Maggie Fergusson

  • FROM ELEPHANTS TO ELEPHOTHS

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, May 23rd 2015

    The crowds at the Hay Festival are teeming. From the queues outside the Tata Tent, you’d think the historian Antony Beevor was some middle-ranking rock star. Last year, 250,000 tickets were sold; this time the organisers are confident it’ll be many more. And, as the revolving slideshow on screens around the site reminds us, Hay is just the hub: satellite festivals and activities reach out into five continents. It’s hard not to wonder whether Peter Florence, the founder and director, is aiming in some not too distant future to rule the world.

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  • I FIND GOD IN OTHER PEOPLE

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, May 23rd 2015

    Teachers resorted to megaphones at the Hay Festival yesterday. With hours to go before the half-term bell, their pupils—several hundred of them—thronged the walkways between tents, eking out their lunch money in the cafés and turning cartwheels on the verges, before lifting off like a giant flock of birds at the end of the afternoon.

    In a moment of calm after their departure, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor (above), former head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales (a glimpse of crimson peeping from under his black V-neck), took to the Telegraph stage in front of an audience of nearly 1000, to be interviewed by Rosie Boycott. I quailed for him. He’s 82, his hands shake, and his expression in repose is slightly haunted. Back in the 1970s, while he was rector of a seminary, training men for the priesthood,  Boycott was founding the feminist magazine Spare Rib. I didn’t expect her to cut him much slack when it came to discussing some of the thornier issues he tackles in his new memoir, “An English Spring”.

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  • A MEMORIAL FOR P.D. JAMES

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, May 5th 2015

    Beautiful liturgies and an atmosphere of real belief don’t always go hand in hand. But last Wednesday evening, at a service of thanksgiving for the life and work of P.D. James, they were perfectly interwoven. The Temple Church in London felt like a 12th-century stone ship riding on waves of April blossom; the choir was celestial, the readings profoundly moving. And at the heart of it all was a sense of collective gratitude for what Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, described during the service as “a long life lived in tumultuous times”—a life sustained by what P.D. James herself called “the magnificent irrationality of faith”.

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  • THE TRIAL THAT GRIPPED AUSTRALIA

    Six Good Books: Maggie Fergusson picks a profound courtroom drama, a trove of language and a poetic pilot

    read more » COMMENTS: Comments | ADD NEW COMMENT ArtsbookscultureMaggie FergussonMay/June 2015Six Good Books
  • THE WEALTH OF SCOTTISH WORDS

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, March 5th 2015

    In the town of Beauly, ten miles west of Inverness, there’s a tweed shop much beloved of Highlanders. Until last month it had been in the same family since 1858, and had been run for time immemorial by the same trio: a brother (the tailor) and his two sisters, all unmarried. The sisters, a friend tells me, were wonderfully “perjink” old ladies.

    Even if you’re not familiar with “perjink”, I bet you can intuit its meaning. It has shades of neat, tidy, pernickety and prim—yet none of these alone quite nails it. It set me thinking of the wealth of Scottish words so subtle and expressive and many-layered that they make the English language seem suddenly poor and thin. Here are ten more I would not be without:

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  • THE WISDOM OF ANNE TYLER

    Six Good Books: Maggie Fergusson's recommendations, including a triumphant portrait of old age, the human side of T.S. Eliot and a haunting memoir from Zambia

    read more » COMMENTS: Comments | ADD NEW COMMENT ArtsbookscultureMaggie FergussonMaggie FergussonMarch/April 2015Six Good Books
  • WHY DO THE STRONG NEED THE WEAK?

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, February 2nd 2015

    There’s a Chinese proverb that goes, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. I thought of it a few days ago as I joined an audience of peers, MPs and policymakers, squeezed into a small panelled room in the House of Lords. We had gathered to listen to Jean Vanier, a tall, white-haired 86-year-old French Canadian whom I wrote about in Intelligent Life last year. He’s the founder of L’Arche, an international charity providing homes in which men and women with mental disabilities live with “normal” people, and he’d been invited to address the question, “Why do the strong need the weak?”

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  • THE TWO BEST READS OF 2014

    Six Good Books: Maggie Fergusson picks her novel and non-fiction book of the year. Plus, a gripping history of a working-class family and a puckish Peter Carey

    read more » COMMENTS: Comments | ADD NEW COMMENT ArtsbooksJanuary/February 2015Maggie FergussonSix Good Books

  • JOHN BURNSIDE'S SLOW-RELEASE MAGIC

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, December 11th 2014

    The literary calendar is now so crammed with prizes it’s hard to keep abreast of winners, let alone judges. But today’s announcement of the panel for the 2015 Man Booker prize is cause for celebration. The column inches will go to the appointment of the chancellor’s wife, Frances Osborne. But the stroke of genius is the inclusion of John Burnside.

    Have you heard of Burnside? Have you read a single one of his books? If the answer is no, and no, you’re in the majority. Should you have heard of him? Should you read him? Well, yes, and emphatically yes.

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  • P.D. JAMES'S JOIE DE VIVRE

    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, November 28th 2014

    Yesterday afternoon, when the news came through that P.D. James had died aged 94, the image that sprang immediately to my mind was of the Queen of Crime gliding down the stairs of her green-fronted Holland Park home in a stairlift. Generally these contraptions suggest decrepitude and decline; not with her. Always immaculately dressed and coiffed, she descended to her hall with an expression of keen anticipation and joie de vivre.

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