Goodbye, Gilbert Blythe

Cover of Anne of InglesideIf you were a teenage girl during the 1980s and watched television then you were probably enraptured with the Anne of Green Gables TV series based on the novels of L. M. Montgomery. And there’s a good chance you were smitten with Anne Shirley’s regular tormentor/rescuer/romantic interest Gilbert Blythe.

It is with a sad heart that I learned yesterday that the actor who played Gilbert in the various Anne of Green Gables TV series’, Jonathan Crombie, died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 48.

Born in Toronto, Canada, Crombie was the son of a former mayor of the city, Dave Crombie, and by strange coincidence his mother’s names were “Shirley Ann”.

Though he worked regularly in television, Gilbert Blythe was by far his most famous role and according to his sister, fans who recognised him on the street would often refer to him as “Gil”.

If this news leaves you in “the depths of despair” and in need of a “Jonathan Crombie Commemorative Screening” we have DVDs of the following Avonlea-based TV series featuring Prince Edward Island’s resident dreamboat, Gilbert.

Going clubbing

Cover: The LuminariesWhen one of my Book Clubs decided to read the Man Booker 2013 shortlist I was a bit sceptical. Yes, we could then decide if  The Luminaries deserved to win, but we would also have to read it. And – this just in – it is very long. Anyway, it all turned out swimmingly and I read and loved books I would never have looked at if they hadn’t been on the list.

Reading from a list was so successful we’re  casting around for another one. My suggestion was to consult the handy Literary prizes and book awards  page on our very own Christchurch City Libraries web site.  The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 looks promising,  mostly because of the judges:

  • Mary Beard, author, hugely entertaining television presenter,  blogger and admirable human being who has risen above some very nasty verbal abuse without being insufferable about it
  • Denise Mina, “the Queen of Tartan Noir” and owner of one of the best quiffs ever
  • Caitlin Moran, very funny, very rude and a woman who is is unafraid of the word feminist
  • Sophie Raworth, one of the BBC presenters at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Truly impressive
  • Helen Fraser, the chair of the judging panel and former Managing Director of Penguin U.K. She may not have written a book, but has surely read a few good ones

Cover: A girl is a half-formed thingA list chosen by this crew must be preferable to the system my other Book Club uses, where the members tick titles on a catalogue at the start of the year.  They then shiftily deny any knowledge of the books that arrive each month and steadfastly refuse to read them. Or perhaps that’s just me.

The winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2014 was Eimar McBride, who must be good, because if she could be a literary character she would be Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch and because she chose Anne of Green Gables as the defining book of her childhood. Although the book she always recommends is Ulysses –  “why don’t more people listen?” Because it’s impossible to read, that’s why.

Using the Baileys list also offers the opportunity to swig down the sponsor’s product (or rather sip it in a genteel fashion) while discussing the finer points of literary fiction. A winning combination.

Not from the author who brought you

The House at Pooh Corner
The House at Pooh Corner

Someone is writing a sequel to The House at Pooh Corner. AA Milne is not writing it, if he were, it would probably be more lucrative for him to write a book called “How I Lived to be 127”.

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why do people think it is a good idea to write new additions to books and series that are loved, read and re-read by millions? It’s not just Winnie the Pooh: Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables, Gone with the Wind and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy have all suffered the ignomy of some lesser author deciding that they are the ones to take up the mantle and create new books that (I suppose) they fondly imagine will take pride of place next to titles in the original canon, but I can’t think of a time that has been the case. Maybe…maybe, it is OK when the true author had died before completing a series (Robert Jordan, I’m looking at you!)But really – is this ever a good idea?!?