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Life, Love and The Archers - April book of the month

(79 Posts)
LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 01-Apr-15 14:02:12

For those of you who received a copy of Wendy Cope's collection of prose, do add your questions and comments for her below! More about the book itself here.

Maggiemaybe Tue 21-Apr-15 11:20:02

Apologies for this long review, but I thoroughly enjoyed Life, Love and the Archers, as much as any GN Book Club choice so far. I read it straight through instead of dipping in and out , and found that much of it was like having a wine and chat session with an old friend. Some chapters were thought-provoking, others laugh out loud funny. I particularly enjoyed the last section, Settee Life, which brought back memories of some corking TV series – I spent every lunchtime of my long Summer 1980 maternity leave (those were the days) with my feet up watching a daily rerun of Dallas, becoming mildly obsessed with the machinations of the Ewings/Barnses. And I think I’ll start up a campaign for the return of Drop the Dead Donkey – thank you for the memory of Damian handing out open cans of lager to sober football fans and trying desperately to get them to stagger about and swear a bit.

The Head in a Book section was for me both fun and educational. I had heard of Molesworth, but have never read any Geoffrey Willans and didn’t know the books were illustrated by Ronald Searles. The review in this book nudged me to order Down with Skool! even before I’d finished the chapter, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I admitted earlier in this thread that I confused Wendy Cope and Jenny Joseph, to my shame. I am a bit of a philistine (yes, I would have chosen to miss Othello rather than thirtysomething too!) and my knowledge of poetry largely begins and ends with what was chosen for us at school. Having enjoyed this book so much, I’d like to read Ms Cope’s poetry.

So I’ve two questions for the author, please:

Which of your anthologies would you recommend to me, as an absolute Wendy Cope beginner?

I found your comments on copyright and poets’ fees interesting, but the whole area seems to be complex. I have ordered my Molesworth secondhand from a trader on Amazon and am hoping to get my anthology from the local library. Could you explain a little about the fees paid to you on books bought secondhand or borrowed from a public library, and also on those downloaded for e-readers?

Thank you, Ms Cope and Gransnet, for an excellent read.

gardener Tue 21-Apr-15 11:43:53

I was very keen to read Wendy's poems after finishing this book. I have to admit I have never come across any.
So I found a copy of " Making cocoa for Kingsley Amis " in my local library.
What a treat !! A great collection of funny, quirky verses all new to me , of course.

My question to Wendy would be :-
How did you manage to compose such amusing poems while suffering from chronic depression ?

I have been reading some sections of the book to my friend who is blind - she has thoroughly enjoyed it so far - especially all the childhood memories.

Her question for Wendy is :-
You were obviously a clever girl....so why didn't you enjoy Oxford ?
Was it because your teacher Miss Bell said you weren't Oxford material ?
How did it not live up to your expectations ?

Thank you so much for a great read.

humply Tue 21-Apr-15 15:58:01

I did enjoy this. I have always loved poetry but I find my grandchildren (8 and 10) not interested at all. How can I instill the love in them?

pb355 Tue 21-Apr-15 16:01:02

I thought this was a lovely read. My favourite bit was (hope is ok to quote)

"Occasionally I have a fantasy about retiring from life as a writer. I imagine having some cards printed - or setting up an automatic email response - saying 'Wendy Cope regrets she is unable to reply because she has retired.'

I love this idea. Do you think you will ever do it?

shalamar Tue 21-Apr-15 16:28:12

Many things in the book resonated with me. Particularly the part about how you found being a single woman difficult when your friends were all settling down. You talked about channelling sadness into your work but then trying to hide it afterwards (there was something about book launches and no one wants to hear about it) How did you cope with this?

