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Monday, January 07, 2008

Remembering a great but forgotten writer

Another new year. Another set of resolutions. Well - with a difference. Only nice resolutions. I'm through with those draconian "must lose 2 stone" type resolutions. It amuses me no end to see the local gym stuffed to the gunnels in Jan with earnest new joiners, fleeced for a year's membership only to stop attending after the first three or four weeks.

My resolutions are: go to the theatre/cinema or an exhibition at least once a month: stop buying so many magazines; stop spending so much money on "stash" (scrapbook supplies) and read a classic novel at least once a month.

On the subject of classic novels, or novels in general, The Times' List of the Greatest British Writers since 1945 was a must-read. Inevitably, one always disagrees with a list like this in some respect. The online version already has 68 comments. I thought the top five was largely spot on, with Philip Larkin in pole position. I do disagree with the inclusion of JK Rowling and Ian Fleming in the top 50. Both have written global best-sellers but I doubt if their novels will stand the test of time. They're not particularly well written. I also disagreed with Salman Rushdie and his pompous pretentious tosh being in the top 10. And I was amazed Ian McKeown was in the lowly 30s.

Mostly though, I was appalled at the omission even from the long list of Bernice Rubens. A former Booker prize winner, she wrote the most fascinating, observant and quirky studies of human nature. A couple of her books, "I Sent A Letter to My Love" and "Madame Souzatza" were made into films. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't ever send her a letter saying how much I enjoyed her work, because she died a couple of years ago just before her autobiography was published.

My gran wrote to one of her favourite writers, Catherine Cookson, and received a charming reply. It's not the reply I miss, but the fact that I didn't tell her how spell binding I found most of her novels. She is a forgotten gem.

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