The Book of Birmingham is the latest title to be published by Comma Press in their cities in short fiction series which serves as an excellent introduction to some superb contemporary writers. The ultimate in armchair city tours, the series is ideal for discovering other places, other lives.
The Book of Birmingham – focusing on the second largest city in the UK after London which “sits at the central crossroads of England, the industrial heartland of the country” – brings together short stories by some writers known to me, (Kit de Waal, Bobby Nayyar, C.D. Rose, Sharon Duggal, Kavita Bhanot), and some not, (Sibyl Ruth, Malachi McIntosh, Joel Lane, Jendella Benson, Alan Beard, Balvinder Banga). The city’s “working-class foundation is inseparable from the city’s literature, reflected in the voices of its best-known contemporary authors: Jonathan Coe, Catherine O’Flynn, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kit de Waal, Joel Lane . . .”
The voices in this eclectic collection are all significant and have a powerful sense of engagement with the city. They convey a thoughtfulness and lyrical elegance imbued by anger as well as a tender melancholy. Continue reading Review | The Book of Birmingham, Kavita Bhanot (ed.) | Book of the Week
We live in an increasingly polarised mad and maddening world seemingly going from bad to worse. The hunger for “how to be happy” and “how to achieve more success in life” top tips type reading fodder is countered by our apparent preference for bad news over the good, (motivated by schadenfreude, a heightened vigilance for threats thanks to a daily Media diet of disasters, shock value . . . or so the thinking goes).
If it bleeds, it leads
Sam Jordison’s series Crap Towns became a cult hit. Now he has pulled another winner out of his hat – The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad. It is an entertaining and thoroughly-researched book of alternative general knowledge. Factual and informative lists ranging across the natural world, history, popular culture, sports, food, medicine, science, economics, politics, drugs, divorce and crystal-ball gazing balls-ups are seasoned with tongue-in-cheek personal asides. It is a particularly cheering read if your own life is in the doldrums, or for some Christmas fun and games. So quiz each other and laugh when no one knows the answers: there is invariably someone worse off than you! Continue reading Review | The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad, Sam Jordison | Book of the Week
“Too poetical that about the sad. Music did that. Music hath charms. Shakespeare said. Quotations every day in the year. To be or not to be. Wisdom while you wait.” – James Joyce
“What is modernism?” was one of the questions addressed during the recent BookBlast 10×10 Tour talk held in Waterstones, Norwich, featuring Galley Beggar Press authors Alex Pheby (hailed as “the new Beckett” by Stephen Bumphrey on BBC Radio Norfolk), Paul Stanbridge and Paul Ewen.
“Modernism consists of fragments put back together to make a whole out of disunity,” was one answer, “Being aware of the text and stepping outside it,” was another . . . along with stream of consciousness, multiple points of view, dense allusions, ambiguity and a phenomenal play of words on the page. Continue reading Review | Dedalus, Chris McCabe | Book of the Week
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
Mill Road hospital Liverpool, and then in Liverpool (built on the site of a Victorian workhouse), until moving to London in my early twenties. I now live in Liverpool and work in London.
What sorts of books were in your family home?
My dad was an autodidact, acquiring a good collection of books through joining various book clubs. As a result there was an impressively wide range of books on our shelves at home, from history (The World at War; The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire; The Third Reich), fiction (The Lord of the Rings, all the novels of Thomas Hardy), complete Shakespeare and most useful for my development as a writer and poet, the works of Dylan Thomas and James Joyce. Continue reading Interview | Chris McCabe @mccabio | Author of the Week
Since we hit the road on 11 September, we still have 3 events to go, storytelling and showcasing small, risk-taking publishers who fill a unique niche in discovering talent, enriching our literary culture.
Looking back, I spent a good chunk of the end of last year and the beginning of this one planning and fund raising for the 10×10 tour, with the invaluable support and technical expertise of Ben Fiagbe. Connie Jehu came on board over the summer to collaborate in implementing our plan, while Sue Amaradivakara from the PR Collective began to promote the tour across national and local media. Interviews were done with Robert Elms for BBC Radio London, Monocle 24 Radio, Bookanista, The Bookseller, LoveReading and others. Continue reading Latest News | The BookBlast 10×10 Tour in association with Waterstones
The eighth talk of the BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing, features Saqi Books @BhamWaterstones Founded in 1983 in London, Saqi Books is an independent publishing house of quality general interest and academic books on North Africa and the Middle East. Over the years Saqi has expanded its list to include writers from all over the world and has established two imprints, Telegram and The Westbourne Press.
