Tag Archives: Martin Amis

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.

Bookwitch bites #54

So many awards, so many winners. So hard to keep up. But please keep writing and keep winning! It’s what we like.

Keren David has just won the Lancashire Book of the Year for When I Was Joe. Yippee!

Chris Priestley - sort of

Earlier this week the Leeds Book Awards took place. I realised something was up when so many authors appeared to be travelling to Leeds, all on the same day. First I got confused because many of them seemed to be winners, but they do several categories in Leeds. Hence lots of winners. David Gatward won one, Lee Weatherly won another and Jon Mayhew won a third. The runners-up were awarded what looked like huge diamonds, so all did very well. Candy Gourlay was there, and so was Helen Grant, Laura Summers and Teresa Flavin. And Chris Priestley, who is nowhere near as horrible looking as we had been led to believe. Phew.

Another kind of winner, although not of an award this time, is Mal Peet and his marvellous piece about Martin Amis and the brain damage. Thank god for people like Mal. I feel the need for a little quote here: ‘And when, as I do (I can’t help myself) I read the adult books shortlisted for the big prestigious prizes I find myself thinking “Really? This is ‘ground-breaking?” My editor would never let me get away with toss like this.’ That will be why Mal has won one or two things himself.

Football scene, Celtic fans

And because Mal likes football, I’ll leave you with some ‘winning’ football pictures from the world premiere this week of Divided City by Theresa Breslin. Those who were there said it was phenomenal and fantastic and amazing. I’m willing to believe them.

Football scene, Rangers fans

Is the emperor really wearing clothes?

I believe I’ve found a Swedish Martin Amis. He seems to be called Bengt Ohlsson. He’s such a great author that he’s allowed to write ‘not so nice’ things about others in the name of culture and entertainment in a newspaper column. Unlike dear Mr Amis, Bengt didn’t suggest that children’s books are simple to write. He said (and here I get very nervous, because I saw what others didn’t see, and how can I be sure that what I saw is right, when it seems that most people whose opinions I normally value saw the exact opposite?) that nobody much likes the crime novels by Camilla Läckberg. He put her name in the same sentence as Auschwitz. I believe he meant (apparently) that her books are bad, but it’s fine to enjoy bad books. He does so himself, except obviously not the bad books by Camilla.

She got upset, which is so unreasonable because she makes a fortune on those books of hers, and she wrote a reply. That was proof that she’s unable to read (because he really didn’t say what she thought he said), and anyway when you are being bullied in the school playground it’s not the done thing to cry. Stiff upper lips are so much better.

I came across this spat on Annika Bryn’s blog, and immediately clicked on her link to see what witty column Bengt had written, seeing as Annika appreciated it. I read it over and over and at no time did it look like anything but an unpleasant comment. I swallowed my not inconsiderable pride and admitted that like Camilla herself, I had not grasped the ‘real’ meaning of the column either.

Now you see, I have heard of Camilla Läckberg, but have never felt the urge to read her books. But that’s not picking on her. I didn’t know Bengt Ohlsson, however, and admitted it. That was considered strange. He’s a great writer of literary works and he’s won prizes for them. I just feel that in that case his column, even if the topic was above my head and carried connotations unknown to me, should have been an example of good and interesting writing. And I don’t feel it was.

And he was rude. Had he managed the rudeness with flair and wit and intelligence I might have overlooked it. But he didn’t. And why not, if he’s the prize winning type?

In the papers

I could be forgiven for thinking that Facebook had spilled over into the Guardian these last couple of days. I was quite impressed with Lucy Coats’s rant about Martin Amis (with whom I’m not even remotely impressed) ending up in the Guardian, courtesy of Benedicte Page. Even more impressed to find that Lucy’s fame travelled on to all sorts of other grand, and possibly not so grand, publications. So what I’m really doing is joining in. Belatedly.

Lucy Coats

The ‘Facebook spillage’ comes from finding other Fb friends quoted, and I welcome their arrival in the world of ‘real’ news. There should be more stuff like this. Yes, they should ideally ask permission first, but at least we now have real people making sensible comments.

