We’re back!

 

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Welcome to the new and improved Dabbler!

Yes we’re up and running again – apologies for the interruption to your cultural nourishment during the last few days.

You’ll notice the site looks rather different. There will almost certainly be a few glitches that need ironing out. But the good news is that you can still find all your favourite Dabblers and the usual eclectic mix of articles, we’ve just updated the framework of the site to allow for some more cutting edge bloggery with extra bells and whistles.

As part of this space age relaunch you’ll also notice a new section called The Squabbler. The Squabbler is The Dabbler’s tearaway little brother: feistier, more argumentative and possibly more topical. It will take a short while to get going, but when it does it will be an outlet for the more instant, off-the-cuff kind of posting you’d normally associate with personal blogs. Meanwhile, the cultured, considered articles of The Dabbler will continue as usual.

Look out for some terrific new series and features we’ve been saving for the relaunch. We hope you like the new look, and if you don’t, well… tough!

Onwards and upwards!

 

Brit, Worm and Gaw.

Win a free copy of Italian Ways by Tim Parks

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In our second Tim book competition inside a week, we’ve got five copies of Tim Parks’ new book to give away…

Thanks to our friends at Harvill Secker we’ve got 5 copies of Tim Parks’ new book Italian Ways to give away to members of our Book Club.

For your chance to win one, you just need to:

  1. Join the free Dabbler Book Club (see form below)
  2. email editorial@thedabbler.co.uk with ‘Italian Ways’ in the subject line by 5pm Friday 20th June (extended deadline).

Here’s the blurb:

From the bestselling author of Italian NeighboursAn Italian Education and A Season with Verona, comes a journey around Italy by train, full of humorous and insightful observations on what the railways and their travellers reveal about the country. 

Tim Parks moved to Italy in 1981, where he has lived ever since with his Italian wife and three children.  His highly personal non-fiction accounts of life in northern Italy – Italian NeighboursAn Italian Education, and A Season with Verona – won him acclaim and popularity, and all three are bestsellers.

In Italian Ways Tim Parks returns gloriously to the subject matter of his adopted homeland, and offers us a fresh portrait of Italy today through a wry account of its train system. Parks uses his thirty years of amusing and maddening experiences on Italian trains to reveal what he calls this ‘charmingly irritating dystopian paradise’. For anyone who has ever been enchanted by Italy or dreamed of visiting, Italian Ways is a perfect companion.

Join the free Dabbler Book Club here for your chance to win this and other free books:

[contact-form-7 id="22137" title="Contact form 1_copy"]

Ts &Cs: All entrants will automatically be entered into the Dabbler Book Club. This means that you will receive occasional emails from us about the next monthly book and other items of bookish interest. However, we will not pass your details on to any third party and you can unsubscribe from the email. Winners will be drawn at random from the Dabbler Book Club members at 5pm on Friday 20th June 2014. The judges’ decision is final. The Dabbler reserves the right to offer an alternative prize or to offer no prize and withdraw the competition at any time for any reason. More competitions are available at Free UK Competitions

 

Win a free copy of Eyrie by Tim Winton

winton eyrie

We’ve got five copies of Tim Winton’s new book to give away…

Thanks to our friends at Picador we’ve got 5 copies of Tim Winton’s new novel Eyrie to give away to members of our Book Club.

For your chance to win one, you just need to:

  1. Join the free Dabbler Book Club (see form below)
  2. email editorial@thedabbler.co.uk with ‘Eyrie’ in the subject line by 12pm Friday 20th June (extended deadline).

Here’s the blurb:

Tom Keely has lost his way, and now, middle-aged and jobless he finds himself holed up in a flat at the top of a grim high-rise, looking down on the world he’s fallen out of love with. He is determined to cut himself off, until one day he runs into some neighbours: a woman he used to know when they were kids, and her introverted young boy, Kai. What follows is a heart-stopping, ground-breaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting – populated by unforgettable characters. Eyrie asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

As a funny, compassionate and gripping study of family difference and solidarity, Eyrie resembles Tim Winton’s most famous novel, Cloudstreet. Ultimately, though, it is about a man’s quest for redemption, and as he goes about his task Winton ensures that we root for Keely every step of the way. (Literary Review)

Eyrie has the fast pace of a thriller and the beauty of a poem. You cannot help rooting for its cast of bruised characters. (Sunday Express)

Join the free Dabbler Book Club here for your chance to win this and other free books:

[contact-form-7 id="22137" title="Contact form 1_copy"]

Ts &Cs: All entrants will automatically be entered into the Dabbler Book Club. This means that you will receive occasonal emails from us about the next monthly book and other items of bookish interest. However, we will not pass your details on to any third party and you can unsubscribe from the email. Winners will be drawn at random from the Dabbler Book Club members at 5pm on Friday 20th June 2014. The judges’ decision is final. The Dabbler reserves the right to offer an alternative prize or to offer no prize and withdraw the competition at any time for any reason. More competitions are available at Free UK Competitions

 

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Unfortunately the comments feature is not currently working. We’re trying to fix it, mainly through prayer and animal sacrifice. Thank you for your patience.

