Tag Archives: Jeanette Winterson

and more still

from 2005 in Gothenburg, while I’m carried away and all that. The amazing thing is how many books Son and I managed to fit in before we went, just so we could be up to scratch on all that was talked about. And how many of those he really liked.

Susanna Clarke

These days I have too much to read, and Son has too much of everything, but still – I believe – retains a fondness for Roddy Doyle and Susanna Clarke, whose name I always forget. But Son adored her Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and was so keen to hear her speak that we actually had to go and sit near the front (and you know I don’t do the front), so he could be close enough.

Roddy Doyle

We read The Commitments in preparation for Roddy Doyle even though he was there to talk about his newest book. I don’t think I realised quite what a literary giant he is in Ireland. Just because I’d barely heard of him at the time didn’t mean he wasn’t revered, or famous.

And it’s funny how things come back to you after all these years. I knew full well we’d seen Lee Child, and been thorougly underwhelmed (I know, everyone I admire seems to like him) by him. But that’s not what I meant. When seeing the photographs for the first time in ten years I realised I knew the man next to him, the one who was there to chat; John-Henri Holmberg. He has more recently been involved in all things Stieg Larsson, and only the other week the Resident IT Consultant came home from the library asking me if I had heard of this person who had translated the anthology he’d just borrowed. I had.

John-Henri Holmberg and Lee Child

Fairly certain we didn’t listen to Jeanette Winterson, but only saw her at the signing. Or maybe we did. See how much I ‘know’? It wasn’t the year that Jeanette complained about the dreary events rooms, anyway. That came later.

Jeanette Winterson

I’d not – still haven’t – read the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, but that didn’t stop us from going to hear him chat to Lotta Olsson; the woman who likes what I like, crime and children’s books, and does so for Dagens Nyheter. On departure I had discovered that I did have a Jonathan Stroud book in my possession, so brought Buried Fire along to be signed. I felt somewhat ashamed for popping up bearing an old book and such a decrepit looking one at that.

Jonathan Stroud and Lotta Olsson

But Jonathan was so pleased to see a well read copy of – I think – his first book, that I learned something new. Authors like seeing that people have read their books, and if it’s an older one, it shows you didn’t simply turn up because of an event for some other book, brandishing a pristine copy of it.

So whenever you see me with an old book, blame Jonathan!

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!

(Some) badness is in

Rats, raccoons, spirally pasta princesses and The Ass. (That’s not rude, btw.) That’s what we have to offer today. Picture books have been read, and let me tell you how shocked we are.

It seems crime is in. And by that I don’t mean crime as a genre, which I wholeheartedly approve of. No, young readers are to be taught to misbehave. To steal, to be bad.

Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler, The Highway Rat

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler have a bad – if nicely rhyming – criminal rat. A fat rat. The Highway Rat. He steals things off nice people. He’s not nice at all. But luckily he gets his come-uppance in the end.

Hannah Shaw, School for Bandits

Raccoons are no better. In Hannah Shaw’s School for Bandits Mr and Mrs Raccoon are concerned for their useless son. Ralph Raccoon is quite nice, which is so not on, and they send him to Bandit School. That’s not very nice for Ralph. Then he accidentally wins the Best Bandit competition, and he gets an opportunity to show his hooligan classmates how to do it.


In You Can’t Scare a Princess by Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre we have pirates. They need to be taught a lesson, too, and who better than Princess Spaghetti? (Personally I think she looks more like Princess Spiralli Pasta, but what do I know?) So much badness. And then you think the Princess has sorted those awful pirates, when in actual fact they only have more and better crime on their minds.

Jeanette Winterson and Rosalind Mac Currach, The Lion, the Unicorn and Me

So thank goodness for The Lion, the Unicorn and Me by Jeanette Winterson and Rosalind MacCurrach. It features an ass with not just a heart of gold, but a nose as well.

You think you’ve read all the Christmas stories. They are all variations on the same theme and how many can there be? Well, this was a new one to me, although I see it’s been around a few years. I read it from a sense of duty to begin with, but found pretty soon that I loved it. It’s beautiful, and would be a good book to read with a young friend when Christmas comes.

Jeanette Winterson and Rosalind Mac Currach, The Lion, the Unicorn and Me

Which it will do far too soon.

I always did have a soft spot for donkeys, though.

The Midland, the tea and Frank

I’m beside myself with excitement, and that may well be a good place to be. Which will be best? Afternoon tea at the Midland Hotel in Manchester? Or afternoon tea at the Midland in the company of Frank Cottrell Boyce? (And a few others, I have to admit.)

Have long (very long) wanted to enter that establishment and never quite worked up the courage to do so. Yes, I hear you say. It doesn’t sound like me at all. But now, thanks to the Manchester Children’s Book Festival the Midland will be graced by the presence of a real bookwitch. If it looks too grand I’ll hide in a darkened corner, just so I can listen to Frank. There will be a quiz, which I’ll stand no chance of winning, and a reading. It’s the grand finale to four days of bookfestivalling.

I’ll miss Michael Rosen. Story of my life, that. I’ll be touring Fickling county when the festival starts on Thursday 1st July, and I’m travelling through Bali Rai-shire as it continues, with lots and lots of educational events. Carol Ann Duffy is at the helm of this great venture, and you can read more about it here. Carol Ann and Jeanette Winterson will also head the gala dinner at the Midland on Friday night.

Provided all that broomsticking doesn’t finish me off completely, I’ll be there on day three, however, and what a programme there is! Frank, again, Liz Kessler and Cathy Cassidy for all us girls, and Steve Cole for, um well, us girls again and for the boys, too. Adèle Geras and Mary Hoffman will be getting romantic and historical, which I know they’ll do well. And there is a big discussion on teen lit with Kevin Brooks, Keith Gray, and Sherry Ashworth.

My main fear is that I’ll be so knackered after Saturday that it’ll be hard to crawl out of bed for tea with FCB.