Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Shakespeare Celeb: Here’s Looking At You, Bill


So much is focused on what Shakespeare wrote. Lots of kerfuffle if he actually wrote what he wrote. Mmm, not going there. Instead–

Isn’t anyone curious what he looked like?

Here are the traditional portraits:

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And the not so traditional portraits:

 

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I honestly think old Ben Jonson had it spot on when he said Shakespeare was for all time. Shakespeare would fit in well today with his styling soul patch, facial trim, and flowing curls with dome. The pumpkin pants are a no go though. Same for the neck ruff. Only cats recovering from nasty bouts with other cats should wear those.

For the more academic aspect of Shakespeare portraiture, tune in here.

 

 

Why We Say: Oh, “G”


Why are jokes considered a “gag”?
The term is originally from the days (as is today) when actors would toss in an ad libbed line to throw another actor off his own lines. Often this change up in the script would stop the actor from talking as effectively as being gagged and silenced. Isn’t the hope there is a gag reel why we buy the DVD?

Why does someone “run the gamut” ?
“Gamma” is the last note on the Guido d’Arezzo music scale with “ut” representing the first note sung. If someone goes through the “gamut” they are basically going from one end to the other.

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Don’t horse around with my goat…

What is meant by “getting someone’s goat”?
Apparently in the horse racing world a nervous horse in the gate can be calmed by the presence of a goat. Unscrupulous owners might try to turn the race towards their favor by taking their rival’s goat. That’s baaadd business.

How is “being on good footing” an indication of rank with someone?
During the reign of England’s King Henry VIII a person’s social standing could be measured by his shoe. Peasants typically wore small shoes, being insignificant on the grand scale of social importance. The closer to the king, the larger the shoe. Hmm, wasn’t Henry known to be of dubious sole and a heel?

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If the shoe fits?

Why do we call idle chatter “gossip”?
In earlier times godparents were called “God-sibbs” with “sibb” meaning “related.” Godparents were usually selected among distant relatives who, it is said, when they met at gatherings, such as christenings, were known to exchange news and tidbits. These idle chatter became associated with God-sibbs and slipped into “gossip.”

How did “guy” come into use?
The British expression “guy” refers to someone who is not respected from the revolutionary Guy Fawkes, who lead the 1605 Gunpowder plot. In America, the term comes from the circus reference to the “guy wire” the main wire that holds up the tent which meant refer to who is in charge when one asks for the “main guy.” Today “guy” is more or less a general term for people.

Well, “G” that’s it for this month for another round of Why We Say based on findings from the Dictionary of Word Origins: A History of the Words, Expressions, and Cliches We Use by Jordan Almond.

Movie Musings: Genius


During my weekly library stop I loaded up book titles and found some possibilities on the free rack. Now to find the time for them all. Stocking up on movies for the weekend I focused on the “G” section at our library pulling old favorites such as The Giver and found Genius next to it. Realizing it was about the friendship between an author and an editor I added to my fare. Good choice.

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I know nothing about Thomas Wolfe beyond him being a well-known writer who couldn’t go home again. Oh yes, he was also tall enough (6’6″) to use the top of his refrigerator as his writing desk. I also recall something about wearing a white suit. I later discovered there are two writers by name of Thomas Wolfe. This Thomas Wolfe is the writer from the Jazz Age, not the writer of The Right Stuff. This Wolfe did not wear white, but he proved fairly distinctive in his own way.

The 2016 film Genius added much more to that knowledge. Yet, the film isn’t so much about Tom Wolfe (played by Jude Law) as it is about Max Perkins (Colin Firth), his editor at Scribner’s. Apparently Maxwell Perkins was a legend amongst the publishing community having discovered Hemingway and Fitzgerald, among other writers.

As the movie unfolds we understand that Max and Tom form a bond that goes much deeper than a working relationship. Max loved his five daughters, yet wanted a son. Tom, losing his father earlier in his life, needed another father figure. For a time these two men met each other’s needs and also produced some brilliant books that are still referred to today.

Often books are sourced to become movies and less often a movie inspires a book. In the case of Genius, I am intrigued enough to find the books of Thomas Wolfe and read about the man who encouraged an undisciplined writer to produce laudatory prose. It makes one wonder who the true genius is in this film.

Ta dah and Surprise


Well, you might be wondering where Cricket Muse has hopped off to and who is this “Pam Webb.”

No worries.

Cricket Muse is still here, yet I have fulfilled the promise I made to myself that once I became published–not as magazine byline, not as part of an anthology, but as an author through a mainstream publisher–I would upgrade to a domain with my true name.

