Tag Archives: Hilary Mantel

The never ever books

Almost exactly seven years ago – when I was a brand new little Bookwitch – I blogged about which book from a list of 100 I would never read. Today the challenge has been upped somewhat, in that I’m supposed to find 100 books I would never read. I blame the Guardian. They started it. Then Maria Nikolajeva picked up the gauntlet and in turn got Clémentine Beauvais to pick hers.

And here I am, copying them, while having no clue what I am about to claim I will never read. So that is fine. I so know what I’m doing.

Anyway, the Guardian’s idea is that what is not on your shelves is more revealing than what is. Although that relies on you giving shelf space only to what you read and like. Some of us have books to show off with, or books we hope to read one day. Some of our best books might not be there at all. We could be in love with novels borrowed from friends and libraries, and actually returned to them again. We are not all shady types who steal what we can’t get hold of by any other means. Tempting, but …

Clémentine seems to agree with me on Martin Amis, so I was more topical than I realised the other day. Between them, she and Maria disagree on John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Clémentine won’t read it and Maria loved it. Well, I have read half, and am more than satisfied not to be taking it any further.

It’s almost impossible to know for certain what you won’t ever read (again). But I do feel very strongly I won’t be going near anything by G P Taylor.

Sitting here and squirming won’t get me to even ten, let alone 100. But I really don’t like saying negative things about books and authors. OK, I have severe reservations about Lionel Shriver and Jeanette Winterson.

Am in agreement with Clémentine on not wanting to read sequels to some books, whether I enjoyed the first one or not. I also have several more than TFIOS as a half-read-but-no-further book. Disagree about The Knife of Never Letting Go, which just got better and better.

It’s a relief to see that one is allowed to have no intention of reading certain classics or the big iconic books. You know, the kind that people you admire swear by, claiming it made them who they are, and all that. On that basis I honestly still don’t expect to read Hilary Mantel, however much Meg Rosoff likes her.

I unpack books from jiffy-bags every week that I will never read. Either because I don’t want to, or because time is limited. And that’s interesting in itself, since whatever people send me, it does tend to be children’s books or crime, which are my favourites. Just think how much worse it would be if my letterbox suddenly started spitting literary novels.

No, I give up. It’s an interesting concept, but I don’t know, and when I do know, I don’t always want to put it in print.

To G P Taylor: I want my wasted week back!

Stop it!

I’m not terribly keen on Martin Amis. I am fairly sure I’ve not read any of his books. So I’m basing my lacking keen-ness on what I know about his person. I could object to his fame. Or to the fact that he probably earns a sizeable amount of money from writing.

The one thing that would never have ocurred to me to do, is suggest he should stop writing books. I don’t think he should. It’s what he does, and according to some people he is pretty good at it.

I liked some of his father’s books, so I accept that Martin most likely has some talent in that direction. He writes. People read and like and pay for the pleasure. That’s fine.

But if your name is J K Rowling and Harry Potter made you more money than most of us can begin to imagine (and I speak as someone used to handling lots of money; just not my own), then it appears it is OK to suggest she should give up writing, and leave her window of opportunity to a few other needy authors.

Why should she? I like the fact that she clearly enjoys writing so much that she does it even when she doesn’t have to, in order to feed and clothe her children. Especially now, when she must have discovered that she will get lots of flak if she publishes another book.

Unless it’s something as unimportant as a children’s book. (These are my words, but the sentiment in the Huffington Post the other day seemed to be that children’s books are not proper books, and that even J K has Lynn Shepherd’s permission to write more. Generous. What if she were to earn an even bigger slice of the author income cake?)

I’ve not read Hilary Mantel’s books either. I have nothing against Hilary, who I’m sure is nice. But I probably won’t choose to read her books while there is so much else I would like to prioritise. She wins prizes. A lot. And while it would be lovely for other writers to win as well, I don’t feel we can suggest that no one should award Hilary any more prizes, in case it upsets her peers. Or that she stops writing in order to prevent literary judges from praising her work.

And to go on some more…

about those libraries that we need, or aren’t entitled to, depending on point of view.

The Resident IT Consultant takes things seriously. One day – I forget how – we ended up discussing whether you get that shades of grey book in libraries. Oh, I remember why. I read in the paper that you wouldn’t want it from a library, because you’d be too ashamed, facing a librarian with your questionable choice of reading material.

So now that the Resident IT Consultant has his fresh, new library card, he felt the urge to explore whether you do get it in the library. I issued a prohibition on him actually going in and asking. I could just see how that would end badly. So he researched it online. It’s not an exact science, apparently, but it would seem Stockport libraries have around twenty copies of the ‘must read’ book of 2012.

