Monthly Archives: September 2007

The bishop or the singer or the author?

I’m trying to decide here. Who to see, or even how to choose. I’m going to that fun place again – the Gothenburg book fair. They have a few hundred events over four days and I won’t be up to going to quite all of them.

There are fewer seminars to my taste this year, which in a way is good, as exhaustion might take longer to set in. But when there are three or four all starting at the same time; which do you pick?

Shall I go for the “biggest” name or the worthiest subject? Do I prefer the President of Estonia to Che Guevara? Yes, I know Che is dead, but something about him. One of Sweden’s biggest pop stars or some new Swedish crime?

Who knows. Sometimes events take care of themselves. Last year I sent Son on his own to waylay Orhan Pamuk while I cured my galloping migraine with smuggled-in Earl Grey and Jamaica cake. And then he went and got the Nobel Prize. Pamuk, not Son.

I have that afternoon down as a bit of a hit and miss. As I was about to sink my teeth into the medicinal Jamaica cake I spied Librarian Husband of Cousin, so needed to delay the cure for a chat. LH of C was chasing Jacqueline Wilson. He kept missing her, and I kept seeing Jacqueline. That’s life.

Regarding choice of seminars; suggestions are more than welcome.

The Roman Mysteries on television, so far

Well, that’s it for a while. We’ve just finished the last televised episode of the Roman Mysteries. As they had carried on well into August we had to record them for our return home from holiday, which explains the lateness in viewing.

Daughter and I are hoping the BBC will film more of the books, while wondering how they are going to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in. Sticking to the plot ending of book seven would have been quite helpful for anyone wishing to film book eight.

But, we’re not complaining. We loved nearly all of it, and could have gone on much longer. Let’s hope there’s more filming done before Lupus does a Daniel Radcliffe and grows tall.

Guardian shortlist

Well, what a long time we had to wait for this. I’d been panicking, thinking I’d missed it somehow. Even emailed Julia Eccleshare to find out.

I’m having a “have I mentioned this before?” moment, but I’ll plough on regardless. Very satisfied to find the wonderful The Falconer’s Knot by Mary Hoffman on the list. The Truthsayer by Sally Prue and Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine both made it to my “must read” list a while ago. Didn’t get further, mind you, but that’s not because of lack of interest. And finally, Mr Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire, which interests me much more than I’d expect a younger book to do.

So, not a bad list at all.

Before Meg Rosoff starts complaining about there being no predictions, I will predict. No, I won’t. All I’ll say is that I feel there must have been a reason for my sudden and inexplicable interest in Sally Prue earlier this year. A witchy feeling, if ever there was one.

Easier to find

In the beginning it took a lot of enthusiasm and hard work to find the bookwitch. But then there was no reason why people should want to find me. I’m still not sure why they look, but I’ve got easier to find. Surely the most telling sign must be how much spam I’m avoiding (good for a vegetarian, on the whole), which by now is a lot.

These days it’s possible to find me both by searching for the blog and by name. I can be googled, therefore I exist. Or something like that. And I hasten to add that I didn’t google myself until Daughter reported I was actually there.

What really puzzles me is what people search for. Sometimes I’m puzzled as to why they are searching for that particular thing at all. Sometimes I just wonder how they ended up with me. My favourites are “Roman latrines” and “Artemis Fowl’s hair”. The mind boggles.

Today someone wanted memoirs for agoraphobics, and that does appeal to me. Perhaps I could write one.

Anyway, I’m grateful for the interest. Very.

Books for uni

The earlier laidback attitude has now turned into last minute panic as Son tries to throw a few things together for university. “I had only a suitcase when I went to Edinburgh” mutters the Resident IT Consultant as he sees the mountain of necessities in the front room. But that was in the olden days, and things were different.

I was interested to note what books would be deemed essential. Apart from some dictionaries, there’s a Bryson and the brand new Roddy Doyle. And he can’t live without his His Dark Materials. And as the signed copy can’t go, and the new set can’t go, we now have to find a second hand set of paperbacks for the daily perusing. This is with about nine hours until he heads out through the front door, and most of that time should be spent in bed.

What did I start all those years ago?


I try not to, unless you insist on asking me what I think of your new dress.

There is a variety of ways to imply something other than the truth. Son has got it down to a fine art. I suspect it’s his confident manner that leads the innocent bystander to assume all kinds of things.

This is the Pullman nerd we are talking about. The Pullman influence led him to talk about Milton’s Paradise Lost during a debate in his sixth form. Shortly afterwards we met the assistant head who had taken part. He was impressed by Son’s opinions on the subject, but quite embarrassed to admit he hadn’t read Paradise Lost. The Resident IT Consultant dutifully informed the poor man that neither had Son.

