Juliet: Forgive me for being dense, but I couldn't work out at all how the bookshelf thing worked. I assume one is supposed to upload pics of one's actual current reads, etc. How do the spines get 'indexed'? How does one update them? I would imagine that hurling oneself into it wholeheartedly could all become very time-consuming (simply blogging takes up way too much time, as it is!).
Kieron: You're not being dense at all - the site is still lacking explanatory text and we're adding help videos for those who prefer it. The bookcase tagging is a manual process currently - literally you click on the four corners of a book and search for the title below and the save the tag - we did want to go live with something more 'automatic'. As you say this is time consuming and probably appeals to a slightly different audience; that said, having your first match with someone else is quite fun.
You can of course be a consumer of bookcases rather than a contributor - and take a nosey at other people's - it is interesting to see the context of a title on people's shelves for example.
The bookshelf element is just a part of the broader set of tools that hopefully will work to open up the backlist somewhat.
Me: There doesn't seem to be an option to go 'private' in terms of having a user name which isn't one's own full real name (or at least I couldn't see such an option on the profile page). This is unusual online, and could seem, for a beginner especially, a little
intrusive or intimidating, I fear. Even in the blogosphere a great many people prefer to keep their real identity under wraps, and this is entirely understandable and not necessarily sinister. I'd like to see various 'levels' of identity, privacy and interaction available. Maybe there are, and I just didn't find them. Again, it may be because I'm not very familiar with networking sites that I found this all so impenetrable and a wee bit scary.
Kieron: We went with the 'Facebook' approach for this for the social networking side of the site, so yes real name this was for several reasons, but the principle one is to help with creating a site where people are responsible - sometimes where people can hide behind user names they can be more likely to post abuse etc, unfortunately. You only have to register at all if you want to take part in the community itself, just using the bookshop or looking at content can be done completely anonymously.
Me: I proceeded through the ordering process, partly to find out where the link to my local bookshops kicked in, but it never did. Is this something I missed, or is
it not available yet?
Kieron: This is a sort of halfway house at present - on every book title there is a tab which says 'selling' this shows a Google map of your local bookshops and contact details. What we want to do in the next couple of months is introduce proper ratings, online stock editing etc and hope to be working with the Leading Edge independent
booksellers on this.
Me: As a method of browsing and buying books, I am definitely attracted by the fact that it has a more intimate feel than Amazon. But in practice it is going to be a long time, I suspect, before you will persuade the entire blogosphere to link to BookRabbit rather than to Amazon every time they mention a book, and currently, virtually all my online book purchases are made as a result of a blog review or recommendation, so it's click, click buy. I know I'm not alone in this. There's also the Amazon
associates incentive which, on very popular, high-traffic blogs, can be a genuine earner.
Kieron: Yes you're right - we're introducing our own scheme in the next week - which will rival Amazon's in terms of commission, we also hope to work with bloggers to create custom categories for their particular interests which they can link to
directly. I'm under no illusions that Amazon are very entrenched in this space
and it will take some time!
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Monday, 28 April 2008
Sunday, 27 April 2008
This has already been screened in the US and there are some reviews and lots more about it here. I am hoping that it will be better than the frankly dreadful Becoming Jane (which I moaned and whined about here last year), but an acerbic review by Christina Patterson in the Independent and some very mixed reviews on the comprehensive and discerning Jane Austen Today blog leave me wondering what I shall make of it.
But, there's a huge mound of ironing to be done following a concerted attack on the laundry mountain this weekend. So, whether Miss Austen Regrets is execrable or thoroughly glorious, at least there won't be a creased-school-shirt crisis in the morning.
An appropriate moment at which to mention once again this witty range of Jane products.
Saturday, 26 April 2008
Friday, 25 April 2008
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Anyway, I have managed to wrench myself away from this delightful task on a few occasions during the day - principally to intervene in various noisy altercations between SDs #2 and#3, who have been enjoying the extra holiday provided by their striking teachers; but also to surf at lightning speed through the blogosphere, screeching round corners and bumping into things all over the place (part joy-ride, part guilt-trip).