GeminiJen Wed 22-Apr-15 14:35:09

Wendy, I'm a long time fan of your poetry, from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis onwards, and was looking forward to reading this (Thanks, Gransnet).
Being of an age with you, some at least of your childhood memories struck a chord....though, as others have already commented, I found the TV reviews a bit boring/not personally relevant...and the overall approach of the book somewhat fragmented and at times repetitive.
But I did love 'Ladies do not rescue princes', even if my 7 year old grandson was less keen on the story!
Thinking about your poetry, it seems to me that men in general are often the target of your wit (e.g. 'Bloody men are like bloody buses' etc.) which prompts me to ask: What influences led you to develop your quite distinctive brand of feminism?

joannapiano Wed 22-Apr-15 18:52:24

gardener, I think that Wendy Cope might be seething because you borrowed her anthology from the library, and didn't buy it.grin This book was certainly a good promotion for her poetry books.
I enjoyed the biographical chapters, as I was also a teacher in some fairly lively schools.
I didn't like the Molesworth books when I was growing up.I couldn't relate to them at all, living on a council estate.

granh1 Thu 23-Apr-15 08:24:56

I was looking forward to reading this book as I am a fan of Wendy Cope’s poetry.

I liked the autographical parts, some of which I related too, being of a similar age. Change on wires in departmental stores, difficulties of finding identity, depression, wanting to do something creative for its own sake (art in my case), realising that growing old gracefully depends a lot on how you feel physically. I too looked for something positive in each day rather than dwelling on the past or future. And yes, I did put life into verse when times got tough, and no - I didn’t show anyone! I did not get round to the sex and fags though!

I found the book reviews a bit difficult, as I was unfamiliar with the authors. Down with Skool sounds amusing, worth looking out for. In order to appreciate them, I should look up the authors, but I can’t be bothered.

Ladies Do not rescue Princes, was very humorous, with the underlying gender stereotypes questioned.

It was a readable format to have short chapters, dodging all over the place, like life itself. I felt it lost momentous at times though, e.g. the interviews were not all that interesting – but then all of life is not interesting.

I’m surprised Wendy got hooked on rubbish TV – I’ll try not to feel too bad when I’m similarly tempted. I too had a Suduko phase, to “keep the mind active”. I’ve now moved on to on line- competitions, equally timewasting, but with the occasional kick of winning. Thank you Grandsnet for the books that come through the letter box!

My question to Wendy would be – Are you a member of a social media site, eg Facebook or Twitter? They are quite addictive to!

geri Fri 24-Apr-15 14:17:11

Well, I'm a bit ambivalent about this book, although I do like her poetry. There are some interesting parts, especially about how she morphed into a poet and is now able to make a living doing that, a job she clearly loves, but there are also some boring bits as well. A good book for dipping into, but not sure I would bother giving it to someone as a present.

Versavisa Sat 25-Apr-15 10:49:20

I've taken my time with this book. I've read it a chapter at a time and I throroughly enjoyed it. I can't recall reading Wendy's poems and I am going to look out for them now - but will be buying a copy!

Very refreshing to find a book I've taken to so much. Wish I hadn't read it as now I have to put it away and bring it out again in a few years' time to read again.

Thank you.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Mon 27-Apr-15 12:47:02

Questions sent over to Wendy - answers will be posted as soon as we get them

middleagespread Mon 27-Apr-15 17:40:45

I was looking forward to dipping a toe into the water of a book of prose and poetry but I was left, having skipped though some parts admittedly, feeling frustrated at the lack of substance. I felt distant from Wendy and her unpublished stories should probably have remained so. Her eagerness to relate her opinions on TV programmes, many of which are soaps left me rather bemused. The write ups on the cover led me to believe that I would laugh, be inspired and entertained. Sadly I felt none of these emotions.
I will happily pass my copy on to my Writers Circle and will look forward to hearing their opinions - we have some avid poets so I'm sure they will appreciate it much more than I.Were I 10 maybe 15 years older the relevance of Wendy's memories would have brought us together more. However, her depression was very well documented and I was left quite morose.I'm sure she is a lovely lady and I will take a look at her poetry as the snippets in the book did have me hooked.

emmasnan Tue 28-Apr-15 10:25:08

I enjoyed some of this book but the written interviews didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the content of the book.
I didn't think the cover of the book was very inspiring and I do think when browsing books in a shop, people are often drawn by the cover initially.

