Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making book on the Booker

Congratulations to Joseph O’Neill whose new novel, Netherland, has been long-listed for the Man Booker prize. It was published in May to exuberant reviews (“rave” doesn’t begin to cover it) in the daily New York Times (by Michiko Kakutani) as well as snagging the front-page of the New York Times Book Review and elsewhere.
In the Review, senior editor Dwight Garner called it “the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we’ve yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell.”
He went on to say: “On a micro level, it’s about a couple and their young son living in Lower Manhattan when the planes hit, and about the event’s rippling emotional aftermath in their lives. On a macro level, it’s about nearly everything: family, politics, identity. I devoured it in three thirsty gulps, gulps that satisfied a craving I didn’t know I had.”
Just after the long-list of 13 titles (known as the Booker Dozen) was announced yesterday (29 July), bookmakers William Hill opened the betting with Netherland their 3/1 favourite. Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence was second with odds of 4/1.

In a news release listing the opening odds on the list, William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said, "Although Salman Rushdie is the man in form having won the Booker of Bookers, that book is now over 20 years old and his recent work has not been winning literary awards. However, Joseph O'Neill's novel, Netherland has been creating a real buzz and is also being suggested as the first novel to become a serious contender for the Bookie Prize - the William Hill Sports Book of the Year and for that reason we believe it is a worthy favourite.”
(Cricket among Commonwealth expats living in New York is one of the principal settings for the novel.)
I first encountered Joe O’Neill when I read a laudatory review of his second novel, The Breezes, in the Guardian Weekly. In those pre-Amazon days, I called a bookshop in central London and ordered a copy over the phone.

That novel—about a fortnight in the life of a family (the Breezes) who endure “misfortune of absurd but tragic proportions” (—was funny and poignant, and I felt compelled to write a fan letter.
At the time (the late 1990s), Joe—an Irishman, largely raised in the Netherlands, working as a barrister in London, but latterly living in New York City—was completing Blood-Dark Track, his investigation into secrets in the lives of his grandfathers—one Turkish, the other Irish. I read the book, and interviewed him about it by phone for an article I wrote for Spotlight, an English-language magazine published in Munich.
I met him for dinner when I was in New York on business in early 2002, at which time he said he was working on something to do with cricket. But since then, he has also been a regular contributor to The Atlantic and New York magazines.
Even if it weren’t for the personal connection, I’d be rooting for Joe to win the prize—for the £50,000, sure, but also because he’s a good writer, and Netherland (said she, having just started reading it) is terrific.
The short-list will be announced on 9 September, and the winner on 14 October.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Race Street Firehouse R.I.P.

To update an earlier post: it appears that the Race Street Firehouse in Philadelphia has been demolished. I've checked periodically for news, and just found on the Philly Chit Chat blog, pictures of the demolition which started a week ago (21 July).
No word about the firemen gargoyles, but they were to have been saved.

Monday, July 21, 2008

That was the week that was

Well, it looks like the interest in Terry (the L.A. Kings one) Murray has died down, judging by the Sitemeter stats for this here blog. So it's back to gargoyles, looking out my back window and monitoring the progress of the construction at the end of the street.
Thanks to everybody who swang by thinking this was the blog of Terry-the-Kings-Coach. I hope you weren't disappointed to find what you found.
I had to take my digital camera in for repairs on the weekend - good thing I bought the extended warranty and the shutter mechanism decided to die just weeks before it expired - and now I've got a streaming summer cold... just in time for my vacation.
But I will be posting nonetheless. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rear window, part 3: Men in trees

The first of five weeks' vacation - which I am spending at home, working on the Merle Foster book (about which, more later) - has just ended. As I puttered around this morning, I heard the sounds of shouting and some kind of machinery.
I wasn't surprised seeing as there is construction going on at the corner (although I thought the heavy lifting was pretty much over) and for all I know, there is some going on at the other end of the street.
But when I moved to work in my study at the back of the house, it became clear what was going on. A truck drove slowly through the back lane, then stopped and a cherry picker rose up.

And lo, there was a man with a chain saw, lopping wayward branches from trees and tossing them to the truck below (occasionally getting them caught on hydro wires) where they were being fed to a wood chipper.
It made for intermittent entertainment over the course of about two hours, and a few good pictures.

