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

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Stop some of the clocks

It's six years since we left London and I've never for a moment regretted it. I did fear that it might be a wrench leaving the house in which our children had grown up. But two have been back to live with us and the oldest has fond false memories of having grown up in this house, with her hammock slung between apple trees in the little orchard.

And we do go up to London on average at least once a week, most recently for me to meet independent children's booksellers and both of us to see Antony and Cleopatra. I like knowing how the city works and being able to find my way about it. But anything that has been intoduced since we left - Oyster cards for example - seem very alien.

And of course I've written 5 long novels, one picturebook, one set of re-tellings and at least one junior title since being here, so I feel productive in my green study.

Stevie was away at a conference for Valentine's Day. So Jess and I had a date - dinner at Ha Ha's! and the DVD of Little Miss Sunshine.

I'm off to Padua tomorrow, researching Stravaganza 4, which is set in the Talian equivalent.

Since my last blog, I've read Richard lll to clarify my mind about the performance we saw. Also lots of books to review for Armadillo - Troll Blood, Red Tears, and a huge long fantasy in proof, called City of Bones. This was written by Cassandra Clare, who cut her teeth on fan fiction and the hilarious Secret Diaries of the Lord of the Rings characters ("Still not king"). It's not often that fan fiction leads to publication but there seems to be a trend that way.

I saw The Devil wears Prada and thought Meryl Streep deserved her Oscar nomination. But it's an essentially weak premise; no-one as bright as Andie would have put up with her boss's nonsense for five minutes. There's a similar weakness in Little Miss Sunshine, in that Olive had already come second in the regional finals, with presumably the same routine that so scandalised the judges in California.

We also saw Antony and Cleopatra with Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter - both superb. The "set" was appalling, just splodges of paint on a backdrop. Any sixth form production would have been ashamed to mount such scenery. A big contrast with the production I saw at the National, with Alan Rickman and Helen Mirren. The critics hated it but it used the stage much more imaginatively than the RSC at the Novello.

We didn't agree with the interpretation of Octavius - nervous, compulsive, verging on madness - but for the rest it was very memorable.

I have heard wall-to-wall Auden today, because of his centenary; with both Radio 3 and 4 putting on programmes it was sometimes like an echo: Stop all the clocks ... Stop all the clocks. What a brilliant poet he was and how memorable: "Out on the lawn I lie in bed, Vega conspicuous overhead," "We must love one another and die," Plunge your hands in the basin/ Plunge them in up to the wrist/Stare, stare in the mirror/And see what you have missed." On and on - marvellous, accurate, as fastidious about language as he was careless about personal hygiene. And the radio played lots of Britten settings of Auden's words, like Our Hunting Fathers. An artistic marriage made in heaven, even though the men were so different.


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