Gagagran Tue 28-Apr-15 10:35:19

I think it's a bit like the curate's egg - good in parts but not a book to grip or inspire. OK to dip into when I have "read up".

WendyCope Tue 28-Apr-15 10:36:17

nonnanna

Thank you Gransnet for my copy of Wendy Cope's 'Life, Love and The Archers' Like other Gransnetters on here growing up through the same decades as Wendy, I too can relate to many of Wendy's reminiscences. I am enjoying the book very much. I must admit to reading it in snatches as it's perfect for fitting into my bag and picking it up in waiting rooms, on journeys and when there's not a lot of time available to read an ongoing story. Wendy, do you have any more books planned or are you concentrating on your poetry and short articles?

Yes and yes. I’m working on a new collection of my poems. Need a few more before I have enough for a book. That is my main focus at the moment.

WendyCope Tue 28-Apr-15 10:36:49

Rosannie

This is a very different book to my usual style of reading matter, I like a story that draws me in and keeps me hooked. Life, love and the Archers was the opposite of this, nevertheless I did read it all and found myself enjoying most of it.
I found Wendy to be very honest and frank in her accounts and she was very ready to voice her opinions, I was inspired to look up some of my favourite poems as I did enjoy poetry in my younger days but got out of the habit of reading it.
Which Poets would Wendy include in schools literature syllabuses to inspire and encourage young poets today ?

I’m sorry that my favourite poet, A.E.Housman, doesn’t feature on school syllabuses these days.

WendyCope Tue 28-Apr-15 10:37:53

marblerun

Thank you for my copy. I enjoyed it - I liked the fact it was in bite sized chunks so was easy to pick up and put down. Wendy what gave you the idea to put together this collection?

As I say in the introduction, the idea came from Lisa Highton, editor at Two Roads publishers.

WendyCope Tue 28-Apr-15 10:39:35

Maggiemaybe

Apologies for this long review, but I thoroughly enjoyed Life, Love and the Archers, as much as any GN Book Club choice so far. I read it straight through instead of dipping in and out , and found that much of it was like having a wine and chat session with an old friend. Some chapters were thought-provoking, others laugh out loud funny. I particularly enjoyed the last section, Settee Life, which brought back memories of some corking TV series – I spent every lunchtime of my long Summer 1980 maternity leave (those were the days) with my feet up watching a daily rerun of Dallas, becoming mildly obsessed with the machinations of the Ewings/Barnses. And I think I’ll start up a campaign for the return of Drop the Dead Donkey – thank you for the memory of Damian handing out open cans of lager to sober football fans and trying desperately to get them to stagger about and swear a bit.

The Head in a Book section was for me both fun and educational. I had heard of Molesworth, but have never read any Geoffrey Willans and didn’t know the books were illustrated by Ronald Searles. The review in this book nudged me to order Down with Skool! even before I’d finished the chapter, and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

I admitted earlier in this thread that I confused Wendy Cope and Jenny Joseph, to my shame. I am a bit of a philistine (yes, I would have chosen to miss Othello rather than thirtysomething too!) and my knowledge of poetry largely begins and ends with what was chosen for us at school. Having enjoyed this book so much, I’d like to read Ms Cope’s poetry.

So I’ve two questions for the author, please:

Which of your anthologies would you recommend to me, as an absolute Wendy Cope beginner?

Two Cures for Love: selected poems, pub Faber and Faber.

Maggiemaybe

I found your comments on copyright and poets’ fees interesting, but the whole area seems to be complex. I have ordered my Molesworth secondhand from a trader on Amazon and am hoping to get my anthology from the local library. Could you explain a little about the fees paid to you on books bought secondhand or borrowed from a public library, and also on those downloaded for e-readers?

Thank you, Ms Cope and Gransnet, for an excellent read.

I get an annual Public Lending Right payment for borrowings from libraries. I get a royalty (percentage of the price ) for ebooks. For books bought secondhand I get nothing.

