Category Archives: Radio

Genre?

By turning as French as I can – no mean feat for a non-French speaker – I have retrieved the ability to say ‘genre.’ Which is good, because one sometimes has to say it. Out loud, and so others can hear what you’re on about. It was while I interviewed Anthony McGowan about five years ago I discovered that for the life of me I couldn’t say the blasted word.

To get round this handicap, I’ve had to avoid using it, or to spell it.

When I was young, and tremendously foreign, I learned this word. Both what it meant, and how to ‘say it in Swedish.’ It involved saying it really wrong, in a kind of pidgin Swench. I don’t know whether Swedes now know better, or still say it like that.

As to its meaning, well, it stands for sub-categories of fiction, like crime, or romance, or sci-fi. All very nice categories. And useful if you want to specify what something is about. Because that’s what I took it to mean, a useful labelling tool. Not that it might indicate anything less worthy.

But that’s what it’s come to. At least in Britain. Maybe it was always thus. Maybe the term was invented, or adopted into the English language, in order to refer to rubbish fiction, on a completely different level than Literary Fiction.

A couple of months ago the word and its meaning came at me from two totally different directions at the same time. One was a question on a Swedish book newsletter site, where someone was asking ‘What does genre mean?’ Except they did it in Swedish. And I think the question was prompted by the discovery of the more British use of the word.

The other was on social media, where someone reported a programme they’d listened to, which went roughly like this:

(I asked permission to use it.) It’s not an exact quote or anything; more an idea of how people actually think, and are not ashamed to admit to in public. But basically, anything not very good is genre.

It’s very snobbish.

I read practically only genre fiction. By which I mean several genres, like children’s, or crime. It’s really good stuff. Sometimes I read Literary Fiction. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it isn’t and that’s when I remind myself why I prefer children’s books and crime. Although, some really Literary authors have been known to lower themselves to genre-writing. Quite often something seems to go wrong when they do.

The emergency quiche

You are under the impression you’ve coined an expression, and then it turns out you’re not alone. At. All.

We eat emergency quiche here. Not in national emergencies, but more when for whatever reason we can’t make dinner [in time]. They are generally bought, in order to be convenient, but would obviously taste better if home made. Trouble with home made is they are often gone by the time we have the emergency.

Last week the Resident IT Consultant discovered they have emergency quiche in The Archers! Seems they have unexpected explosions as well, so I am grateful we only have the pastry, egg and cheese concoction.

Today we have emergency Daughter in the kitchen, by which I mean she’s not on the menu, but in charge of making what’s on the menu. It’ll be a lot nicer than quiche.

Desert islands

Have I been doing this for too long?

On Sunday I was minding my own business, hanging the washing, absent-mindedly catching the last bit of Desert Island Discs as listened to by my Sunday chef, the Resident IT Consultant. While I rarely listen to the radio, I do like Desert Island Discs.

I heard the ‘victim’ say he needed Alice in Wonderland as his book. Apparently all the editions in the world, but this was disallowed. Some people…

And then we moved on to his luxury. Lots of sketchbooks. The penny dropped; I was listening to Chris Riddell. Quick double check with the Resident IT Consultant, ‘oh, is it Chris?’ He nodded sheepishly. I’d like to think he felt guilty for not alerting me to this state of affairs.

But how weird it is when one man’s luxury makes him immediately identifiable.

The Red Light Zone

It seems that being Head of BBC Radio Scotland – and I might have got the exact correct title wrong – is pretty much like being the Bookwitch. (You come up with ideas, and then you make them happen.)

Jeff Zycinski, The Red Light Zone

I had never heard of Jeff Zycinski. But then I don’t really listen to the radio. I sort of assumed he was Scotland’s Terry Wogan, or something, but it turns out he was more the man who came up with the idea for a programme like that and put ‘Wogan’ in front of the microphone. (Or should that be behind?) Except he did it with people and programmes in Scotland, which means no one has heard of him.

Or have they?

Anyway, now that he has left the BBC, Jeff is ‘telling it all’ in his book The Red Light Zone – which is a much less daring title than you might think. It’s not sex so much as the warning that you are on air. Good title, unless you are being sent it in a cryptic message on Facebook, making it look like Badger the Mystical Mutt had been hacked. (This is the first book I’ve reviewed, published by a fictional dog.)

Jeff’s 25 years at the BBC make for interesting reading. There is some gossip, and we meet the Princess Royal as well as Chris Evans, and I now know much more about the various BBC DGs down in London, but it is mostly ordinary stuff. The running of radio for a quarter of a century.