So, on the basis that you all know I read things backwards, I obviously read Friday’s paper after Saturday’s. (I have also saved up three weeks’ worth of Weekend to read, yes to read, some time. Not sure when.)

Friday’s Benedicte Page (such a suitable name don’t you think?) piece was about this giving away of one million books which, to be honest, I haven’t given as much thought as perhaps I ought to have. Yet again it featured ‘my’ Fb friends. I got so paranoid that I had to go and check whether this Benedicte and I share these friends. We don’t. We share some others, though.

I get the impression that someone is combing through people’s blogs to find newsworthy material. Feel free to come here for some first class blog-filler.

Though, setting the ‘borrowing’ aside, I’m glad that it’s not only journalists having a say. They only know so much, and maybe they are beginning to see the light.

Caroline’s bath

As Daughter left the house yesterday morning she realised she was under-equipped, so came back for the forgotten mobile. Good thing she did, or she couldn’t have texted me during lessons. (Ahem, you didn’t read that here.) The glad tidings was that Caroline Lawrence, our favourite Roman is coming to Daughter’s college today. Some quick Facebooking on my part and the message from Caroline was that her train was just pulling into Stockport that very minute.

Caroline Lawrence

As I was getting ready to dig into my lunchtime porridge (no need to feel sorry for me) the phone rang. ‘Caroline Lawrence for you’, said the Resident IT Consultant. Oh. ‘Would we like to have tea with her?’ Yes, we would. More texting to Daughter. (Sorry, Aquinas!) Hot on the heels of all this came the very timely press release from Orion with the news that they have bought Caroline’s new book series. The Western Mysteries: The Case of the Counterfeit Injuns will be published next year (that’s a long time to wait…) and there will be four books altogether. We can’t wait.

Henna tattoo and lemon tea

Anyway, we took ourselves off to Caroline’s hotel for when she had finished her school event, and got there just as Caroline emerged from her taxi, looking as fresh as anything. Daughter went along to inspect Caroline’s room and both came back in raptures, which is why we all trouped up for a look after finishing two large pots of tea between us.

Caroline Lawrence at Eleven Didsbury Park

Two baths. One in the room and the other on the deck outside, but we felt it was a little too cold for the al fresco one.

Caroline Lawrence and Stockport hats

I don’t think the hotel knew what had hit them, with requests for more tea, lemon slices and cake. We only stopped short at licking the plate clean. The tea was so good even Daughter liked it, and the lounge was very nice and did all right for photos.

Halo there, Caroline

We talked Westerns, obviously, with lots of info from Caroline’s many research trips. I really feel for her with all that tiresome travelling. I had another look at her Western blog, full of gun powder and other stuff on how to kill people. Can’t wait. I know I already said so, but repetition is good.

Nice gossip from the Dubai literary festival, which Caroline had just returned from, hobnobbing with Jacqueline Wilson, Garth Nix, Darren Shan and Martin Amis. That’s the life.

Her trip up north is for a couple of events at Manchester Grammar School, one yesterday and one today. And as a bonus Caroline’s number one fan James has arranged for this morning’s talk at Aquinas College, where by pure coincidence another number one fan, Daughter, can also be found. We have actually already met James at another event, which goes to show how fans keep bumping into each other. The teacher involved is so popular that he has a fan page on Facebook, or so I understand. It’s the English department who are hosting this talk on how to write novels and getting published. Daughter will leave Physics and venture into foreign lands to hear what Caroline has to say, and to take photos. So there will be an update later.

Make sure you come back.

Monday was going to be the day when I recovered from a very busy week. But then it’s not every day a real American cowgirl steps off the noon train as it draws into our little town.

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Later, as promised. I gather from Daughter that Caroline’s talk was interesting and that a good number of students had turned up for this first period of the day. Judging from the slides I’ve seen in the photos, Caroline covered some of the Roman Mysteries as well as things on writing in general. I’m hoping for some inspired future novelists, here.

Caroline Lawrence at Aquinas College

(Photos by Helen Giles)