Friday, 14 May 2021

FINDING THE PERFECT NOTEBOOK by Lynne Benton

 In common with all/most/many other writers, I love notebooks!  Any notebooks.  I use them for so many things, but again, like many others I suspect, I’m very fussy about the right sort of notebooks.

Some years ago a friend (not a fellow-writer) was on holiday in France with her family, and looked for a present to bring home for me.  She went into a stationery shop and bought me two of those beautiful notebooks you can only get in France. 

 
Her family said, "What a funny present!  Why did you buy her those?"  To which my friend replied, "Because I know she'll love them!"  (She was right - I did!)  She is definitely the right sort of friend!

My favourite variety of notebook has always been A5 size, spiral-bound, lines 8mm apart, ideally hard-backed (though I can be flexible on that, as can the notebook).  The big advantage of spiral-bound books is that they stay open when you want them to, and you can leave them open at the page you need, or fold them back and they stay there. I have found that sometimes books with narrow lines, 5mm apart, have their uses too.  So I have a pretty good collection, including some that are so beautiful that I’m still waiting for the perfect occasion to use them!


However, since the advent of Zoom webinars, of which I currently have at least two a week, I now find non-spiral-bound notebooks more useful for note-taking (the spiral binding tends to get in the way if you’re writing quickly on the left hand page)  But they must be hardback, so I don’t need to put something else behind it to provide a solid backing, they must lie flat when open, and essentially they need a built-in ribbon bookmark, so I can easily find where I got to after the previous webinar.  For this purpose I definitely need 8mm lines – when taking notes in a hurry my handwriting is too untidy to fit on narrower ones.  And because I follow two slightly different courses, I need a different notebook for each one – at the moment one book is blue and one is red, both fitting my exacting requirements.


But I am now reaching the end of both of these, and will very shortly need replacements.  Which was why, last week, I decided that time had come to go shopping for them!  This in itself felt amazing – going shopping, in real shops, for notebooks?  What’s not to like?

I started in my favourite shop for these things, a large store which sells everything, including, usually, a huge selection of perfect notebooks – only to find that at the moment their stock is greatly diminished, for obvious reasons, so they didn’t have their usual range.  And of those that were there, most seemed to have narrow lines, so no good for note-taking.  Some didn’t even have lines at all, but little dots in box formation, and I couldn’t work out what those would be for – maybe someone here can enlighten me?

Then I remembered my favourite card shop, an independent one which also happens to sell the most beautiful notebooks – maybe on this occasion I might treat myself?  Unfortunately I discovered it has closed down – again, for obvious reasons, but I couldn’t help a sinking of the heart at this discovery.

On down through the town, to discover that another shop I like, a small shop in a Danish chain which sells all sorts of unusual things, was, rather surprisingly, still open.  I went in and found one notebook that wasn’t quite what I needed at the moment, but not far off.  At least the lines were the right distance apart.  Then, as I walked round the shop, I found two more – one reduced to 50p so too good to leave behind – as well as a small notebook with a built-in electronic calculator on the front cover!  How useful is that?  So I came out with four notebooks, even if none of them was exactly right.


Next to the big, well-known nationwide stationery store, where I discovered that narrow lines seem to be the thing these days, so I had to dismiss most of their notebooks at once.  However, on a different shelf I found two which actually fulfilled all my requirements, one reddish which can replace the red one, and one blueish to replace the blue one.  Hooray!  So I bought them.


Now I had six new notebooks!

Of course, on my way home I passed another favourite stationery shop, and was sorely tempted to go in, just to see what they had to offer…  However, there was a big sign outside saying “Limited number of customers allowed in the shop at once - Please wait for a member of staff to let you in”.

So, since there was no member of staff in sight, I decided (with some reluctance) that maybe I should just go home.  Maybe I’ve got enough notebooks – at least for the time being.

Until I need another one, of course.

Visit my website: www.lynnebenton.com

Latest book:

Hansel and Gretel, publ. Hachette



Thursday, 13 May 2021

The Girl Who Ate Books Sheena Wilkinson

I'm on the move. I don't know exactly when -- it depends on when my house sells, but it's the first time I've moved in nearly 20 years and there seem, despite many clear outs over the years, to be rather more books than there used to be. 