A characteristically perceptive piece by Danuta Kean (which has attracted some equally illuminating comments from writers and publishers) about the perils for unwary authors of entering into a relationship with a small publisher - written in the light of (though not specifically about) the disaster that was The Friday Project. Some insightful thoughts about the nature of blogging, too ('just a form of vanity publishing'), and the limited potential of the whole 'blog to book' ('blook') concept.
And Susan Hill on copyright and the Internet, 'are we the owners of our own work?' (vis-à-vis the J K Rowling court case in New York)
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
And so is this.
- according to the author of a novel which is excellent on the inside (sweet yet crunchy) but which has misguidedly been covered from head to toe in a most unappetising outer coating that utterly belies its (shall we say 'bittersweet'?) content.
Monday, 21 April 2008
In that exhilaratingly serendipitous way that these things happen, a chance visit to a poetry blog many months ago (no idea even what I was doing there) has gradually unfurled undreamed-of layers of bloggish consequences.
Isn't that wonderful?
It's all made me feel quite light-headed!
Saturday, 19 April 2008
Cold and Januaryesque, so hot chocolate en route entirely excusable - indeed, jolly well-deserved, say I. Jumped nimbly over a breakwater, landed on steep pile of oyster shells and pulled a muscle I wasn't aware existed. (Clearly good material in there re the oyster who pulled a mussel, but I'm famously hopeless at telling jokes.)
Limped home. Excellent start to training for RfL!
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Auntie Elizabeth died before I was born, but Aunties Clarice and Blanche were still going strong in the early 1960s. They visited infrequently (they didn’t drive and only rarely made the journey down to Berkshire), but as the only little girl in the family at the time, I was doted on by them and showered with presents of books and toys. I wish I’d had a chance to know them better, but both died before I reached my teens, and I was always too scared of their large flowery dresses, thick brown stockings and strange hats to speak to them, apart from whispering the mandatory pleases and thank yous. They were spoken of as being ‘very artistic’, and there is certainly much evidence of their creative endeavours in the form of paintings and collages, embroidery and, most notably, wood-carving.
When the last-surviving brother (apart from my grandfather, who was the youngest in the family) passed away, the family house was cleared and the accumulated ‘effects’ of two generations of Holmeses painstakingly sorted out by my father and his brother over many months. A number of things eventually came my way: pretty items from the vast collection of locally manufactured Staffordshire ceramics; jewellery; and, perhaps best of all, a copy of A Handbook of Plant-Form by Ernest E. Clark.
Subtitled ‘For Students of Design, Art Schools, Teachers & Amateurs’, it comprised 'nearly 800 illustrations, Drawn and Described, and with an Introductory Chapter on Design and A Glossary of Botanical Terms by Ernest E. Clark, Art Master, Derby Technical College, National Silver Medallist in Ornament and Design'. It was published by Batsford in 1904 and the title page bears the quotation:
“In every object there is inexhaustible meaning; the eye sees in it what the eye brings means of seeing.”
I have Googled till my Googling-finger aches, but I all I have been able to find out about Ernest Ellis Clark (1869-1932) are a few references to this publication and some scanty biographical details.
He was born in Derby and studied at Derby School of Art, which he first attended as an evening industrial student in 1892, and where he was considered one of the most outstanding students.He became a painter at the Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Company, where he stayed until 1902. He left the china works to become a full-time crafts instructor at the School of Art in Green Lane, Derby. Between 1899 and 1904 he won seven medals in the National Competition for schools of art. He was a member of Derby Sketching Club, and seems to have specialised in painting Derby townscapes and people. From 1914-1918 he served as a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery and he died in Derby in 1932 aged 63.
I've unearthed one fuzzy reproduction of a Derby street scene, but have not managed to find any other images of his paintings.
