Waverley by Sir Walter Scott

I beg pardon, once and for all, of those readers who take up novels merely for amusement, for plaguing them so long with old-fashioned politics, and Whig and Tory, and Hanoverians and Jacobites. The truth is, I cannot promise them that this story shall be intelligible, not to say probable, without it. My plan requires that I should explain the motives on which its action proceeded; and these motives necessarily arose from the feelings, prejudices, and parties of the times. I do not invite my fair readers, whose sex and impatience give them the greatest right to complain of these circumstances, into a flying chariot drawn by hippogriffs, or moved by enchantment. Mine is a humble English post-chaise, drawn upon four wheels, and keeping his Majesty’s highway. Such as dislike the vehicle may leave it at the next halt, and wait for the conveyance of Prince Hussein’s tapestry, or Malek the Weaver’s flying sentrybox. Those who are contented to remain with me will be occasionally exposed to the dulness inseparable from heavy roads, steep hills, sloughs, and other terrestrial retardations; but with tolerable horses and a civil driver (as the advertisements have it), I engage to get as soon as possible into a more picturesque and romantic country, if my passengers incline to have some patience with me during my first stages. [Sir Walter Scott’s own Footnote: These Introductory Chapters have been a good deal censured as tedious and unnecessary. Yet there are circumstances recorded in them which the author has not been able to persuade himself to retrench or cancel.]

Sir Walter Scott to his reader in Chapter Five of his novel Waverley.

BBGuru: If I may? What Sir Walter is trying to say is this: If my book appeareth dull, this is due to your being a dunderhead.

How Obelix Fell Into the Magic Potion When He Was A Little Boy: Asterix tells us a story.

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I have a confession, I am an Asterix tragic. Thankfully, the kids have just started to get into them, too.  All kids deserve to have Asterix in their life! I bought my lot (read, bought myself) the first ten, which they really love (as do I). When buying more (for the kids, of course), I discovered this gem. Anyone who has ever read an Asterix book knows that Obelix cannot have any Magic Potion because he fell into a cauldron of it when he was a boy. Well, here is the full story at last!

Click here for more details or to buy How Obelix Fell Into The Magic PotionThe greatest mystery in Asterix’s universe has finally been solved: Albert Uderzo has given How Obelix Fell Into the Magic Potion When He Was A Little Boy a brand new cover that will go down in history!

Ever since he fell into the magic potion when just a little boy there has been something mysterious about Obelix… What was it that happened exactly? How did Obelix manage to escape Getafix’s eagle eye and taste that magic beverage?

A genuine tale of the origins behind the Asterix universe, How Obelix Fell Into The Magic Potion When He Was A Little Boy was to reappear in album form in 1989 after Albert Uderzo, having reread the text with nostalgia, decided the text deserved a richer set of illustrations.

And talk about illustrations! The sumptuous pastel watercolours in this album, unique in the Asterix universe, carry us to our great delight into the magical childhood of Asterix and Obelix.

The tale, narrated by Asterix in person, offers up legions of scoops and unforgettable images. We learn, for example, that Obelix was a frail, timid child who was constantly taken to task by his classmates, and that he used to play with a little wooden dog on wheels! Who would have Continue reading

Life by Keith Richards

In that classic of modern  film, Wayne’s World Two,  Wayne and Garth go to London in search of celebrated roadie, Del Preston – they find him hanging up-side down, apparently asleep:

Garth: How can you sleep like that?

Del Preston: Listen, sonny Jim. Sleeping like this will add ten years to your life. I learned it from Keith Richards when I toured with The Stones. This may be the reason why Keith cannot be killed by conventional weapons.

Keith cannot be killed by conventional weapons!

Now Keith’s written a memoir called Life (out  in November)…

And suddenly I get the impression that I have been looking for the Messiah in all the wrong places.

Keith Richards is the Messiah. He has taken all of our sins, and a truck load of his own, onto his shoulders and  he still lives and breathes! Who can really tell just how many times time Keith has died only to rise again? Huh? He could have done it hundreds, nay, thousands of time already!

…cannot be killed by conventional Continue reading

Longlist announced for Man Booker Prize 2010

From The Man Booker Prize website:

The judges for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction have announced the longlist for the prize, the leading literary award in the English speaking world.

A total of 138 books were considered for the ‘Man Booker Dozen’ longlist of 13 books.

The longlist includes:

Peter Carey Parrot and Olivier in America (Faber and Faber)

Emma Donoghue Room (Pan MacMillan – Picador)

Helen Dunmore The Betrayal (Penguin – Fig Tree)

Damon Galgut In a Strange Room (Allen & Unwin)

Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)

Andrea Levy The Long Song (Headline Publishing Group – Headline Review)

Tom McCarthy C (Random House – Jonathan Continue reading

You always said you’d read Hemingway – here’s your chance.

Ernest Hemingway is more than a writer… He is a name, an entity, an icon in the same manner as those other American giants Marilyn Monroe, JFK, George Washington and Henry Ford. All of whom are instantly recognisable, as names… but what do we really know of them?

In the particular case of Ernest Hemingway I feel confident in saying that most people know very little about the real Ernest Hemingway.

At first glance we see what his publicist would want us to see – the strong, attractive, virile, Don Juan; the macho big-game hunter, the bull-fighting aficionado, the deep-sea fisherman, the WWI veteran and WWII war correspondent. In this guise he is at once magnificent and risible.

As such we also have a firm idea of what his books contain. Tough male characters, brutally bare prose, weak women and lots of dead animals. But are we correct in our assumptions?


Hemingway is not the man he seems. He is delicate, sensitive, intelligent and Continue reading

Jane Austen’s Fight Club – All Austen needed was a bit more biffo!

Jane Austen has suffered unnumbered assaults, this last, however leaves her well equipped to repulse any further attempts to sully her good name.

What does Chuck Palahniuk’s modern boy’s own story – Fight Club have in common with the novels of Jane Austen?

Well, nothing… until now.

A group of girls in the US decided to bring the two together. Jane Austen finally gets her man, and kicks him right in the groin…

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. A review by novelist Kylie Ladd.

You don’t need me to tell you that Wolf Hall, by British novelist Hilary Mantel, is good. It won the 2009 Man Booker prize, and was also shortlisted for the 2009 Costa Novel award and 2010 Orange Prize for fiction. That sort of success speaks for itself. Clearly, the novel is good.

What I can tell you, though, is that the book is absolutely gripping, mesmerising and magnificent. I chose Wolf Hall almost purely on the basis of its length (650 pages) when looking for something to take away with me on a two-week driving trip through the Kimberley region in remote north-west Australia. Knowing that I’d be spending at least four- and sometimes up to eight- hours in the passenger seat every day, and sure that the scenery couldn’t be gripping for all that time, I was after a book that was. Something big, in every sense of the word, something so vast I could lose myself in it. Wolf Hall delivered in spades.

Guest Reviewer, novelist Kylie Ladd.

In a nutshell, Wolf Hall is the story of six years in the reign of King Henry VIII, from 1529 to 1535. It is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, a commoner who rose to the position of the king’s Chief Adviser, and who is said to have been “as great a statesman as England has ever seen”. Since I’ve started raving about the book, a number of friends have complained to me that they couldn’t get into it, with one (writer Kate Hunter) despairing that it had “more characters than Twitter”. Admittedly, the political machinations detailed in Wolf Hall are quite complex at times, and it’s possible that I had an advantage as a reader having previously studied British History at university.

That said, all you really need to know is that in the period that the book is Continue reading


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