Posts Tagged ‘books’

Shoreditch Literary Salon 4th Anniversary: Craig Taylor, Taiye Selasi, Thomas Keneally and A.M. Homes.

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Tuesday night at the Shoreditch Literary Salon I watched Craig Taylor read an extract, centred on the word laconic, from his new book. He’d written it that afternoon.

Then we enjoyed Taiye Selasi’s beautiful kimono, some delicious stories about Toni Morrison, and a reading from her novel, Ghana Must Go (named after the plastic red and white striped bags Ghanaians often use at airports, and what was shouted at the Ghanaians as they were hounded from Nigeria).

Next up was Thomas Keneally, launching his new book, The Daughters of Mars (which tells the stories of Australian sisters who become frontline nurses during World War I). You know Thomas Keneally? Australian, won the booker in 1982 for Schindler’s Ark… THAT Thomas Keneally. 77 years old, with a robust sense of humour, Keneally read heartrending extracts and revealed he’d been inspired to write in a female voice by the final guest, A.M. Homes.

Homes premiered her new novel, May We Be Forgiven. Her reading was dark and humorous, and punctuated with her own stand up comedy routine tangents. Though she was keen to impress the book is a hefty 203,000 words, I shouldn’t let it put you off.

I love the Shoreditch Literary Salon. It’s a free event, where you can get a free cocktail, and a slice of pizza (if you’re lucky, have sharp elbows and nerves of steel. That pizza is good). You only need to be a member to attend – of the Facebook group, not the club. I know, how cool is that?!

The erudite Damian Barr conducts proceedings with a Manhattan and a healthy dollop of wit. Tuesday night he and the rest of us celebrated the salon’s 4th anniversary. There was cake. It was marvellous. As per usual the room was packed to the rafters, a heady mix of body heat and books. You can’t beat it.

Many authors, including Thomas Keneally, comment on the audience. They use words such as: young, hip, fashionable, and beautiful. And whilst all of those things are true of the crowd (does L’Oreal style hair flick) what they’re really commenting on is how unusual that is. Your traditional book-loving crowd are like the Tamara Drew stereotypes: earnest, older and wearing some form of knitted brown clothing. I don’t wish to be rude or disparaging, but if you’ve attended a number of literary events up and down the country, as I have, you will recognise the ‘type’. Huzzah to the cardigan brigade who embraces the written word and salivates over a beautiful sentence: I salute you. BUT it’s refreshing to know enjoying books is not the preserve of a particular generation, or the elite intelligentsia. Books are trendy, stylish, fabulous and sexy, and all those other words usually reserved for the fashion and lifestyle pages of magazines. Reading is hot. And if that doesn’t deserve a huge chocolate cake of celebration, I don’t know what does.

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Bank Holiday Books

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Make the most of the last Bank Holiday weekend of summer, and the year, and grab yourself a good book.

For intellectual posing by the pool or in the park: 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey, the Orange Prize winner Madeline Miller will raise your temperature with this story about the love between Achilles and Patroclus (yes, they’re both men).  A tenderly written, beautifully described re-telling of a tale that appeared in Homer’s The Illiad.  The story runs in a golden blur across the sand like it’s eponymous hero; and despite knowing what ultimately happens, the book never loses its pace or tension.  I became so entwined and invested in Patroclus’ and Achilles’ destiny I couldn’t put this down.  I kept reading till the early hours of the morning before snivelling into a pack of tissues.  Stunning.

For making you appreciate holidaying with your family isn’t so bad: 

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

First, let me assure you Jeanette Winterson’s autobiographical Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? isn’t the depressing tear-fest you might fear.  Then let me tell you that it is, at times, harrowing.  You cannot read the life story of a girl who was abandoned at birth, adopted by a borderline poverty-stricken family, abused by her religious zealot adoptive Mother and rejected for being a lesbian, without expecting a few tears.  But there is more than misery in this memoir.  There is survival and hope.  Winterson is a strong woman, a strong writer and this is a book to make you value your life.

For the day after murder on the dance floor:

The Fall by Claire McGowan

This is a murder mystery with a difference.  It’s not just the victim who meets a sticky demise; the middle class dream is butchered too.  McGowan joyfully destroys every spoil and sparkle of Charlotte, her spoilt protagonist, when a week before her £40K wedding her banker boyfriend is accused of murder.  Charlotte must seek help from unlikely sources: Keisha, an angry woman with a potentially deadly secret, and Hegarty, the police officer who arrested her fiancé.  I didn’t know crime could be this funny.

