Friday 19 July 2013

'New and similar to Stoner'

On this day in 1803, Coleridge, walking in the Lake District, writes:
'Intensely hot day - left off waistcoat.'
One knows the feeling, as the great English heatwave continues, sparking the usual national panic, warnings of death and destruction - and an unfortunately timed jeremiad from David Attenborough yesterday about the plight of our butterflies, those beauties which are now flying around happily in numbers not seen in years. It only takes a good long spell of sustained sunny weather and everything changes. This weekend's Big Butterfly Count - which, to be fair to him, Sir David was promoting - should show huge increases on last year's soggy non-event.
Meanwhile, from that mysterious parallel universe of Amazon reader recommendations comes an email listing books that are 'New and similar to Stoner'. Hmm. One of the titles is an ebook by Nigel Williams, his latest suburban black comedy, Unfaithfully Yours, which is in epistolary form. I know what you're thinking - sounds just like Stoner...
I've read (Nigel) Williams's best-known work in this line, The Wimbledon Poisoner, a slick production that certainly had its moments but, I seem to remember, got out of control as it went along. I even read, back when it came out, his debut novel, which won the Somerset Maugham Award. I remember nothing at all about it except the rather fine title, My Life Closed Twice. As Emily Dickinson puts it,
'My life closed twice before its close— 
It yet remains to see 
If Immortality unveil 
A third event to me 

So huge, so hopeless to conceive 
As these that twice befell. 
Parting is all we know of heaven, 
And all we need of hell.'


  1. "Butterflies are vitally important. Their presence acts as a barometer of the health of our environment."

    I thought that was slugs. Or was it spiders....?

    Last year, the public counted more than 220,000 butterflies...

    219,995 by Nige and the other five by a matron in tweeds and sensible shoes from Gloucestershire.

  2. Ho ho - thanks Peter! Two Gatekeepers have now taken up residence in my (v small) front garden - and there was a Jersey Tiger (moth) yesterday too. What a summer...