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Sunday, 07 September 2008



Re: comment by Cornflower on a Powys Society meeting. I've attended three Powys Society meetings over the years and I didn't recognise any 'lonely fanatics, hippy postgraduates and older female academics with unbrushed hair and misbuttoned cardigans.' What a caricature! The people I've met on these occasions have all been thoroughly charming and delightful ranging from enthusiasts, and several distinguished academics, to artists, poets, teachers and civil servants. All were very normally dressed (smart-casual) and fascinating to talk to. I met A.N. Wilson on one occasion, John Gray and Margaret Drabble on another. I came away from all three meetings with my knowledge and understanding of John Cowper Powys greatly enhanced and I very much look forward to attending another meeting in the near future.

When you mentioned Powys I knew I'd come across a reference to him in recent reading so I checked back and found (in a novel whose title need not detain you) a minor scene set at a meeting of the Powys Society where Wolf Solent was being discussed: "The audience seemed to be made up of lonely fanatics, hippy postgraduates and older female academics with unbrushed hair and misbuttoned cardigans, whom I thought of as Iris Murdoch types ...and one of them was Iris Murdoch."
You are none of the above, Lindsay, so I'll be keen to hear what you think of him (and for that matter of Murdoch, too!)

The Blue Flower is a conjuring trick of a book and certainly worth reading (as is The Gate of Angels).

Yes, I keep coming across the Blue Flower too. I really must read's somewhere downstairs. It would be very interesting to have some of these authors compile a list of favourites anonymously and see if you can guess whose is whose.

I read Blue Flower with enjoyment a few years ago; it's very fine, it's unusual, and it's quite moving - but I didn't feel it really had greatness. I wouldn't be surprised to see it in a top 40 list, but I wouldn't have thought of it myself.

One thing I found very interesting was Pullman's comment that he would have included Penelope Fitzgerald's "The Blue Flower' if Sebastian Faulks hadn't chosen it in the previous selection. In yesterday's article in the Guardian about 40 years of the Booker numerous contributors said that it was a scandal that this book hadn't even made the shortlist. It seems like it ought to go to the top of the list of those books you really do need to read even though the Booker judges ignored them.

Looking at Pullman's list I see he mentions the wonderful Flann O'Brien. Do try The Best of Myles!

Let me strongly recommend the Finn Family Moomintroll and the Herge to you, though for sheer cartooning I think I'd chose the Le Lotus Bleu over the Les Bijoux de la Castafiore; do consider The Complete Maus too. Also Art and Illusion by Gombrich, but probably you already own that one?

Dark Puss

It sounds as though The Balloonist was influencing Pullman when he wrote the character Lee Scoresby in His Dark Materials, don't you think?

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