Here I am: Pam Webb

The published title in question will be available April 2020, which seems a long way off, yet my publisher is revving up the publicity wagon and I best jump on.

This publicity thing is tough on a gregarious hermit like myself–hence hiding out as Cricket Muse for the past seven or so years. A promise is a promise.

So–here is the newly designed blog, and I hope you will keep visiting. Check out my About page and Published Writing to get a bit more about Pam Webb. As for Cricket Muse? She’s still there. It’s difficult to keep a cricket from being a-mused with life.

The book. Right, the book. How the book came to be is a blog post coming up. I do want to thank Andrew DeYoung of Beaming Books who believed in the story, and Wendy Leach who provided the lighthearted illustrations. It’s been a wonderful experience. Thanks to all who have helped get this idea out of the drawer where it had been hiding and up on the shelves.

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You can check out the title in a couple of different places:

Amazon

Goodreads

As for the blog format? Cricket is nudging me to keep up my regular posts of Why We Say, Word Nerds, Bard Bits, and other miscellaneous thoughts about life. Those crickets-tccch-such chirpy little things…

Bard Bits: All Is True (not really, Ken)


As a bona fide Bardinator I look forward to new or new-to-me versions of Shakespeare’s plays. I also appreciate Shakespeare-ish films, those films, shows, and specials that speculate about the Bard of Avon, because in actuality we really don’t know much about him or his family. Kenneth Branagh, noted Bardolator, attempted to cast some (perceived) truth on Shakespeare’s life after retiring to Stratford.

If you missed All Is True it’s no doubt because it wasn’t playing in a theatre near you. It certainly wasn’t in my secluded part of the world. Fortunately I found a copy in the local grocery DVD corner. The hubs would have preferred a Tom Cruise flick and almost checked out yet another watching of a Mission Impossible. He acquiesced. This is one of the reasons he is such a keeper–plus he owed me for my relenting to watch The Italian Job yet again.

Kenneth Branagh has provided a marvel of a supposition: what happened after Shakespeare retired in 1613 to Stratford? We don’t know, historians don’t know, but Branagh sets forth what he perceives might have, could have happened based on the tiniest scraps of historical information.

Facts:
The Globe Theater burnt to the ground in 1613 and William Shakespeare retired from the theatre to live out his remaining days (three years) in his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon where he had a family: Anne, his wife, Susanna, his eldest daughter (married with a young daughter) and Judith (unmarried and the surviving twin). Shakespeare’s heir, Hamnet, died at age 11 (attributed to plague, but no one really is sure). There was some scandal connected with each of Shakespeare’s daughters. Shakespeare died on his birthday.

Fancy:
From those facts Branagh provides a family drama of a man who has been more absent than present for the past twenty years, and apparently has never recovered from the loss of his only son and heir. Branagh has Shakespeare creating a memorial garden for his son and battling out resentments with his wife and daughters.

Kudos:
The acting is superb. How could it not with Judi Dench as the long-suffering Anne, Ian Mckellen as the larger than life patron come to visit his favorite poet, and Kenneth Branagh, who has brought Shakespeare to the general public in bold and creative ways? The supporting actors hold their own as well, especially Susanna and Judith. The hubs did not even recognized Branagh as Shakespeare, being impressed when he saw his name as the director, but stunned to learn he was playing the Bard. Yes, the make up is that well done. He looks like the portrait we are all so familiar with. The costumes and time period setting is excellent–they even filmed in candlelight.

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Concerns:
I am a stickler for historical accuracy and get a bit distracted when adaptations go too far afield in interpretation. I don’t mind Henry IV being set during WWI or gnomes becoming Romeo and Juliet, but hey, taking liberties with actual history and presenting it “all is true” goes beyond artistic license. The hubs finally shuushed me during the movie, indicating he didn’t care for my pointing out of inaccuracies and inserting corrections. He said, “I liked it.” But, but, not all was true.

Takeaway:
This is facfic in extreme. It is a love letter done with excellence. It is worthwhile to hunt up a copy and watch it, not just because for its production quality. Do it because it keeps Shakespeare alive, even though he has been gone for over 400 years.

