Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sue Townsend, Farley Mowat, Page 56! and a few Public Service Announcements

Remembering two authors today, who've recently passed away, Farley Mowat and Sue Townsend.

I've done "why doesn't my newspaper report on the important stuff" features before, on the passing of favourite authors: Peg Bracken, Madeleine l'Engle, Norma Fox Mazer, and so on.

This time, of course, I don't even know if the local Montreal paper reported on Sue Townsend, though I'm sure they did write about Farley Mowat since he's Canadian. I heard about both of these through Twitter.

It's been many years since I read any Farley Mowat. It's possible that I only ever read one - Owls in the Family, about his childhood. Now, of course, I feel guilty about this. I'd especially like to read his autobiographical works about World War II, though the ones about Canada's North are intriguing too. Here's a list of his first 15 works:

People of the Deer (1952; revised 1975)
The Regiment (1955)
Lost in the Barrens (1956)
The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (1957)
Coppermine Journey: An Account of a Great Adventure (1958)
Grey Seas Under: The Perilous Rescue Missions of a North Atlantic Salvage Tug(1959)
The Desperate People (1959; revised 1999)
Ordeal by Ice (1960)
Owls in the Family (1961)
The Serpent's Coil: An Incredible Story of Hurricane-Battered ships the Heroic Men Who Fought to Save Them (1961)
The Black Joke (1962)
Never Cry Wolf (1963)
West-Viking (1965)
The Curse of the Viking Grave (1966)
Canada North (1967)

Sue Townsend wrote the Adrian Mole diaries, of course. For some reason I didn't read these when I was young, but only came to them in my middle twenties -- which was probably better, in a way, as only the first diary dealt with the young teenage Adrian Mole, while the others followed him at later stages. I still haven't read the last one, and Adrian Mole is now older than I am!

One of my favourites of her books is The Queen and I (and the sequel Queen Camilla), in which Labour come into power in the 80s and the entire Royal family is ousted to live on a Council estate. It was fun to see Townsend's depictions of which family members managed to adapt, which didn't, and how they interacted with the other residents of the estate.

Another good one is Rebuilding Coventry, about a woman who commits a murder, in defense of a neighbour being strangled, and then goes on the run in London.

Townsend suffered from diabetes and kidney failure, and a few years ago spoke out on National Kidney Day about the importance of altruistic organ donation. Here's the BBC interview with Townsend about her disabilities, and a more extensive interview with Townsend that also includes other topics.

Last week I read (brief interjection here to say that I've been reading a lot and have not made much progress at all on ROW80 goals. Woe is me!) Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There, about his travels in Europe in the early 90s, and I'm using that book for...

Page 56!

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56 per cent in your eReader (if you have to improvise, that's okay).
*Find any sentence (or a few (just don't spoil it)) that grabs you.
*Post it.

Here's Bryson:
"Goldfish daunt me. Their whole existence seems a kind of reproach. 'What's it all about?' they seem to be saying. 'I swim here, I swim there. What for?'"
To my mind, the only possible pet is a cow. Cows love you. They are harmless, they look nice, they don't need a box to crap in, they keep the grass down and they are so trusting and stupid that you cannot help but lose your heart to them."

Hmm, I don't think he noticed, when he was in Switzerland, the annual cow battles: the Combat des Reins (Fight of the Queens). I'm not making this up! The last round was a couple of weeks ago and not only was it all over the papers, it was televised too.

I took the page 56 meme from LuAnn's Back Porchervations blog. Feel free to share!

Public service announcements!

I haven't had a chance to do this yet, but a few weeks ago, on her birthday, since it was close to the anniversary of her own successful Kickstarter campaign, Amanda Palmer asked anyone who felt inclined to go support another Kickstarter project as a birthday present to her.

There are lots of intriguing projects out there, including one that's about to begin in a few days -- photographs of real librarians by Kyle Cassidy.

Neil Gaiman recently visited a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Here's a direct link to his piece in The Guardian.

And the latest Humble Bundle books bundle features a huge collection of Doctor Who comics! Pay what you like! Proceeds go to Doctors Without Borders and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The WRiTE CLUB submission deadline is fast approaching!

DL Hammons explains:
"For the newbies out there, let me explain what WRiTE CLUB is? It's a modest writing competition whose inspiration was derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB. There are numerous versions of this concept around the internet, but nothing like we do it here. This unique approach, combined with your participation, continues to set it apart from the other writing competitions and is responsible for its phenomenal growth. Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top.