Half my library has gone on in advance to my fiancé's house, where I'll be moving to, which means my  house now contains only six bookcases. (Down from 17 three years ago.) I'm being quite ruthless -- some pony books etc have found new homes through various enthusiasts' groups, and the local charity shops are getting an influx, but there are some books that it's hard to justify keeping, and moving sixty miles, but that I can't in all conscience expect anyone else to want.

Part of my library in its new home -- the posh part.

For a start, there are the books I have eaten. No photo -- it's too disgusting. But yes, gentle reader, there was a time when it would have been literally, and not merely metaphorically true to say that I devoured books. Many of my childhood favourites have neat little strips torn from the bottoms of the pages. I'd forgotten that I used to chew these strips, but when I found the torn pages it came back to me, like Proust's madeleine, the taste of those bits of paper. The difference in taste between an old book and a new, between an Armada paperback and a Puffin. What a revolting child I must have been. I can't expect anyone to want a half-eaten book. 

some old friends (not eaten)

I also illustrated my books. Or defaced, as some would say. I don't remember much about Heidi, and I wouldn't have said it was an especial favourite, but here it is with my drawings showing that I knew the story well. I can't expect anyone to pay for that.



I don't think Heidi spent all her time sitting at people's feet, but there seems to be a theme here...

And then that old Golden Book. The cover is coming off; I've no interest in the stories, but how can I get rid fo something with this dedication? I don't know who 1920s Sheena was, but I feel I should keep her book (even though she didn't). 




As for these three old Ladybirds -- there was a time when I knew no story so tragic as Ned the Lonely Donkey. How can I not cherish him?




And after all, the house I'm moving to is bigger than mine. Luckily. 

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Could you be any meaner?

So I finally read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, which it’s taken me far too long to get around to, and I really enjoyed it. 


As an introduction to fanfiction, Fangirl is excellent. The main character is shy bookworm Cath who, along with dealing with love, family and going off to college with a twin who wants them to start living separate lives, also writes a fan fiction series based on the bestselling Simon Snow books (which is basically Harry Potter with different names).

The mad thing is, fans of Fangirl got so hooked on the extracts of Cath’s ‘fan fiction’ Rowell ended up turning them into a trilogy of novels, which I’m also now enjoying. 


I’ve always been aware of fanfiction, and the teens in my writing group LOVE it, but I hadn’t really read much so, intrigued, I went online to Archive Of Our Own to have a look.

It was a revelation.

I thought fanfic was all written by teens but apparently not. There are writers of all ages on there. And, OK, there’s some very adult content (you can filter it out), but there’s also absolutely everything else you can think of, and the thing that amazed me is the number of ‘hits’ and ‘likes’ some of the stories have. Some of the Harry Potter fanfics have tens of thousands of hits. And they’re not short stories, some of them are twice the length of the average novel and more. I found one Harry Potter that had 350 chapters and over a million words. Another had over 2 million hits and 45,000 ‘Likes’ (or ‘Kudos’ as they’re called on Archive).The numbers are actually staggering. And we thought kids didn't read.

Imagine having tens of thousands of readers! Most kidslit authors (or adult authors) would be ecstatic to think ten thousand people had read their work. I don’t think sales figures often approach that unless you’re quite well known. If you want to reach readers maybe fanfic is the way to go! As long as you don’t mind not making any money obvs. 


The other thing I noticed is that, obviously there’s a huge range in quality in fanfic. I read some that was very good and I enjoyed it so I wouldn’t be sniffy about it. But there’s also a lot that isn’t great and one common problem I noticed (beyond basic writing craft problems) was this:

I think people write fan fiction because they read or watch something and fall in love with the characters. Like deeply, obsessively in love. And they don’t want to let them go. So they write their own spin off stories and alternative versions. But the trouble with being that in love with your characters is that you can’t bear to let anything bad happen to them. 


Too many fanfics are just cosy wish-fulfilment scenes where everyone gets a happy ending and nothing too traumatic happens. It’s understandable; the writers just want to hang out with those characters again, they don’t want to make them suffer. But it doesn’t make for good fiction. 

 

So what I took away from that is: Be mean! Be horrible! Be downright cruel to your characters. And when you think you’re being cruel, be a bit worse. Whatever you’re writing right now, ask yourself this. Could you be a bit meaner?

So what do you reckon? Would you/have you ever written/read Fanfic? How would you feel if someone wrote Fanfic of your book? (I’d be freaking thrilled.)

Also, go read some Rainbow Rowell if you’re looking for a good page-turner!



