was, in a very modern way, rather at the mercy of his wife ZsaZsa and the busybody frog, Kiki), I do remember that he was a great fan of The Magic Roundabout…

Anyway the thing about Hector was that he was not the most intelligent of dogs and after the cat and frog had run rings around him, he ended the programme with a catchphrase that usually ran along the lines of ‘what a big silly Hector I am’ and everyone loved him and forgave him his faults. I was reminded of this when reading about Diane Abbott’s disastrous interview regarding Labour’s proposal to recruit 25,000 new police officers: when asked about the cost of such a proposal she lost the plot and the figures completely and will neither be allowed to forget nor be forgiven for such a disastrous handling of the situation. I can’t help feeling that if she had just shown a bit of humour and humility in the interview, she might have got off with less approbation. After all we are all human and fallibility is part of the human condition and he who throws the first stone etc etc.

But she didn’t, and politicians generally don’t. They will never admit fault and very rarely apologise for their mistakes as the unfulfilled pledges and promises of Brexit have shown. And their most unappealing characteristic is their hypocrisy! This led me to think of Dickens who has such a colourful array of villains of all sorts and sizes. There are the villains such as Quilp who positively revel in their wickedness and don’t pretend to be other than they are. There are historical reports of people sobbing in the street as the death of Little Nell was finally revealed but I am sure not a few privately admired such dedication in removing such a tediously pious young person and only regretted it took so long…

Then there are brutish fiends such as Mr and Mrs Squeers and Bill Sykes and their opposite, the cold and calculating Mr Tulkinghorn and Ralph Nickleby who prefer to keep their hands clean and let others do their dirty work.

But I think the ones whose downfalls I anticipate with most relish are the hypocrites: Mr Pecksniff, Thomas Gradgrind, Uriah Heep who simper and preach about justice and humility and are so convincing they end up convincing themselves. This appears to be the school to which most of our politicians ascribe… how to deliver sermons on what is best for the many whilst delivering for only the few. Only this time the irony is that they walked away and our downfall is Brexit.

My book of the week is The Sport of Kings: you may need a magnifying glass to actually read the tiny print or ruin your eyes as I have probably done but it is worth it and leaves a lot to ponder. I have also just read the new Elizabeth Strout, Anything is Possible, which is another beautifully quiet and tender novel.

Our new display is ‘Wicked Women’ featuring Lady Macbeth of Mtensk – the film is very good too!

April 22, 2017
Amaryllis Re-reads

Sometimes, it is a wonder to me that the face I present to the world in the mornings is so constant in its serenity and peace. Because, this completely belies the nightmare couple of hours that I sometimes have to suffer on my journey to work caused by people! Take this morning for example: I arrive at Tower Hill, renown for its number of tourists keen to spend the day queueing to gape at some vulgar jewels in the Tower of London; the ticket office is, of course, closed and the one person on duty is lost in a milling swarm of confused and competing tourists trying to buy tickets. I have a ‘gold’ ticket which is actually a dull beige paper ticket and despite costing nearly £5,000 a year consistently fails to perform as it should do regarding the ticket barriers so I am dependent on someone letting me through. But that person is too busy explaining the difference between a pound coin and a 20p coin and ignores me so I miss my train… I eventually get on a train and the person who takes the seat next to me immediately arouses my suspicions with a loud sniff and sure enough a quick glance registers a crimson nose followed by a hacking cough and no handkerchief in view so after some very pointed looks fail to register I am the one who has to move. Already late, I arrive at Notting Hill, another tourist hot spot and again, no-one to greet my gold ticket with the respect it deserves so I have to go and drag someone out of the office. Despite all this I greet JAM with my usual bonhomie and urbanity…

Our book group met this morning to discuss Leviathan by Paul Auster. At least half of us, myself included, had read it before – long ago in the 1980s – and had absolutely loved it and, indeed, all that he wrote at that time as he garnered quite a cult following. However, apart from R who had chosen the book and D who preferred it this time, we others were less impressed second time round. What had seemed innovative and clever in the 80s now seemed a bit pretentious and a predominance of art over character and story. Many of the literature of the 80s seemed to rely heavily on showing how clever one was, whether through tricksy plots, overdone literary references or playfully subversive texts at the cost of emotional connection and humour. This led me to think about re-reading books generally: I have been disappointed on two memorable occasions: I first read The Magus when a student during a very long coach journey from the south to the north of the country but had not noticed the time nor the discomfort so transfixed was I by the book; I read it again some 20 years later and was appalled by its games and superficiality and couldn’t finish it. The other book was The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch: I read all of Iris Murdoch and adored them, particularly this one but upon re-reading, was irritated beyond belief by the egotistically vain and fussy central character. D pointed out in the meeting today, the book hasn’t changed, only the reader, but perhaps the book needs to encompass more than the reader needs or recognises at any one time. I come back time and again to 18th, 19th and 20th century classics: Austen, the Brontes, Eliot, Dickens, Greene, Taylor, Bowen etc and each time, each decade, they offer something else to the person I now am, a newly discovered word, a previously unnoticed interaction outside the main relationship, a character that has grown upon me with age. Perhaps that is the true classification of a classic: how it works on the individual reader so it becomes a personal classic for one rather than for all.

In the group, we wondered what ten books from our time would be the classics of the future – I will think on this and come back to you…

My sister, Agapanthus, is coming to NH to visit me tomorrow. She currently lives a sort of Heidi existence in the Swiss alps running up and down the Alps with the goats. Here she is known as S, the Swiss having some difficulty with her family name… For some mad reason, she is forsaking the clear, pure, mountainous air to run a marathon in the poisonous London smog but each to her own…

April 1, 2017
Amaryllis’ Maternal Instinct

Last Sunday was of course Mother’s Day, another of those horrid exclusive celebrations for the smug.

