Sunday, March 27, 2011

The vastness of the short story

Good article on the short story by Chris Power. I particularly like this:
...novels that seek to contain multitudes, to embody a particular society at a particular time, seem doomed to fall short. The short story, by contrast, acknowledges the vastness and diversity of life by the very act of focusing on one small moment or aspect of it. The story is small precisely because life is so big.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

World Book Night and non-readers.

Interesting comment by Annette Green at The View From Here, on the success or otherwise of World Book Night, quoting some figures. My own comment is more anecdotal. The Oxfam bookshop in our middle-class and pretty literary Didsbury was giving away two of the titles, a thriller (I can't even remember the title: you may know what it was) and Carol Ann Duffy's The World's Wife. Beforehand I talked about it to Wendy, the manager. Since one of the stated aims had been to get books to people who don't normally read, I asked her if she thought it remotely possible that those sort of people would come and ask for a book (the shop wasn't doing any kind of event, simply advertising in its window that the books would be available for collection). She told me that initially she had thought of giving the books out in the deprived area near where she lives, but the more she thought about it, the more she thought it would be a wasted exercise: so many people there aren't even literate. So she decided to give the books away in the shop instead. She said she would observe carefully those coming for the books and let me know.

Well, I went down to see myself, arriving twenty minutes after the giveaway was due to start. I saw nothing: turned out that beforehand a queue had formed right around the block, but they had cleared out of books within 15 minutes. Everyone had grabbed their book and immediately scarpered! There was just no one around! The staff told me that everyone collecting a book had indeed been your typical book-buying middle-class Didsbury type who'd have been more likely than anyone to buy the books in the first place.

So much for getting the books to those who don't normally read. Although I have to say (as an ex English teacher) that either that was a pious whitewash or those organizing WBN, who really ought to know the harsh facts about the extent of non-reading in our culture and its psychology, had better wise up quick.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Reading group links

Something I started to do was put links on here to the discussions of my reading group, but I'm afraid I have kept forgetting.

Here's the latest, a discussion of Graham Swift's Waterland, and here's a list of all the books we have discussed.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The other World Book Night

If you don't already know about it, do go on over to Nicola Morgan's blog to read about her great idea for contributing to World Book Night. Essentially, having had some doubts about the wisdom of the WBN project to give away 40,000 copies each of 25 books (doubts I share), she has thought up the notion of buying a book between now and Saturday (5th March) and giving it away with an inscription marking WBN and stating where the book was bought. I'm definitely in, for one!

Since the official WBN is concentrating on books already well known, I suggest too buying from a small publisher and a less hyped author - and you couldn't go wrong with my own publisher, Salt!

EDITED IN: I've pulled up a great suggestion from the comments below, made by Nicola Morgan herself:
I'd love if people who did go for my Buy-and-give-a-book idea would add a comment here: to say what they bought and who they gave it too. 
Crossposted with my author blog.