Booknotes for June 2008

Edward O'Hare reviews The Dylan Thomas Omnibus, The COllected Stories of Lorrie Moore, and Devil May Care: A James Bond Novel.


Poetry in Motion

On 4 September 1944 a young couple brought their small family to live in a tiny, rented cottage at New Quay, Cardigan Bay in Wales to escape the devastating closing phase of the Blitz. Expecting to find peace amidst the beautiful scenery, their past hastily caught up with them and within a year they had been forced to leave the village in the most dramatic circumstances. The couple were Dylan and Caitlin Thomas, and what took place during those tragic-comic, crisis-filled months has been discussed almost since the day Thomas's great talent was lost to the world after he succumbed to “an insult to the brain” after supposedly consuming 18 straight whiskies in a New York bar-room.

As Thomas, who once claimed to have “Beast, Angel and Madman within Him” is now celebrated as one of the most original and enchanting poets of the 20th Century, it is surprising that the story of his life, and of his famously tempestuous love affair with the Anglo-Irish beauty Caitlin, has never before been transferred to the screen. This month The Edge of Love, directed by John Maybury and with a cast including Cillian Murphy, arrives in cinemas. Expect passionate, bed-wrecking lovemaking, brawling, words of genius and a very great deal of boozing.

The Dylan Thomas Omnibus


Brief Lives
Brief LivesBooknotes has an unending admiration for writers who choose to perfect that most troublesome but rewarding of all literary forms, the short story.  A great short story requires a writer of supreme delicacy who must see each tale as a mighty lesson in holding back and know precisely when they have said enough. It is the art of restraint. One contemporary author who has reached this exalted level is Lorrie Moore. In the last twenty years the American writer has published only three short story collections, Self-Help, Like Life and Birds of America, each of which received spectacular acclaim. In honour of Moore's talents, Faber and Faber have released a collected edition of her stories, and although Booknotes cannot promise many laughs, as Moore's deals in loneliness and grief, this is an opportunity to experience the creations of an artisan.

The Collected Stories of
Lorrie Moore
Faber and Faber


A Bond of Honour
Had he lived, Ian Fleming would have been one hundred this year and to mark his centenary comes the publishing spectacle of 2008, the 15th official James Bond novel. Booknotes must admit to some dubiousness when it was announced that Sebastian Faulks had been recruited to write Devil May Care, the new Bond adventure. Faulks, the respected author of  Charlotte Grey, initially seemed too much the fiction heavyweight to enjoy this ride, but if reading the book is anywhere near as much fun as Faulks  claimed writing it was, we are in for a rollercoaster. Sebastian Faulks assured that his style in Devil May Care would be faithful to the classic Bond books, and to ensure this he delved into the mind of the original spymaster, Ian Fleming.

This was not simple, since Fleming was a more elusive character than his tough image implied. Although the former athlete and stockbroker was the sort of old scoundrel who enjoyed his drink and cigarettes and playing cards late into the night, and who could seduce a woman and mix and down five cocktails all while her husband's back was turned, he was also a man full of misgivings. He became embarrassed by the success of the books he had written merely to combat what he called “Accidie.”Faulks appears to have found no such difficulties with Devil May Care and Booknotes suspects that Mr. Bond won't be missing in action for long.

Devil May Care:
A James Bond Novel
Sebastian Faulks