More book stuff:Kitaj: The Architects (Colin St John Wilson+MJ Long): This is a brief diary of a painting by RB Kitaj (1932-2007) entitled “The Architects”, compiled by its subjects Wilson+Long (during the course of its execution 1979-81) in celebration of the remodelling of Kitaj’s home by MJ Long. It includes “progress photographs” and provides a fascinating insight into the creation of a piece of art – especially in the light of its critical, design/art-sensitive “sitters”.
Joseph Southall 1861-1944 Artist-Craftsman (Retrospective Exhibition, Birmingham City Art Gallery 1980): I bought this extensive guidebook from a second-hand bookseller on the internet for £1-57(!) after being impressed by Southall’s work on one of my recent visits to Brum. As with all such guides, it doesn’t illustrate ALL the works described… so, without seeing the exhibition, it’s somewhat frustrating at times! Nevertheless, it provides a fascinating insight into his work, his influences and his friendships (and his Quaker faith).
Drysalter (Michael Symmons Roberts): This book has been much-acclaimed by very many eminent people. It’s a very beautiful collection of poems by a writer of faith (he read Philosophy+Theology at Oxford) who, in the words of Adam Newey writing in TheGuardian, “requires what you might call a willing suspension of agnosticism” for the secular reader. In my own personal current spiritual wilderness, I have to say that I struggled with many of the pieces (with both their meaning and what they were trying to convey – maybe this was something to do with my contrasting huge enjoyment of Billy Collins’ work recently?) and found it somewhat depressing to realise that it was probably my own lack of intellect that prevented a better understanding. That said, I’m also very aware that I’ll be returning to the book over the coming months and years and have a sense that it will become an important source of challenge and support.
The Barracks (John McGahern): This was McGahern’s first novel, published in 1963. It tells the story of a former nurse who returns to the Irish village of her upbringing, marries a widowed sergeant who is unhappy with job in the local police force, and “inherits” his children from his earlier marriage. After having previously worked for some years in a London hospital, her “moral sophistication” isn’t shared by those around her. It’s an unsentimental and haunting book about loneliness and illness and about, at times, the apparent ordinariness and futility of everyday life. I think it’s one of those books that will stay with me for some time.
1914 Poetry Remembers (Carol Anny Duffy): Poet Laureate Duffy has put together this book of poetry to mark the centenary of WW1. She’s engaged the “most eminent poets of the present” to choose writing from the Great war that has particularly touched them but also commissioned these same poets to write a poem of their own in response. It’s a powerful and rather beautiful combination.