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Hey! A list!

I’ve just discovered through Ian Sales’s blog that the BBC has produced a list of “100 Books that Shaped our World.” It’s as idiosyncratic as any such list always is.

Ian has started a list of his own (with different criteria) of which you can see the first instalment via the link above. Nina Allan has also published her own list.

I doubt that I could go up to anything like 100 on the books that shaped me and my reading so I’m not even going to try except to say my love of Science Fiction was engendered by reading the SF of Captain W E Johns and Patrick Moore out of the children’s section of Dumbarton Library (in the basement, accessed via an outside door) and, once I’d graduated to the adult floor, the yellow covered Gollancz hardbacks.

Two exceptions.

I was about to give up reading SF when I read Robert Silverberg’s The Man in the Maze. It’s not his best but it’s one from the 1960s, in the “revival” stage of his career after he came back to SF and wrote stories the way they ought to be done – as distinct from the less considered works he’d written in the 1950s. It made me realise that SF could be literature.

So too, in spades, did Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.

Of the BBC’s list the ones I’ve read are in bold (19.) If I’ve read one or part of a series it’s in italics (2.) Some others here are on my tbr pile.

Identity
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Days Without End – Sebastian Barry
Fugitive Pieces – Anne Michaels
Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Small Island – Andrea Levy
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
White Teeth – Zadie Smith

Love, Sex & Romance
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Forever – Judy Blume
Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Riders – Jilly Cooper
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
The Far Pavilions – M. M. Kaye
The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
The Passion – Jeanette Winterson
The Slaves of Solitude – Patrick Hamilton

Adventure
City of Bohane – Kevin Barry
Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
His Dark Materials Trilogy – Philip Pullman
Ivanhoe – Walter Scott
Mr Standfast – John Buchan
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The Jack Aubrey Novels – Patrick O’Brian
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien

Life, Death & Other Worlds
A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Astonishing the Gods – Ben Okri
Dune – Frank Herbert
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis
The Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett
The Earthsea Trilogy – Ursula K. Le Guin
The Sandman Series – Neil Gaiman
The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Politics, Power & Protest
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman
Strumpet City – James Plunkett
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
Unless – Carol Shields

Class & Society
A House for Mr Biswas – V. S. Naipaul
Cannery Row – John Steinbeck
Disgrace – J.M. Coetzee
Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
Poor Cow – Nell Dunn
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – Alan Sillitoe
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne – Brian Moore
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

Coming of Age
Emily of New Moon – L. M. Montgomery
Golden Child – Claire Adam
Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
So Long, See You Tomorrow – William Maxwell
Swami and Friends – R. K. Narayan
The Country Girls – Edna O’Brien
The Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling
The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ – Sue Townsend
The Twilight Saga – Stephenie Meyer

Family & Friendship
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

Middlemarch – George Eliot
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë
The Witches – Roald Dahl

Crime & Conflict
American Tabloid – James Ellroy
American War – Omar El Akkad
Ice Candy Man – Bapsi Sidhwa
Rebecca -Daphne du Maurier
Regeneration – Pat Barker
The Children of Men – P.D. James
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
The Quiet American – Graham Greene

Rule Breakers
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
Bartleby, the Scrivener – Herman Melville
Habibi – Craig Thompson
How to be Both – Ali Smith
Orlando – Virginia Woolf
Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

Psmith, Journalist – P. G. Wodehouse
The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – Audre Lorde

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Titan Books, 2016, 429 p.

 All the Birds in the Sky cover

This, Anders’s first novel, is a blend of Fantasy and Science Fiction which starts off reading like YA fiction but soon enough makes clear that it deals with adult matters too. Patricia Delfine very early in her life realises she is a witch when birds begin to talk to her and she can talk back. She also has a conversation with a speaking tree – The Tree. In school her path crosses that of Laurence Armstead, a so-called techno-geek, who invents for himself a two-second time machine for travel only into the future, and later builds an AI he calls CH@NG3M3. For both of them schooldays are a kind of purgatory, as they are picked on and bullied. Their home lives are little better, both using the other as a means of convincing their parents they are out doing what is desired for them rather than what they wish for themselves. Mixed in with all this is an assassin called Mr Rose who gets a job as counsellor at their school in order to monitor their activities. Despite appearing intermittently in the novel Mr Rose’s function is not really clearly defined.