Why We Say: Getting an “A” on knowing your “F” sayings


Veering slightly from the usual format, this month you get to test your knowledge on sayings revolving around “F.”Here we go:

  1. Why do we say “feathers his nest” when someone takes care of his business in a well and organized manner?

2. Why do we refer to someone flaky as a “fair weather friend”?

3. Why do we say “fortnight” when it is two weeks?

4. Why do we say “fork it over” when demanding something from someone?

5. Why do we refer to a sports enthusisast as a “fan”?

6. Why do we say someone is “on the fence” if he or she is undecided?

7.Why do we say “fishy” is something doesn’t seem quite right?

8. Why do we say someone is “footloose” if appearing carefree?

9. Why do we say “fagged out” when really, really tired?

10. Why do we say someone “flies off the handle” when angry?

Those were the questions. Are you ready for the answers?

  1. “Feathering one’s nest” refers to making the situation comfortable, just as a bird feathers its own nest to make it nicer.
  2. A “fair weather friend” is someone who can be only counted on during good times, which is much like sailing–clear skies, no storms is preferred.
  3. “Fortnight” is a shortened version of “fourteen nights.”
  4. Hold your hand out, now spread your fingers. Looks like a pitch fork, right? That’s the idea. A pitchfork grabs onto to something, much like fingers grasp.
  5. A “fan” is shortening of the word “fanatic”–someone overly enthusiastic.
  6. If you are “on the fence” you could go either way, which is like indecisive people–they could go either way in their choice.
  7. This happened to us after hot weather and salmon leftovers in the garbage. Our garage smelled “fishy”–it did not smell right.
  8. No, this does not refer to Kevin Bacon. “Footloose” refers to when animals, particularly horses, are released from their halter or restraints into the pasture. They are often seen kicking up their hooves, much like someone who does not feel restrained by conventions or rules. Probably more figuratively, although Kevin Bacon certainly kicked up his heels when he was dancing.
  9. Easy. “Fagged” is a derivation of “fatigued.”
  10. Watch out for those hammers or axes that have loose heads because once action gets going the head can “fly off the handle,” just like those folk who get getting going and lose control.

How did you do? Some of them make so much sense it’s easy to come up with a more complicated answer. Until next time we tackle “why we say”…

BONUS!

Word Nerd Confessions: September


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September equals schoolish thoughts. Here are some words that get us on track for edumacating (which is found in the Urban Dictionary) our minds:

nisus (noun): an effort or striving toward a particular goal or attainment; impulse. “Receiving stellar marks is a worthy nisus,” noted the counselor upon hearing the student’s dream of attending Vassar.

intellection (noun): the action or process of understanding; the exercise of the intellect;  reasoning;a particular act of the intellect;a conception or idea as the result of such an act; notion; thought. The purpose of a sound education is to increase one’s intellection.

brio (noun):
vigor; vivacity. “One must continue with tenacity and brio,” the teacher encouraged her students already showing signs of Senioritis.

vinculum (noun):
a bond signifying union or unity; tie. After spending nearly twelve years together in school, the seniors form quite a vinculum by the time they graduate.

august (adj): inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; 
majestic. An august performance of academics is not usually expected of students in September.

athenaeum (noun):
an institution for the promotion of literary or scientific learning; a library or reading room. The teacher momentarily stymied her students when she announced, “We are going to check out your books in the athenaeum.”

solecism (noun): a nonstandard or ungrammatical usage, as unflammable and they was. solecism (noun):

diapason (noun):
a full, rich outpouring of melodious sound. The band teacher smiled in rapture at the unexpected diapason when the first piece was played by his fall students.

hypocorism (noun):
a pet name. Students referred to the principal, Mr. Alderson, as Sonny–never to his open acknowledgement, of course.

sequacious (adj):
following with smooth or logical regularity. The kindergarten teacher held her breath as she led her students down the hallway, hoping they would do so in a sequacious fashion and not fan out like distracted duckling like the last time.

excogitate (verb):
to think out; devise; invent.to study intently and carefully in order to grasp or comprehend fully. “One must practice excogitation to fully appreciate James Joyce, ” the English teacher encouraged her students. Silence was her reply.

sennight (noun): a week. The first seven days of school makes for a long sennight.

bezonian (noun):
an indigent rascal; scoundrel. Mr. Jameson felt a headache forming as he checked his roster of new students and noticed Bobby Mack’s name, who had earned a reputation as a bezonian among last year’s students.

lateritious (adj):
of the color of brick; brick-red. Loren always associated education with a lateritious feeling, perhaps due to all her schools being old-fashioned brick buildings.

mea culpa (noun): “my fault!” an acknowledgment of one’s responsibility for a fault or error. Julius Caesar as a student might have admitted “mea culpa!” as opposed to the modern counterpart of “my bad!”

