Category Archives: Meg Rosoff

Jonathan Unleashed

Meg Rosoff’s Jonathan reminds me a lot of God. That’s God as in There Is No Dog. Or Justin from Just in Case. Young and adorable and a little useless.

Meg Rosoff, Jonathan Unleashed

Here, in Meg’s new novel Jonathan Unleashed, There Are Two Dogs, and thank goodness for that! Don’t know where Jonathan, or the reader, would be without them. Persevering with that dreadful funeral in celadon, most likely. Sorry, I meant wedding. A real-real wedding – of colour – to Jonathan’s long term girlfriend Julie, who is so wrong for him that it’s hard to know where to start.

And here’s the thing. You know when your favourite author changes genre? To the kind that you like the least. To me adult novels are full of angsty and weird ‘adults’ who worry about their relationship[s] throughout a whole book, with a bit of careers and sex thrown in. (When there could be ficticious wars and under-age sex between cousins. The odd wizard, maybe.)

So, Jonathan Unleashed is about an angsty young man, who is rather weird (his girlfriend points out, ‘you used to be less weird’), and who worries about this proposed funeral – pardon, wedding – to Julie, and about his job, and the dogs, with a bit of sex thrown in.

And you know what? It’s simply wonderful! I could read it again, and again. It’s only marginally more adult than the fairly adult YA novels Meg has written so far. It’s still as crazy, very New York, very Meg Rosoff, lots of dogs. How could you not love it?

Poor Jonathan works in marketing, writing the most soul-destroying lines to sell useless stuff. He lives in a flat that seems to be too good to be true (there is a reason for that) and then his brother moves abroad, leaving his two dogs Dante and Sissy with Jonathan.

He worries about them. That they might not be happy. Perhaps they are depressed? A bit of canine weltschmerz? He takes them to the vet, Dr Clare, to discuss the likelihood of this and whether they might one day rip a small child’s face off.

Now, that is as far from their minds as these dogs go. They have an agenda. They can tell Jonathan needs help, and they are prepared to provide it. They are not hypochondriacs. They know what they are doing. When professional wedding planner Julie suggests this funeral – sorry, wedding – for her and Jonathan, those dogs need to take action.

There is a French coffeeshop woman who is very lovely, there is Dr Clare, and there is Greeley, the uncertainly sexed new PA at work. Who’s it going to be, and can anything be done before Jonathan goes crazier still? I mean, you can’t have a hero going round speaking funny (even if it is stress-induced).

Limpopo gleam.

When you feel stupidly neurotic, it’s refreshing and reassuring to meet someone who’s got it worse.

Blimp. Pork toff.

Bookwitch bites #134

Kathryn Evans’s launch earlier in the week went very well, as I might have mentioned. Books selling out and bookshops being tightly packed and all that. Here is a photo I may have stolen from Candy Gourlay, which shows how happy Kathryn was and how they couldn’t possibly have fitted me in.

Kathryn Evans

On the same day the list of authors taking part in the 2016 Yay! YA+ in Cumbernauld was announced, after organiser Kirkland Ciccone had had me on tenterhooks for a long time. Some I know, some I don’t.

And the programme for Glasgow’s Aye Write! has now been made public, and you can get your tickets very very soon. Please do! They always have so many people coming that I want to go and see, that I have to give myself a stern talking to and remind me that I don’t have the stamina for traipsing to Glasgow all the time. But there is one event I must go to. Have a look through the programme and see if you can work out which one.

It was National Libraries Day yesterday, and the Guardian published love letters to libraries by people such as Meg Rosoff and Ann Cleeves.

The Branford Boase longlist was announced this week, and I have read precisely one of the books on it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me… And the odd thing is that even though it’s for first novels, I could swear some of those authors have been around for years. It’s probably just me again, isn’t it? To the list:

