Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Why a picnic's success depends on disaster
Despite the unpredictable weather, picnics are a British institution.
Jane Shilling examines three deliciously intriguing histories of food.
The artist and author George du Maurier (grandfather of the novelist Daphne) was a regular cartoonist for Punch magazine in its 19th-century heyday. Victorian humour is a perishable commodity, but one of du Maurier’s cartoons strikes a strangely modern note.
Captioned “The English Take Their Pleasures Sadly”, it shows a horde of Edwardian strollers, grimly taking their ease in what looks like Hyde Park. The sun shines, the trees are in full leaf – it is clearly summertime, but the living is not easy.
In the foreground, a severe dowager chaperones two pretty teenagers who are dying to flirt with the foppish young dandies lounging nearby. Behind them, chaps in top hats and frock-coats, fearsomely corseted ladies in walking costumes, even a few mournful dogs are taking the air with the look of people determined to do their duty, however trying.
In Picnics, her elegant classic on the art of outdoor eating, (reissued by Grub Street, £14.99) the Egyptian-born writer Claudia Roden anatomises with sparkling accuracy the perennially troubled relationship between the Brits and their summer pastimes.
“Despite our grey and drizzly weather, picnics have become a British institution,” she writes. “Forever endearing is the romantic nostalgia and sublime recklessness with which people continue to indulge in the national passion at great social events…