Failed to show at my brother's for a Mother's Day lunch yesterday owing to a house of illness. But on Saturday I cooked myself haunch of hare braised with puy lentils and white beetroot, with quince jelly. It was delicious, but I can report for those who are wondering that white beetroot is nothing to write home about ('nothing to blog about') - an anaemic version of the imperial variety.
Picked up a copy of Jeremy Hooker's Master of the Leaping Figures
for £3 at Oxfam. I'm looking forward to it. They also had a copy of Tom Paulin's The Strange Museum
for £6, but much as I like Paulin's work, that's too steep for me in the week before payday. Flicking through it, I was reminded how much Paulin's early work makes use of abstractions - an unusual trait, particularly in a poet so concerned with politics and history (where you might expect more focus on evidence
, as it were). Can't really pursue this line of thought as, having not bought the book (or sneakily memorised
them), I haven't got the poems in front of me.
Meanwhile I'm tumbling through Steinbeck's Travels with Charley
. It's surprising to see what a macho, Hemingwayesque figure Steinbeck paints himself as - not what I'd expect from what I've read of his fiction. The writing itself is so unmacho - clean, elegant, reticent. Purged, even. It would be easy to read it half-asleep and wonder what the fuss is about ('a Nobel Prize?!'). But his style is so central to twentieth-century prose that we don't notice that it is
a style – Steinbeck is a large part of the background to good modern writing. I can't really find anything to quote to back up this claim, but that's part of the point: rather than striving to write quotable sentences, he just writes. It's plain and almost
facile. Still, the following is cheering:When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another.