Kelly McCaughrain is the author of the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year,
Flying Tips for Flightless Birds

She is the Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland #CWFNI

She also blogs at The Blank Page

@KMcCaughrain


Sunday, 9 May 2021

"Nothing will come of nothing." Or will it? - Anne Rooney

"Nothing will come of nothing: speak again." King Lear, I, i 

How wrong can you be? Of course, the whole play comes from this 'nothing'. If Cordelia had made some sycophantic speech as her sisters did, there would be no play. This line has a whole host of meanings, from this recursive reference to the play itself to contemporary science's struggle with the notion of a vacuum and the origin of all matter.

Modern science spends a good deal of effort explaining how everything comes from somewhere. Spontaneous generation — the notion that living things could spring from innanimate matter — was still accepted virtually without question in Shakespeare's day. 

Walking away from the generative mud


"Your serpent of Egypt is bred now of your mud by the operation of your sun: so is your crocodile." (Antony and Cleopatra, II, vii)

Does that mean Shakespeare did believe 'something will come of nothing'? Of course he did. And we all do. Even though the molecules of Nile mud might rearrange themselves in to a crocodile, the something that is crocodilehood has to come from somewhere — something — that was not in the mud. (For Shakespeare and his western contemporaries, of course, it could come from God. But even if you buy into that, didn't he make everything ex nihilo? All from nothing?) Today, Big Bang theory still has everything coming from nothing. You might say that Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation and 'let there be light' are the same idea differently phrased. But enough of cosmology. Back to crocodiles.

Current thinking has mud incapable of spawning crocodiles. Mud could furnish all the matter for a crocodile, but not actually generate a crocodile. Only another (two) crocodile(s) can do that. We could drift off into abiogenesis and the origins of life, but there is a closer-to-home and more urgent issue. Where does the crocodile-hood of a crocodile come from? What animates a crocodile that does not animate mud? (Assuming we follow the traditional line that mud is not animate.) And when?

I have a new grandson, born prematurely last month. He is small and sweet — very small, as premature babies generally are. When my daughter first told me about his impendingness I began thinking about two things. The first of ose two things was: where does the 'he' that animates him (assuming for convenience that he is binary) come from, and when? When does he become something other than the rearranged matter breathed in or eaten (and not thrown up) by his mother? When is a cell more than a cell? And then when does what will be his personality start and where does it come from? Even in NICU, the midwives discern character differences between babies. Even between babies who have never seen an unmasked human face — and there's a research project waiting to happen.

So far, so mundane. A million philosophers and anti-choicers have pondered the same questions with varying degrees of rigour. But the next question is 'where do our feelings for this new being come from?' Our terror and anxiety through the ups and downs of a perilous pregnancy and birth, and the love for this little person — these also seem to come from nowhere, nothing. We didn't have to eat more food to hope desperately for his survival. Indeed, we probably ate less. Chemical energy fuels the brain making the thoughts, yes, but it would have fueled different thoughts and feelings if there was no baby and it would not have taken different ingredients to do that. Where, in that ball of cells, can we locate the 'he' he will become (his crocodile-hood) but also the feelings we will have for him, and had already in smaller measure from the moment his existence was confirmed. Something comes of nothing. Our children and our love for our children come from nothing, yet if we lose them we are destroyed. Something so very powerful comes from nothing, and annihilates us — reduces us to nothing — if removed.

This might all sound as though it has nothing (hah!) to do with books, but it's everything to do with books. For one thing, he will grow into a future reader. Our readers are grown from nothing. For another, precisely the same question occurs to writers every day. We take a few thousand words and make something that is greater than the parts. Book-ness is an emergent property (like consciousness, or crocodile-hood). It comes from putting those particular words together in a particular order and context. The illustrations in a book are far more than the combination of coloured inks, of lines and shapes that makes them. The same is true of all other types of art, obviously, but this is a book blog. Yet the idea for a book, which might be sparked by an overheard conversation, a news story, a glimpse of something, or even have no apparent originating experience at all but 'come from nowhere' — that is also a nothing that becomes something. 

It's more than whole, emergent bookishness, too. Imagery creates something from nothing — from the rich gaps between words and their meanings. Images force us to bring things together, the more unexpected the better (within reason). How about this:

‘With fingers as hard as the handrail of a bus and just as cold’ – The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Hugh Alpin

Or this:

'...silent as a carpet' — Andy Stanton

Or even Emily Bell calling Elon Musk 'Space Karen'? 

