Sunday, 22 April 2007

Kettles and Launching the Craft,

I have neglected posting, mea culpa. I shall try to do better dear reader. I attended the launch of Tamar Yoseloff’s new collection, Fetch, on Wednesday. Does that link turn this into a flog blog I spit upon by those that know about the inappropriateness of such things and keep the purity of blogging close to their hearts and mouse.

It was held at Kettles Yard. This was originally a group of old workmen’s cottages in Cambridge that were brought together to form one house by Jim Ede, an ex curator of the Tate Gallery, in the fifties. It has modern gallery space attached and inserted into it now but it still, in parts, has the feel of poking around someone’s house when they are in the bath. In some rooms you expect Ede or his wife to potter round a corner, towel and dressing gown slightly askew, straightening a picture or re-arranging a pile of pebbles, on their way to getting dressed

I find it interesting that books are launched, like ships; with due ceremony they slip into the ocean of other books and for good or ill make their own journey. Of course alcohol is usually involved in both processes and that basic question is always asked, sink or float? Some books and poetry collections are immediate successes, they do more than just float; they become galleons in full sail, grand Cunard Liners or small yachts that circumnavigate the globe to great acclaim. Others are launched like the Titanic to great hoo-hah, enormous expectation and hype and then the iceberg of disappointment or inability to quite match the hype, holes it below the waterline and it sinks or limps on plying the old trade routes of backwater library shelves and second-hand book dealers on Amazon. Some books slip out , almost silently, and can make their way across endless oceans without being noticed, picking up a satisfied passenger here, another there, a good review in the Shipping Times and it becomes more than it was. Of course it was always what it was, or is; what changes is the perception of it.

So we launch books, may the gods bless those who sail in her. Ships are always shes, perhaps a book is too, irrespective of the gender of the author. She’s a fine book, an 'honest craft', as the old shipbuilders on Tyneside and Belfast said of ships they thought worthy of praise.

Craft ( definition)

A profession or activity that requires skill and training, or experience, or specialized knowledge (often used in combination)

Deviousness: skill in trickery or deceiving others

A vessel: a vessel used for travelling, for example a boat, ship, aeroplane, or space vehicle (often used in combination)

There you have three choices all of which could be applied to literature in precise or metaphorical ways.

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