I'm juggling between two books at present. I found Jostein Gaarder's 'SOPHIE'S WORLD' in a charity shop. Originally written (in Norwegian), as a Young Adult book in 1991, and hugely successful in translation, I didn't read it at the time because my kids were grown up. It's a potted history of philosophy framed by an intriguing mystery - fifteen year old Sophie begins receiving lectures delivered by a dog, from an anonymous philosopher. It's fascinating, and not in the least bit dated (unless you feel that Aristotle's no longer in your area of cool).
The second book I rescued in a rainsoaked condition from a neighbour's front garden wall. It's Eimear McBride's 'A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing', and very 'now'. I had to wrap it in kitchen roll and then straighten it beneath a heavy RHS encyclopaedia of plants. It's a debut novel which seems to be doing very well, so that's a treat in store.
Mentioning debut novels made me go back to one of mine. Most people know me as a children's author, but I have written two adult novels, so I thought I'd paste in a small extract from 'COUNTERPOINT' - its opening paragraphs. A woman in a medically inexplicable coma has been brought into hospital...
In the ward, the fondant smell of spring flowers is spiked with antiseptic. Daffodils of course predominate, their green stems stiff as sticks of angelica in the heavy, funnel-shaped vases, but there are anenomes, too, and freesias, delicate as dancers inside their ribbonned cellophane shrouds.
At the window a young nurse looks down at the black slush the cars have made of the snow; the trees are still lacy, though, and the car park is rimmed with white. She has been up since half-past five, her feet are aching and she is longing for a cup of tea. She wonders how cold it is out there; inside the hospital the temperature is always the same. Across the face of her watch the seconds flicker restlessly: one twenty-six and twenty-three seconds, flick-flick, twenty-four, but time itself is interminable. Behind the glass doors she sees staff nurse, bent over a pile of papers, sucking the end of her pen. If it's a report on that emergency, she thinks, it doesn't surprise me that she's having problems.
Mentioning archived work, I'd be interested to learn how other writers deal with theirs. I have things dating from the days of typewriters right up to the print outs I do from the computer, because I always need to see my work in hard copy, but cataloguing this stuff is a nightmare. I need a totally dedicated secretary. Recently I produced half a dozen little stories each, in response to two briefs I received from Franklin Watts. One story for each brief flew, so what happens to the other ten? Oh for more publishers' briefs....
I finally made it to the Matisse exhibition at Tate Modern, but my visit was such a catalogue of disasters that you might be amused by it. I set off on the Northern Line to King's Cross, meaning to take the Overground to Blackfriars, but got on the Tube instead, so came out on the wrong side of the bridge in the middle of a massive thunderstorm, walked across the bridge (I had brought an umbrella), and promptly got lost. When I found my way again, and into the gallery, dripping and exhausted, I had to queue for a ticket. Then - at last! - the Matisse, which was amazing, except that, when I was about a third of the way through, a fire alarm sounded, so everyone had to be herded out via the TM's bowels which, I assure you, are neither a pretty sight nor easy to negotiate.
No relevant images to post this time, but a stunningly irrelevant one - a medieval woodcarving from Poland, from where my family has just returned. Those faces are real faces - they were neighbours, family, friends and lovers, so it's a journey back in time. Amazing.