Later the children’s lives diverge as Patricia finds the company of other witches (whose old division into Healers and Tricksters was patched over many years before.) She is always being warned by them of the dangers of Aggrandisement. It seems just about anything she does can be interpreted in this way. Laurence is recruited by Milton Dirth to work on his project to build a wormhole machine to take humans to another planet. In the background there is a large degree of environmental degradation which makes this construction seem worthwhile and in daily life an electronic device called a Caddy somehow engineers people’s lives to be better through apparently serendipitous meetings and the like. How all these things are connected and Patricia and Laurence’s coming together in adult life are central to the story.

There are some observations on human nature. In one of their conversations Laurence says to Patricia “‘no matter what you do, people are going to expect you to be someone you’re not. But if you’re clever and work your butt off, then you get to be surrounded by people who expect you to be the person you wish they were.’”

Oddly, despite the novel being written in USian I noticed the British usages, “a total wanker,” “for some emergency nookie,” and “one intense wank fantasy.” In addition I was delighted to see the phrase “head for the Dumbarton.” (The Dumbarton is a bridge over San Francisco Bay – the southernmost. Its name derives from Dumbarton Point, itself named after my home town.)

Though it has some flaws, All the Birds in the Sky is overall an impressive debut.

Pedant’s corner:- epicenter [sic] (it was a centre,) a missing comma before a quotation mark, a capital letter after a colon, “none of the computers were connected” (none .. was connected,) “‘to lay low’” (lie low,) Patricia at one point is said to have reasonably fullish breasts but later they are described as small, “Here’s what Isobel said to Laurence, just before the earthquake hit” is a poor – a dreadful – way to start a flashback.

Dumbarton 1-2 Clyde

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 28/9/19.

Oh dear.

OK, we held the league leaders to a draw at their place last week (and I note they still remain undefeated) but the balance of the play was well in their favour.

And again we lost a lead – albeit this time only one goal. But then today we lost the winner. And once more two second half goals conceded.

We don’t seem to be able to keep a clean sheet. That always makes things difficult. My perennial close season hopes of a positive goal diiference at the end of the season for the first time in ages have long since gone out of the window.

The three teams we have beaten are all below us – and two of them caught up a bit today. This doesn’t bode well.

The Rock from the Rock

Or Dumbarton Football Stadium from above.

The good lady took these while I was at the Play-off game vs Alloa Athletic, May, 2018.

The pitch:-

Pitch Dumbarton Football Stadium

Teams line up:-

Teams  Line Up, Dumbarton Football Stadium

Part of Dumbarton Rock to right, Kilpatrick Hills (aka the Long Crags) in background:-

Dumbarton Football Stadium from Dumbarton Rock,

Closer view:-

Dumbarton Football Stadium from Dumbarton Rock

More extended view:-

Dumbarton Football Stadium from Above

Dumbarton, River Leven and River Clyde from Dumbarton Rock

These are the good lady’s photographs. She took them while I was at one of the play-off games at The Rock, in May last year.

River Leven and Dumbarton from Dumbarton Rock:-

River Leven and Dumbarton from Dumbarton Rock

River Leven and Dumbarton with Ben Lomond in background:-

River Leven at Dumbarton, Ben Lomond in Background

Rivers Leven and Clyde at Dumbarton:-

Rivers Leven and Clyde at Dumbarton

River Leven and Dumbarton From Dumbarton Rock. As a child the good lady used to play on the rocks on the riverside below where this was taken from:-

View of River Leven and Dumbarton From Dumbarton Rock

Somewhere else she used to play was in this burn by the Swing Park. Well, that’s what it was always called when I was young. It’s apparently known officially as the East End Park:-

Burn by the Swing Park, Dumbarton

Dumbarton Rock and River Leven

I think my only previous posting about Dumbarton Rock was here. Those photos were taken from across the River Clyde at Langbank in the former Renfrewshire.