 

By Aerostat to Hooting Yard – Special Introductory Offer!

Hooting Book Cover for web page

By Aerostat to Hooting Yard – A Frank Key Reader

By Frank Key, edited and with an introduction by Roland Clare

There are cult writers and then there is Frank Key. Described by The Guardian as the author who ‘can probably lay claim to having written more nonsense than any other man living’, Frank Key is a one-man prose factory, whose utterly original stories, published on the Hooting Yard blog and broadcast on his long-running Resonance FM radio shows, have earned him a dedicated following on both sides of the Atlantic.

Now, the baffling, brilliant, brutal, and hysterically funny universe of Frank Key is available on the Kindle. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard brings together the very best of Key’s fiction, making an ideal entry point for the uninitiated and a handy compendium for the devotee.

The stories collected in this ebook plunge the reader into the fully-formed parallel universe of Hooting Yard, with its forts and wharves, its strange cities and haunted zoos, its inexplicable violence and its cast of outrageous characters including intrepid explorer Tiny Enid, prolific pamphleteer Dobson, the hapless Blodgett and the terrifying Grunty Man.

Once you’ve seen the world through the eyes of Frank Key, nothing will ever look quite the same again.

This Dabbler Editions ebook contains 147 stories selected by nonsense aficionado Roland Clare, who also contributes an introduction which represents the first major commentary on the Hooting Yard oeuvre and is a must-read for all enthusiasts.

Limited time special offer!

The normal RRP of the ebook will be £5.99 (or $8.99 in the US) plus VAT.

However, as a special introductory offer, you can buy the book today for just £4.00  ($5.00 in the US) plus VAT.

Buy now from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

 

 

The Dabbler’s Traditional Christmas Poetry Repeat

After Christmas Lunch (signed: Jack) (print)
Merry Christmas from all at The Dabbler! It has now become a Dabbler tradition to give Brit’s tragicomic Christmas poem an airing. The ideal time to read it is on Christmas Day, upon waking after your post-lunch nap…

A boozy, stomach-busting Christmas dinner – preceded by beer and champagne, accompanied by wine and seen off with brandy – is a fine thing, but it comes at a terrible cost. That cost is the postprandial sofa-bound late-afternoon slumber from which you will wake, utterly confused, at 6pm with a strong sense of momento mori and a nameless dread in your soul. This is when Christmas really bites back. I wrote this poem about it.

 

Ghosts of Christmas

Christmas, like revenge or copulation,
Is mostly fun in the anticipation.
It’s weeks, it’s days, and now it’s here, it’s here!
And now it’s gone, in a haze of port and beer,
And leaves you wondering where the hell it went.
Children learn this lesson in Advent,
Or should do, or else what is Advent for?
To prise open each tiny cardboard door
And find this surprise: the trick is not to cheat,
But to let tomorrow’s star or chocolate treat
Come in its time, and surely Time will claw
Its agonising way to Twenty Four.
Or Mum will say “You really are the worst,
You’ve only scoffed the whole lot on the First!”
And Dad will say “Son, to delay such feasts
Is what separates us humans from the beasts.”

But come Christmas Day, Dad’s bestial enough,
Postprandial and, just like his turkey, stuffed.
Immobile as a slumbering manger ox
and mumbling that there’s nothing on the box,
(Except repeats of good old Tommy Cooper,
Just peeping through the brandy butter stupor,
And Morecambe and Wise – that one with André Previn)
Until half-awake at twenty-five to seven,
His head humming with Jingle Bells and Slade,
He’ll dimly total up the price he’s paid
In cash and flab and stress and indigestion,
Then dimmer still, the philosophic question:
How come every year it seems to me
That Christmas isn’t what it used to be?
And if it’s every year, should I infer
That Christmases were never what they were?