Oh, and I guess that should be " 'man' in trees."

Coach Terry (the Other One) Murray

Mon Dieu! Quel surprise! Terry Murray (one of the other Terry Murrays) has been (finally) named coach of the NHL's L.A. Kings!

If you think he and general manager Dean Lombardi look less than thrilled here, take a look at the picture on - and have a read of - the post on Greg Wyshynski's blog. And you can see more clearly in the picture there that the jersey seems to have pulled from a remainder bin, with its zero and eight numerals of different sizes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More about that other Terry Murray

Well, well - good luck to you, Terry, on your imminent appointment as coach of the L.A. Kings. The news, and the apparently protracted nature of the announcement, has driven literally hundreds of visitors to this site. (Yesterday there were more than 200!)
I can mostly thank Greg Wyshynski whose Puck Daddy blog on has linked to this one. He says, after a review of Murray's career, "So that's Terry Murray. And so is this [link here], and boy is he [crossed out after corrected by a reader] she happy about the extra Web traffic. Bottom line is that either of them is going to be an improvement over Marc Crawford."
So when I wash up in medical journalism and gargoyle hunting, I'll try for coaching an NHL team.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm not THAT Terry Murray

I noticed that yesterday my blog had 65 hits! Sixty-five! Virtually all were from California and few visitors spent more than a few seconds.
I suspect it's because Terry Murray was in the news. Not me, but the Terry Murray who is the the former hockey player, who spent parts of eight seasons in the NHL, mainly with the Philadelphia Flyers but also with the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings.
He's probably better known as a coach than as a player - and now it appears that he's about to be named coach of the L.A. Kings. And all those fans thought this might be his blog, but they found out pretty quickly that it's not.
For today, at least, it will be even easier to tell.

I know there are a lot of Terry Murrays out there - a surprising number (well, it surprised me) - including the retired CEO of Boston's Fleet Bank and an Australian musician. There used to be a Terry Murray selling real estate here in Toronto, and a Terry Murray who worked in the Ontario Fire Marshal's office. And others.
And then there's me.
I guess when I run out of ideas for posts, I can run pictures and bios of all the other Terry Murrays.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gargoyles of Washington, D.C.

No, no, not Bush and Cheney and Co. And actually, this guy isn't strictly a gargoyle, but wotthell.

A friend and soon-to-be-former colleague is moving to Washington, D.C., shortly, and in her honour (and since I have no specimens from Victoria), I am posting this fellow who I shot on Connecticut Avenue in 2002.

From the street, I noticed what looked like several Atlases on the roof of a 1920s apartment building in the Dupont Circle area. They seemed to be holding the earth over their heads. But when I looked through my 300mm lens, I saw that they had horns!

The building manager let me go to the roof to get a closer look (which surprised me, given that it was so soon after 9/11, but I guess I didn't look like a terrorist and there were no major U.S. government installations in the immediate vicinity), where I shot two rolls of film (back in the film days). She also showed me the building's entry in "Best Addresses: A Century of Washington's Distinguished Apartment Houses," which described the figures as demons getting ready to drop boulders on intruders. Very welcoming...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

There goes the neighbourhood (part 7)

Too whacked tonight to do much more than post this picture, taken two days ago of the current state of construction of the two houses on the Woburn side. Not my best photographic effort, but the better camera is still ailing. More later, but ... must...sleep.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Trafalgar Square, Canada Day 2006

Yesterday I was listening to "Q," yet another in a series of oddly-named CBC Radio 1 programmes. The largely pop culture show was being broadcast from Canada House in Trafalgar Square in London. Normally I actually can't stand listening to Q (and find its host a little too much in love with the sound of his own voice), but it gave me an idea. Two ideas, actually. The first idea... more of a thought actually... was Hey! I was in London on the 1st of July two years ago, and Trafalgar Square was all kitted out in Canadian flags and maple leaves and whatnot. I guess that wasn't a one-off event. The second thought was, after not being able to bag me (photographically) any gargoyles in Victoria, I could resurrect my now two-year-old pictures from London. Which actually are not all that spectacular because I was trying out my first digital camera - a point-and-shoot - at the time.

Then I had a nap. Which is why the pictures are appearing here a day late.