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

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Grim Reaper

January is more than halfway gone and this winter continues to take people out. Jan Mark on Sunday night and my cousin Susan on Monday. I didn't know either of them well. But Jan lived in Oxford and I came back to the city with her on the coach after Ann Jungman's Barn Owl party last winter and dropped her off at her house. And I last saw her at the CWIG conference in September. She apparently had back-ache on Sunday night and when her son went to wake her up in the morning she had died. Terrific way to go, apart from the effect on survivors. She was a great writer, always interesting, and a very generous teacher and mentor. She will be missed.

My cousin was the oldest daughter of my father's half-sister, who I am suppose to resemble. My auntie "Bubbles" died aged 30 of a brain tumour when I was a little girl. Susan was also a little girl and had four siblings younger than her too. I hope to meet some of them again at the funeral next week. Unlike Jan's, Susan's was a prolonged decline, with leukaemia, and she died in a hospice.

I am heading towards the finishing post with The Falconer's Knot - halfway through chapter 19 and I'd guess I need another two after that and then a reading and research week before submitting. I have used the Bodleian and it was brilliant - ordered books waiting for me when I arrived. Then I went on to the fabulous Sackler Library where I have reading rights. It has Art History books and journals, in English and Italian and I have found it very useful. But I have also ordered articles from journals held at the British Library, just through my local library. Six out of the seven arrived within the week. Fantastic!

We've just had the Get Carter! weekend at the Barbican and Stevie went to something like 8 concerts and 2 films between Friday and Sunday evenings, using the pass I bought him for his birthday. I went up to join him for the last concert and saw the tiny 97-year-old that is Elliott Carter receiving his applause and praising the BBC Symphony orchestra. They were very good, as was the soloist in the amazingly difficult oboe concerto.

I find his music really hard and couldn't have managed a whole weekend of it but one concert was fine. He wouldn't be on my desert island though, unlike Bartok and Messiaen. Had a long phone talk last night with our conductor/musicologist friend from Bremen. He's going to conduct a concert with some Zemlinsky in Madrid next week and then have a birthday. I asked what book he was going to write next andf he mentioned a major project that would take him ten years. "But Tony, you'll be 67 by the time you've finished!" I objected. He, on the other hand, couldn't believe I was saying I had to finish my book by the end of this month. He is like a stately ocean liner and I am a busy little tug.

Back in my italian Literature class, i have just finished reading "La Lunga Vita di Marianna Ucria" by Dacia Maraini. It's a fascinating story about a deaf mute girl from a noble family in Sicily in the early 18th century and about as different from Lampedusa as can be. Lots of dialect makes it quite hard to read but the story keeps one turning the pages. What more can you ask?

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I love it when things go back to normal after the long Christmas break. I love the binmen coming back on duty, real post coming through and the shops being open again. The best moment will be when we take down the tree and decorations tomorrow for Twelfth Night. We have the world's smallest crib on our piano and the three kings are moved millimetres closer to the stable each day. One got kidnapped before Christmas but we got him back without paying a ransom. (We think the kidnapper was Lila).

Don't get me wrong - I love all the cards and baubles and mistletoe but by the end I am longing to get back to work, to clear the remains of cranberry sauce out of the fridge and get on with the new year.

I have finished off chapter 13 and written 14 but even more importantly have spoken to my researcher, who is fully back in business and found a mediaeval specialist in Oxford to answer my questions. And I've discovered various important books I need to consult are in the Bodleian. I've been a member for three years but never used it, so next week I shall order up the books online and go in the next day.

Today I've been inundated with phone calls, mostly not for me, but one was a journalist who rang me a few weeks ago about Madonna as a children's writer. This time he wanted to know about Noddy! I said he seemed always to draw the short straw and vented my opinion of the worthlessness of Noddy. Think I was a bit indiscreet because when he was talking of the world domination of the bell-hatted one, I said, "Yes, well McDonalds and Starbucks have world domination too so that's no guarantee of quality."

Happy new year to all!