Friday 27 December 2013

Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe

Woman in the Dunes


Kobo Abe


Whilst the plot is straightforward, a man visiting a coastal area is tricked into staying overnight, then is illegally detained and made to work, the novel as a whole is not.The plot is thin, that was it in a nutshell, but the novel is rich vivid and thought provoking.

The reader is told only enough about the background of the man to make him plausible and real enough. We know nothing about the woman with whom he shares his predicament, not even her name. We follow his feelings as he realises the true nature of his situation, at first incredulous, amazed by what has happened, then annoyed, then fearful etc. I wonder whether it is the man or the woman who is the central character here, because it is through his changing attitude to his situation that you learn more about him but also about her, as she is uncovered so his emotions towards her and his captivity change from contempt, to pity, to desire, to affection. The man’s emotional turbulence in contrast to his scientific, analytical approach to the study of insects, sand and escape makes for a wondrous interplay between this emotional landscape and landscape of the dunes, both in a visual, geographic and a scientific sense, with his insight into and analysis of sand particle size and fluidity.

One analogy used in the story and told as a reference to a supposed folk song is about the “Round Trip Ticket Blues”. Chapter 23 starts thus,

“Got a one-way ticket to the blues, woo, woo….”

“If you want to sing it, sing it. These days people caught in the clutches of the one-way ticket never sing it like that. The soles of those who have only a one-way ticket are so think that they scream when they step on a pebble. They have had their fill of walking. “The Round-Trip Ticket Blues” is what they want to sing. A one-way ticket is a disjointed life that misses the links between yesterday, today and tomorrow. Only the man who obstinately hangs on to a round trip ticket can hum with real sorrow a song of a one way ticket. For this very reason he grow desperate lest the return half of his ticket be lost or stolen; he buys stocks, signs up for life insurance, and talks out of different sides of his mouth to his union pals ad his superiors. He hums “The One-Way Ticket Blues” with all his might and, choosing a channel at random, turns the television up to full volume in an attempt to drown out the peevish voices of those who have only a one-way ticket and who keep asking for help, voices that come up through the bathtub drain or the toilet hole. It would not be strange at all if “The Round-Trip Ticket Blues were the song of mankind imprisoned.”

Upon finishing this novel I reckon that it is about the change in the man from a Round-Trip Ticket to a One-Way Ticket kind of guy.

I wonder how people who have read this and Emma Donoghue's Room would compare the two?


ashramblings verdict: 4* an unusual, addictive read

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Joyeux Noel

Christmas Yule Log

Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Natal, Merry Kirsimeti, Meri krisamasa, Maligayang Pasko,

Merry Christmas

Monday 23 December 2013

Playing with Lightroom (1)


When I was on my photographic overland trip earlier this year I was complete blown away by the effects you could achieve with a simple photograph, so I downloaded a trial version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and began to play.


Original 1


Original  2



Original 3


Play 1


Play 2


Play 3


I also have a free photo editing tool, Photoscape, and am also playing with it

Play 1-1


Sunday 22 December 2013

“Points in Time” by Paul Bowles

Points in Time


Paul Bowles

A series of short snippets and vignettes become a series of points in time within an overall impressionistic account of Morocco, Moroccan life and history. It is almost biblical in its writing style. I particularly like the love across the religious divide tale, *****SPOLIER ALERT****even with its sad ending, the story of the European man sentenced to loose his teeth after hitting a local woman and dislodging hers. Spaniards, French, Americans, Jews, Christians and Moslems all feature herein as Bowles subtly shows how misunderstandings can occur across racial, cultural, religious and economic divides and leaves you thinking that perhaps nothing much has changed over time in this respect.