Over the course of eight weeks I'll be holding twice-weekly bouts in which the winners will advance to the play-offs, which will ultimately lead to a single champion. Bouts between who... or what... you ask. Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by anyone who wishes to take part, that's who. The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction. It's a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, without having to suffer the agony of exposure.

And the winners are determined by WRiTE CLUB readers!"

Care to share a page 56 sentence?
Have you participated in WRiTE CLUB?
Any other intriguing Kickstarter (or other) projects you'd like to call attention to?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz .. We did hear about Sue Townsend ... she had a tough life, but came out on top through her writing .. but what a difficult end she had .. I felt for her and her family ...

I haven't read any of her books - still! and am not sure I know of Farley Mowat ..

I hadn't realised Neil Gaiman had been to Syria ... but I'm late catching up sometimes ..

I'm pleased everyone's getting excited about DL's Write Club .. and good luck to one and all ..

Cheers and good luck for all your reading ... Hilary said...

Thanks for the book recommendations. I haven't read anything by these two authors, but I'll have to look into it.

I also just learned a couple hours ago that we lost Maya Angelou, a great American poet and writer. I saw her speak in person a couple years ago, and she was amazing--such a passionate and inspiring person. It's always sad to lose someone whose life and works inspired us.

M Pax said...

I hear a lot of news on Twitter these days. It was sad to hear of Maya this morning.

Neil is an interesting guy. I'll go read his article. thanks.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry to hear of their passing. I'm not familiar with Townsend, but I have read Never Cry Wolf.
I've not participated in Write Club, but I was a judge last year!

S.P. Bowers said...

I submitted to WriteClub, did you?

Theresa Milstein said...

How sad to lose two authors.

I think that's great what Amanda Palmer requested. I don't think I've ever contributed to one.

Good of you to promote the Write Club.

Jemi Fraser said...

Farley Mowat is one of my all-time favourite authors!! I love so many of his books. 2 of my top faves would be Never Cry Wolf (I think it's one of those must reads) and Virunga - a weave of his words and the diary of Dian Fossey. Incredible stuff!

Shan Jeniah Burton said...

I loved Farley Mowatt when I was a little girl.

I read Owls in the Family when I was 8 or so. It was one of the books in my Wide Horizons reader.

As a teen, I read another of his books, this one about his dog...I'm blanking on the name.

I didn't know that he died. He introduced me to Canada, and I learned a lot about owls from him, too!

Cherie Reich said...

Aww, I hadn't heard about Sue Townsend dying, and I can't say I knew anything about Farley Mowat.

Love the Page 56 thing! I've always wanted a cow as a pet. :)

Arlee Bird said...

I'm woefully uninformed about modern writers I guess. I've never heard of these who passed. Sue Townsend vaguely, but I don't know her work. Guess I should be reading more.

What is the best short story ever written?
Tossing It Out

Jack said...

I like the page 56 you shared. It made me want to read the book. It made me want to read even more then that one book. I think I would like the Townsend's works.

debi o'neille said...

It's always sad to hear of a great writer's passing, and to hear about two, along with Maya Angelou's recent passing, it's heartbreaking. Sad is almost too small of a word.

Meradeth Houston said...

Hmm, I haven't read either of those authors, but I'll have to check them out. And I love that quote from pg 56 :) Though I'd have to say the perfect pet is a goat, for much the same reasons, and other than the occasional buck, they're much easier to handle!

Medeia Sharif said...

I read many of Sue Townsend's books and adored her writing, but I'm not familiar with Mowat.

Stephanie Faris said...

It's interesting--I don't remember so many deaths when I wrote romantic fiction...children's authors tend to die. Maybe it's because people start writing children's books when we're older...or we write them well into old age?

Kelly Steel said...

Hi Deniz,

Interesting post. So many lifes impacted by novelists.

Trisha F said...

I hadn't heard about Sue Townsend until this post! Geez... how sad. :(

WRiTE CLUB should be fun to witness. hehe

Misha Gericke said...

I always find it sad when writers pass away, even if I haven't read their books. :-(

vbtremper said...

Always such interesting info on your blog! I love Bill Bryson. I haven't heard this one and I should, considering how much I love Europe, too. Good luck with your writing!


Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks all! I heard about Maya Angelou about an hour after I hit post on this blogpost. So sad.

Excited for Write Club to start! I was one of the preliminary judges this year, which was lots of fun.