Othergirl by Nicole Burstein, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press)
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare, edited by Penny Thomas (Firefly)
The Bolds by Julian Clary, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press). Illustrations by David Roberts
The Baby by Lisa Drakeford, edited by Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House)
The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon & Schuster)
Captive by A J Grainger, edited by Elv Moody and Christian Trimmer (Simon & Schuster)
Seed by Lisa Heathfield, edited by Ali Dougal (Egmont)
Deep Water by Lu Hersey, edited by Sarah Stewart (Usborne)
Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr, edited by Ben Horslen (Penguin Random House)
13 Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt, edited by Jessica Tarrant (Hachette)
The Next Together by Lauren James, edited by Annalie Grainger (Walker)
The Unlikely Mabel Jones by Will Mabbitt, edited by Ben Horslen (Penguin Random House). Illustrated by Ross Collins.
Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre, edited by Stella Paskins (Egmont)
The Accidental Prime Minister by Tom McLaughlin, edited by Clare Whitson (Oxford). Illustrated by the author.
Girl on a Plane by Miriam Moss, edited by Charlie Sheppard (Andersen Press)
The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, edited by Genevieve Herr (Scholastic)
My Brother is a Superhero by David Solomons, edited Kirsty Stansfield (Nosy Crow)
Birdy by Jess Vallance, edited by Emma Matthewson (Hot Key Books)
Hamish and the Worldstoppers by Danny Wallace, edited by Jane Griffiths (Simon & Schuster). Illustrated by Jamie Littler
One of Us by Jeannie Waudby, edited by Rachel Leyshon (Chicken House)
Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford edited by Nicholas Lake (HarperCollins)
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, edited by Bella Pearson (David Fickling Books)
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine, edited by Alison Dougal and Hannah Sandford (Egmont)

More resolutions

Sorry. I wasn’t going to do them. But the Guardian published some author resolutions on reading, and I need to air my views.

Obviously, I don’t have resolutions. I long decided the best way to go is to avoid them like the plague.

But, I would like to read more. Meg Rosoff aims to read for four hours a day. That had better be tongue-in-cheek! Even if I could, I wouldn’t. Unless temporary circumstances forced it. It feels excessive. Two hours? I could aspire to that.

Jackie Morris has a sensible idea; half an hour at each end of the day. I like that. But then I had to go and ruin it by wondering how I’d deal with those mornings when you’re up early to go to the dentist, catch a train, or something. (OK, I’d read in the waiting room to calm myself down, and the train is perfect for reading.)

In general though, I suppose it’s worth aspiring to change. I have this long term idea of a new reading challenge I could do, while recognising I will never get round to it. It’s much easier to go on as I am.

Harking back to the toddler years – Offspring’s, not mine – I felt so much better once I got re-started on reading. On the other hand, sitting is said to be the new smoking, and I do feel the need to sit during most of my reading. I should aim to bake more bread, or do the ironing; both of which are jobs done standing up, and both are good for the mind.

Or, I could go back to audiobooks. Anthony McGowan cycles round London listening to books. I have a garage full of audio books, but nothing on which to play them. Besides, I have ‘read’ them already.

In reality I imagine I will stumble from book to book the way I have been for years. And I may need to ditch my current book. It could be that it’s not gripping me enough, rather than lack of time between eating Stollen and watching Christmas television that keeps me from picking the book up.

Diversest of them all?

OK, I’ll stick my head out again. Not as much as some, but at least a token.

I was surprised two weeks ago by the reaction to my blog post about the storm surrounding Meg Rosoff and her feeling that she preferred to write the books she wants to write and not the ones that others feel must be written. But then that is the whole point of a – relatively – free society. We are allowed to think differently.

Before that I had read Michael Grant’s piece on how he feels he’s the most diverse YA author around. It was a bold statement, which I admire him for. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’d say from what I know that he’s at least partially right. I am very fond of Edilio in Gone. Lots of us are. He’s an immigrant. He’s not white. And he’s gay. And that all seems perfectly normal. He is hopefully not in there to be a token character, but simply to be himself.

Michael Grant

Now it seems Michael is being accused by ‘fans of diversity… [who] are enraged that I’ve done what they claim they want everyone to do.’ While that sounds a little outrageous, it also has the ring of truth to it. Many people with an agenda will get annoyed by almost anything, even when it doesn’t make sense. Because it’s being annoyed that is so satisfying.

Michael is no scaredy-cat who will hide behind bland words. On the contrary, he goes right out there and says what he thinks and feels. He looks like a tough guy, but I’m sure he’s like the rest of us on the inside. We can all feel hurt and baffled, but many of us retreat and say nothing when things go wrong. Not so Michael.

