Quagga Books

    Becky: The latest good news! Anne McNulty's Review of The Confessions of Becky Sharp for the
 Historical Novelists Association has just appeared. The novel now goes forward for a possible award in
 June. Watch this space!

The Confessions of Becky Sharp is among The  25 Best Indie Books of 2015, selected by a panel from Indie Reader. 

First published in 2011 it still bears its original cover, more recently and dynamically as seen to the left of this text.  At least this proves that literary content holds sway over fancy artwork with the Indie Reader judges.

The book spent many years in germinating, was critiqued by, among others, Robert Lambolle of Reading and Writing, Jocelyn Ferguson of The Literary Consultancy, Linda Proud of The Writers Workshop and by two further readers from Fiction Feedback.  All must deserve credit for their industry and insight and hereby thanked for their unstinting efforts.

Becky: The latest good news!

Anne McNulty's Review of The Confessions of Becky Sharp for the Historical Novelists Association has just appeared (click Blog above to read the review!).  The novel now goes forward for a possible award in June.  Watch this space!

David James Speaks: 7 questions with David James

Quagga and the Novel

The quagga - is it really extinct?  Or does the creature still live in the minds and spirits of those who write?  Some of us believe (or I should  say 'know') that a thing of beauty is a joy forever.  It will never pass into nothingness.  Its loveliness increases with every thought about it .  So  who is to say that eons hence the great beast will not resurface and come striding back into consciousness, forgiving and forgetting the life that was stolen over a century ago?

Although a much more recent species, unlike the quagga, the novel continues to exist and develop.  It had been erroneously declared to be dead, but it refuses to lie down and die.  Like the quagga, though, the novel is admittedly a bit of a hodge-podge.  Its edges are indeterminate, encroaching upon history, autobiography, fairy tale and such strange breeds as science fiction and something known as magic realism.  The novel is a hungry predator, ever on the lookout for new prey, ever-seeking to explore terra incognita.


It wasn't always such a large, loose baggy monster, a sort of rapacious Grendel on the prowl.  How it came to take over the writing world is something of a puzzle, especially if we think of its unpromising start as a much despised art.  Its protean shape has spawned a whole sub-culture of literary criticism; something we might call 'novelistics,' embracing literary critics such as Ian Watt who sees its rise in the Eighteenth Century with the realistic novel and its 'verisimilitude' and others who take a more long-sighted view.  Homer and the Old Testament are invoked by Mssrs Scholes and Kellogg.


If there's a grain of truth in Walter Pater's assertion that all arts aspire to the condition of music, then I declare that all language aspires to the genre of the novel.  From nursery rhymes to street gossip, from camp fire songs to Paradise Lost, the listener or reader is held by the notion of sequence, not always a linea sequence but a need to know the ending, the success or failure, the life or death of a hero or heroine.  Which is why for me Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy or Joyce's Finnegan's Wake just miss out.  Yes, I know I'm being simplistic, but then I only sought to find a grain of truth.




By Sarah Lindsay 

Karakatau split with a blinding noise
and raised from gutted, steaming rock
a pulverized black sky, over water walls
that swiftly fell on Java and Sumatra.
Fifteen days before, in its cage in Amsterdam,
the last known member of Equus quagga,
the southernmost subspecies of zebra, died.
Most of the wild ones, not wild enough,
grazing near the Cape of Good Hope,
had been shot and skinned and roasted by white hunters.

When a spider walked on cooling Krakatau's skin,
no quagga walked anywhere.

While seeds
pitched by long winds onto newborn fields
burst open and rooted, perhaps some thistle
flourished on the quagga's discarded innards.
The fractured island greened and hummed again;
handsome zebras tossed their heads
in zoos, on hired safari plains.
Who needs to hear a quagga's voice?
Or see the warm hide twitch away a fly,
see the neck turn, curving its cream and chestnut stripes
that run down to plain dark haunches and plain white legs?

A kind of horse. Less picturesque than a dodo. Still,
we mourn what we mourn.
Even if, when it sank to its irreplaceable knees,
when its unique throat closed behind a sigh,
no dust rose to redden a whole year's sunsets,
no one unwittingly busy
two thousand miles away jumped at the sound,
no ashes rained on ships in the merciless sea.

More on the poet Sarah Lindsay, whom regrettably I have been unable to contact, may be found on The Poetry Foundation Website.