And then he’ll root around the plastic tree,
Scavenging for scraps of childish glee,
And finding none, he’ll conjure up at last,
That great parade of Ghosts of Christmas Past,
The Great-Grandmas and Grandmas and Grandads,
Their grins and gins, and ‘when-I-were-a-lad’s,
And carol-singing schoolmates in their dozens,
And lonely aunts, and plain annoying cousins,
Who, all on separate currents, drift apart,
With all that love and loss, to break your heart.
It all came in its time, and Time claws past
Each long-awaited Christmas ’til your last.
But did those ghosts believe it, every one,
That this is really it now, this is fun?
Or were they all just waiting, and then it went.
We should have learnt that lesson in Advent.

So we’ll shovel snow from the graves of our relations,
But there are no graves – these days it’s all cremations,
And there is no snow – English Christmases aren’t white.
So instead let’s drink, and bid a Silent Night
To the days when only laughs and presents mattered,
And to family and friends and ashes: scattered.

6 Clicks – Norman Geras (1943-2013)

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

All of us at The Dabbler were very sad to hear today of the death of Norman Geras (25 August 1943 – 18 October 2013) – political theorist, voracious reader and prolific blogger.
Norm was a friend of and help to The Dabbler in its early days. By way of a tribute, here’s a post he did for us in March 2011 for ‘6 Clicks’ – a feature in which we invited guests to select the six cultural links that might sustain them if, by some mischance, they were forced to spend eternity in a succession of airport departure lounges with only an iPad or similar device for company.

It’s mighty inconvenient that it’s just six links. Why not seven? I need seven. This is how I need seven. There are four categories of culture I’m going to have to have with me as I go about the departure lounges of the world. (That’s assuming I manage to endure at all, and don’t just expire from not being at home, which is quite possible.) These are: literature; movies; music; and sport. But, for some reason, where with the other three I’m willing to have one click stand in for all that I love in that category, I want four different genres of music. Thus: three plus one-times-four makes seven. The Dabbler forces me to omit one of classical music, jazz, country and rock. Woe. What am I to do?

1) Well, anyway, I’ll start with Jane Austen – one click for a complete set of her novels.

Of this choice I’m utterly confident. There is nothing else in all the fiction I’m familiar with that I would be so happy to read and re-read in those wretched airports. The economy, the clarity, the subtlety of observation, the humour, the complexity of character and its inner exploration – I wouldn’t tire of it. Indeed, I’d have the chance I never have as things are (since I’m always drawn towards what I haven’t yet read) to give Jane the time she deserves from me. She’d be a true companion.

2) The first of my musical choices: Beethoven. I don’t know how much of him The Dabbler will allow me, but however much it is, that’s what I’ll take. You’ve at least got to permit a complete Beethoven piano sonatas, for which this clip of Emil Gilels playing the Waldstein may serve as a representative click.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6Yn96G16Og[/youtube]

3) For movies I’m taking Hitchcock. I want a box set of DVDs that includes Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds, North By Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt and then any other of Hitch’s movies you want to throw in. No other director in the history of the cinema has combined such technical brilliance and psychological depth with the ability to tell a cracking good story. This clip for me sums up the excitement of being at the beginning of a Hitchcock movie – Saul Bass and Bernard Herrmann doing their combined stuff.

I wouldn’t care to estimate how many times I’ve watched Psycho in my life, but every time these credits begin to roll I know I’m about to re-see a masterpiece. Read Robin Wood.

4) My second musical choice is to represent all the jazz I love. Impossible in one album, of course, but today I’ll go for Somethin’ Else. This, the opening track, will show you what you’ve been missing if you have been missing it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPHtQn1t1n4[/youtube]

5) OK, now I’ve got to have some cricket. What I’m having is the DVD of Australia’s clean sweep 5-0 series victory in 2006-7.

I went to Australia and watched the whole of that series – every Test, every day, practically every ball. Not only was it great cricket from my point of view, it was the holiday of a lifetime: wonderful country, brilliant hospitality, the kindness of friends there and of people I met for the first time. It’s imprinted on my memory. Here’s one innings that is, especially: Adam Gilchrist in Perth. Wahaay.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPOOhFmUprA[/youtube]

6) And so it comes to the final musical cut. Oh no. Do I get to take the Beach Boys? Or do I go for Country music? What a predicament! Well, mustn’t grumble. The incomparable Emmylou Harris.

Here she sings ‘Luxury Liner’ and the Hot Band doesn’t exactly take a back seat:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn77ZraSZ8A[/youtube]

Dabbler Book Club Review – The Kills by Richard House

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Last month’s Dabbler book Club choice was blockbuster The Kills by Richard House. Worm gives us his review on one of the most talked about books of the summer…

Longlisted for the Man Booker prize this year, The Kills is an upmarket thriller that drops you into a topical story involving the allied forces in Syria, before quickly moving across the world, changing protagonists as it goes.

