Do you have a favourite book autographed by the author?
Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Dear readers, I am so very, very happy to be able to tell you that I have sold the German rights to Balthasar’s Gift to Argument Verlag! I can now, without conscience, call myself an author.
The book will be out, in German, in Spring 2013. Argument have an imprint called Ariadne, which focuses on crime fiction by women. They tend to publish left-leaning, feminist fiction with edgy female protagonists. Ahem!
I have known since late April, so have already drunk my body weight in celebratory alcohol, but tonight I will sleep happy knowing that the contract is signed and we are on our way.
Next step: a contract with an English publisher so that my friends and family can read BG in the language in which it was written. Hold thumbs as BG wings its way around publishers’ desks in the UK!
If you want to get a feel for some of the themes in the book, here’s its mood board on Pinterest.
A prize of a bookish nature to the first person to guess correctly!
Posted in Books, Friends of the Blog, Reading, tagged Headline, Jacana Press, Nicola Doherty, Ninepins, Pierre van Rooyen, Rosy Thornton, Saturdays are Gold, The Out of Office Girl on June 1, 2012 | 5 Comments »
Three friends of the blog have recently published novels and I want to point you to them.
Pierre van Rooyen is in fact an IRL friend, but he counts as a friend of the blog as he has been known to turn up here and comment at length. His novel, Saturdays are Gold, was published last year as an ebook by Endaxi Press. It has just been published in print by South Africa’s Jacana Press with an ace cover, literally one of the best I have seen in a long time. And I can happily attest that the contents are even better than the cover. It’s a smashing read, full of murder, sorcery, snakes and two children whom you want to adopt, take home and feed.
Nicola Doherty is a true friend of the blog. We met in cyberspace, when she was still an editor. I followed her journey on her blog as she resigned from work to write fulltime – a good decision, as it turns out, as her novel The Out of Office Girl will be published by Headline next month. It’s a fun romantic comedy about a downtrodden editor who loses the plot when she works on a film star’s book. Nicola says it is only demi-semi-autobiographical. I got to read a preview copy of The Out of Office Girl a couple of months ago and I couldn’t put it down. I loved the insights into the publishing world and Alice’s desperate attempts to get the damn book finished. It’s a light and lovely read. Link to the Amazon page here.
Rosy Thornton is not a blogger, but she does visit here occasionally. We ‘met’ on Litopia, an online writers’ forum which serves as a combined water cooler and creative writing master’s degree for writers around the world. Rosy is the author of five novels, all of which I have read and all of which are very different. She is hard to pin down into any particular genre, but her website says she writes contemporary fiction. Rosy’s latest novel is Ninepins, a brooding novel set in the Cambridgeshire Fens, where landscape and action are inexorably linked. I picked it up when I was struggling to get through another novel, and was immediately swept up into the world of Laura, a single mother in the acutely difficult balancing act of trying to hold onto her twelve-year-old daughter and trusting her enough to start letting her go. I have spent time in the Fens, and Rosy renders them beautifully. Here is a guest post by Rosy on the drama of the Fens and how landscape meets theme in her novel.
Now you have your summer reading all lined up.
Homework assignment: read them all and come back to tell me what you think.
Ms Musings is a style leader, both in terms of shoes and reading, so I’m grabbing her books meme and outing myself as a slavish follower of fashion. I hereby give you:
The Five Books Meme
1. The book I’m currently reading:
a. Paper book
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides. When I love a book, it’s usually because there’s a sentence that grabs me like a trout on a hook and I know I have to let the author’s mind reel me in. With most books, the hook sentence usually occurs somewhere in the first chapter. With The Marriage Plot it was the very first one: “To start with, look at all the books.” Done! Here’s my lip, please hook it! TMP makes me think of Freedom, but Eugenides is much warmer about his characters than Franzen is. He reveals their flaws and foibles, but with a generosity and warmth that is heartening. Also these are three characters who mediate their love lives through the books they are reading at the time – luckily, since I’m reading and writing crime, I no longer do this, but I do remember having Jean Rhys and Angela Carter days at university. I’m halfway in, but I’m taking it slowly because this is a book that I never want to end.
I’m also reading Before I Go To Sleep, the runaway crime success of 2011 by SJ Watson. It tells the story of a woman who loses her short-term memory while she sleeps, so every morning her husband, Ben, has to tell her who she is, who he is and remind her of the story of their marriage. In order to keep some sort of order, she keeps a diary that she hides from him (her psychiatrist phones her every morning to tell her where to look for it), and on the front page of the diary are the words ‘Don’t trust Ben.’ I’m heading into the final act, and it’s getting very exciting – when I can wrestle the iPad from the four Angry Birds addicts with whom I live.