And more potently:

'I have rape-colored skin' — Caroline Randall Williams. "You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument", New York Times

These all require us to bring a lot to our reading, to construct the meaning and resonance from what we already know and to make something entirely new out of the conjunction (or even collision). They all make something out of nothing. The something can be cataclysmic: reading or hearing something can change your life, or the destinies of whole hosts of people. It's why writing is so important and why rhetoric is a more potent weapon than a gun. (And so, presumably, why we don't teach rhetoric any more. I'm planning a book on rhetoric. It will be like The Anarchist Cookbook but for words.)

To conclude: Lear is supremely wrong. Not only was King Lear made out of nothing, the idea for the play was made from nothing, Shakespeare's own consciousness was made from nothing and the universe he lived in was made from nothing. Everything comes from nothing. 

Welcome, NanoB, with boundless love, to the confusing 'all' that comes from nothing.

Anne Rooney

Here's a book about all the shit that came from nothing:
Our Extreme Earth, Lonely Planet, 2020


 








Saturday, 8 May 2021

The Writing Hour

My normal writing place is a cafe -  pretty much any cafe. 

I that it's time limited -  you can't sit there all day, in fairness to the owner. So you have to get on and write. I like that people will bring me tea, that there are things and people to look, but no actual distractions that I need to worry about. It's quite possible to avoid the internet too, if you never ask for the password. It's a neutral space. It works for me.

Except, of course, that hasn't been possible for months and months now. 

Instead I have home - now my workplace for the day job too. It's incredibly difficult to focus and feel creative, I find, with my work diary at my side and my husband in the house. Writing needs a certain kind of concentration, that mysterious 'in the zone' and it's very hard to find it at home.

Until now. Because I heard about something called the London Writers' Hour. People were raving about it. Apparently you log onto a Zoom meeting (I KNOW). Hundreds of other writers log on too (I KNOW! But bear with me). There are welcomes from the organisers (who are charming and lovely), and people 'set their intentions' in the chat - that is, they write a message saying what they plan to work on. And then someone reads something inspiring, and we're off. Fifty minutes on a Zoom meeting of silent working time. You can switch off your camera, or keep it on. You can minimise the meeting, or keep it open to scroll through the faces of other people working occasionally (I find this distracting). At the end of 50 minutes there's a brief chat about how people found it. And that's it. Available every day at 8am, 1pm, and 4pm.  (Oh and don't worry about the London bit, people log in from all over the world) 

Your eyes may be rolling. Mine were. But guys, it works. It really does. The act of coming together, the setting of intentions - it creates a focus. Seeing others working away on all sorts of writing -  poetry, PhDs,  fiction and non fiction helps me take my own writing seriously and reminds me that it has an important place in my life. It's fun to spot friends among the hundreds of faces and names. And the inspirational readings are great! Here are some  from last week: 

"Just know that everyone’s writing is terrible. Until it’s not. No one’s stuff is right immediately. You gotta work it. Refine it. Shape it. Spend time with it. It’s a relationship. Between you and what comes from you. Not easy. Gonna be terrible before it’s not. And that’s okay.”

– Ava DuVernay


“If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

– Steven King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I admit that I find the 50 minutes hard sometimes, and I've never managed a whole week of writers' hours. The day job is overwhelming right now and I have lockdown fatigue. I am looking forward to cafes opening again. But I am grateful  -  very grateful -  to the writers' hour and I will continue logging in. If you want to too, you can sign up at https://writershour.com/   And there are ways to support the scheme by becoming a patron as well.

Happy writing! 




Friday, 7 May 2021

On not being a joiner, by Dawn Finch

I’m really not a joiner. I don’t mean that I am no good with furniture (although that statement still stands) but rather that I’m not the kind of person who joins clubs and groups. Despite the fact that I’m a serial volunteer* (insert rousing chorus of “I’m just a gal who can’t say no…”) I’m just not comfortable with group activities. I can’t bring myself to join groups and never have been, but it is groups that have kept me going through lockdown.

There’s no doubt that for many of us one of the hardest things to cope with during lockdown has been the isolation. I’m one of those people who are happy in their own company. People who know me in real life know that I’m an introvert and have a history of vanishing during events, or simply not showing up due to a crisis moment on the way out the door. For me hell is very much other people! However, this past year has driven even me to need to reach out to others and it’s been groups that have made all the difference.

