Land of My Neighbours, by Barry Pilton
In light of meeting on April Fool’s Day, the group has chosen to read a light-hearted title, in itself a play on the words of the Welsh National Anthem: Land of My Fathers. About the book, the Independent on Sunday wrote: “A beguiling, tragic-comic tale of conservation, covetousness and croquet. Pilton’s prose is charmingly frictionless, funny and oddly elegant.”
Presenting Saunders Lewis
The University of Wales Press book cover blurb: “Featuring an introduction by David Jones and edited by Alun R. Jones and Gwyn Thomas, this book explores the life and work of a man often called the greatest Welshman of our time. The book looks in detail at his personal history with contributions by D. J. Williams, Emwyr Humphreys and Gareth Miles. It also looks at a number of aspects of his career.” Background readings: Dictionary of Welsh Biography, on civil disobedience, on the Welsh language, and as politician.
The Bank Manager and the Holy Grail: Travelers to the Wilder Reaches of Wales, by Byron Rogers
Byron Rogers’ work is a collection of essays and portraits of remarkable and completely mad Welshmen. Around a world much given to standardization, Rogers (who is Welsh) orbits in an unpredictable, eccentric fashion. Rogers is the laureate of the quietly uncanny, the genteelly bizarre, the politely weird. The title? For a while the Holy Grail was deposited in a vault in the Aberystwyth branch of Lloyd’s Bank. Rogers has more to tell, of course.
The Guardian Review: “Strange Days in Wales.” Video Review by Julian Birket (emeritus BBC broadcaster).
This is a modern interpretation of the story of Blodeuwedd, from The Mabinogion, the earliest prose literature in Wales. The Owl Service is a fabulous, multi-layered book of mystery and suspense, but it’s also a contemporary musing on love, class structure and power.
Wales on the Western Front, by John Richards
Two months after being posted to France in 1917, Edward Thomas wrote: “I already know enough to confirm my old opinion that the papers tell no truth at all about what war is and what soldier are…” This anthology provides an impression of what it meant to be a soldier on the Western front in the First World War and, above all, what it meant to be a Welsh soldier.
Contact!: A Book of Encounters, by Jan Morris
One review says of this book, “A delightful and hilarious companion for anyone taking a trip and an indispensable work for any fan of Jan Morris. Reflecting back on over half a century, Morris has decided to write, not about the destinations, but about the people she has encountered. Recalling human encounters on six continents, she paints a vibrant, funny, and moving picture of humanity.”
And the Guardian reports, “Here are vivid glimpses of people encountered by Jan Morris over “a lifetime of travel and literature”. Brief and elegant vignettes, they are written with sharp humour and pinpoint observation – meet the “fine scoundrel”, for example, his face “rather Dickensian in concept”. There is a lovely rhythm to the prose: “On the edge of a swamp in Louisiana an old Negro woman in a floppy straw hat was fishing in the oozy water with a home-cut rod.” Typically no date is given, time acknowledged by a floating “one day”, “not so long ago”, or simply by a verb: “I visited”, “I crossed to”, “while searching unsuccessfully for kangaroos in the bush of Mount Ainslie . . .” But place is always of the essence, integral to the encounter whether it is Marylebone High Street, Johannesburg or the Hong Kong ferry. Who else could write – across two pages and with no sense of strain – of conversations in a County Monaghan churchyard and in the mangrove swamps of Fiji, and of a mysterious encounter on a snowfield 19,000ft up in the Himalaya?”