omnifarious (adj):
of all forms, varieties, or kinds. As the students walked in through the front doors it became clear to the admin staff greeting them that they were in for quite a year as the omnifarious batch of teenagers sauntered on towards their classes. Strangely enough, the students were thinking the same of the staff.

manque‘(adj):
having failed, missed, or fallen short, especially because of circumstances or a defect of character; unsuccessful; unfulfilled or frustrated: The teachers gathered and conferred about the manque of several students not having produced a single completed homework assignment all semester.

contextomy (noun):
the practice of misquoting someone by shortening the quotation or by leaving out surrounding  words or  sentences  that  would  place  the  quotation in context. Winston Churchill’s famous WWII speech has fallen under contextomy as most people quote him as saying “Blood, sweat, and tears,” when he actual said “Blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

univocal (noun):
having only one meaning; unambiguous. “Late is late,” the teacher reminded the student who traipsed in four minutes after the bell rang. “Late is univocal.”

hypnopedia (noun): sleep learning. Placing her French textbook under her pillow at night proved to be an ineffectual attempt at hypnopedia.

And there is your September batch of Word Nerds. True to course here is a short quiz.

  1. Sleep learning is associated with what word?
  2. Nefarious sounds quite a bit like which word?
  3. Sennight means?
  4. What word might a choir teacher appreciate?
  5. Why might having brio be considered a compliment?

Well, what did you learn today? BtW, if you scored at least 4/5 you may pull out your SSR book and read the last five minutes of class.

Reader Round Up: August


August became my vacation month this year. Due to obligations, responsibilities, and unexpected events, my usual casual days of unwinding during summer before powering back up for the school year dwindled down to about two weeks of fetter free days. Amazingly enough during this hectic summer I found time to read. Actually, reading is what kept me sane. Chocolate might have, but that calorie thing always has me rethinking my grab towards the Dove bar whilst shopping.

Due to the unusual amount of stress this summer I read more than usual and this resulted in my hitting my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 101 books (and then some) earlier, much earlier than expected. Maybe stress can be a good thing after all? I do know reading is my go-to for relieving craziness that comes from being overwhelmed with the unexpected.

Here are the highlights for August reading:

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
If you appreciate Indiana Jones and Lost World you will want to explore this foundational novel. Written around 1885, as a challenge to write something better than Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Haggard succeeds in providing an adventure in Africa that brims with narrow escapes, lost treasure, mysterious strangers, cruel villains, and legends to perpetuate. Several movie adaptations, yet none come close to the actual novel.

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Fans of Downton Abbey this is a book for you. English gentry, family drama, war drama, convenient plot devices, surprising plot turns, likable heroes, inspiring heroines, emotional involvement. It’s all there—all 977 pages. Update: the miniseries wasn’t exactly the plot, but decent.

Shakespeare’s England edited by R.E. Pritchard ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The title is a bit deceptive in that it is actually an account of what life might have been like during the 1600 and 1700 time period in England. While this is the era when Shakespeare was prominent, the book is not focused on Shakespeare and his England. Fascinating information otherwise.

Sleeping Tiger by Rosamunde Pilcher ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A perfect airplane read: light, non-demanding, read in the two hours of flight.

Researching James Herriot I read several of his books, mainly biographies. A separate post is here.

A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Hailey ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A fascinating arc of a woman’s life; however, it lost its appeal midway through due to the overly dramatic plot and epistolary device wearing thin. I am interested in watching the mini-series with Sally Field, as she strikes me as being capable of portraying the main character Bess having watched her in Places of the Heart.
Update: Even Sally Field couldn’t breathe solidity to this flimsy soap opera.

Report from Argyll by Alan McKinnon ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
If James Bond ‘60s espionage tales are on your list, look for this little Crime Club edition. The story comes complete with sexist dialogue, political undercurrents, skulking villains, plot twists, and red herrings.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A classic I wanted to revisit, yet I couldn’t finish. And I wanted to. However, beyond the dated attitudes and interactions, let alone cliche characters, I could not easily digest Heinlein’s diatribe against societal conventions and practices such as religion, politics, and gender roles. It felt like the novel had been designed around his views, not so much around the unique idea of a Man from Mars adapting to the planet of his heritage. The novel did give us “grok” which is something worthwhile.