First time writer Richard House leads you through various connected stories, with some differing writing styles and changes of pace thrown in, as the author’s lens zooms in and out, sometimes dealing with small emotional struggles and at other times focusing on macro-level political machinations. With its byzantine tangle of characters, names and places you quickly grasp that this is a very serious world in which everyone is very serious. I got the feeling that this is a book for blokes. The kind of blokes who watch The West Wing or The Wire.

In fact there is something of the box set about this book, sprawling, labyrinthine, blokey. Perfect for long winter evenings, then.

With thanks to our friends at Picador for the copies of Richard House’s The Kills. You can purchase your own copy here. To be in with a chance of winning upcoming free books, sign up to the Dabbler Book Club , or join the fabled League of Dabblers

 

 

Win a signed copy of Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson

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Thanks to our friends at Pan Macmillan, we’ve got two signed first edition copies of Man Booker longlist nominee Almost English to give away. Join our free Book Club for your chance to win…

Almost English is the fourth novel by Somerset Maugham Award-winner Charlotte Mendelson, and it has been nominated for the Orange Prize and now included on the Man Booker longlist.

How to win

We have two signed first edition copies to give away. For your chance to win, simply join the free Dabbler Book Club by completing the form below.

We’ll draw two winners at random from Book Club members on Friday 23 August. If you’re already a member, you don’t need to do anything and will automatically be entered into the draw.

Almost English is described as…

a book about The Ugly Years – the awkward adolescence that pretty much everybody went through. It’s about those searing first crushes; it’s about being an outsider and trying everything you can think of to fit in.

In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen-year-old Marina lives with her emotionally delicate mother, Laura, and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by bizarre rituals, foods and expectations, by her family’s crushing exuberance and their fierce pride, she knows she must escape. Only the place she runs to – Combe Abbey, a traditional English public school – makes her feel even more of an outsider.

Full of heart and darkness, illicit passion and secret hopes, Almost English is a moving and achingly funny tale of love across the generations.

Here’s Charlotte Mendelson introducing the novel…

Join the free Dabbler Book Club here for your chance to win this and other free books:

[contact-form-7 id="22137" title="Contact form 1_copy"]

Ts &Cs: All entrants will automatically be entered into the Dabbler Book Club. This means that you will receive occasonal emails from us about the next monthly book and other items of bookish interest. However, we will not pass your details on to any third party and you can unsubscribe from the email. Winners will be drawn at random from the Dabbler Book Club members at 5pm on Friday 23 August 2013. The judges’ decision is final. The Dabbler reserves the right to offer an alternative prize or to offer no prize and withdraw the competition at any time for any reason. More competitions are available at Free UK Competitions

Dabbler Book Club Review – Turned Out Nice Again by Richard Mabey

turned out nice again
As well as bringing you the best culture writing in the blogosphere, The Dabbler also gives away a lot of free books. Here’s what we thought of a recent choice…

We always like it when a book club member who wins a book takes a moment to send in their own short review – Here’s the opinion of Dabbler Frances Tew on May’s Dabbler Book Club book of choice:

Subtitled ‘Living with the weather’, this book is really five separate essays on various aspects of the weather. Full of personal reminiscences by the author and scattered throughout with interesting facts about weather lore and weather phenomena, it is rather more light-weight than other Mabey works. It’s hard to categorise – not big enough to be a coffee-table book (only 90 small pages but lovely paper and beautifully produced),it would make a nice present for anyone interested in the outdoors. I see that the five chapters were originally broadcast on Radio 3 as fifteen-minute talks late at night. Perfect with your Ovaltine.

And here’s Dabbler Worm with his view:

I think it’s fair to argue that any fan of nature writing should have at least one Richard Mabey book in their collection, and Turned out Nice Again would be an excellent short and sweet introduction to the UK’s best writer currently working in this crowded genre. Author of over 30 natural history books since the early 70’s, Mabey’s writing is more prosaic than lyrical wordsmiths like Richard Jeffries or Roger Deakin, but none the worse for that.

Mabey’s 2011 book Weeds was an excellent attempt to elevate the status of the lowly weed to a par with our more favoured garden flowers. Turned Out Nice Again is much less ambitious in scope, being a small collection of essays on the British preoccupation with the weather. The book is small, meaning that you can easily devour the whole thing in one sitting. This is a lovely little amuse bouche, and a perfect bedtime read,  though let’s hope that there will be a substantial Mabey tome to savour in the near future – I hear rumours that the next one will be about subterranean Britain…

You can buy a copy of Turned Out Nice Again here.

To be in with a chance of winning upcoming free books, sign up to the Dabbler Book Club , or join the fabled League of Dabblers