Archives for researching

Reading for research: Breakfast at Sotheby’s

Philip Hook is an art dealer. He has spent 35 years in the art market, first at Christies then at Sotheby’s, so he knows his stuff. As soon as I heard about this book I put it on my ‘to-read’ list. It’s about the art business, about what sells and why, and what doesn’t and why. It is a fascinating insight into the world of art, written in an entertaining, informative style that is never too dry. Hook mixes in art trivia and some of his own mishaps with an authoritative account of art and money. Does an artist’s back story have any effect on the price his work fetches? Why do some artists not make the big prices until they are dead? Are the portrayals of artists in literature accurate, or stereotyped? What difference does it make if the subject of a portrait is smiling, or solemn? For me it was interesting on two counts. First, because my protagonist in Connectedness is an artist; so Hook is writing about Justine’s world. Second, because of the many parallels between the creative twins of art and writing. There are sections on artists who write, creativity block, and artists as characters in
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Categories: Book Love, My Novel: 'Connectedness' and On Researching.

My favourite library… The British Library

I only visited the old British Library, when it was at the British Museum in Bloomsbury, once. When the plan to move to a new building St Pancras was mooted in the late 1970s, I was a student at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. I saw the plans of the architect, Colin St John Wilson, and it was a case of instant dislike: all that red brick. Brutalist architecture, not my favourite. But I have an inbuilt love of all libraries.Now the building has mellowed and so have I. Now that I’ve been there, worked there, spent many days there all day, I have fallen in love with it. The quiet of the reading rooms [my favourite is Humanities One], the excellence of its systems, the large workstations… The British Museum’s Department of Printed Books was founded in 1753. From its inception it had the privilege of legal deposit, giving it the entitlement to a copy of most items printed in the UK: books, periodicals, newspapers, maps and printed music. Space was always a factor, with the storage of newspapers being moved early in the 20th century to the British Library Newspapers at Colindale. The building survived bombs dropped by
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.

My favourite library… The London Library

Every time I go to The London Library, it feels like an enormous treat. Why? Well for one, it’s a private library and there is a membership fee which I feel I must justify by regular use. But mostly it feels like a treat because it feels like a library should. It is hushed, the bookshelves are full, floor to ceiling. It has one million books dating from the 16th century to today. I have my favourite workstation, except it’s just a ledge beside a window looking across the rooftops of St James, where no-one else ever seems to walk by. Sometimes I go to collect a book I have ordered online, sometimes I go to research something specific, sometimes I just go to browse. I always seem to leave with at least one book, whether I planned to or not.   ‘Possession’ by AS Byatt [UK: Vintage] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: My favourite library…@TheLondonLib http://wp.me/p5gEM4-la via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love, On Researching and On Writing.

Reading for research… Young Voices

As research for the next novel, I’m reading a lot about the Second World War. For a while I’ve been working my way through a fascinating book called Young Voices by Lyn Smith, produced with the Imperial War Museum. I picked it up in my local library. It is an account of children’s experiences during the war. I’m particularly interested in children who lived through Occupation and there are children quoted throughout who grew up Guernsey. One woman tells how it became compulsory at school to learn the German language. One day the German kommandant arrived to present a prize, which she as top of the class in German, was to receive. He asked her a simple question in German, ‘how old are you?’ Her brain froze and she couldn’t answer, terrified she was going to be shot. Someone whispered the question again in English, and the girl was able to answer correctly. The prize? A book in German which she was unable to read. Fascinating stuff, don’t know yet how I am going to use any of this. I enjoy researching my next novel while writing the current one. Sometimes it just gives the brain a rest, a new
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Categories: On Researching and On Writing.