Many of us are members of organisations like the Society ofAuthors (SoA) of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators(SCBWI) but haven’t reached out to the networks and groups. Lots of us feel that first contact is going to be awkward, or that we will find a clique where we don’t fit so how can we get that first foot in the door without feeling as if we are an interloper?

Here’s where I come back to volunteering. I struggle in social situations but I’m really good at organising and helping out and I know I am much better at getting to know people over a task or project. Put me in a room with music, nibbles and a glass of wine and right from the start I’m making sure I know the quickest route to my coat and the exit. Put me in a room with ten rows of chairs, a speaker due to arrive and hand me a clipboard and I’m all set for the evening.

Lockdown has meant that volunteering events have not been possible, but it hasn’t meant that the working groups have vanished, in fact it’s been the opposite. In this new digital world we’ve all been forced to learn new skills about virtual meetings and events, and we’re doing amazing things! I went into a pandemic with a horror of seeing my face on a screen, and now I’m zooming along with the rest of the world.

If you’re wondering where the next year will take you, or if you just want to feel a new purpose and a new sense of belonging, reach out to the special interest groups in your societies. If you find that there isn’t a special interest group for you, then maybe others are feeling the same way too. Maybe it’s time you got a few people together and started up a group in your area. If you’re not sure how to get started with groups and projects you can start by taking a look at their social media. Join quietly and have a little lurk for a while. If you see a friend joining in just ask them to introduce you to others. Try jumping in, the water is not as cold or as deep as you might fear. Maybe just sign up to attend an event and have a virtual mingle. The Society of Authors has a fantastic range of online events.

The world has changed, but it’s become smaller not diminished and that means it’s easier than every to reach out to each other. We might be physically distanced, but that doesn’t mean we have to be socially distanced.

*Dawn Finch is the current chair of the Children's Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) at the Society of Authors. She is also the secretary of her allotment group, a member of the community bookshop team, curator of her local seed library, a member of the judging panel for the Pupil Library Assistant of the Year Award, current chair of the Ethics Committee for the Chartered Institute of library and Information Professionals, and a community volunteer for local food projects. She is also tired, very very tired... what's that you say? You need someone to help organise that thing you're planning? Pass me that clipboard!

Thursday, 6 May 2021

VASTER THAN EMPIRES AND MORE SLOW by Paul May

It was, of course, Andrew Marvell, not me, who wrote 'vaster than empires and more slow', but the line kept coming into my mind as I was thinking about the two books in this month's post. Some time or other, probably at school, I was told that the Romans came to Britain, stayed a few hundred years, and then left when the Empire started to crumble and they had to get back to defend Rome against marauding barbarians. After that, life in Britain more or less reverted to the uncivilised state that had existed before the Romans arrived, and everything went dark until the Normans came. Rosemary Sutcliff likes to shine a light on those supposed 'dark ages', though in her use of the image of 'lantern bearers' carrying the light of Roman (and Christian) civilisation forward after the Romans left, she is, in a way, perpetuating the idea of an age of darkness. But that doesn't prevent this being a brilliant book.




Sutcliff describes how, while making toast for breakfast one morning, a thought struck her:

 

    "The thought (and I swear my brain doesn’t usually work this way, by spontaneous combustion) was 'Yes but the Legions weren’t just an occupation force, they’d been here for four hundred and fifty years!'

    Four hundred and fifty years; roughly the space of time that lies between ourselves and the early Tudors; and the Roman Authorities had no feeling against interbreeding with the native population . . . British blood must have been quite noticeably laced with that of the Legions, and probably few Legionaries could not boast at least a British grandmother.'"




This was the origin of The Lantern Bearers, the 1959 winner of the Carnegie Medal. The book is the final volume of the trilogy which began with The Eagle of the Ninth and continued with The Silver Branch. For me, The Lantern Bearers is the best of the three, and is one of Sutcliff's finest achievements. It's not too much of a spoiler to say that the story concerns Aquila, a Romano-British legionary who decides at the last moment to stay in Britain with his family as the last Roman ships sail away. In a Saxon raid his family are brutally killed and his sister carried off. He's left tied to a stake for wolves to eat, but another Saxon takes him as a slave. For most of the book, he is a bitter, angry man, the more so after he tries to rescue his sister and finds that she has adapted to her new situation, has a child, and doesn't want to be rescued.