WendyCope Tue 28-Apr-15 10:41:44

gardener

I was very keen to read Wendy's poems after finishing this book. I have to admit I have never come across any.
So I found a copy of " Making cocoa for Kingsley Amis " in my local library.
What a treat !! A great collection of funny, quirky verses all new to me , of course.

My question to Wendy would be :-
How did you manage to compose such amusing poems while suffering from chronic depression ?

Writing the poems helped with the depression. My poems have often begun as attempts to deal with painful feelings. Not so much in the last few years.

gardener

I have been reading some sections of the book to my friend who is blind - she has thoroughly enjoyed it so far - especially all the childhood memories.

Her question for Wendy is :-
You were obviously a clever girl....so why didn't you enjoy Oxford ?
Was it because your teacher Miss Bell said you weren't Oxford material ?
How did it not live up to your expectations ?

Thank you so much for a great read.

It wasn’t Miss Bell’s fault. She was right when she said I wasn’t scholarly enough. I had a lot of problems in those days and wasn’t sufficiently interested in learning anything. Also I had terrifying tutors.

WendyCope Tue 28-Apr-15 10:42:06

pb355

I thought this was a lovely read. My favourite bit was (hope is ok to quote)

"Occasionally I have a fantasy about retiring from life as a writer. I imagine having some cards printed - or setting up an automatic email response - saying 'Wendy Cope regrets she is unable to reply because she has retired.'

I love this idea. Do you think you will ever do it?

Unfortunately not. Unless I win the lottery.

WendyCope Tue 28-Apr-15 10:42:30

shalamar

Many things in the book resonated with me. Particularly the part about how you found being a single woman difficult when your friends were all settling down. You talked about channelling sadness into your work but then trying to hide it afterwards (there was something about book launches and no one wants to hear about it) How did you cope with this?

It was difficult doing interviews when I was sad and lonely. You don’t want to appear in the press as a sad person. I had to be guarded about what I sad. I hate interviews that get personal.

WendyCope Tue 28-Apr-15 10:43:06

granh1

I was looking forward to reading this book as I am a fan of Wendy Cope’s poetry.

I liked the autographical parts, some of which I related too, being of a similar age. Change on wires in departmental stores, difficulties of finding identity, depression, wanting to do something creative for its own sake (art in my case), realising that growing old gracefully depends a lot on how you feel physically. I too looked for something positive in each day rather than dwelling on the past or future. And yes, I did put life into verse when times got tough, and no - I didn’t show anyone! I did not get round to the sex and fags though!

I found the book reviews a bit difficult, as I was unfamiliar with the authors. Down with Skool sounds amusing, worth looking out for. In order to appreciate them, I should look up the authors, but I can’t be bothered.

Ladies Do not rescue Princes, was very humorous, with the underlying gender stereotypes questioned.

It was a readable format to have short chapters, dodging all over the place, like life itself. I felt it lost momentous at times though, e.g. the interviews were not all that interesting – but then all of life is not interesting.

I’m surprised Wendy got hooked on rubbish TV – I’ll try not to feel too bad when I’m similarly tempted. I too had a Suduko phase, to “keep the mind active”. I’ve now moved on to on line- competitions, equally timewasting, but with the occasional kick of winning. Thank you Grandsnet for the books that come through the letter box!

My question to Wendy would be – Are you a member of a social media site, eg Facebook or Twitter? They are quite addictive to!

Nope. I don’t want anything to do with social media. Quite busy enough already.

norrinan Sun 03-May-15 13:09:09

Sorry Wendy, have enjoyed your poetry in the past, can only think you were persuaded to do this as some more therapy. I am half way through and thoroughly bored.

Maggiemaybe Tue 05-May-15 00:47:19

Have I missed it, or is there not going to be a book for May?

Maggiemaybe Tue 05-May-15 11:08:18

Oh crikey, yes, it's A Song for Issy Bradley, isn't it? Just received my copy and feeling blush!