Friday, 29 February 2008

Spread the Word / World Book Day - last chance to vote

As I write this there are less than three hours to go before voting closes on the shortlist for THE Book to Talk About 2008 award.

If you'd like to vote for Speaking of Love, go here. Or click on the link on the paperback cover over there on the right.

Thank you ... and may the best book win.

Results will be announced on 6 March which is, as I'm sure you know, World Book Day.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Who is your favorite female lead character? And why? (And yes, of course, you can name more than one . . . I always have trouble narrowing down these things to one name, why should I force you to?)

There is only one: Elizabeth (Lizzie) Bennet. She is feisty, funny, serious, sympathetic, won't-be-downtrodden, thinks intelligently and feels passionately. She is also stubborn, prejudiced, arch and (temporarily) short-sighted. Her recognition of her failings, particularly of her prejudices, is heartwarming and her confrontation with Lady Catherine de Bourgh should inspire anyone faced with a bully disguised as a member of the great-and-good. But the chief thing about Lizzie is that she's so human that men and women fall in love with her.

It's no wonder that Mr Bennet says, when she turns down the obsequious Mr Collins's offer for her hand in marriage (a marriage that would keep the Bennet house in the family):

'Well, Lizzie, from this day henceforth it seems you must be a stranger to one of your parents.' He looks at her while she nervously awaits his decision. He keeps her waiting ... then he says: 'Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins ... and I will never see you again if you do.'

Mr Bennet's deep love for his favourite daughter, and my favourite female lead character, lights up this scene.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Jallaludin Rumi, 13th-century poet

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture.

Still treat each guest honourably:
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing
And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.

I shall remember this, and do my best to act on it too.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Books and Myths

Ali Smith has written a wonderful book for the Canongate Myths series (a wonderful series, too) called Girl meets boy. The book sets 'Ovid's most joyful metamorphosis', the story of the man-woman Tiresias, in the twenty-first century.

I've just read this passage (from pages 29-30):

The second-hand bookshop used to be a church. Now it was a church for books. But there were only so many copies of other people's given-away books that you could thumb through without getting a bit nauseous. Like that poem I knew, about how you sit and read your way through a book then close the book and put it on the shelf, and maybe, life being so short, you'll die before you ever open that book again and its pages, the single pages, shut in the book on the shelf, will maybe never see light again, which is why I had to leave the shop, because the man who owned it was looking at me oddly, because I was doing the thing I find myself doing in all bookshops because of that maddening poem - taking a book off a shelf and fanning it open so that each page sees some light, then putting it back on, then taking the next one along off and doing the same, which is very time-consuming, though they don't seem to mind as much in second-hand shops as they do in Borders and Waterstones etc, where they tend not to like it if you bend or break the spines on new books.
Now I'm going to think about that every time I'm in a bookshop, or even just at home ... .

Does anyone know the name of the poem she's talking about?

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Booking through Thursday

All other things (like price and storage space) being equal, given a choice in a perfect world, would you rather have paperbacks in your library? Or hardcovers? And why?

My father used to throw paperbacks away ... and I rescued them. I couldn't bear the idea of books being thrown away, but he came from a generation that thought paperbacks were rough replicas of their lofty hardback originals and didn't deserve a shelf life (on his shelves).

But I love paperbacks. They're lighter in your pocket (or bag, or suitcase) and they cost less to send to a friend. Often they have better covers so they look prettier on your shelves and their spines bend more easily ... paperbacks every time for me. (Even though it is lovely, as a writer, to see your work in hardback it really isn't necessary, or particularly green.) I think there'll be fewer and fewer hardbacks as paperback publishing becomes more and more sophisticated. There are some beautiful trade papebacks out there in the world, with front and back flaps and wonderful production values. Long live the paperback.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

A love letter from Dr Iannis on Valentine's day

When Dr Iannis's beloved daughter, Pelagia, returns from a meeting with Captain Corelli, she tries to pretend to her father that she hasn't met Corelli. But she knows that her father knows that she has. Dr Iannis doesn't talk about his daughter's love for Corelli directly; he simply says this:

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being 'in love', which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground and, when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.
I love these words: they ring so true with me. They go straight to my heart.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Book reviews ... to blog or not to blog ...

... is a very interesting question.

And there's a very interesting post about it all over on Vulpes Libris which I've only just discovered - from dovegreyreader - all about whether blogging book reviewers are the saviours of small publishers, have caused the end of decent criticism or are unpaid cheerleaders.

My vote goes to the SoSPs and the UCs because, without them, Speaking of Love would have been remaindered (that lovely trade euphemism for crushing books to death in a pulping machine) by now, instead of being in with a chance for an award. So here's a big THANK YOU - in several languages (from this site) to all of you who've reviewed it and helped spread the word.

Merci, grazie, cheers, dankon, tashakurr, mamnoon, tankje, gracias, danke, efharisto poli, mahalo, takk, arigato, obrigadu, eso, yo-twa, shukria, kulo, webale nyo, tika hoki, oneowe, aio, lim limt, hambadiahana, tak sa mycket, yegniyelay and syabonga.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Spread the Word some more ...

On 4 February Richard Lea listed, on the Guardian Unlimited's Arts Blog, the ten books on the Spread the Word shortlist under the heading: 'What Goes into a "Book to Talk About"?' Then he wonders why 'the Kennedys, Enrights, Adichies et al were never in with a sniff'. He goes on, 'It looks like a clear case of "ask a funny question, get a funny answer".'

But the award is for works by 'living authors whose work has not been selected for high-profile media promotions or awards. Hidden gems deserving wider notice'. Perhaps Lea didn't know that ... but that's why there aren't any Kennedys et al on the shortlist, nor were they ever on any long-longlist. Anyway his post has provoked discussion about the award and about what a Book to Talk About is and that's a good thing. You can read the debate here ... the comment that appeals the most to me, so far, is this one, from inhouse:

That they are books to talk about is a way of saying they're great for book groups - they examine big issues. No need to intellectualise it so much! You might want to stick with the lit crit stuff, where the writing is all, but some people just want to argue about the moral issues raised by a book, because reading is a great way to get a perspective on our lives and society. It's all good, but perhaps not for everyone. It's easy to be sniffy, but why other people read is not a matter for supervision!
Hurrah for inhouse. No supervision! What do you think?

Monday, 4 February 2008

Spread the Word

Speaking of Love has been shortlisted for World Book Day's The Book to Talk About award. It's very exciting ... .

You can see the ten books on the shortlist here; you can comment on and vote for the ten books on the shortlist here or you can go straight to Speaking of Love's very own page on the Spread the Word site here to vote and comment.

Please do vote, please do comment, please do spread the word ... .