Monthly Archives: September 2007

“Barbecuing a cow with a magnifying glass”

That, I hope, is a correct quote from Douglas Adams, and describes the process of making a book into a film. (I’ll get to the point later.)

As the witch made her way through the airport this morning, en route for Gothenburg, she walked past that bookshop she wrote about a few months ago. Yesterday I found someone had googled me with the search phrase “airport bookshops that people like”, and this was the shop I wrote about, but not because I liked it. Anyway, outside they had a sign saying “please take one”, so I did.

“One” was the shop’s book magazine, which turned out to be quite enjoyable. I was so engrossed in it later on, that I nearly missed seeing my childhood beach as the train ran next to it for a while. And I wouldn’t have needed to be on a train at all if it wasn’t for the toothache that sent me to the dentist. So, now I am very tired, and I know it shows, but we’ll get there in the end.

The magazine had reviews and articles about a surprising number of authors that the witch likes, knows, writes to or is about to meet next week. So, it felt like it was written for me, even though it is connected to that bookshop.

The main article of interest was the interview with Philip Pullman, household God, about the film coming out later this year. Hence the Douglas Adams quote. There’s a photo of Philip staring at Nicole Kidman (Mrs Coulter), which is understandable.

The purpose of the magazine is obviously to make people want to buy more books. And it works, because even this old cynic was ready to buy.

At the end of the day, literally, I didn’t miss the beach. I think the dentist improved the tooth, touch wood. I’m back in Gothenburg, and I’ve read through the small programme programme, and feel I want to do it all. Know it’s impossible, feel tempted to sleep in in the morning, but will endeavor to get out of bed. There’s the freebie bag to receive, friends to meet and the President of Estonia. Among other things.


Next week sees the publication of a different kind of book. Amnesty International have come up with the anthology with a difference. Click consists of ten chapters, each written by a different author.

Linda Sue Park kicks off with a story about the grandchildren of an American photographer, George (Gee) Keane. The thread is then continued in very diverse ways by David Almond, Eoin Colfer, Deborah Ellis, Nick Hornby, Roddy Doyle, Tim Wynne-Jones, Ruth Ozeki, Margo Lanagan and Gregory Maguire.

Gee turns up in every chapter, each set in a different part of the world, so I suppose this is the Amnesty feel to the story. There’s plenty about the effects of war and hardship, but more than anything there’s a lot of love in the stories.

Click starts in the present, moves back to the past and finishes in the future. Lovely book by great authors. And a good introduction to some you may not know already.

Pullman’s Blue Book

At least I think it is. There’s been talk of a blue book to match his red one; Lyra’s Oxford. It’s just been announced that Once Upon a Time in the North will be published in April. The bookwitch household can barely wait.

The new book is meant to go back in time, to before the period in His Dark Materials. It will cover the meeting between Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison, both good friends of Lyra’s in HDM.

They are two very attractive characters, and I believe all HDM fans will want to know more about their past. I know there’s a risk with sequels and prequels, but only if done badly or for commercial reasons only. Philip can write in whatever direction he wants, and I’d expect it to be good.

More than good. Though I wouldn’t mind knowing what’s happening to the Book of Dust, which I feel we’ve been waiting for forever. Possibly a little longer than forever.


I hate this book

When I dislike something I don’t tend to write about it, because it wouldn’t be a very nice thing to do. But ususally when I dislike what I read, I’m free to give it up whenever I like. In fact, that’s why I prefer to ask for review copies of books I like the sound of, rather than have lots of books sent to me unasked. This time I’ve been asked by my local bookshop to read a book to discuss with the group of young reviewers, where for a change we are all reading the same book.

So, I’m persevering. Moaned to a writer about it yesterday, and was reassured by her comment that “nobody reads XX” and that I’m noble. I can just about make out that halo floating up there, if witches can have haloes. I’m two thirds of the way through, so not too much longer to go. Though, as I’ve said plenty of times; a shorter book will always be appreciated. I skim as much as I can decently get away with, and try not to shudder at how the book could have done with more editing.

It will be very interesting to see what the children at the bookshop will say about it. My guess is that they will be more complimentary than the old witch. I’ll let you know.

Mark Haddon on television

Well, no, it wasn’t Mark himself; it was his new written for television drama Coming Down the Mountain, which was on a couple of weeks ago.

I think I’d seen somewhere that it wasn’t going to be like The Curious Incident, but that was only true insofar that it wasn’t about Asperger’s. This time Mark had written about a Down’s Syndrome teenage boy, and with just as much skill.

We were all sitting on the edge of the sofa, wondering where this was going, but you can trust Mark to get it right. Just enough terrible confusion in the middle, before coming along with an interesting ending.

Hope you didn’t miss it?

Black Beauty for greyhounds

I’ve borrowed this title from Michael Morpurgo about his new book Born To Run. Many of his books make me cry, so I can’t judge whether this is sadder than average. It’s about a greyhound and his very different lives with three owners. It’s lovely, but a hanky wouldn’t be a bad thing to have nearby.

Michael’s granddaughter was part of the writing group last week. I was worried she would be tired of talking about her famous grandfather all the time, but she humoured me. It’s nice to know that you don’t have to be so cool when young, that you don’t read children’s books written by family.

I’m concerned that I was the only one there to react to the name of Morpurgo. I’d have thought that a former Children’s Laureate would register on the minds of more people. Please tell me children’s books aren’t unimportant!

and Miranda

We caused Miranda France some sleepless nights, but being totally professional, it didn’t show. She looked wonderful every day. Miranda had tutored for Arvon before, so we were in good hands. In fact, I’d say that both Hannah and Miranda felt like our big sisters, were it not for the fact that most of us are older than they are. Maybe it’s possible to have younger big sisters?

I knew very little about Miranda before we met. I got one of her books, and even deciding which one was difficult. The first or the second; Spain or Argentina? Both areas of interest to me, so I closed my eyes and went for Bad Times in Buenos Aires.

Very good choice, or so I thought until Miranda read from her Spanish book, Don Quixote’s Delusions. That sounds just as good. Will need to find more time somewhere so I can read that too.

Miranda must have a knack for going places and finding weird people in absurd situations to write about. And that’s not an invitation to write a novel about wannabe writers in West Yorkshire!

We had a slightly surreal conversation about me being a witch. I do like people who believe in me.

Though, having a close member of your family advertising mayonnaise in Argentina isn’t totally ordinary either. Light mayonnaise. I’m not getting paid, so won’t say what brand.