Monthly Archives: July 2011


This one goes out to Rebekah Brooks. Like Simone de Beauvoir, she studied at the Sorbonne; unlike Simone de Beauvoir, she didn’t complete her studies. I should add that the song has nothing whatsoever to do with Simone de Beauvoir or, indeed, Rebekah Brooks. But this is my inch-raised platform. I have found yawping the following keywords over the original track an aid to pleasure: Chipping Norton, Cheshire and Cameron.

I am off to get a suntan at the end of the week. But I’ll be back with the usual in a few weeks, and I’ll also be posting a review of Tamar Yoseloff’s The City with Horns, which I have been meaning to do for ages. A very fine poet, so she is, and I’ll explain why I think that in August.


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Filed under holidays for writers, Tamar Yoseloff, tomorrow

For Once

Last Saturday I went to see Tim Price’s For Once at the Hampstead Theatre. Tim’s a young playwright and screenwriter (TV credits including EastEnders and his award-winning drama for S4C, Y Pris). He’s been making waves as a talent in Wales for some time – and has also been making his own unique contribution to its theatre scene with the highly successful Dirty Protest company, which brings together new and established playwrights showcasing spanking hot-off-the-keyboard work in a… Mongolian yurt. Yes, a Mongolian yurt. For Once marks the first in a trio of major premieres of his work, including The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning – which has recently been commissioned by National Theatre Wales.

For Once is a three-hander study in provincial despair; a play meditating on the difficulties of access to communication, honesty and love from those we need the very most. The play’s starting point is the aftermath of a car crash, as Sid, the lone surviving teenager among his best friends, struggles with guilt – while his parents April and Gordon scramble to recapture a normalcy for him and for themselves that none of them, we discover, ever really possessed in the first place. As well as highlighting the stark reality of interplay, that extreme events tend to expose rather than derange existing human relationships, the play’s complementary theme is the difficulty of being young in the apparently idealistic setting of villages or small towns. Denied excitement in controlled environments, there is nothing to do but drive fast and drive dangerously, to nowhere. Mr Cameron, are you listening? 

If this sounds bleak – well, at times, it is. The static set of a kitchen-diner area holds the characters suspended in their own frustratingly separate and yet united existences, and, in what is surely a fond nod to Osborne, an ironing board on which April rhythmically steams away at her husband’s shirts in anger and sorrow almost becomes a fourth character. But the play is distinguished by a rich humour, too. For even in tragedy – and sometimes especially in it – there can still be levity. Laughs about a labrador dog called ‘Neil’, middle-aged women who wear wooden jewellery and ludicrous middle-class pomposity all add to an impressive mix.

Comes highly recommended. For Once runs to 30th July. Visit the Hampstead Theatre website for more details.

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Filed under London, the future, Tim Price, Welsh theatre

Wales Book of the Year announced

The Wales Book of the Year 2011 was announced last night. The gong went to Parthian author John Harrison – a remarkable travel writer – for Cloud Road, a book recounting his adventures walking the great road of the Incas, the Camino Real. John’s a very nice man as well as being accomplished. This recognition of his work is pleasing indeed – and it comes with a £10,000 cheque, too, which is always handy for a writer. Also on the shortlist were Alistair Reynolds, for his SF novel Terminal World, and the unique Pascale Petit, for her arresting verse biography of Frida Kahlo, What the Water Gave Me – a poetry collection from 2010 which I’ve especially admired.

It was heartening to see such an intelligent but varied collection of books and genres from the judges – from the longlist right through to the shortlist. Francesca Rhydderch, Jon Gower and Deborah Kay Davies have done, I think, a very fine job of producing a list of books from Wales or with Welsh connections that reminds us all of the leaps and bounds our literature has made since the renaissance that began a decade ago.

I should add that the Readers’ Choice Award went to Tyler Keevil for Fireball. If you haven’t read it yet, then do. It’s a wonderful, gripping, moving, coming-of-age novel, with echoes of Hinton’s The Outsiders, King’s The Body (later made into the iconic film Stand by Me) and Nicholas Ray’s star-making Rebel Without a Cause. In a wonderful twist on our open and international nation, Tyler’s a Canadian, the book is set in Vancouver, and he’s published by Wales’s Parthian Books. I interviewed Tyler last year, and it proved to be one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve ever had with an author about their book. He knows what he’s about and what the work is about. Good luck to him with his future projects.

So: congratulations to the winners. And congratulations to all those who made their way onto the longlist in such a vintage year.

You can find out more here. And to discover more about Literature Wales which administers the Wales Book of the Year, among many other crucial activities in promoting Welsh literature, click here.

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Filed under literature, literature promotion, the best of the best, wales