Because he’s a thorough kind of man, he balanced this by checking how many Bring Up the Bodies we have in these parts. Also around twenty. Nice and even. Crap. Or quality.

It’s good, isn’t it? You can have anything to read. And why not? (The Retired Children’s Librarian in her day objected to Nancy Drew and similar, and she was entitled to do so.) I was quite heartened early on, when noticing that Stockport has Mills & Boon on its shelves. And why shouldn’t it?

I’m sure librarians are the same as doctors. They’ve seen it all before. And as someone commented on the letters page in the paper, these days you check books out yourself, just like in Sainsbury’s. You can blush at the machine, but it – too – has probably seen it all before.

PS I went into Stockport yesterday. Was approached by twenty-something couple inquiring where the library was. If you were prejudiced, you’d have said they didn’t look like library users. So maybe you just can’t tell.

Bookwitch bites #90

I’m very grateful to my faithful and hardworking commenters here on Bookwitch. Hence Seana’s link yesterday to a profile of Hilary Mantel in the New Yorker, was most welcome. I was going to say it was surprisingly timely, as well, but I’m guessing it was actually in the paper because of Hilary’s second Man Booker win.

Congratulations! I’m not a Hilary Mantel reader (yet) but I gather she is marvellous. The profile was a thorough and interesting one, and Seana suggested it on account of similarities she could see between Hilary and J K Rowling. Perhaps J K will win the Man Booker at some point in the future. Personally I hope for more children’s books from J K, but you never know.

Somewhere to rub shoulders with great names in the book world, is at next year’s Crimefest in Bristol. I have been reminded that if you book a place before October is out, you can buy it with a discount. And once you have your pass booked, you can also have the hotel booking cheaper. Win-win situation, in which you get all those lovely professional murderers. Just imagine; you too can meet Søren Sveistrup, the man behind Forbrydelsen (The Killing).

What goes on in people’s brains could be interesting, too. Sorry, not people. Teenagers. Slight difference. Nicola Morgan is going to talk brains in Edinburgh next month. She’s good on brains. I was feeling all nice and safe from this lovely event, until I realised I could probably actually be there. But it will be fine. Interesting, and not gruesome. That’s when Nicola operates on people without anesthetics. I pass out and that’s that. This will be most civilised.

The Royal Institution is also about brains. They are making it easier, or more accessible for smaller brains perhaps, with a series of one minute videos. On real subjects!

Lena Hubbard

And to usher in the weekend, here are a pair of almost identical interviews with Swedish singer Lena Andersson. You might prefer the one in English. But should you be feeling adventurous, the Swedish one is here. (They are not identical. Obviously.)

The YouTube clips should have you singing.

Missed events and a reunion

Alexander McCall Smith

The Alexander McCall Smith avoidance continued to rule. We might have some photos of the man, but through various oversights on Tuesday, we ended up having to give his children’s event a miss. We had a shorter working day, but somehow the whole day was short.

Sue Black and Val McDermid

Got to Charlotte Square just in time for photographs with Val McDermid and Sue Black. I know it’s the writing that counts, and the event, but I have to make a remark about Val’s rather nice top. Sue looked far too nice a person to be into morgues and such things. But she is.

Omitted taking pictures of David Bellos, because we didn’t know who he was at the time. I realised as he walked away that he was the one responsible for the book on translation I mentioned some time ago, and which I had failed to get a copy of. Refrained from running after him to ask if he had a spare copy on him.

Then as we were waiting for Sven Lindqvist, Daughter spied her Rector, Alistair Moffat, and got very excited. Unfortunately we had missed his photocall as well… And she was too shy to chat to him.

Sven never turned up. Eventually he was found in his tent, by which I mean the venue for his talk. He was comfortable there, and wanted to remain seated, which is fine. I like someone with unconventional ideas. And we caught up with him at his signing, where he was faced with my totally ancient copy of his recently translated Myten om Wu Tao-tzu. It made him smile.

Sven Lindqvist - Myten om Wu Tao-tzu

In the queue I recognised a rucksack. It belonged to the lady in front. I remembered it – and her – from two years ago. This time I struck up a conversation with her, Swede-to-Swede, as we were queueing for our fellow countryman to sign our books.

Sven Lindqvist

And afterwards I had warmed up enough to go over to chat briefly with Sven’s wife, who was waiting on the sidelines. But we missed Hilary Mantel. Obviously.

The internet graced us with its presence for a while, so we sat in the sunshine outside the yurt and did our online stuff.

(I must mention the way festival staff dealt with the emergency halfway through Sven Lindqvist’s talk. Someone collapsed and staff quickly and efficiently took care of the woman and got her out, allowing the event to continue. Impressive.)