The House of Paper by Carlos Dominguez ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
More of a short story then a novel and at barely 100 pages it might be a stretch to consider it a novella. One has to appreciate magical realism to fully grasp the focus of the story. The illustrations by Peter Sis are a bonus.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII by Sonia Purnell ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Just when we think WWII might be exhausted for story angles, along comes the absolutely fascinating story of Virginia Hall, who might have gone unnoticed had it not been for scrupulously researched work of Sonia Purcell. Considering how Hall remained recalcitrant about her feats of super spy achievements in France, Purnell has honed a fascinating portrait of a person, no matter that she was an American woman with a prosthesis, who helped greatly during WWII, particularly with France’s efforts to free itself of the Nazi regime. Update: a movie is in the making

Yes, it is an eclectic list. Bouncing around to what catches my eye seems to be my indiscriminate pattern of reading selection. See anything of interest?

Debatable: Caldecott Conundrum


This month Mike and I take debating which illustrators are deserving of the Caldecott and have yet to receive it.

I selected Barbara McClintock and Mike selected Michael Frith.

I sent Mike way more illustrations than he provided to highlight Ms. McClintock’s work. So of course I am going to feature them here.

You can hop over to Mike’s post to cast your vote. And keep in mind this vote is for a single book not a body of work (or a particular topic of interest—like ahem *kaff* Muppets *kaff*).

Barbara Mcclintock spotlighted Sophie Germain’s passion for mathematics with flair and finesse. Her illustrations show why she should receive a Caldecott. Right? Isn’t it obvious?

Hope to see your vote over at Mike’s place.

The Invaders–in color


I admit that I am a bona fide child of the sixties. This means in my formative years I was exposed to television shows ranging from amazing, and still fondly watched today, to forgettable and let’s not go there. And then there were some that fell somewhere in the middle, like The Invaders.

Creating a popular series was the bread and butter of the sixties television industry. Finding that hit that would drawn in and mesmerize millions seemed to be the primary focus of the major networks. Everyone had their favorites. This could cause some contentions in families, which explains why sometimes there was more than one television set in residence. Fortunately, our family agreed on most shows. Dad and I would watch The Wild, Wild West. My brother and I would eat our Swanson TV dinners while watching the original Star Trek.

While Star Trek and My Favorite Martian were okay by my parents, I could not even enter the room if The Outer Limits was on. This might explain why I missed out The Invaders. I am prone to nightmares. Scary movies are still a negatory for me. Yet, I will subject myself to possible nightmares for a really good sci-fi show, particularly a series like Dr. Who. Some of those shows I do have to fast forward. Those statue creatures…brrrr.

Our local library has an entire wall area dedicated to television series. Quite the bonus since our winters are so tedious and binging on shows is one way to combat cabin fever. Binging television shows is also great in summer when the thermometer tops up to 90 degrees. My max is 82 degrees. This is how I found The Invaders.

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Roy Thinnes sounds the alarm: “The Invaders are coming, the Invaders are coming–wait, they’re already here!”

I can’t resist a fun (borderline cheesey) sci fi show. The Invaders has the ingredients of big time cheese, yet after a couple of episodes I began to respect it a bit more. The special effects (hey, it’s the sixties) weren’t too shabby and I began to look forward to when the aliens got zapped due to their glowing red and ashing out as shadows. David Vincent, the protagonist, is a handsome, serious, capable in all ways architect who single-handedly took out the task of warning the world of how aliens from another planet were infiltrating society. He never made it to Europe. Either a tight budget, or the invaders were more concerned with USA.

Another fascinating aspect of the show was the array of guest stars. These actors must have been on the verge of greatness or either had obligations to the studio. It was fun to prowl through the various episodes spotting Suzanne Pleshette (played an alien in two separate episodes), Peter Graves (lending his distinctive authoritative manner that became his signature on Mission Impossible); Strother Martin (weird and scruffy, as usual); Gene Hackman (tight-lipped and intimidating which led him to Bonnie and Clyde and an Oscar nomination); Ed Asner, Jack Lord, J.D. Cannon and others. Each episode had a unique approach, layering in a riveting addition to the overall plot, and providing plenty of action. While I held back from binging on the entire two year, 43 episodes, I did enjoy my jaunt into yet another sixties series. Quinn Martin, the producer of The Fugitive, created this show as well, and it contains much of the elements of The Fugitive, the Shane type on a constant search for justice.

Oh, at the beginning of each episode the announcer narrated an introduction, very Rod Serlingesque. The opening would be a colorful spotlight with the announcement of ” The Invaders–in color.” Surprisingly enough, some sixties television shows were not in color, and watching favorites in black and white wasn’t that unusual. Having a show in color justified that expensive purchase of the the television console.

