Labour Leadership Contest Part I

It's a new year, and what is a year in British politics without some kind of election? As you know by now, following the disastrous 2019 General Election results the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be standing down as soon as a new leader is elected - and that will be announced on 4th April.

So who is standing and who is not? It'll be quicker to open with who isn't standing: here's a quick list of those we thought might stand but who aren't: Yvette Cooper and David Lammy (I liked those two), Diane Abbott and John McDonnell (I liked them too, however it's for the best that they didn't stand), Dawn Butler, Barry Gardiner, Dan Jarvis, and Ian Lavery. And then there's Clive Lewis: to begin with each candidate needs nominations from 10% of current Labour MPs (i.e. the Parliamentary Labour Party or PLP for short) and MEPs (the European Parliamentary Labour Party, or EPLP for short), so they need 22 MPs or MEPs to back them. There's more needed after that…

Perec, Georges - Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (20th Century)

Finished: 1st January 2020
Length: 292 pages
Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Species of Space and Other Pieces was the first book I read in 2020 and it got the year off to an excellent start. There's eight sections: Species of Spaces (1974)Extracts from Je suis né (1990)Extracts from Penser / Classer (1985)Extracts from L'Infra-ordinaire (1991)Extracts from L.G. (1992)Extracts from Cantatrix Sopranica L. (1991)The Winter Journey (1993)Extracts from Voeux All of it I loved, but for this I'll just say a few words on Species from Space (Espèces d'espaces): remember when you were young you might write your address:
House number, street Village / Town / City (pick applicable) County / State / Department Country Kingdom (if you live in a kingdom) Continent The World Space
Well, that is what Species of Spaces is kind of like. Perec writes on spaces starting with the familiar and ending up in space. He introduces the work with thoughts on 'the page' and then gets straight into the most …

Elizabeth Wurtzel

Yesterday evening I learned that Elizabeth Wurtzel had died. I was stunned - I am still stunned. I only checked the news to make sure we weren't at war or anything (how sadly ironic that seems given what followed a little later in the evening) and there it was. I cried: growing up, Elizabeth Wurtzel was a big deal to me, which, as I was telling my boyfriend, was all I really could get out. It's hard to believe that giant ball of frenetic energy has gone.
Of course, if you know anything about her, you'll know she divides opinion. One of the most memorable quotes about her, and this she adopted for her Twitter bio, was that she was "A Sylvia Plath with the ego of Madonna". This came from the New York Times and they were not being complimentary, preceding that sentence with "It would be possible to have more sympathy for Ms. Wurtzel if she weren't so exasperatingly sympathetic to herself". Narcissistic, self-indulgent; loud, essentially, unwilling to …

Gogh, Vincent van - The Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1914)

Finished: 3rd January 2019
Length: 528 pages
Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, first published in 1914 (and by Penguin, the edition I read, in 1996), largely contain van Gogh's letters to his younger brother Theo. As Vincent pursued his career as an artist, Theo was to become a renowned art dealer, and so Vincent was able to discuss in detail with frankness on his development as an artist, as well as sharing his thoughts and theories on art. 
The letters begin in August 1872 when Vincent was 19 and Theo 15; Theo was at school in Oisterwijk (in Brabant, and Vincent working for the art dealers Goupil & Cie. He travelled about a lot, going to Paris, London, and Amsterdam, and in his early days he considered a career in the clergy, however, as the letters reveal, he became increasingly disillusioned and he failed his entrance exam for theology at the University of Amsterdam. He then devoted his time to painting, helped financially by Theo. Throughout however he was t…

2020 Challenges

Well I finally did it - I got some enthusiasm for the new decade! It was a rocky start I must admit - perfectly grand until 10 o' clock in the morning and bam, a migraine. Bad one as well, so I was out of it until the evening. But I am back and today does feel like a beginning. I was even productive.
And happily I found some challenges - I've got them all listed here with the links to the host if they need an explanation (I don't know if any of you get migraines, but you know you get a kind of hangover from one? Well I have one and I'm not quite up to explaining half of these). The only one unlinked is my own challenge - I want to read at least six political memoirs in 2020 (do join me if you wish). I also want to try from time to time to read more contemporary literature, and finally I want to beat my reading record - in 2012 I read 54,036 pages and at some point in this decade I'd like to top that! I read my first book yesterday (Species of Space and Other Piece…

Happy New Year!

This is the swiftest of posts just to wish you all a happy new year! I should be back in action tomorrow and I hope, at last, I'll sort out some 2020 reading challenges, but until then I did want to wish you all a joyous, peaceful, productive and prosperous 2020 💗

2019 Challenges

The final week or so of the year is always an odd business. No one ever knows what day it is half the time (though I know it's Sunday because there were football games yesterday) and after a month or more's build up to Christmas Day it's all over and we're in the confused aftermath, unable to quite believe a new year (a new decade, in fact) is dawning. Such is my disbelief in fact I don't really have any grand new year's resolutions, other than I will find myself some fun reading challenges, and I will, as ever, do a wonderfully sparkling pre-spring clean (it is tradition). Other than that - and not to sound over dramatic, but I do want to spend the rest of the winter much as I spent this month - a generally quiet period of some reflection. Two stressful things happened this year, one very upsetting (my mother having a relapse when already in a very fragile state of health, but she's beginning to improve), one less so but still crappy. I'm not ready to…