Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Why are we waiting?

The last of our summer dramas was Waiting for Godot in Bath. I'd never seen it and read it only once, so had no expectations. It was a brilliant production of what is, in the first half at least, a terrific play. I think the second half is mostly superfluous apart from the great ending in which Vladimir and Estragon agree to move on. The stage direction reads, "They do not move." How like life.

I'm just back from what was supposed to be the first of two trips to the Edinburgh festival, but it was so awful I shall try to get out of the second visit. It's a six or seven hour train journey from Oxford, with terrible food in the buffet, and I did it twice in two days. Two of the schools had cancelled, one on the day, so there were only 20 students and they were 20 minutes late. I and the six adult students from a children's literature course at the University of Aberdeen waited till they arrived. And then the PowerPoint went wrong.

It's the kind of experience that makes you want to chuck it all in as a writer. Then I get an e-mail saying the Latvians want volume 2 of Stravaganza and six appreciative e-mails from fans, all wanting more books. So perhaps I'll keep going. But I'm really off festivals.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Lonza came into season, just after the Icelandic family left, fortunately. The yowling was tremendous! But it didn't last too long - only three or four days.

We've been to three plays in three weeks: Sejanus, Private Lives and Shaw's You Never Can Tell. Sejanus is a rarely done Ben Jonson, which takes a bleeding chunk of Roman history (a fair term in this case) and dramatises it. Not a real play though and because he was a soldier who rose through the ranks to Tiberius' right hand man, you get the strong sense that his downfall was the result of his not being blue-blooded enough. A fantastic production though, at the Swan in Stratford, though I could have done without the gratuitous buggery scene (just a monologue in Jonson's text).

Private Lives was great fun, as always, at the theatre Royal in Bath. Greta Scacchi was Amanda and it is the better part. I saw Alan Rickman (drool) as Elyot last time and it was Lindsay Duncan who got the acting award. The Shaw is not one of his best and deals with a lot of defunct issues. Edward Fox was best, as the old waiter, though he played it disconcertingly like Clive Dunn in Dad's Army. But Diana Quick in the main female role was just AWFUL. Fluffed her lines, called two characters Fergus, more than once (it was the name of only one of them) was dumpy and awkward and impossible to believe in as a prefessional actor, let alone the person she was supposed to be. Good job they did only one joint curtain call - I would have been inclined to boo.

To the launch/lunch of Christina Hardyment's book on Malory, plus a boat she and partner had built and a celebration of her moving house. Malory was on sale - what bliss! I have been waiting for this ever since I knew she was writing it, about three years. It's brilliant. Chatted to Theodore Zeldin, for whom Christina interviewed me for the Oxford Muse project. He'd read her transcript and said I was a "mild revolutionary." Philip Pullman said he'd support any motion I put to the Society of Authors about "Fair Trade Books", i.e. those where the publisher agrees to pay the author not less than a certain sum on each copy, so as to reduce discounting.

The postman has just brought five copies of the Japanese edition of City of Stars. They originally wanted to bring it out in two volumes; I'm so glad they didn't. It's really beautifully produced. Jess is working for me this week, making PowerPoint presentations and sorting out fanmail - I know now what countries they all come from by looking at coloured tabs. I've always loved stationery.

And I've booked a week in Rhodes for Rhiannon and me - we haven't had enough sunshine. She's taking her laptop. "We should write a book together," she said. No chance, Rhi; can't fit it in between the swimming and sunbathing.