I’m glad he says it out loud. Someone needs to say it. Some mornings the emperor really does forget to dress.

Missing the storm

I – sort of – missed it. The storm around Meg Rosoff the other week when she voiced her opinion on diversity in books, which so offended lots of people that they felt the need to become unpleasant about it.

I did see the link to the article in the Guardian. But I was so preoccupied with something else, that I remember looking at the article but not being able to decipher what it was saying, and deciding I’d get back to it later. Seems I didn’t, and with a memory like a colander I had forgotten this when the topic came up for discussion again.

Not wanting to look more of an idiot than strictly necessary, I Googled my way back to the storm, and that’s when I recognised I’d already been there. While I am on Twitter, I rarely tweet and even more rarely read what others are saying, and this is probably a blessing, as even friends who were formerly fervent fans of Twitter say they’ve had enough.

Whether or not you believe Meg was wrong to say what she said (that writers have the right to write what they feel like writing, and not what other people feel is needed to make life more equal), she should have the right to voice that opinion without being attacked.

It is possible to write a fairly good book on demand. But it will most likely never be quite as astoundingly good as some books that have developed inside the head of an author.

You know, once publishers recognise that simply because they’d like another Harry Potter, they can’t make it happen just by demanding it loudly enough. When they send out press releases saying what a great book they have to offer, it’s not going to be a more marvellous read because it’s on a ‘worthy’ topic.

I have reviewed aspie books because I feel they are important. Afterwards I have occasionally felt that maybe I should have left a particular book alone; that it was more its topic I approved of than that it was a genuinely lovely book.

There have been two occasions on Bookwitch where things have got a little unpleasant. One was to do with diversity, and I’d have been on the side of my attacker, had she not been so rude about it.

Yes, we could do with more books about black children, say. Malorie Blackman wrote the fantastic Noughts & Crosses novels, featuring main characters who are black. That doesn’t mean that all books about black people will be good.

I could ramble on, but I’d better stand aside and leave room for anyone who feels I’m wrong. I’d like to think I’m not wrong, but I know that many others will have opinions that differ from mine. We could all be right together. If we wanted to.

Birthday Meg

Happy Birthday to my fairy blogmother, Meg Rosoff!

Won’t mention which birthday, although I suppose it’s a look-up-able fact. But we are both 29 forever and have never been better. And all that.

Meg has even grown up so much that she has written a so-called ‘real’ book. You know, one for adults. I’m looking forward to it. And I obviously do not believe what I just said; that you work towards writing for adults. Some of Meg’s novels have been labelled adult books in the US, so she might already be quite grown-up.

The young witch and Meg Rosoff

So much has happened in the eleven years since the publication of How I Live Now, the best book in the world. I can still remember a time when I hadn’t read it, and also reading the blurb in the Guardian that first time, and later on starting to read HILN, thinking it was set in WWI and being surprised they had mobile phones back then.

Let’s hit the cake!

Some February wisdoms

It’s not only the books from my February calendar page (by Kerstin Svensson, who does very nice calendars) that I like, although they look fine. The ‘thought of the month’ appeals to me as well. Hope I’m not showing some dreadful ignorance if I say I don’t know who the Jean Paul who is credited with saying it is:

Calendar page February 2015, by Kerstin Svensson

‘Life is like a book. The fool leafs through it quickly, but the wise man reads slowly, thinking about things, because he knows he can only read the book once.’

Well, that’s my translation, of what is probably a really well known quote…

I felt a bit down in the dumps yesterday (not in a romantic sense, I hasten to add), so pondered this business of re-reading favourite books. Many do, not least authors, who seem to have certain books they re-read every year. My time tends to run out before I get to the re-reads, however.

But as I was sitting there, my newly arranged personal shelves, next to my reading chair, beckoned. Because on the shelf closest to me, I have my top three books. So I got them out, and read the first few pages of all three, as a treat.

They still feel as wonderful as I hoped they’d do, and what struck me about them was how all three start by introducing the main character by letting them talk about a person close to them. No sudden explosions or crazy ways to grab the reader’s attention. Just a low key mention of one of the other characters; a male cousin, a pilot from Stockport and an old woman neighbour.

Very lovely. And if I do go off on a re-reading spree, you know where I’ll be.