For reading on your Kindle, if you’re over the age of 21:

Diary of a Chav: Trainers v Tiaras by Grace Dent

Technically this is a young adult novel, but don’t let that put you off.  Dent nails the language, life and dreams of her Chav protagonist Shiraz Bailey Wood, from Goodmayes Estate, Essex with her trademark humour.  But far from ending up the joke of the book, Shiraz is a hilarious, intelligent young woman you really root for.  This is a stealthily clever read, which made me re-examine my own prejudices as well as laugh so much my organic herbal tea came out my nostrils.  But be warned: there are six books in this series, and once I started I had to read them all.  Worth a cheeky download, innit.

Have a happy bank holiday weekend x

 

 

 

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Is reading a book on the way to work unprofessional?

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She hid her copy of Proust inside a magazine to read on the train.

A friend of mine downloads books onto his ipad to read on his commute because, ‘carrying a book or a Kindle into a meeting is unprofessional’.  To him toting a well-leafed novel in a corporate environment sends the wrong signal.  It makes him look distracted, as if he’s timewasting instead of focusing on the agenda.  Based on this logic reading a book is a bad, shameful thing.  It’s something to hide in your electronic planner.

Is reading detrimental to your career?  Is your book habit stopping you from getting that promotion?  Poppycock!  Books are perfectly packaged little mind enhancers.  They’re little dumbbells your brain works out with.  They’re bound cluster bombs of educational titbits and insights into the human condition.  Read a book and you don’t regress into a monosyllabic fool unable to focus on a 5-point financial strategy, you blossom and grow into a smarter, more self-aware person.

We can all learn from reading stories.  My understanding of history comes from fiction, not the classroom.  My grasp of politics, religion and all those things you’re not supposed to discuss at dinner parties is borne from books.  Hell, I’m the pre-internet generation: I learnt about sex from Jilly Cooper.

Each time you open a book you prosper.  I want to work with people who are continually learning.  I want to hire people who are hungry for knowledge.  I’d like to entrust my money to someone who’s read The Great Gatsby, Great Expectations and The Prince.  I feel confident in people who read.  A book is a badge of honour, and infinitely better than strolling into a meeting with a dog-eared copy of a free paper.

 

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Passionately Mind Blogling

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Blogging.  It’s all a bit of nonsense, right?  Nobody reads a blog unless it’s really good.  And how do you start writing a blog, which currently doesn’t exist, and make it a ‘really good blog’ instantly?  It’s mind blogling.  I shouldn’t start with the puns.  Blog off.  Blogging on.  To blog, or not to blog, that is the predictable question.

It’s all been done before.  I’m too late.  It’s enough to give me bloggers block, or webpage fright.  I’m writing something that nobody will read.  I’m a post-blog existentialist before I’ve begun.  Is blogging to no audience the same as talking to yourself?  My Gran said that was the first sign of madness.  The second is probably tweeting.  Least if no one’s reading my blog I won’t have to check my spelling.

But that’s defeatist.  I can do this.  I can conquer the blog.  I googled blogging tips.  “The best thing to do is write passionately and try to provide meaningful, useful information,” according to this article: http://weblogs.about.com/od/writingablog/qt/The-Secrets-Of-Blog-Post-Length.htm.  I confess I didn’t read any further than that quote, I was too busy trying to think of something meaningful and useful I could impart.  I’m still thinking.  Passionate though, passionate I can do.

“Passionate” is the word people use to politely describe me after I’ve drunkenly ranted at them about an issue.  They mean shout-y.  Or aggressive.  Or really, really loud.   All of which I’m re-branding right now into: “passionate”.  I own passionate.  I can totally work passionate.

So what am I passionate about?  That’s the key to a really good blog.  You write about your passion: fashion, feminism, food, books, those small china thimbles with cats painted on them.  Whatever.  Then fellow passionate people flock to your blog and ‘pash’ over it (like teens do on Auzzie Soaps.  It involves tongues.).  Easy.

Except I don’t have one all consuming passion.  I get distracted.  I am a goldfish with wifi.  I am a butterfly flitting from one colourful idea to the next.  Given enough wine I could be passionate about any of the things I listed above, except the china cat thimbles.  Sorry.

My passion cannot be contained to one area.  I have an excess of passion.  I’ve just been waiting for the right outlet.  The blog may not be read by anyone, but least I know now what it’s going to be used for.  Pash away.

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