No, this isn’t a self-promotion blog. It’s about things I’ve read recently that I’d like to have written, and might have written if I’d been good enough.
My old friend Peter Gilmour, who lives in a delightful 19th century flat in Glasgow, has at last published the novel he wrote several years ago. A synopsis of The Convalescent is likely to make one think “How depressing – I wouldn’t want to read a book like that”, but in reality the story isn’t depressing at all. It isn’t cheerful, but it’s often wryly amusing and in the end uplifting, and the use of English is quite brilliant. The protagonist – the eponymous ‘convalescent’ – is a recovering alcoholic, an intelligent man whose marriage and career were both ruined by drinking. We follow him through a lonely life as caretaker of a disused farmhouse and then as a gardener-come-handyman in an old people’s home. The subject matter (including the residents of the home) is dealt with unflinchingly and unsentimentally but the tone of the novel is never negative or hopeless. This is a novel to savour; not just to read, but to re-read. The Convalescent was published by Vagabond Voices Publishing Ltd., Glasgow, in 2013; ISBN 978-1-908251-19-0. I recommend it highly – it would make an excellent Christmas present for someone who enjoys quality literature with complex and intriguing characters.
During the past little while I’ve had the privilege of reading and editing a new collection of 166 poems by Phibby Venable, which she intends to publish under the title Bones of a Generous Woman (also the title of the opening poem). Phibby lives in the Appalachian Hills and has published two previous collections of poetry, three chapbooks, a novel (Women of the Round Table) and material in various magazines and anthologies. I had the pleasure of publishing two of her delightful short stories in U Magazine two or three years ago. I’ve always enjoyed Phibby’s work, but in Bones of a Generous Woman her poetry has achieved a new level of sophistication and subtlety. Several of the pieces demanded immediate rereading both to savour the delicious use of language and to extract more of the hidden meanings from the words. When the collection is published I’ll announce it here in a blog.
As a writer, I found it both humbling and stimulating to read Peter’s novel and Phibby’s new poems. I know I can’t write as well as either of these authors but I’ll aim to do so!