Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sirens Conference: Fantastic Women

Here's a magical conference taking place October 7-10 in Vail, Colorado for all you American fairy-lovers (or indeed non-American fairy-lovers if you are in the vicinity!). Alas I will not be in attendance but I'm told my books will be featured there. The guest speakers include famed Queens of Faerie Holly Black, Marie Brennan and Terri Windling, all fantastic writers of fabulous fables. There will be talks, panels, papers, feasts and a fairy ball. For more information go to

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kirkus a Dead Corpus?

Rumours of the death of Kirkus Reviews are apparently not exaggerated. While many writers are unhappy about the loss of a major reviewing vehicle, can't say I'm weeping. Of course it's personal. The Book of Dreams was panned by some unknown Kirkus critic. But it's also a matter of principle. There's something very wrong with anonymous criticism. Like blows to the genitals and stabs in the back, it's an act of cowardice. If you believe in your words, then stand by them. And needless to say, it allows for all kinds of abuse. Kirkus printed some pretty nasty pieces in its day. When I reviewed for John Banville at the Irish Times he once said to me, "if you can't say something good about a book, don't review it." I confess I learned from him that day as I had written some biting reviews myself for Books Ireland - but at least I put my name to them! The truth is there are no experts in this field. Critical history shows us many a classic that was savaged in its day. (Moby Dick comes immediately to mind.) No matter what critics insist, reviewing is entirely subjective and reviews always say more about the reviewer than they say about the reviewed. Rest in peace, Kirkus. I think this could be classified as a little dance on your grave.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

David McCallum --Kidnapped

I don't think I read Kidnapped when I was young, actually, as I'm sure I would have remembered it. What an amazing story! I would highly recommend a read. A little bit of difficulty, perhaps, getting used to the dialect at the beginning but that soon passes. The characters are truly amazing - the unscrupulous uncle, the idiosyncratic captain, the motley crew and most of all the truly courageous young David and the utterly unique hero that is Alan Breck, the Jacobite Highlander. I wish I had seen the television series, shown here. But poor David Balfour, what a terrible time he had on Erraid as opposed to the wonderful sojourn I had there.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Kidnapped on Erraid!

The Scottish island where I took a working holiday (check out my t'other blog) was well known to Robert Louis Stevenson who spent his summers there, as his father was an engineer working on the nearby lighthouse. (The window pic is the living room in one of the lighthouse workers' cottages, where I stayed with two friends.) Stevenson used Erraid as one of the settings for his book, Kidnapped, a great adventure story not unlike Dickens. Stevenson is most famous, of course, for Treasure Island. There's a story told on the island that Stevenson's father wanted him to be an engineer but Robert had other dreams and he lay down on the Wishing Stone on Erraid - will post a pic of it soon - and made his wish to be a writer. Now I have to be honest and admit that I didn't know Stevenson was Scottish. Oh, and here's a pic of Balfour Bay, named after the main character in Kidnapped, which has a fabulous strand and is lovely to swim in, though freezing cold.