Granny Aching (Steeleye Span)

Out on the chalk, she watched her flock
Steady and true
Liniment and embrocation
“That’ll do”

Sheepdog trials come around again
All put to the test
Shepherds whistle up their dogs
To do their best

The Feegle leaning on the gate
They always knew
Hoping for her rare approval
“That’ll do”

When powerful men were proud or cruel
What could she do?
Implacably she’d take them down
A peg or two

Feared yet mild, she hid a pure
A model for her growing grandchild

Trudging through the deepest snow
For the lost lamb
Never a wink of weary sleep
Till all be found
Till all be found

Kit Whitfield on first sentences

Kit Whitfield has published a large number of analyses of the first sentences of novels. (These really are analyses, not book reviews. They’re involved, detailed and based on a thoughtful close reading of the subject matter. Spoilers, of course, abound.) Her writing is pitch-perfect, and it itself is full of quotable sentences. From Jane Eyre we have, “Some books begin with a flourish, others with a handshake.” The series has covered the two most famous opening sentences in fiction — Pride and Prejudice (“Austen is an angry writer, sometimes a furious one, sometimes even a hateful one — but my goodness, does she promise us the world”) and A Tale of Two Cities (“There is no authority noisier than Dickens, especially when he’s slapping down a rival authority”) — and classics from Nineteen Eighty-Four (“With Orwell, the language is vehemently simple, ideologically simple, a declaration of war against obfuscation and half-truth”) to Anne of Green Gables (“Anne may talk breathlessly and at great length, but the narrative can match her word for word”). Also included are two Terry Pratchett novels: Sourcery and Pyramids (“some books begin with a handshake, and Pratchett takes this a step further: in effect, his first sentences are secret handshakes”).

When she posted an analysis of The Catcher in the Rye I didn’t read it, because at that point I had not yet read the book. I have now, so I went back and read Kit’s post. I think I’m going to have to read the book again now. (“How does Salinger get away with a first sentence that refuses to to talk to us?”) Awesome stuff.

I can even find much of value in analyses of books I’ve not yet read, such as her take on Rudyard Kipling’s Stalky and Co. (I love Kipling’s Kim so I probably should read Stalky and Co.)

The most recent, and perhaps also the best, post in the series is Middlemarch. Wow. Just, wow.


Neil Gaiman interviews Terry Pratchett

On the publication of Snuff, Terry Pratchett was interviewed by his one-time collaborator Neil Gaiman. Lovely reading.

On Sam Vimes,

Coppers are easy to write for; they tend to run on rails.

On favourite books and research,

I did a lot of interesting work for Monstrous Regiment in lesbian book shops.

On characters who should return but haven’t,

Somewhere in the back of my mind there is a plot where the hero is Evil Harry Dread.

And on Victorian reference books,

Did I not tell you that in Hay-on-Wye I picked up a collection of very large books with the series title ‘London Then And Now’ and realised that the ‘now’ was in fact 1880? There was even a lovely woodcut of Primrose Hill when it had primroses on it. It really is wonderful stuff. Small things that people might not notice but to me are like a fly to a rising trout.


Terry Pratchett makes plans for assisted suicide

“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.” – Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett has received, but not yet filled in forms from Dignitas to allow him to end his own life when the time comes.

I’m not going to think about this. I don’t think I can.