An Apple A Day – 14 October 2023

As the evenings arrive a little earlier and the wind daily sweeps my favourite hat from my head and the stands of the greengrocer fill with knobbled gourds and the trees develop that heavy scent and one hopes that every pub is considering its mulled cider offering, oh, it is a delicious time for reading. Of course, in the summer, I expect I claimed that that season was particularly conducive to consuming the odd book or (twenty-)two. Let’s don our woolly jumpers and agree that reading is a perennial activity.

For those who do have Keats on the brain, I feel I must mention the apple harvest. Everywhere I look, there are books for pomomaniacs. North Woods by Daniel Mason is a glorious novel about four centuries of a New England woodland, in which an apple tree grows from a pip in the stomach of a hastily buried man. The Cellist by Jennifer Atkins is a stunning love story about a panicking soloist infatuated with a sculptor who keeps leaving apple cores in the sink. Meanwhile, The Apple in the Dark by Clarice Lispector peels back the skin of a man who believes he has committed a murder.

In Louise Gluck’s poem “Nostos”, she writes of an apple tree in the yard and of trying to look at, and really see, the world. (The news this morning rather derailed any focus on writing this; read A Village Life if you need to wallow in mourning.) In Natalie Diaz’s poem “I Watch Her Eat the Apple” she writes “This blue world has never needed a woman / to eat an apple so badly…” In Simon Armitage’s Hansel & Gretel: A nightmare in eight scenes the protagonists find that their Garden of Eden transforms by night into a horror film.

Michael Morpurgo writes in All Around the Year, a beautiful diary of Parsonage Farm in Noth Devon complete with images by James Ravilious, that “the recent heavy rain has brought the apples down in their hundreds”. Ten sackfuls are destined for the cider factory, putting me in mind of Cider Country by James Crowden. Add to that Eve by Cat Bohannon, a history of the past 200 million years, explaining the science behind the development of the female sex, and How to Make An Apple Pie from Scratch by Harry Cliff, the guide you need to the universe, its origins and its unknowns,and the apples are practically falling into my lap. Not to mention all the Virago books one longs to take a bite of.

If October has you reaching for grotesque, Gothic or ghoulish stories, rather than for Granny Smiths, Brainwyrms by Alison Rumfitt, The Possessed by Witold Gombrowicz and Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel will shock you to the core. Brainwyrms is so gory it may put you off your crumble; The Possessed features a tennis coach, a bewitched towel and a dilapidated castle – a royal gala of haunting; Just Like Mother will confirm for the few who are yet to be convinced that dolls are the stuff of nightmares… and that babies make things go pear-shaped. Then there’s Banana Yoshimoto’s latest novel, The Premonition, in which a character repeatedly watches Friday the 13th… please enjoy your platter of bad apples.  

Between apple bobbing sessions, we’ve been having a lot of fun reading some new children’s books and revisiting old favourites. Robin Stevens has just published the second in her Ministry of Unladylike Activity series. The Body in the Blitz is a great fun historical crime novel in which children, so often underestimated, are being trained as the perfect spies. We’ve started a list of the books we have read recently, to which we’ll keep adding – all absolute treats, no tricks.

A little reminder the Poetry in Herons continues apace: next week on 21st October, Carrie Etter and Emma Jones will be reading at 5pm. No tickets but please do RSVP so that we have an idea of how many poetry aficionados to squeeze in and how much apple juice to buy…

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