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Have you watched The Invaders?

Author Spotlight: James Herriot


Eons ago I became smitten with the James Herriot series All Creatures Great and Small—both the books and BBC show.

The gentle humor, the insights into human nature, the animal stories, the quaint English countryside with all of its unique characters, the appreciation for life even in the hard circumstances of being a country became a tonic for this reader.

james herriot life work

It wasn’t until recently, while researching for a writing project, I came across James Herriot once again. This time I paid more attention to the writer. I came away more impressed than ever, and developed more respect for James Herriot or rather James Alfred Wight, the man behind the stories. Here are some facts I learned while reintroducing myself to his works:

  • He choose to write under the pseudonym of James Herriot due to strict veterinary association ethics of not writing under one’s own name to avoid self-promotion. He took the name from a professional football (soccer) player who played for Wight’s favorite Sunderland team.
  • Born in England, his family moved to Glasgow, Scotland when he was a baby. He spent 23 years in Glasgow and naturally developed an accent causing people to think he was Scottish.
  • He decided to become a vet due to the combination of loving animals, reading an article about choosing a vocation, and listening to a guest lecturer from the Glasgow Veterinary School.
  • Wight was an avid reader, one dedicated to classics and authors such as Sir Conan Doyle, H.G.Wells, H. Rider Haggard, O’Henry, P.G. Wodehouse, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare. These literary influences are evident in Wight’s writing with his ability to inject humor in unexpected moments with irony, imagery, and a turn of a phrase. His ear for natural dialogue added greatly to the rhythm of the story.
  • Being born in 1916 put Wight at a disadvantage since it placed him in the middle of an economic depression by the time he graduated from vet school, making it difficult to find a position.
  • He first worked with a veterinarian in Sunderland (where he was born) but due to the vet’s contract with the dog racing track having ended, Wight had to find another placement. This led him to Yorkshire where he would work with Donald Sinclair (Siegfried rom the books) for nearly fifty years.
  • After being hired by Sinclair, Wight had to run the practice single-handedly because Sinclair had joined the Royal Air Force.
  • Wight had tried publishing other stories before writing his country vet tales, yet only met rejections. He didn’t begin publishing his memoirs, his life as a country vet, until he was 50 years old and continued writing through his early 70s.
  • His initial book, If Only They Could Talk, was serialized in the newspaper, and a favorable literary review launched further reader interest. Soon after, his books sold constantly and his career as a writer began and to this day people are still fans of his writing.
  • Wight claimed 90% of his stories were true, having had the need to change names and situations, yet some dissenters, particularly Graham Lord, a biographer, say it’s closer to 50%, making his memoirs more fiction than fact. However, Wight’s son, Jim, maintains in his biography of his dad that 90% true is accurate [Does it really matter? The stories are marvelous—so what if there are embellishments?]
  • Wight continued his veterinary practice even while becoming a successful author, as he truly enjoyed being a country vet.
  • His books were bestsellers, sometimes remaining on the New York Times list for over six months.
  • To this day Wight’s books have sold over 60 million copies.
  • Thousands of fans, mostly Americans, would trek to Yorkshire to meet Wight and he would personally sign books and meet with people and he took the time to answer the cascade of letters sent to him. Today there is a World of James Herriot museum located at his original practice where devotees can learn more about the author.
  • James Alfred “Alf” Wight was always surprised at his success as a writer; he remained humble and in awe of his publishing achievement throughout his life. Though he became a millionaire author, he nevertheless lived a simple life, enjoying his marriage to Joan “Helen” for over 50 years and had a loving relationship with his two children, Jim and Rosie, who both became doctors (Jim carried on in his father’s practice, and Wight talked his daughter out of becoming a vet due to the strenuous work, so she became a general practitioner).
  • He received the OBE for his contribution to veterinary science, along with many other significant awards.

His original books published in Britain had titles such as It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet, The Flying Vet, and were short volumes, which were combined to create longer volumes and retitled from lines of a famous British hymn: All Creatures Great and Small. Although I have read most, if not all of Herriot’s books, including his biographies, I do have my favorites:

Picture Books

Oscar, Cat-About-Town

Moses, the Kitten

Collections

James Herriot’s Cat Stories

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The Best of James Herriot, Favorite Memories of a Country Vet

Biographies

The Real James Herriot, Memoir of My Father by James Wight

Television and Film

The entire BBC series with Robert Hardy

Image result for all creatures great and small bbc

The first film with Anthony Hopkins

Young James Herriot

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