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

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Round and the Square

I had fun being part of the Author Team at the Central England finals of the Kids' Lit Quiz in Oundle earlier this month. I was with Lucy Coats, Pippa Goodhart, Julia Jarman and Mark Robson. We did very well and I even won a £5 book token for knowing that Roald Dahl's first wife was Patricia Neal.

I had to write a survey of the state of children's books in the UK for the Italian journal LIBER, whose "comitato scientifico" I am on. It's the first thing I've had to do for them.

And I've just finished editing my last edition of Armadillo, the magazine I founded ten years ago. That makes 40 and I'm very glad to hand it over.

I saw Table Manners, one of the three Alan Ayckbourn Norman Conquest plays at the Old Vic. The theatre has been transformed into an In-the-Round space. And it was very accomplished, though the actor playing Sarah drove me mad with her fussy gestures. Stephen Mangan was very funny.

We went to see Love's Labour's Lost in Stratford last Friday, with David Tennant as Berowne. I can't imagine it better done, even if I did find DT a bit too in love with himself. The set and costumes were gorgeous and I do love the thrust stage at The Courtyard. Theatre-in-the-square, for all that Max Bialystock says "nobody gets a good view!" is very satisfying.

The very next day we were in Covent Garden for Elektra. It was superb! I am obsessed with the House of Atreus and have always found this version of it particularly compelling. Susan Bullock was thrilling in the main part and the Clytemnestra and Chrysothemis were equally good; the men are almost cyphers.

I saw the last two episodes of Simon Schama's American series and am watching Little Dorrit. Andrew Davies has done largely a good job, apart from ridiculously giving Flora Finching, a middle-aged, middle-class widow the line "What about the Chinese women? I hear they are different 'down below' but you wouldn't know that would you, being a bachelor?" Outrageous, as well as cheap and nasty. And I hate the fact the director has cast a black actor as Tattycoram, which slews the whole nature of her position in the household. (It doesn't help that she can't act). But Tom Courtenay and the others are magnificent.

I finished reading War and Peace after four weeks. It was a great translation but I was just as cross with Tolstoy and Natasha at the end as when I read it decades ago. She doesn't care about anything but her husband and children.

Since then I've read If No-one Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor, which was OK and very interesting structurally, but a bit slight. Then Robin Hobbs' Assassin's Apprentice, which is the first of a nine-book fantasy sequence. But I think I'm going to stop there. It's a bit too gloomy for me.

Am now reading The Garden of the Finzi-Continis for the third time (in Italian).

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