So it looks as though pretty much all that remains of Mr Clark’s life’s work is this wonderful book. My copy was presented to Auntie Clarice as a school prize ‘for Flower Painting’, and clearly inspired many of her wood-carving designs (which I should have photographed when I was staying with my parents - I'll do so next time).
In his Preface, Clark sets out his very sensible teaching philosophy:
‘Objection may be taken to [‘this little work’] on the debatable ground of the wisdom of placing in the hands of Art students ready-made diagrams for reference and use in decorative studies. But this objection may be met by a consideration of the difficulties experienced by many young students in obtaining, at any given moment, the right plant, or the information concerning such plant, which is essential in order to make an original drawing. At the same time, it cannot be too frequently urged upon students that the only right way for them is to make their own studies direct from nature. Indeed, one object of this book would be defeated if it were made to take the place of a student’s own personal studies . . . I have refrained from supplementing the plant drawing with examples of their decorative application to given spaces, believing that, had I done so, a check might possibly have been put upon the student’s originality . . . .’
But oh what a treasure-house this is. Its Arts & Crafts approach appealed to me from the moment I first opened it and it has proved a fantastic resource over the years. I’ve referred to it for help with everything from Biology A-level to needlepoint designs for cushion covers and ideas for botanical drawings.
Some of the plates have been beautifully watercoloured by my aunt – which is a ‘defacement’ I find delightful (the very best kind of scribbling to discover in a book!).
I’ve scanned just a few pages for now, but will post some more soon if people are interested. And I need hardly add that if anyone knows anything more about Ernest Clark or his work, I’d be absolutely delighted to hear from you.
(Don't forget to click on the images to enlarge them.)
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
Stephen Fry's hour-long exploration of the life and legacy of Johann Gutenberg. Beautifully, filmed and directed, this was an absolutely first-rate piece of television. Fry was at his most engaging (which is saying something - he was just adorably perfect for this programme) and clearly enthused and passionate about his subject - no mere frontman for another's script here.
Fry demonstrated how, through his invention of the printing press and moveable type and his subsequent creation of his famous Bible - 180 copies, 12 printed on vellum, and first displayed at the Frankfurt Trade Fair in 1454 - Gutenberg was the father of mass-production.
In the documentary, Fry travels round France and Germany on the trail of the ultimately rather tragic Gutenberg, learns how to make paper, and actually handles (albeit through cotton gloves) one of the original copies of the Bible (the thrill this gives him is palpable - we can almost feel the goosebumps he experiences). Back in the UK, he works with a team of craftsmen to found some type (he gets to make a letter 'e'), construct a replica of Gutenberg’s machine and then print a replica page of the Bible on authentic linen paper made by Fry (and including his own little 'e').
The lingering shots of the work in progress, the newly cast letter, the double wooden thread on the press, the hand-illuminated pages of one of the original Bibles were gorgeous and the editing was perfectly judged. It was a truly excellent piece of television - almost, as Fry described Gutenberg's Bible itself, 'more beautiful than it needed to be'.
So please, special please, if you didn't watch it, do try to catch it on the BBC iPlayer here. (It's available to view online for six more days, or you can download it for 30 days.)
Sunday, 13 April 2008
It’s now over a week since my visit to Polesden Lacey – a Regency country house near Dorking, Surrey, with some delightful Edwardian interiors and lovely gardens.
I hadn’t visited for many a long year and only vaguely remembered some of the rooms, although I had not forgotten the sumptuous, glittering gold-and-red saloon – decorated in celebration of her legendary hostess status by the Hon Mrs Greville at the beginning of the twentieth century. A large portrait of the beauteous Mrs G dominates one wall. This was, I hardly need add, 6-year-old SH#3’s favouritest room in the house and we had to keep on going back so she could pirouette princess-like beneath the 4,000-crystal central chandelier. Less ostentatiously there’s a good collection of paintings from the 14th to the 19th centuries and an abundance of other lovely things to admire.