Writer’s shock not writer’s block

This is going to surprise those who know me in real life. I’m taking a week’s holiday next month!

Yup. No internet, no editing, no blogging … I can’t say no writing, as I’m packing my moleskines and writing pens, but nothing with a keyboard. I’m going back to the South of France, very near to where we used to live seventeen years ago. We’ve rented a cottage (no internet) in a village (no shop) not very near a town (great cassoulet).

When did I last take a holiday? … um … er … hmmm. I don’t know, is the honest answer.

What I am packing, along with the writing notebooks, is reading material. I can read a book a day easily (that’s a working day, so what about days off? Well I can’t remember when I last took a whole day off, but I can read two slim books easily on a Sunday, between working on the allotment, walking dogs, baking for the week ahead and writing and editing.)

So what novels would you recommend?

I’ve got Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before which I’ve been saving up, and Hilary Mantell’s A Place of Greater Safety (that’s a re-read: it’s one of my annual pilgrimages to the books that have changed my literary life, Hilary’s a rare soul: two of my life-changing books were written by her, an honour bestowed on no other writer) and Mario Vargas Llosa’s In Praise of the Stepmother (The Storyteller is the Llosa on my pilgrimage list) but what else? Give me suggestions, enticements, harangues and hints!

The picture shows summer solstice bento … eaten on the beach!


  1. Dave King
    30th June 2008

    I envy you on both counts: your book selsection and your venue. Have a fabulous time – on both counts.

  2. Carrie Berry
    30th June 2008

    Nice to see the bento back! A book I think you might really enjoy is Twelve Bar Blues by Patrick Neate. I thought of you when I read it.

  3. Nik's Blog
    30th June 2008

    Sounds lovely, Kay. Enjoy!

    If you’ve not already read it, I’d recommend ‘If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things’ which I read the other week. Goodness knows why it took me so long to get round to it. Top book.

    Taichi Yamada’s ‘Strangers’ is interesting. It has some obvious floors (mostly, I think because it’s a translation of a novel written by a screenwriter) but it’s an entertaining and quirky modern day Japanese ghost story.

    Um, so there.


  4. Lou
    30th June 2008

    more fiction set in Japan:
    The Earthquake bird by Susanna Jones

    a little jewel that could easily be read in one day!

  5. Anonymous
    1st July 2008

    Hi Kay!

    I’m starting a project in the realm of interactive fiction that I thought you might be interested in participating in or promoting. I wrote a story titled Together Fall hosted on the linked website.

    I’m looking for creative people who enjoy short stories (that’s how I ended up on your website) who would be interested in contributing to this project. No real commitment. Just read the story. If you like it, you can send a few hundred words about it to the email links provided. Or write a poem along the same themes. Draw a picture. Whatever!

    I’d also love any comments/reviews/edits/remixes!
    The website is togetherfall.com.

    I’m looking to turn this into more than just my short story, and into a community project!

  6. Kip de Moll
    2nd July 2008

    Wow, the South of France is a dream to some of us on the Other Side. And all the time to read is even a better one. I’m going at a rate of, a, let’s see, about 1 every 2 months, but it is very cool to reread classics after 30 or 40 years of actual Life under my belt.
    Changes keep rolling for me here too, perhaps leading to a vacation of my own one day.

  7. Knulp
    4th July 2008

    Have you tried ‘Sutree’, Cormac McCarthy? Sniff a cedar for me…

  8. carol
    5th July 2008

    Hi Kay,

    South of France, no internet, it sounds divine.

    It’s always tricky suggesting books, but I’m reading The Envoy From Mirror City right now, a slim volume of autobiography by Janet Frame. It’s an indulgent read, the tale of a young woman’s writing life unfolding in the strangeness of post-war London. Other than that, Proust if you haven’t already?

  9. Kay Sexton
    6th July 2008

    Thanks all, I’m making my shopping list right now!

  10. Lit Flood
    9th July 2008

    I recommend Patrick McGrath’s Port Mungo. It is gripping, well written and carefully crafted with complex characters who keep you guessing till the end.

    Enjoy your holiday!


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