Thursday 13 June 2024

Leonora Carrington's work now worth 23 million

Les Distractions de Dagobert, painted in 1945, two years after Leonora Carrington moved to Mexico, is a marvellous and exceptional example of her work, where surrealism and European mythology are mixing with the bright colours of Mexico. 

The painting has just sold at Christies, New York, for £22,500,000. Now there's a sum of money that Leonora Carrington never saw in her lifetime. She died in 2011 at the age of 94.

The painting was sold to the founder of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires, Eduardo Costantini, who after the sale said of the painting:- 

“An iconic painting, The Distractions of Dagobert is one of the most admired works in the history of surrealism and an unparalleled masterpiece of Latin American art. This masterpiece will be part of a collection where, amongst others, two important works by  Remedios Varo and another record-breaking Frida Kahlo are also found.”

Saturday 27 April 2024

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton - book review


Sue's Reviews > Birnam Wood

Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton

's review
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really liked it
bookshelves: just-boughtnovelsthrillers

Bit of a slow burner which begins with a lot of character building, then plot building, then massive plot progression until by the rather overwhelming end you're not sure who to empathise with.
Very well written and I finished reading it in the early hours, then couldn't sleep.
Did I enjoy it? Yes probably, I've never read a novel set in New Zealand before which gave it added interest.
Would I read another by Eleanor Catton? Yes, definitely.

Monday 18 March 2024

Lulabelle and the Scathing Fowel

Lulabelle and the Scathing Fowel –from the Scarfolk folks’ daily archive.

Lulabelle Scathing, age seven-ish (exact DOB unknown), is a child prodigy. In her early youth she bioengineered her pet woodlouse, Crunchy, into a fully grown armadillo. However her mother, Arachnia Featherstone Ambling Chough-Smythe, has wisely guided her into more lucrative pursuits, since there is no market for armadillos in Scarfolk County.  

Lulabelle is now a very young, though fully qualified geneticist and bioengineer, working on the genetic modification of her pet chickens to create larger, semi-predatory birds. In the absence of wolves and sabretooth cats which have not been seen for many years, Lulabelle’s chooks will be safely released into Scarfolk Forest to help to reduce the numbers of deer, woodpeckers, beavers, charcoal-burners, lumber-jacks and other vermin that damages the trees. 

Lulabelle’s chickens have been named Scathing Fowel, as a tribute to her father, wee Dougie Scathing, who vanished immediately after his daughter’s conception. Her mother, Arachnia, had declined to take Wee Dougie’s surname, as she felt her own name already included four of her other seven former-husbands/partners and to add another would be cumbersome. Each of her eight children carried their father’s name and that was memorial enough.

The photograph is Lulabelle's favourite, named Cockatrice, he is exploring the bottom of the garden. He will be father of the next generation of Scathing Fowel.

Once a sustainable population of Scathing Fowel has been established in Scarfolk Forest, Arachnia’s idea is to issue hunting licences to carefully selected gentlefolk, enabling them to shoot a prescribed number of Scathing fowel. As the fowel will be the top predator in the forest, their numbers will need to kept in balance or, having eaten everything else they would start on each other. 

Only trained markspersons will be allowed to hunt for Scathing Fowel as the birds become excessively dangerous when wounded and can take an adult human’s arm or head off with one bite. However less qualified persons may be employed as beaters or bait.

Arachnia has not yet broached the hunting idea with her daughter, as Lulabelle is inclined to being sentimental about her ferocious feathered fowel. And nobody would ever dare to suggest to Lulabelle that she has not spelled fowel correctly. For a start she is only seven and spelling is not her best subject, also she would set Cockatrice on any dissenters.

Monday 15 January 2024

Noir Fiction - a Workshop

 I've joined another writers' group, the Shorelink Writers, who meet weekly on Monday nights, in school term times. Most group members agree to create and run a workshop for the whole group about once a term, I've just delivered my second workshop, inspired by some of the odd and slightly off-key place names in the local area, which I thought would suit a noir-style story. My local area happens to be Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea.

The workshop went down very well, almost every writer chose one of two names, Galley Hill and Goat Ledge. Galley Hill is obviously noir, but Goat Ledge? Of course, the thing with Goat Ledge is that everybody local knows the place. It's the name of a very popular beach cafĂ©, and originally the name of the reefs of  somewhat treacherous rocks just off the beach, where historical goatherds would take their flocks to feast on the seaweed. 

This is the workshop I delivered:-

Noir Stories

I’ve watched a bit of Scandi Noir and got hooked on watching Shetland on TV, which is very noir. Noir is a category of crime fiction usually involving the police, think of the Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus stories, set in brooding Edinburgh. Maybe noir might even be funny, think of the creepy goings on in Royston Vasey!

 Noir isn’t a horror story, it’s all to do with the place and the mood, feeling dark, a bit threatening. It does seem to me that the place where the story is set plays a vital part in Noir Stories. They’re local stories about ordinary people, not usually involving royal palaces, long distance travel, desert Islands, etc.

Here are some very local place names which sound like they might have a noir story in them. You probably know most of these places. Choose one and write about what might happen there:-

Maze Hill    Pelham Beach    East Ascent    Galley Hill    Combe Haven    Ravenside    Conqueror Road

Bulverhythe    Goat Ledge    Horntye Park    Undercliff    South Saxons


Monday 1 January 2024

Sunday 24 December 2023

Bush Meat by Mandy Sutter

 I really enjoyed this, beautiful storytelling.  FIVE STARS !

Bush Meat by Mandy Sutter

's review

Sarah goes to Nigeria as a young child when her father, who works in petro-chemicals, is posted there. Sarah is intrigued by this different place and its different people, while her mother is afraid of not fitting in with the local ex-pat community. Sarah's father is distant, except when his daughter gets too close to the Nigerian 'servants'.

Later the family return to the UK and while their lives go on, this early experience continues to affect Sarah.

Told in a sequence of short stories, each complete as itself, the beautiful writing show this family's lives moving on in a normal, yet extraordinarily engaging way.

I really like this unusual book and, having lived a partially ex-pat childhood, I can empathise with the feelings of the characters and many of their circumstances.

Friday 22 December 2023

Birdgirl: A Young Environmentalist Looks to the Skies in Search of a Better Future - book review

 This is an important book 

Birdgirl by Mya-Rose Craig

's review
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bookshelves: biog-memoirmight-read again
This book may appear to be about a girl's love of birds, certainly there are a lot of birds in it, but Birdgirl is far more than that. The young author's parents and sister also love birds and in many ways this love cements the family group in times of stress, pain and illness.

The story is of a girl growing up with a permanently stressed father and a mother who has a serious mental illness. The coming of age happens when the girl finally realises that her mother will never be cured, but will always love her. And when she realises that her calling is to fight for the whole environment, not just for the birds.

And the family's passion for birding, for travelling to the far corners of the world to sit, still and calm for hours waiting for the right bird to appear, is vividly described. And their concentrated joy when the bird appears brings brings tears to the eye.

This is a lovely book, a girl's growing-up story, a tale of birding and mania, travel and depression, racism, sexism and radicalism, enchanting places and enduring friendships.

I felt above all it's a family story because without the love, passion and support of her parents, Mya-Rose Craig might be a much more ordinary young woman. She wouldn't have become who she is today.
Birdgirl is a good read so be patient, you don't need to totally share her passion for birds to find the story fascinating.