Thursday, 16 April 2015

Reading Funk





Just read a post by the clever Jenna Burtenshaw in which she uses the phrase 'Reading Funk', and wonders which book might jolt her out of it. It's such a great phrase for that very moment - familiar to all obsessive readers - of being cheesed off and not knowing where to turn in a world of too many bookish options. There's so much out there - but nothing seems like exactly the *right* thing just now...
I've had this countless times in my reading life. I've never thought my reading stamina was all that great, in fact, despite the amount I *do* read. I have to be *thrilled* by what I'm reading more or less most of the time and if i'm not and it starts to feel like a chore - then me and that book have to have a quiet word.
The worst bad patch I remember was spring 2004 and I had a run of duff reads. It was A L Kennedy (bless her - I'm sure she's good really) who made me fling a book across the room (it was so exhaustively, endlessly, comprehensively miserable) and give up. And I stopped reading for three weeks. The thought I was left with was - 'What's the point? It's just prying into other's people's upsets, fetishes and peculiar thoughts.' Never before had I felt that as strongly. And, three weeks later, it was being in Deansgate Waterstones and picking up the newly-published 'Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon that bust me out of that funk. I took it off to Atlas bar's blue terrace by the railway arches and read - enthralled in a good old mystery - for a whole, sunny afternoon. It was a huge lesson in reading, in giving yourself up to a book, and in learning about how I really needed to mix up the genres I was reading and always take the litfic with a good pinch of pulp. Also, zigzag from genre to genre with each change of book.
You must have had the Reading Funk before. Which book got you out?






Monday, 6 April 2015

Goodbye to the Cornerhouse


They've closed down the Cornerhouse in Manchester.

I used to like the cafe for the pizza and the people-watching and the sense of being in the middle of the city, even more than I did the films.



Sunday, 5 April 2015

'Levy Drawings' at Fred's Ale House




Here's Jeremy's write-up of yesterday's launch, from the local facebook group...

"What a wonderful day yesterday at the launch of Paul Magrs' exhibition at Fred's Ale House. The place was packed with lovely people being supportive.
Paul's paintings of Levenshulme look wonderful and the hospitality and care provided by Lawrence Hennigan and his staff was superb. Thanks also to Tony Hennigan for his help, to Tony Gribben for taking great event photos and to Wendy Orr for her fabulous buffet and amazing pie made with such love and care.
It was also great to have the support of so many of our local and national politicians both current and those standing in the coming elections. In particular Sir Gerald Kaufman gave a wonderful speech offering high praise for Paul and for Levenshulme.
More than anything thanks to the marvellous people of Levenshulme and to people who came from across Manchester and elsewhere in the country. Friends old and new showing their appreciation of Paul's paintings.
There was such a buzz yesterday. Levenshulme at its absolute best - warm, friendly, creative, inclusive and filled with love and laughter.
Paul's exhibition continues in Fred's and prints and cards are available to order. Now I've got to do a new print run to fill orders and restock after selling so much yesterday. Prints and cards of anything on display and more can be ordered by sending me a message through Facebook or emailing me - details at the exhibition.
Once again thank you. Levenshulme is an amazing place!"








Wednesday, 1 April 2015

My Favourite Books So Far in 2015







A quarter of the way into 2015 and these are my top ten books so far…

I’ve read fewer books than usual during the first quarter of this year. It’s a strange and liberating experience. It’s all down to drawing and painting so much, and using my time quite differently. But it’s also meant I’ve been choosier with what I read, perhaps, opting for things that I’m pretty sure are going to be good and taking fewer chances on unknown quantities…

JIM HENSON: THE BIOGRAPHY by Brian Jay Jones

The last book of last year – so long that it becomes the first book of the new year. A smashing, exhaustive, completely absorbing tale of a man who made joyous TV shows and films and built an empire just for fun.

GREAT PLEASURES by Edward Southgate

An erotic picaresque romp through the apartments and bedrooms of contemporary Manhattan. It’s funny and self-deprecating and obsessed with sex – but never so much that it neglects to create these perfect little cameos of each individual encountered.