The Guardian’s book blog had a discussion on this earlier. Confident debating, or whatever. I posted a comment along the lines of the above story. To my surprise someone else assumed I was “lying” in turn; “thought post was literary point-scoring at its finest complete with is-it or isn’t-it-true factor thrown in”. And I’d only considered it a vaguely amusing anecdote.

Free books

As Son’s bookseller contract came to an end before the start of term, he dragged home countless damaged books. We are rather magpie like when it comes to books. Anything floating around can find a home here. As if we have the space.

I suppose all bookshops have means of getting rid of damaged stock. Son signed up for anything that looked at all interesting. One day recently he had so much to carry home , that the older generation was called upon to assist with books and bike from the railway station.

There was even a perfect, but unwanted, signed hardback copy of a crime novel. The writer had sent it to “the crime buyer” as a thank you. I’m beginning to suspect that those working there don’t read books. How else could they pass up on so much?

Young reviewers are back

The young reviewers at the local bookshop are back. The beginning of term had all of them back wanting new proofs to read. One girl had moved away from the area and she was so upset at leaving the reviewers’ club that she wants to review from a few hundred miles away. So quite possibly this could be a good idea to copy in other bookshops. The waiting list will have to remain just that. Hardly anybody wanted to leave, so newcomers will have to practise patience.

Several author visits have been announced, so lots to look forward to. But it seems that the way publishers plan for Christmas means there are fewer proofs around right now. Plenty of books for October publication dates. Those are seemingly meant to last until Christmas, and are intended for Christmas presents. (If it was me, I wouldn’t be able to wait.) So, fewer books for November. Personally, I think the publishers are wrong. I believe in publishing all the time. It could be that many people only buy a few books a year, but I don’t feel that should mean that my reading/buying habits should have to adapt. It’d be better the other way round.

The biscuits were more wonderful than ever…

Oxford again

If Adele Geras’ time at Oxford was a piece of history, then the time Vera Brittain spent there is even more historic. Both their tales have a nice touch of nostalgia, when looked at from the twentyfirst century.

It was Linda Newbery who led me to Vera Brittain and her book Testament of Youth. Linda had been inspired by it when writing her own war fiction. At first I assumed that Testament of Youth was an obscure and little known book, but after laying hands on a copy in Oxfam, I realised Vera Brittain was both famous and important.

Considering what Vera went through in the first world war I suppose it’s wrong to envy her her time at Oxford, but I think I do. It was harder for a female student in those days, but there were many positive aspects as well.

In fact, throughout Testament of Youth I was rendered almost speechless by the efficient ways of communication they had in those days. Letters went where they were supposed to, trains arrived on time and telegrammes did the task of the mobile phone.

And it’s interesting to consider that Vera’s pre-Oxford train trips into Manchester took her past my house, except it hadn’t been built then. But I can picture her journeys perfectly.

I can really recommend Testament of Youth. I’d intended reading a chapter every now and then, but I went through the 660 pages in very little time. Couldn’t put the book down. And if it had been possible I would have loved to have met Vera.

More memoirs, please

I’m getting doddery. But I’m fairly sure Melvin Burgess is supposed to be writing his memoirs. Can’t find the information now, but I believe it’s something covering Melvin’s teen years. So, roughly the age his readers are, which makes sense.

Earlier this year it was Jacqueline Wilson’s turn with Jacky Daydream. That story takes the reader from Jacqueline’s birth to the age of eleven. Again, this is logical, because many of Jacqueline’s books are stories about young girls of that age, and it’s easy to recognise quite a few of her fictional girls in her own story.

Jacky Daydream is both a charming modern history lesson and a lovely introduction to one of our most popular children’s authors. Perfect reading for adults and children alike. And I do hope Jacqueline will write a sequel.

Thanks to a blogger colleague who recently stumbled across a second hand copy of Yesterday by Adele Geras, without her glasses on, even, I went in search of a copy for myself. And thanks to Dina Rabinovitch it was easy to find. It’s a short book, and it mostly deals with Adele’s late teens, primarily her time at Oxford.

Not wanting Adele to sound ancient in any way, but this little book provides a slice of history, about a time and a place that has changed quite a bit since. The book left me surprised that Adele got her degree at all, after so much clambering through college windows in the middle of the night, hanging out with really cool people (even in those days…), and singing and acting.

Right now I feel I could do with many more memoirs of this kind. I love my fiction, but it is so interesting simply reading about the memories of real people.

So come on, reminisce away for me!