2. The last book I finished
The Leopard by Jo Nesbo. I am a desperate and huge Nesbo fan, but this one let me down. I thought it was overly-long, far too gruesome and there were too many plot strands for the tension to remain high. However, I am more than a little in love with Harry Hole, so will continue to read the series. Note to Jo: your audience won’t be bored if something happy happens to Harry.
3. The next book I want to read
Well, it’s hidden in the Christmas drawer, but I doubt I will be able to wait that long: Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending.
4. The last book I bought
I bought Germany’s Top Husband the Steve Jobs biography for his birthday, but I have a growing wish list on The Book Depository that contains these books.
5. The last book someone bought me
Germany’s Top Husband bought me The Marriage Plot. Did I mention that he was top?
What’s on your book list? Feel free to play along.
Having been given carte blanche from you lovely lot to keep on keeping on – and that fact that both Marks & Spencers and Aldi have already got their Christmas aisles groaning with mince pies and Lebkuchen respectively – I am happy to share with you my Christmas wish lists. Here are the movies and the books that I have missed this year and which I am desperate to see or read. Please feel free to add suggestions in the comments – I welcome your thoughtful tips for both. Please note that on the movie front, I am an “easy listening” watcher. I don’t do violence, torture, sex marathons, zombies or slashers. However, I can cope with very edgy humour – welcome it, in fact.
Without further ado, here is my movie wish list:
1. The Kids are Alright
4. We Need to Talk About Kevin
And now for the books:
1. Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson.
2. Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma. Nova is long-term blog friend, who is rapidly becoming a YA superstar. Imaginary Girls is her second novel published under her own name.
3. Deep Country by Neil Ansell. Neil’s a Litopia connection, but I read the Guardian review before he joined the writing site and earmarked the book then and there.
4. A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth
5. Darkside by Belinda Bauer. I loved her debut Blacklands and can’t wait for this.
6. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman. This is the Booker Prize shortlister that appeals most to me.
7. Reading Women by Stephanie Staal. A history of feminist writing.
8. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
9. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
I have just reactivated my Goodreads account, so if you are there, do let me know. I’ve just lost half an hour wondering around reading everyone’s recommendations, so will reserve the right to update my wish list according to what I find there and what you recommend.
What’s on your watching and reading wish lists?
… my revisions and therefore I deserve a list. After I open a large bottle of wine, that is.
1. Philip Larkin - yes
2. George Orwell - yes
3. William Golding - yes
4. Ted Hughes - yes
5. Doris Lessing - yes
6. J. R. R. Tolkien – yes
7. V. S. Naipaul - started, got bored, put down
8. Muriel Spark - yes
9. Kingsley Amis - yes
10. Angela Carter - yes
11. C. S. Lewis - yes
12. Iris Murdoch - yes! big favourite here and long overdue for a re-read
13. Salman Rushdie - yes
14. Ian Fleming - nope
15. Jan Morris - nope
16. Roald Dahl - yes
17. Anthony Burgess - no
18. Mervyn Peake - yes
19. Martin Amis - yes
20. Anthony Powell - no
21. Alan Sillitoe - no, not even heard of
22. John Le Carré - yes
23. Penelope Fitzgerald - no
24. Philippa Pearce - no, not heard of her either
25. Barbara Pym - yes
26. Beryl Bainbridge -no, but I want to
27. J. G. Ballard - no
28. Alan Garner - no. Who he?
29. Alasdair Gray - no
30. John Fowles - yes
31. Derek Walcott - yes
32. Kazuo Ishiguro - yes
33. Anita Brookner - yes
34. A. S. Byatt - yes
35. Ian McEwan - yes
36. Geoffrey Hill - no
37. Hanif Kureishi - yes
38. Iain Banks - yes
39. George Mackay Brown - no
40. A. J. P. Taylor - yes
41. Isaiah Berlin - no
42. J. K. Rowling - yes
43. Philip Pullman - yes, but only part of, aloud to a child
44. Julian Barnes - yes
45. Colin Thubron - no
46. Bruce Chatwin - yes
47. Alice Oswald - no
48. Benjamin Zephaniah - yes, but how does he get on the list and Zadie Smith doesn’t?
49. Rosemary Sutcliff - no
50. Michael Moorcock - no
Out of my ‘nos’ are there any I should chase down and fling onto my TBR pile? Unmissable books that I’ve missed and without which my reading education is poorer and sadder?