SOPHIE AND THE SIBYL by Patricia Duncker

A rich and complex study of George Eliot’s later years. In Duncker’s book Eliot is a kind of monster of High Realism, dragging young people into her orbit and seducing men and women, one after the next, with her grotesque and compelling brilliance.

THE MEMORY BOOK by Rowan Coleman

I found this moving and touching – a family romance about second chances and the losing of faculties. It’s a lovely portrait of generations of women – and these rather sexy men in their lives.

THE YEAR OF TAKING CHANCES by Lucy Diamond

I loved discovering Lucy’s books last summer, and this New Year resolution-themed novel was a good follow-up. I became involved in the stories of all three / four of the lead heroines. I like the way the stories are plaited into one and the way that almost everyone gets redeemed by the end of the book. I did miss some of the commonsense northern voices that we had in ‘One Night in Italy’, though…

LIVING COLOR by Natalie Goldberg

I can’t help it! I find her books – usually on motivating the reader into writing – utterly inspirational and wonderful. I’d read an earlier edition of this book on drawing a couple of years ago. This new version comes with extra examples of her bright, jazzy, proudly na├»ve art and some extra text. I love this book. She’s winsome and hippyish and like a nice old friend who’d always cheer you up. (Now, there’s a running theme through these favourites-of-the-year-so-far…!)

THE SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD by Anne Tyler.

I feared it was to be her last, but apparently she’s still writing. But this still feels like a book of summing-up. She returns to themes and motifs and character types we’ve met before, but this time her historical reach is clearly in evidence and we go backwards through the generations and come to a complete understanding of a seemingly rootless family that has had its heyday and now seems in danger of falling apart. I took a whole month to read this. Slowly and so carefully, like unpicking stitches in order to learn just how on earth she put it all together.

FANTASTIC FOUR - MARVEL MASTERWORKS VOLUME NINE by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

A chance visit to a remote secondhand bookshop had me buying a 1970s issue of ‘Titans’ comic and getting involved in reading strips I read when I was seven. In Central Library I found this continuation immediately. It fell off the shelf into my hands: late 1960s Fantastic Four, from Lee and Kirby at the height of their phantasmagorical, futuristic and cheesy powers. Here we’ve got the Uncanny Inhumans in their secret city, the hundredth issue robot villains team-up and the sinister figure of Agatha Harkness, the witchy baby-sitter. It was a lovely reminder of some of my earliest reading.

THE CREATIVE LICENCE by Danny Gregory

Another book about drawing! A terrific self-helpy book crammed with intricate, colourful drawings and handwritten from beginning to end. Lots of exercises and ideas and lots of inspiration for getting out and about with your notebook and doing observational drawing and writing, wherever you are. His description at the start of the book of how hand-to-eye coordination actually works in drawing is astonishing. I’ve never seen anyone explain it so lucidly and practically. I want to read all of his other books now.

THE SUPREMES AT EARL’S ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT by Edward Kelsey Moore

Here’s a fantastic ensemble novel set in Louisiana, about three lifelong friends. There’s a murder or two, alcoholism, secret love, terminal disease, friendly ghosts and some wonderful laughs and gossip. It reminded me of Fanny Flagg’s ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ and Sandra Dallas’ ‘The Persian Pickle Club’ – two of my all-time favourite novels. I’m hoping there’s going to be a sequel….!

And… that’s where I’m at right now.

It’s been a successful first quarter of reading, I think. I’m stacked up with new books to get on with – including the new Jenny Colgan and Carole Matthews. My kindle is bursting at the electronic seams and the weather is getting mild enough to return to the trans-dimensional depths of the Beach House library at the bottom of the garden…





Tuesday, 31 March 2015

An interview on Lauren Kelly's illustration blog



Lauren Kelly has just published an interview about drawing with me on her lovely illustration blog. Please go and have a look!