ashramblings verdict:  3* poetically evoking the historical and social landscape

Saturday 14 December 2013

Halesworth–a little gem

Halesworth’s Portas Bid
As I discover more about my new home town of Halesworth I find they made a Portas Bid in 2012 but sadly weren't selected.
Folks ask me why I moved here and I tell them my story - On returning to the UK I was looking for a place to live which was on the train line, where eventually I would be able to do without a car, where I could walk to the shops, where I was close to the sea and the coast, which had a cinema and a good library. Loving the Suffolk coast but knowing I couldn't afford a place on the coast, I was looking along the Ipswich to Lowestoft train line when the estate agent selling my place near Saffron Walden said "Have you looked at Halesworth yet? You'll like it it is like a mini Saffron Walden" So I came, sat in the Coffee shop and watched the town go bye, walked up and down the Thoroughfare and loved it.  There are two fruit and veg shops, two butchers, a fish stall in the weekly market and a traditional ironmongers and household goods shop which is rapidly becoming my favourite place to find things in and The Cut Arts Centre. For me having my daily shopping needs on the doorstep, some 5 minutes walk from my new home, is amazing! People here are very friendly. In this country,  I have to go back to my childhood to have been in a place where I knew the shopkeepers by name and they knew mine.
The biggest issues raised in their video were the cost of parking which was felt to be a real deterrent to shoppers and the lack of variety in the shops. Parking is free for the first hour now, so hopefully that should help local trade and fingers crossed that some entrepreneurial youngster will bite the bullet and open an old fashioned traditional drapers for those ladies in the video who need to buy their smalls somewhere :) So far to me Halesworth has been a little gem.
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Wednesday 11 December 2013

A Simple Story by Leonardo Sciascia


A Simple Story




 Leonardo Sciascia




Following a recommendation for this author I was initially disappointed to find only one book in English translation in my library system but went ahead and ordered it through our interlibrary lending. When it arrived I quickly read the Forward by Paul Bailey (no idea who he is) and the Introduction by the translator Howard Curtis whilst eating lunch and was immediately hooked. So much so that it displaced my current reading and occupied my afternoon. Both the forward and the Introduction set the scene by telling me about the author and about his writings and his style.

Sciascia was Sicilian by birth and a prolific writer, novelist, dramatist and political commentaries. He stood for and was elected to local, national and European political office. He is described as a regional writer, which may explain why so little of his work is available in translation. But if you are wanting descriptions of Sicilian landscape, of hot Mediterranean days and nights, his is not he writing for you. Instead for Sciascia, Sicily provides a backdrop to his study of injustice/justice, corruption and power which pervade Sicilian society and its politics.

A Simple Story was his last book  published on the day he died. It is short, only 40 pages, but from the go his sarcasm, humour and scathing political sideswipes shine through. I did not find the plot twists expected and absolutely  loved the ending – but I won’t say more about that in order to entice you to read this little gem.

Also in the copy I got is a second, longer book, Candido, which I have still to read. It was written during his political period and is a parody on Voltaire’s Candide.

ashrambling’s verdict: 4* little gem.

Thursday 5 December 2013

War Music by Sheila Ash

While browsing my Facebook friends today I read the following poem written by Fadi Alansary on one of my Liked Pages

Je n’aime pas la guerre.
La guerre prive le nouveau-né de sa mère.
La guerre retire aux enfants leurs pères.
La guerre détruit la terre.
La guerre menace le savoir-faire.
La guerre emporte ls braves.
La guerre éteint ls rêves.
La guerre tue le sages.
La guerre ne connait pas d’âge.
La guerre c’est la rage.
Je n’aime pas la guerre, un mauvais message.
Je n’aime pas la guerre, elle meurtrie les cœurs et bloque les passages.
La guerre affame les innocents, elle les rend orphelins.
La guerre est un marasme.
La guerre traumatise les refugies, les rend impuissants dans l’attente d’un sauvetage.
Je n’aime pas la guerre.
Fadi Alansary
I was so moved by it I wrote the following echo response
J'ai trouvé votre poème d'inspiration et écrit son écho

I love music
Music binds people in love
Music helps children have fun playing games
Music heals the souls of the sick
Music calms the troubled brow and stirs the passionate heart
Music knows no age
Music from the sweet voices of innocent little children
Music of a bygone age brings back memories and consolidates reminiscences
Music brings disparate people together
Music overcomes absence and loss
Music feeds the human spirit
The music is still playing
Music never dies
Sheila Ash, 2013