Thursday, 23 July 2020

Proof of How to Teach Classics to Your Dog

Ecce! Proofs have arrived of How to Teach Classics to Your Dog, which will be published in October by Oneworld.

"Philip Womack and Una – his optima canis – are tremendous companions in their journey round the classical world. The ultimate vademecum.." Harry Mount

Monday, 20 July 2020

The Tower by Philip Womack

I'll be posting sections from my YA short story, 'The Tower', on Ko-fi, over the next few days. It's a fantasy piece about isolation. You can read it here.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Competition: Chance to win a copy of THE ARROW OF APOLLO

If you'd like to be in for a chance to win a copy of THE ARROW OF APOLLO, head over to Twitter, where WRD are running a competition.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Literary Review Summer Children's Round Up July 2020

Here's my review of three children's books for Literary Review, by Tania Unsworth, Richard Lambert and Jenni Spangler. Read it here.

Monday, 22 June 2020

William Mayne's Jingle Stones Sequence

During lockdown, I have been returning to the books I read as a child: partly for comfort, partly from a sense of curiosity. When I stumbled on William Mayne’s Earthfasts, it was as if a magnesium flame had been lit, that past time scorching into the present, reforged and changed. Published in 1966, the novel begins with a truly eerie moment, when a drummer boy appears out of the ground to David and Keith, two startled teenage boys.

The drummer boy carries a candle, whose removal has woken the sleeping King Arthur: it’s not the right time for him to return, and the candle must be replaced. That simple plot breakdown doesn’t do justice to this work, which also deals with Yorkshire dialects, history, troublesome boggarts, translations of Horace, and the mysteries of life and death.

I hadn’t read Cradlefasts, the sequel, which appeared 30 years later. I probably thought I had grown out of children’s books. Mayne updated the setting, so the boys who were teenagers in the 1960s are still the same age in a world of mobile phones: it all adds to the disorienting effect. A young girl claims to be David’s dead little sister; the drummer boy longs for his own time. There’s barely any plot to speak of, instead relying on a vivid sense of landscape and an exploration of mortality. It hardly seems to follow the previous novel at all, until right at the end, when things slide dizzyingly into place.

I’m hooked. Candlefasts, the final part, which appeared in 2000, brings in giant spiders and the particles of time itself. For a period when the world seems to be half-embalmed, out of kilter, I can’t recommend them enough. Often wilfully obscure, Mayne’s writing yet achieves moments of startling epiphany.

Mayne killed himself in 2010, having been found guilty of abusing girls. His books were removed from schools and libraries. This raises difficult questions about art and its relation to its maker. Should such troubling circumstances cloud the beauty of his works? He produced over 100 titles; none are in print. You can get them second hand. You’ll find jewels.

Friday, 19 June 2020

10 minute challenge for Authorfy