Monday, 15 February 2010

Quick Round-Up

Here we are half way through February and so far my tally of books read is 32, of which 8 have been non-fiction and a gratifying 25 have been borrowed from the library. "Gratifying" because, like Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book, I am trying to restrict the number of books I buy this year, if only for reasons of space.

I thought I should say a word about Women of Bloomsbury by Mary Ann Caws, which I am glad I borrowed from the library, since had I bought it I would be feeling rather sore. The book focuses on the two sisters plus Dora Carrington, and their relationships with men and with each other. However, rather than actually telling their fascinating story, the author (an American academic) assumes that everybody already knows this, and goes off into the sort of navel-gazing that can give the less gifted members of her profession a bad name. This is essentially a prolonged discussion of how much they all respected each others' work, and much of it is supposition anyway, drawing upon their letters.

A shame, because I have been looking for some time for a good book about the leading Bloomsbury figures, but this is not it. As a fellow writer whom I met this weekend said, if you hold a grand sounding academic post than you are assured of being published, regardless of whether you can actually write, and whether you actually have anything interesting to say.

By coincidence I was reading at the same time, or had just finished, books by Empson, Leavis and Hobsbaum, as well as a biography of Margery Allingham by Julia Jones. The first three write literary criticism as it deserves to be written and the latter is a very good literary biography. I was expecting Caws's book to be some sort of cross between these things, but it isn't.

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