On Thurs. 25 October at 6.30 p.m., Elisabeth Briggs, editor & marketing manager @SaqiBooks will chair the discussion with Nafeesa Hamid and Aliyah Holder @BhamWaterstones The talk has as its theme, The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write inspired by the anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz in which their writing is featured.
Contributors to The Things I Would Tell You include: Fadia Faqir, Amina Jama, Chimene Suleyman, Aliyah Hasinah Holder, Kamila Shamsie, Imtiaz Dharker, Triska Hamid, Nafeesa Hamid, Ahdaf Soueif, Seema Begum, Leila Aboulela, Shazea Quraishi, Shaista Aziz, Miss L, Aisha Mirza, Hibaq Osman, Azra Tabassum, Selma Dabbagh, Asma Elbadawi, Samira Shackle, Sabrina Mahfouz, Hanan al-Shaykh. Continue reading BookBlast® 10×10 Tour | Thurs 25 Oct., Waterstones, Birmingham | Elizabeth Briggs, Nafeesa Hamid, Aliyah Holder
This month’s top 5 reads features titles by some of the #indiepubs being showcased in the #bookblast10x10tour at talks being held in Waterstones’ flagship stores across the regions of England. Starting from Gower Street we have visited Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham so far . . . and will be in Brighton next week Thursday, and Norwich the Thursday after . . . details & tickets HERE
Listing in alphabetical order @commapress @carcanetpress @galleybeggars @hoperoadpublish @AnthonyGardnerA
The Book of Birmingham: A City in Short Fiction, edited by Kavita Bhanot, is part of Comma’s popular ‘Reading the City’ series (September 2018) buy here
Contributors: Alan Beard. Jendella Benson, Balvinder Banga, Sharon Duggal, Malachi McIntosh, Bobby Nayyar, C.D. Rose, Sibyl Ruth, Kit de Waal
“At one time connected to every other corner of the nation through a latticework of canals which facilitated the transport of raw goods in and finished goods out of the city, and across the world, Birmingham has been shaped by its industrial history – in particular by the working-class roots of so many of its inhabitants who gave their professional lives to these industries. This working-class foundation is inseparable from the city’s literature, reflected in the voices of its best-known contemporary authors: Jonathan Coe, Catherine O’Flynn, Benjamin Zephaniah, Kit de Waal, Joel Lane . . . to name just a few. [. . .] Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | September 2018
Meet Nashwa Gowanlock in person at the 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Brighton 6.30 p.m. Thursday 4 OCT. Theme: Inside Out: Voices of the Diaspora. With Meike Ziervogel from Peirene Press, chair, and translator Jamie Bulloch (The Last Summer by Ricarda Huch).
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a British Egyptian born in Kuwait and raised between there and the UK, where I am now based. I was raised bilingual and attended a British school in Kuwait so the transition to England in 1990 following the Iraqi invasion wasn’t too much of a shock, although it was a bit of a culture shock! Most of my extended family live in Egypt and I have a very strong connection to them and the country itself, even though I never really lived there, but visit often. I’ve also lived as an expat in Qatar and Cyprus, when I worked for Al Jazeera and then AFP, but I’m now settled in Suffolk with my husband, stepson and a toddler who keeps me on my toes!
Continue reading Interview | Nashwa Gowanlock, translator
The third talk of the BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing, features Ra Page, founder and CEO of Comma Press, based in Manchester. Their “Reading the City” series of collected writings takes the literary adventurer down diverse explorations off the beaten track at home (such as The Book of Liverpool, The Book of Leeds) and abroad (such as The Book of Gaza, The Book of Havana, The Book of Riga, The Book of Tblisi). Continue reading BookBlast® 10×10 Tour | Thurs 20 Sept., Waterstones, Leeds, 6.30 p.m. | C. D. Rose, Ian Duhig @commapress
Much excitement here at BookBlast about the 10×10 tour of superb #indiepubs which is coming up very soon, with the first talk being held on 11 September at 6.30 p.m., Waterstones, Gower Street, London W1. Buy your tickets HERE.
Since time is in short supply, our monthly round up features five as opposed to ten top reads coming to you from Jerusalem, Barcelona, the Caribbean, Croatia and the Black Forest. @Ofmooseandmen @bitterlemonpub @Carcanet @Istros_books @maclehosepress
Raising Sparks by Ariel Khan (Bluemoose Books) buy here
The fastest selling Bluemoose title, Raising Sparks has been reprinted just eight weeks after publication.
Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 5 Reads for Independent Minds | August 2018