There’s a tower of 30,000 books in Buenos Aires to mark the 2011 World Book Capital: all genres, all languages, all cultures.
Says the Guardian:
The top may not reach unto heaven, but the Argentine artist Marta Minujin’s 25-metre tower is made of 30,000 books in languages from all over the world. Built in San Martin Square, Buenos Aires to mark the Argentine city’s naming as 2011 World Book Capital, the artist suggested that in 100 years people will say ‘there was a Tower of Babel in Argentina … and it didn’t need translation because art needs no translation’
And not an e-book in sight.
Charlotte Otter in Paris*
Last night I had the honour of hearing Siri Hustvedt read from and talk about the ideas that informed her new novel The Summer Without Men. Heidelberg doesn’t get many visits from major literary celebrities and Hustvedt is up there in my top five favourite authors, so despite having a husband out of town, babysitters canceling at the seventeenth hour, a parking snarfu in the city centre, I made it, clutching my little blue ticket like Charlie gaining admittance to the chocolate factory.
It was worth it. Siri is razor-sharp, witty and incisive. She read sections from the book in English, which a local actress then read in German.
The Summer Without Men - which I haven’t finished yet, but am savouring like a delicious treat – is the story of Mia, a poet whose scientist husband Boris decides he needs a pause after thirty years of marriage.
“The Pause was French with limp but shiny brown hair. She had significant breasts that were real, not manufactured, narrow rectangular glasses, and an excellent mind. She was young, of course, twenty years younger than I was, and my suspicion is that Boris had lusted after his colleague for some time before he lunged at her significant regions.”
Mia goes mad for a short time, a Brief Psychotic Disorder her doctors call it, and then retreats home to her mother in Minnesota, where she spends a summer in the republic of women, a summer without men.
Vital to the novel is the word “pause”. Boris does not request a stop because he wants to “keep the narrative open, in case he changed his mind.” Hustvedt said last night that the novel itself is a pause in the life of the character, the place between Crazy Winter and Sane Fall.
She also said that this was her first attempt at comedy. Comedy is subversive and she was trying to subvert and resist the idea that “the imagination and intellect of women is inferior to the imagination and intellect of men”. Men and women walk around with this unconscious prejudice and she was attempting to unpick it.
Her main tool in doing so was irony. “The tone is the thing. This is a banal situation. But Anna Karenina is banal. So is Madame Bovary. Just because it is a banal story, told with irony, doesn’t mean it is without feeling.” Later, when the moderator suggested that irony emancipates, she agreed, “Totally!” And later, “Where would we be without it?”
I haven’t reached this part yet, but during her summer, Mia takes herself on an intellectual journey through literature, science and philosophy, trying to find a “territory of ammunition” where she can understand what has happened to her. Hustvedt described this as a dance, one in which she herself is also engaged. She talked in detail about how the science of the gendered brain is being undermined, saying that the brain is plastic and changes according to experience. “The idea that women think differently is untenable.” She was not dismissing neurobiology, only saying that it was full of unconscious perceptions about women and much of of these prejudices go unacknowledged.
Her conclusion was that there is a small biological difference between the sexes and not much more. Both Hustvedt and her narrator come to realise that what is important is only “how much difference that difference makes and how we choose to frame it.”
It was all highly interesting, especially as Hustvedt operates in a literary milieu that damns women’s writing as domestic, while men’s writing is of course about the human condition. If the floor had been opened to questions, this was what I was planning to ask her, but I feel that she answered me anyway: to reverse the stereotypes and prejudices about women, gender and difference we must talk, subvert, mock, play and use irony. We shouldn’t be frighten to question received ideas in literature, science and philosophy and re-present them for our own use. There are many examples of this in The Summer Without Men, but the best is that of a certain Renaldus Columbus, who in 1559 – to the stupefecation of many women – was credited with discovering the clitoris.
To this, Mia pens a limerick:
“When Columbus spied the Mount of bliss,
He stopped and asked himself, “What is this?”
A button, a pea?
No, silly man, it’s a clitoris!”
It was a fabulous and dazzling evening, only slightly spoilt by the moderator, who had clearly decided not to plan any questions in advance and think on his feet. As a result, he came across as woolly, pompous and arrogant. Which in the light of what Hustvedt is saying about gendered perceptions of intelligence is rather ironic.
*On her tour of Europe, Siri Hustvedt did a reading at Shakespeare and Company in Paris