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell
  • A Winter Wedding by Brenda Novak
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Spun by Catherine McKenzie
  • Sauron Defeated - Book 9 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • Lonely Planet guide to Switzerland
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Journal of Inklings Studies
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Le livre des Baltimore by Joel Dicker
  • Paddington Bear All Day by Michael Bond
  • Beowulf and Sellic Spell by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Mrs Whippy by Cecelia Ahern
  • The Story of Kullervo by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Going Back by T. L. Watson
  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (abridged, darn it)
  • Emily's House
  • The Hockey Song
  • The End of All Things by John Scalzi
  • A Christmas Story by Richard Burton
  • Histoire de Founex by Josiane Ferrari-Clément (skimmed)
  • Rabbit's Nap: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
  • La Verite sur l'affair Harry Quebert by Joel Dicker (loving this!)
  • How To Be A Man (and other illusions) by Duff McKagan
  • The War of the Ring - Book 8 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • Pop-up Peekaboo: Farm (DK publishing) (board book) (duh)
  • Paddington Bear Goes to Market by Michael Bond (board book)
  • Emily's Balloon by Komako Sakai
  • Bible stories and puzzles (in French) (board book)
  • The Last Chance Ball (a Word Wenches christmas anthology featuring Jo Bourne, Jo Beverley, etc.)
  • Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread but new edition)
  • CassaFire by Alex Cavanaugh
  • First and Second Things by C. S. Lewis
  • Smith of Wootton Major by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread but new edition)
  • So Anyway... by John Cleese
  • The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
  • Slowly, silently now the moon by Walter de la Mare (poem)
  • I can't work like this by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • CassaStar by Alex Cavanaugh
  • Death of A Century: A Novel of the Lost Generation by Daniel Robinson
  • The Fly by William Blake (poem, reread)
  • Tyger, Tyger by William Blake (poem, reread)
  • The Christie Notebooks by John Curran
  • The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • secret beta 2!
  • The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
  • Chu's Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman (reread, many times)
  • Sacred Inwardness by Marilynne Robinson (essay)
  • New Statesman issue guest edited by Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman (I don't usually include magazines in this list but I read this one cover to cover)
  • The North Star is Nearer by Evelyn Eaton
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King (loved My Pretty Pony)
  • Every Month Was May by Evelyn Eaton
  • Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan
  • secret beta!
  • Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
  • In Two Aeroplanes Over the Sea by Amanda Palmer (poem)
  • Jim at the Corner by Eleanor Farjeon
  • Finding Fraser by kc dyer
  • Mother Tongue -- The Story of the English Language by Bill Bryson
  • The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie
  • The Lord Fish by Walter de la Mare
  • The Going To Bed Book by S Boynton
  • The Nursery Rhyme Book by Andrew Lang
  • In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
  • Subterranean Scalzi Super featuring To Sue the World (an original, very short Redshirts story available nowhere else) Muse of Fire Mallet of Loving Correction Lock In, Lost Chapters (available nowhere else) How I Proposed To My Wife: An Alien Sex Story An Election Judge Sn Goes Golfing Questions for a Soldier The Sagan Diary The Tale of the Wicked The God Engines You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop by John Scalzi
  • Emily Goes to Market by William Mayne
  • Many Moons by James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (reread)
  • Colours Are Nice (Little Golden Book)
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo by Judy Blume
  • The Wars by Timothy Findley (reread)
  • The Captive Diary of Catherine Logan by Mary Pope Osborne (Dear America)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (reread)
  • The Poky Puppy (Little Golden Book) (abridged)
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (reread)
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • secret beta read 2
  • Pre-Fix: A Ciel Halligan Short Story by Linda Grimes
  • Hidden by Catherine Mackenzie
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
  • But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton
  • Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad by M. R. James (short story) (1904)
  • Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman (reread)
  • My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
  • Usborne board books
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson (so lovely)
  • Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico
  • secret beta read!
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend
  • HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner by Kait Nolan
  • This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner
  • Two Caravans by Monica Lewycka
  • Aunt Sass by P. L. Travers
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (actually a few pages of the story, written by John Green for the film of his novel The Fault In Our Stars)
  • January Brings the Snow by Sara Coleridge (poem)
  • Kissing song by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • The Mother by Nettie Palmer (poem)
  • William Tell Told Again by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne
  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
  • Mes P'tits Contes, legends of Swiss cantons
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at