There is a more familiar view from the quayside (of the River Leven) at Dumbarton itself:-

River Leven and Dumbarton Rock

Dumbarton Rock from River Leven

Boats on River Leven, Dumbarton:-

Boats on River Leven, Dumbarton

River Leven, Boats and Levengrove Park:-

River Leven, Boats and Levengrove Park, Dumbarton

Emusing Title?

This isn’t really a linguistic annoyance but I’ve not used that category for a while.

Anyway I was tickled by the title of a listing (now vanished) on eBay. (PHOTO DUMBARTON CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION VIEW IN THE 1960`S WITH AN EMU IN VIEW.)

“An emu?” I thought.

Then after a second I realised it must be train-buff speak for electrical multiple unit.

Beating Them at Their Own Game

Scotland win by 6 runs

Scotland win by 6 runs.

Over England. In a form of cricket, a game which England invented, at which England are at present the best in the world.

(Well, not now. Now Scotland are surely unofficial World Number 1 in One Day International cricket.)

This is a stunning result, as far as I know the first win Scotland has had over England in any form of cricket.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. Cricket is not really alien to Scotland. There are many practitioners of the art throughout the country. (I was one myself once, playing not only for my school but also for Dumbarton Cricket Club way back in the day. Not in any great capacity; I was only really there to make up the numbers. My proud boast though is that I never scored a duck when batting for the club.)

But back in the nineteenth century Scottish cricket matches used to attract crowds in the 10,000s. J M Barrie (of Peter Pan fame) used to be a member of a travelling cricket side known as the Allahakberries. (Possibly not a name you could get away with these days.)

It’ll be a heady day or two until normal service is resumed.

An Honorary Son? (and Daughter)

I see some overprivileged bloke who got married today has been granted the somewhat unlikely title of Earl of Dumbarton, which means his wife will be Countess of Dumbarton.

My first reaction on hearing this was that the local earldom was surely that of Lennox; but it seems they are still going, only elevated to Dukes, so that title wasn’t vacant.

A quick piece of Googling showed that there have in the past been two Earls of Dumbarton (see upper link above) but the last of them died in 1749 so making the title available.

I wonder what the new Earl and Countess will make of the place should they ever deign to visit.

And does his title make the new Baron Kilkeel (not to mention Duke of Sussex) an honorary Son of the Rock? Or his wife, Lady Kilkeel (and Duchess of Sussex,) an honorary daughter thereof?

I look forward to them turning up at the Rock for a game, but I shan’t hold my breath.

Pedant’s corner:- On the (utterly sycophantic) BBC television coverage of said nuptials I heard Huw Edwards refer to “Lord Lieutenants”. Tut, tut, Mr Edwards. Standards at the BBC used to be so much higher. Lieutenant here is an adjective descriptive of the Lord concerned. The plural you were so vainly seeking is “Lords Lieutenant”.

Eyemouth

Eyemouth, in the Scottish Borders Region, just a few miles north of the border and of Berwick, is the town where my mother spent most of her childhood before her family then moved to Dumbarton.

It’s a typical Scottish fishing village/town where a river (the River Eye) flows into the North Sea via a harbour.

I’ve been there several times before, as a child with my mother, and later as an adult but it was many years ago now. When the good lady’s blog friend, Peggy, was here last summer we took the opportunity to visit as she wanted to see it.

I hadn’t remembered this decoish set of windows:-

Art Deco Style in Eyemouth

The statue in front of the shop is of William Spears who in the 19th century led a revolt against the tithes on fish levied by the Church of Scotland.

This is the War Memorial, “Sacred to the memory of officers, NCOs and men of Eyemouth who fell in the Great War”:-

Eyemouth War Memorial

The reverse names the second war’s dead and the column’s inscription reads, “Sacred to the memory of officers, NCOs and men of Eyemouth who gave their lives in the Great War II, 1939-45.” Note also Merchant Navy, Fishermen plus Egypt 1952 and Iraq 2005:-

Eyemouth War Memorial

The original Jack Deighton, my grandfather, was the minister at the local Episcopal Church, St Ebba’s, named after a local saint, the Abbess of Coldingham. The Lifeboat at Eyemouth was also named for her as this lifebelt in the museum attests:-

Eyemouth St Ebba Lifebelt

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