"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
For more information about the books of Nicholas Murray
click HERE and access his website
Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Monday, 28 April 2008

The Joys of Book Signing

To Stanford's Travel Book shop in Covent Garden to sign some copies of my new book about the Victorian travellers, A Corkscrew is Most Useful. Then on by foot (rather than being slung from a pole carried by native bearers) to Hatchard's in Piccadilly to do the same again. Fortunately for my signing hand half the stock had been sold (no, Madam, I will not reveal how many they had ordered in the first place) and I was provided with a neat little éscritoire at which to sign with my fogeyish fountain pen containing sepia ink. Actually this wasn't one of those glamorous signings where the public come to press the flesh, more a workaday thing of signing copies to be put on display. One dignified and ancient Piccadilly lady approached tentatively but thought better of it. The whole thing reminded me of the time I signed some copies of my biography of Matthew Arnold in Blackwell's in Oxford in 1996. The staff told me that a few years previously they had sent someone a signed copy of a book and it had been returned angrily with the outraged comment that "someone had written in it". Probably "I Murdoch" or "S Heaney" I don't doubt.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Cry God for Harry, England and St George!!

Today, apart from being my birthday and Shakespeare's, is St George's Day, and the Prime Minister has been instructing us to celebrate it - no doubt in the interests of "national identity" on which he is so keen. Having been aware of this day for the past 50 plus years (for obvious reasons) I have watched with fascination as this obscure feast has gradually become a major date in the calendar. This is due mostly to the fascists and the brewers who have been most assiduous in promoting that chap from Asia Minor, George, and his red and white flag which the Union Jack, one thought, had superseded as a symbol of the unity of this fractured isle. Anyway, in the spirit of things here are some good solid old English oak leaves to look at. Well, actually, they are Welsh ones, from the Radnor Forest, and are the logo of my poetry press, Rack Press. What complicated things nations are. No wonder people wrap themselves in the mindless comfort of the flag. Have a nice day!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Sartre and the Season of Literary Parties

To Random House HQ in London for the launch of a new book about the partnership of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, A Dangerous Liaison, written by Carole Seymour-Jones. This was my second literary bash in one week and one's sense that the world is smaller than one thought was reinforced by the reappearance last night of some well-known faces from Tuesday (eg Margaret Drabble and Michael Holroyd). Carole's book has been widely praised and she is that marvel in the world of metropolitan letters a nice friendly person! Finding myself thrown against one or two publishers I was pleased to have confirmed that it is not just me: there is a widespread feeling that the obstacles to publishing serious books as opposed to celebrity or TV tie-in trash are growing by the day. One of these gents who is just about to take retirement said that we shouldn't just blame the publishers (or their corporate bosses who are the source of much of the rot). The whole culture is furiously dumbing-down and the days when large numbers of people snapped up Pelicans by Leavis or Hoggart or Raymond Williams (for example) are long gone. At least the wine flows and the canapés circulate at these events in the good old way.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Georges Perec: The People in the Street

It's always good to find an excuse to refer to that quiet genius of twentieth century European literature, Georges Perec. I recently turned up this postcard which I think I bought in one of those tourist shops in Les Halles in Paris and it has a quote in which Perec asks: "The people in the street: where have they come from? Where are they going? Who are they?" It was Perec's gift to make the quotidian seem exotic through the fantastic power of his imagination and his literary invention. His question is really about realism itself. This is one of the most slippery terms in the literary lexicon. When Wallace Stevens writes: "The humble are they that move about the world with the lure of the real in their hearts," he is not in the same boat as those weekend supplement reviewers who berate novelists for not writing about "real people". Realism in literature is not for me reportage or naturalism but something much more elusive which I can't define but I know it when I find it. I find it in Perec.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Poets Descend on Swansea

The 2008 Rack Press poets are appearing at the

Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea

Friday 11 April

It will be a chance to meet the poets and hear them read and have a free glass of wine.
Byron Beynon's Cuffs, Steve Griffiths' Landing and David Wheatley's Lament for Ali Farka Touré will be launched at the Centre at an event starting at 7pm.
We look forward very much to seeing you there.

Contact: 01792 463980

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Liverpool: The Book and the Bistro

To Liverpool's Everyman Theatre Bistro for the launch of my book So Spirited a Town: Visions and Versions of Liverpool from Liverpool University Press. A good crowd turned out and my signing hand was kept busy (thanks, Steve, for that gargantuan order for 10 copies!) and someone told me that the famous Everyman Bistro was the first bistro outside London when it opened back in the 1960s. Is this true, and what exactly defines a bistro? Thanks to either (a) the miracles of modern technology or (b) my unfortunate descent into geekdom I am writing this blog, via what is called a dongle inserted into my iBook, on a train from Liverpool to London. The train was delayed because "a male person", in the words of the official announcement over the pa system, threw himself off a bridge and caused the power supply to be turned off temporarily. That's enough excitement for one day, I feel. I shall switch this off now and sink back into the calming pleasure of my As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Oxford Here We Come

What has this man got to look so animated about? The answer seems to be that he has penetrated one of the more traditional Oxford colleges, Christ Church (it is a hideous solecism to say "Christ Church College", as opposed to "Christ Church", a crime for which those men in bowler hats prowling the quad would probably disembowel you) in order to deliver a talk to a lively, intelligent, enthusiastic audience about his new book on the Victorian travellers. It was a beautiful day in Oxford, feeling like the first day of spring, and it reminded me, as I explained, of the day I came to Oxford in 1996 to launch my biography of Matthew Arnold ("the line of festal light in Christ Church Hall" - The Scholar Gypsy) at Blackwell's to an audience of three and a half people. Yesterday's event by contrast was a sellout but let me be the first to point out it was a very small venue. Tomorrow, Liverpool!