Anyway, my son was working and my younger daughter didn’t think it was worth the trip back from the States, so it was left to my middle daughter to make my day. We decided to see a film together and she insisted that which film was solely my choice. I looked at the listings feeling sure that the cinemas would have made a special effort to show something out the ordinary: perhaps Mildred Pierce with the wonderful Joan Crawford slaving away and sacrificing everything for her spoilt, selfish daughter; or Gypsy with the wonderful Rosalind Russell doing her best to make her daughter the best stripper ever, only to be cast off with a flea in her ear by her ungrateful daughter. But – nothing, just the same old things about wolf men and lego batmen etc and I am not sure that my son had me in mind when he effused about them in such a glowing, reverential voice.

But undeterred, I decided upon Elle as I had wanted to see it for a while. So off we tripped to the cinema and it was a disturbing and unsettling treat. However, when we came out and I asked my daughter what she had thought, she replied vehemently that it was one of the worst, most violent films she had ever seen thereby implying major maternal misconduct. I asked what she would have preferred, Beauty and the Beast’ (mockingly). Of course she would have, but selflessly (and luckily for me) she had made no mention of her preference. So that was a fun day and a good reason for taking absolutely no notice of such days in the future. Next time, I thought we’d see The Handmaiden, a south Korean erotic, psychological thriller… [T writes – based on the wonderful English novel Fingersmith, in case you thought A was going too far off-piste]

On Tuesday, same daughter (still a bit rankled) and I met my parents and went to Regent’s Park on a beautiful spring day. I hadn’t visited the Park for a long while and it was very beautiful and quite quiet probably because the only locals would be those living in the ornate John Nash terraces that surround the Park and a lot of these houses aren’t homes any more but bank accounts. Apparently one man has bought three of these houses to knock into one dwelling, 10 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms obviously way too few for today’s householder. Not content with the space offered by 3 enormous houses, there are plans for a basement… Anyway, I tried not to let my bitterness and anger at such vulgar greed cloud our day and was soon cheered up by a sight of the penguins by peering over the fence into London Zoo. Or would have done if before mentioned daughter hadn’t kept muttering darkly about animals in zoos…

My read of this week and it has been a slow week because it is a rather big book but do not be put off! It is so worth the read and could be a good one for anyone thinking of buying 3 houses to turn into one and then not live in it… It is The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow and is the story of a mother with 5 children who has to follow her husband to Detroit during the second world war leaving behind her dreams of a self-sufficient farming life in Kentucky. The description of life in a prefab house in Detroit as it churns out steel to support the war effort is desperate and visceral as is the struggle of Gertie, the large and unlovely heroine, to adapt or die. To be honest, I wasn’t immediately gripped and even put it down but now just over half-way through I can barely put it down and it is constantly with me.

March 18, 2017
Ageless Amaryllis

I have been giving some thought to ageing: not in relation to myself being of an eternally youthful, ‘age cannot wither her’ sort of person but as portrayed on screen and in books. I have seen two films recently and amazingly the middle-aged female characters actually had faces that moved and wrinkled in joy, despair, horror and grief. Annette Benning in Twentieth Century Women and Nathalie Baye in It’s Only the End of the World were actually able to give vent to a whole gamut of emotions because their faces weren’t frozen in immobility, the mask that passes for eternal youth these days…

Even older age and the proximity of death is the subject of Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, the book we discussed at this morning’s meeting. A nameless caller on the telephone reminds his elderly victims to ‘remember you must die’ a fact that most of them spend all their life trying to forget. Resigned patience and forbearance are not characteristics common to this group of who gripe and grumble and sleep and stumble their way to the inevitable end. They are wilful and selfish, domineering and dismissive determined to remain in control even if it is only by making and remaking their wills, gloating over the obituaries or comparing own debility to the even worse decrepitude of others. However the book is actually very funny due to the author’s acuity of observation and her merciless exposure of the frailties and hypocracies of mere humans. Memento Mori originated to remind people that not only must they die, they must then be judged. I plan to reintroduce the use of this warning to everyone who uses a mobile phone in the quiet carriage! [T writes: or the bookshop for that matter]

I have mentioned elsewhere that a lonely soul is mine, never happier than striding across moor and mountain at one with the elements so I really thought I had found my soul mate in another book that I read this week: The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel. This is the extraordinary true story of a hermit who decided to turn his back on the world aged 21 and lived undiscovered for 25 years in a forest in Maine surviving sub-zero winters living in a tent with just a calor gas stove for warmth. He stole what he needed in terms of food and supplies from a nearby cabin resort and one of these raids ultimately led to his capture and, with terrible irony, a term of imprisonment for theft. This story is a perfect antidote to the noise and light pollution, the overcrowding of cities and the terrible greed for more and more stuff. Unsurprisingly, the legal system did not really know how to deal with such a case… At one point in the book, Finkel asks himself and others when was the last time and for how long they could remember being totally alone – again unsurprisingly, the answer was practically never, certainly no longer than a few hours. Apparently, people who spend time alone are actually more intelligent than those who don’t – well I should know!

From old age to youth, young girls in particular, nymphs! Yes, I am reading Lolita as chosen by JAM for our classics book group. It is difficult to explain the reading experience in regard to this book, appreciation of the language and writing, revulsion at Humbert’s obsession, slightly guilty laughter at the comedy. Should be a very interesting discussion…

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