Illustration by Charles Keeping


Eventually Aquila rises high in the company of Ambrosius Aurelianus, who is credited by Gildas, a (real) monk writing a century after the event, with winning a decisive battle against the Saxons. Ambrosius is the only person from the fifth century who Gildas mentions by name, so Rosemary Sutcliff had a wide field for invention, and she manages to link up Aquila's story with 'the war leader whose medieval romance turned into King Arthur.' But what resonates most for me is the feeling of a massive historical change, as a way of life that has been more or less stable for more than four centuries came to an end.


It is an amazing thing about humanity that we never seem to learn the lessons of history. Everything changes - the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the European Community . . . Everything seems to be going along just fine then along comes a new virus, or the Black Death, or the Goths, Visigoths and Vandals, the Saxons and Danes. In the 1970s it was hard to imagine that the Berlin Wall would ever come down. In the third century CE it must have been impossible to imagine life without the Roman Empire. The fact is, we have no clue what might happen next, and this idea, perhaps surprisingly, makes an appearance in the 1960 Carnegie winner, The Making of Man, by I W Cornwall and M Maitland Howard.




This book was (slightly shockingly) the last non-fiction title to win the award, and is also the best. It is a history of the evolution of man (no trouble with terminology in 1960). It's clearly written, well-organised and illustrated ingeniously in two colours, with black being used for illustrations of, for example, a fossil of a jawbone, and red being used for the reconstruction of what the skull may have looked like. 



The Making of Man started life as 'a book for young people explaining the theory of evolution', and soon became far too unwieldy, so was re-planned as a much shorter, illustrated text. I enjoyed I W Cornwall's description of the process:


"Two thirds had to be cut, first by taking out whole chapters and subjects, then whole paragraphs and sentences. It was still too big and, as a result of the cuts, scrappy and without cohesion. There had to be some new writing to draw the thing together again and then a final going over with the blue pencil. This was aimed at avoiding any repetitions, shortening sentences, taking out unnecessary qualifications of statements and finally removing even adjectives and trying to find short synonyms and substitutes for longer words in order to save a few letters."


The resulting text entirely avoids any of the 'teachery' condescension that crept into earlier non-fiction winners. It makes clear the limitations of the fossil record, and the fact that scientists are dealing with theories about which there are disagreements. Reading Rosemary Sutcliff I was thinking, 'Wow, four centuries is really quite a long time!' Then I read this in The Making of Man: ' . . . there was a huge gap of perhaps 20 million years between Proconsul and Australopithecus during which the fossil record was almost entirely blank.' Suddenly four centuries seems like the blink of an eye!


In his conclusion Cornwall points out that 'physically we are scarcely distinguishable, at least by our bare bones, from the later Old Stone Age men (of 50 to 100 thousand years ago).' That is to say, evolution takes place over a vast time-scale and we have no idea what will happen next. Evolution is also inexorable. It will happen, even though we are too caught up in time to see it. ''We, as individuals, are already so specialised, each in his own part of the work of our brittle civilisation, that most of the civilised survivors of some world-wide conflict or cataclysm would starve in a month or two, were the world to be plunged back into barbarism.'


Back in 1960 it was the threat of a nuclear holocaust that loomed large in everyone's minds. Now, perhaps, we see climate change as the greater threat, but Cornwall's final words are still relevant:


"Man now stands alone indeed, on a pinnacle of his own contriving, from which it would be only too easy for him to fall.


Life would still go on, only retreating a little to make another leap forward. The death of the dinosaurs might have seemed, to an observer gifted with reason but not foresighted, to be a disastrous destruction of the finest and most advanced creatures that nature could devise. We now know that their eclipse merely made room for the new experiment to begin, which has culminated in our own species. The 80 foot monsters with hen's-egg-sized brains could not have conceived of men. How, then, can we hope to imagine what sort of natural beings will take our places if—or, rather, when—homo sapiens becomes extinct? They will be different. That is all we know."


Like homo sapiens, non-fiction books can rapidly become out of date. Already, my 1966 edition of The Making of Man contains updates about new discoveries, but it remains worth reading, and it's a beautifully produced book, published by Dent, and of a similar quality to their Illustrated Children's Classics series. 


Cornwall had 'never even heard' of the Carnegie Medal when he received the letter telling him he'd been awarded it. And he went to great lengths to make it clear that it wasn't 'mine alone, though the Medal bears only my name. It was the result of the closest collaboration throughout between publisher, author and artist.' It is 61 years since a non-fiction book last won the Carnegie Medal. Surely that's too long. 





Paul May's website.