As we head out of the old, into the new, year, our top 10 reads to see us out feature superb writing from China, fin-de-siècle Paris, the Middle East, Istanbul by way of New York, Switzerland and Cuba, in no particular order. @maclehosepress @carcanet @BanipalMagazine @melvillehouse @dedalusbooks @NBNi_books @hoperoadpublish @oneworldnews @jamiebulloch @PennedintheM
A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes (Vol. 1) by Jin Young, trs. Anna Holmwood (MacLehose Press) buy here
The author Louis Cha who died aged ninety-four on 30 October, wrote under the pen name Jin Yong. His books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide and been adapted into countless films, TV series, graphic novels and video games. His works are all set during the rich and storied history of China. The first English translation of A Hero Born, the first of his 12-volume epic Legends of the Condor Heroes, was published earlier on this year by MacLehose Press. We include him here as a tribute to an unparalleled master storyteller. Continue reading BookBlasts® | Top 10 Reads for Independent Minds | November-December 2018
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 atthe 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 exuberant 10th anniversary of a small European literary festival, Literaturhaus Europa, held in the Wachau region of Austria, throws into sharp relief the cultural poverty we potentially face post-Brexit.
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
On a night of political disunity and meltdown as Brexit hit the buffers, we were delighted to host the final event of this year’s inaugural BookBlast 10×10 tour at WestBank Art & Music in Thorpe Close, W10, under the Westway.
Kit Caless from INFLUX PRESS led the discussion with Susan from ISTROS BOOKS and Elizabeth from SAQI BOOKS about how #indiepubs play such an important role in the cultural ecosystem; translation, rigid mindsets and choosing to publish books written without market trends in mind; the importance of buying books directly from #indiepubs websites; how best to access buyers at the major bookselling chains deciding on what and how much to purchase (tricky in some instances when there is just one fiction buyer for a whole chain!).
The audience of publishing consultants, book distributors, bloggers, indie film makers, readers and writers raised the issues of how Amazon goes after publisher profit margins with crippling consequences for indies; and the lack of publicity in the Media which is ironic given the growing demand for eclectic, nongeneric, unconventional writing of the kind that is supplied by the smaller publishers who are regularly winning prizes. Continue reading Latest News | It’s a wrap! The BookBlast 10×10 Tour in association with Waterstones
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
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. My Mum is a big reader of Crime Fiction. It helped her solve a real life crime while she was working in a Kenyan orphanage a few years ago. They were both “people of The Book,” hosting Parish Bible studies. This made them more learned than the average parents. The Church was my first exposure to people with higher education. I read a lot from a very young age, I had a box of those cassettes with ding turn the page books. I would put the headphones in myself and read for hours. I remember making a zoo out of envelopes. Each one contained a different animal.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start? If not, why now? No, but something I wanted to do as a Writer was understand every dimension of books. I studied Sculpture because I thought this would teach me about composition in a more general sense than doing English or Creative Writing. I went on to become a master bookbinder and printer too. I became a publisher partly because I wanted to understand, and maybe undermine, distribution and bookselling. It’s another extension to my writing. I guess that’s what it means to be a Modernist in an industrial, networked world. Why now? We were invited in by big publishers a few times to consult, using our publishing methods. We also worked on several print commissions in our studio for Independents. One title we illustrated is almost at the Million Copies mark. We realised we had an extraordinary range of expertise and there were so many good manuscripts I knew of being turned down for bad reasons. The Poets made me do it!Continue reading Interview | David Henningham, co-founder, Henningham Family Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
Meet Jane Draycott in person at the tenth and final BookBlast 10×10 Tour talk at Waterstones, Manchester, Deansgate @waterstonesMCR 6.30 p.m. Thursday 8 November. Theme: Claiming the Great Tradition: Women Recalibrate the Classics. In conversation with Michael Schmidt @Carcanet, chair, and poet, Jenny Lewis. Book Tickets
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a poet who’s come late to translation and I wish I’d started much much sooner. I teach on a number of different creative writing courses and if I had one thing to advise poetry-writing students it would be to try poetic translation, to discover from the inside the many possible poetries beyond the one in your own ear – soon!
When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you? Corny but true: Henri Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes; and around the same time, the short stories of Edgar Alan Poe – something in both of those about the fateful and the mysterious which struck me then and has stayed with me. Continue reading Interview | Jane Draycott, poet & translator
Meet Jenny Lewis in person at the tenth and final BookBlast 10×10 Tour talk at Waterstones, Manchester, Deansgate @waterstonesMCR 6.30 p.m. Thursday 8 November. Theme: Claiming the Great Tradition: Women Recalibrate the Classics. In conversation with Michael Schmidt @Carcanet, chair, and poet & translator, Jane Draycott. Book Tickets
Where were you born, and where did you grow up? I was born in Pembury, Kent and grew up in London.
What sorts of books were in your family home? Milton, in his Areopagitica, advises us to read “promiscuously” and, as a somewhat lonely, post-war London child, I did just that, reading voraciously anything I could lay my hands on from my grandmother’s leather bound classics (Shakespeare, Dickens, Tennyson …); dictionaries; encyclopedias; my father’s old medical books; the modern novels I found on my mother’s bedside table (The Moon and Sixpence by Somerset Maugham, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute) to children’s books such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, comics (The Beano, The Dandy) and, of course, Kellogg’s Cornflakes packets and, most memorably, tins of Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup with the picture of a lion surrounded by bees and the legend “Out of the strong came forth sweetness” which puzzled me. Was the lion dead or just sleeping and why were the bees swarming over him? One of life’s great moments was when I realized there were such things as libraries where there were thousands of books to be borrowed. From then on, I half lived in the Hammersmith Library near where we lived. Continue reading Interview | Jenny Lewis, poet
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.