I liked it. In the end so much that it acted as a painkiller, and I also had to put up with the Resident IT Consultant stealing the book whenever I wasn’t looking. Occasionally when I was looking, because I’m a nice witch. He liked it too.

If you remove the radio aspect from this biography, it still works as a description of 25 years of life in Scotland. I like the sound of Jeff’s wife. And their children. But I would rather that the dog had lived…

Fun on the radio

What you want to do now is to put your feet up and listen to the radio.

On Boxing Day (that was yesterday) there was a programme about [Badger] The Mystical Mutt on Radio Scotland. It was really about Lyn McNicol and Laura Jackson, who are the two slightly crazy women who are Badger, and who travel tirelessly around Scotland and beyond to bring their very large dog into schools to teach and entertain.

I’ve still to catch them in the act, but the books I’ve read have been fun, as are Lyn and Laura.

You have another four weeks during which you can listen to this online, or if you get up early on New Year’s Day you can hear the programme on the radio.

And today on the Today programme, you can hear Prince Harry interview Barack Obama. That could almost be worth getting up early for.

I’m not much of a radio listener, but I might take up my own suggestions here.

Bookwitch bites #142

It was nice to find myself in the company of Chris Riddell* and Judith Kerr for breakfast yesterday. Not for real, and it’s not as we were all in Hay or anything, but these two lovely people had dragged themselves into a radio studio ‘early’ on a Sunday morning to share their thoughts about Manchester and Hitler and whether to keep the truth from children.

Judit Kerr, stolen, borrowed from Chris Riddell

The downside to that, as Judith said, is that children think anyway and come up with the oddest ideas. So Hitler wasn’t actually hiding behind the hanging decoration in the toilet. But she sort of believed he might be. And Chris mentioned that his immediate reaction on hearing the Manchester news was to think of his daughter, recently graduated from University there. It’s how we function; we grab something close to ourselves.

In the Guardian Review we could read an extract from Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust. It didn’t take more than a few sentences and I was back in Lyra’s world. I already like Malcolm and his suspicious mind.

Jonathan Stroud, The Empty Grave

Another book to look forward to is Jonathan Stroud’s last Lockwood – The Empty Grave – which had a cover reveal this week. I tend to sneer a bit at reveals like this, but I found myself quite taken with it. Lovely to see George at long last. And I’d say that whereas an empty grave could be seen as a positive thing, I don’t think we should have such sweet expectations here (because where is the corpse?).

Awards are good. Especially when given to the right people for the right books. Some favourites of mine have recently managed this. Simon Mason was awarded Best Crime Novel for Young Adults at CrimeFest for Kid Got Shot. Robin Stevens got the award for Best Crime Novel for Children. I’m simply pleased that the younger books are getting attention like this.

Adrian McKinty won the Edgar for Rain Dogs, which is no minor thing, and is well deserved. He seems quite pleased, judging by this blog post. At home in Australia minding the children, Adrian sent his wife to receive the prize.

(*I’m counting on Mr Riddell’s goodwill in not minding having his sketch stolen by me, as usual.)

Bookwitch bites #140

The London Book Fair was last week. There was plenty to tempt, but very little time and energy on my part, so I’ll hold out until some other year. The family was represented by Son, who sleepered south one night and sleepered back north the next night. In between all that ‘sleeping’ I imagine he did book-related work. So many people were there, and I have actually not asked him who he saw, but I do know he met up with/ran into Daniel Hahn.

Daniel did lots of things at LBF, most of which I’ve no idea what they were. (If you feel this is looking like me telling you very little, then you are right. I am.) I understand there was an event with Son’s colleague, fellow translator Guy Puzey. I’d hazard a guess they talked about translations.

Daniel Hahn radio

While on the subject of Mr Hahn, there was a piece on the radio the other week, where he talked about Good Books.

The Carnegie shortlist has been announced, and that has good books too. Mal Peet is on there, with Meg Rosoff, as are Glenda Millard, Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, Zana Fraillon and Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Carnegie shortlist 2017

Damien Love who self-published his exciting book Like Clockwork a few years ago, now has a fantastic book deal in the US where it will be published some time in 2018 as Monstrous Devices.

Damien US deal

And finally, Debi Gliori tells the world about my marvellous baking skills in a recent blog post on her new blog. It’s very sweet of her. If I didn’t know what a great baker she herself is, I’d say she’s too easily impressed. In fact, I think I’ll say that anyway. Too easily impressed.

But you know, it’s not every culinary attempt of mine that ends up having a professional portrait made of itself.

Semla by Debi Gliori