Review | The 10 Worst of Everything: The Big Book of Bad, Sam Jordison | 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

BookBlast® 10×10 Tour | Thurs 11 Oct., Waterstones, Norwich, 6.30 p.m. | Sam Jordison, Alex Pheby, Paul Stanbridge, Paul Ewen @GalleyBeggars @NorwichStones

The sixth talk of the BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing, features Galley Beggar Press (Modernist Contemporary) in Castle Street, Norwich. Co-director, Sam Jordison, is also an author, teacher and journalist. Galley Beggar have an eye for literary talent. Their early success with experimental debut novel A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, which soared up the Amazon best-seller charts and won four awards, was a game-changer. Book Tickets

sam jordison galley beggar press bookblast diary interviewOn Thurs 11 Oct 6.30 p.m. @NorwichStones Sam Jordison will lead a discussion with authors Alex Pheby, Paul Stanbridge, Paul Ewen, with as its theme: All Hail the New Modernists! Experimentalism & Contemporary Literature.

Book extract: Lucia by Alex Pheby is about James Joyce’s schizophrenic daughter. It is one of the few surviving portraits of her troubled life. Most other references to her have been lost. We know she was the daughter of the famous writer. She was the lover of Samuel Beckett. She was a gifted dancer. From her late twenties she was treated for suspected schizophrenia. She spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum. After her death, her voice was silenced. Meet Alex in person on Thurs 11 Oct. 6.30 p.m. @alexpheby Continue reading BookBlast® 10×10 Tour | Thurs 11 Oct., Waterstones, Norwich, 6.30 p.m. | Sam Jordison, Alex Pheby, Paul Stanbridge, Paul Ewen @GalleyBeggars @NorwichStones

Interview | Paul Ewen, author

Meet Paul Ewen in person at the 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Castle Street, Norwich 6.30 p.m. Thursday 11 OCT. His latest novel Forbidden Line,  Francis Plug: Writer in Residence is published today, 4 October. Theme: All Hail the New Modernists! Experimentalism & Contemporary Literature. With Sam Jordison from Galley Beggar Press, chair, and authors Alex Pheby, Paul Stanbridge.  Book Tickets

Forbidden Line,  Francis Plug: Writer in Residence is published today, 4 October.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Blenheim, New Zealand. I grew up in various places around the South Island, like Christchurch and Lyttelton, but I spent my formative years in a town called Ashburton (nicknamed Ashvegas).

What sorts of books were in your family home?
All sorts. Art books, NZ fiction, and lots of library books because my Mum was a librarian.
Continue reading Interview | Paul Ewen, author

Interview | Toby Litt | Author of the Week

Toby Litt grew up in Bedfordshire. He has worked as a teacher, bookseller and subtitler. A graduate of Malcolm Bradbury’s Creative Writing M.A. at the University of East Anglia, Toby is a Granta Best of Young British Novelist and a regular on Radio 3’s The Verb. He edited the 13th edition of New Writing (the British Council’s annual anthology of the finest contemporary writing in fiction, non-fiction and poetry). His story ‘John and John’ won the Manchester Fiction Prize. He teaches creative writing at Birkbeck College. The author of over fifteen books, Toby Litt’s latest book, Wrestliana, is a memoir which interweaves reminiscences and an exploration of manhood.

How has Ampthill changed from when you were growing up there in the 1970s?
When I was five or six, there was a dairy a few doors along from our house. It had a Mynah bird, in a side room, in a cage, which would occasionally say a word: a word that shocked my mother, if I was lucky. The diary sold milk, butter and chestnut yogurts from a refrigerated glass display cabinet. When I remember details like this, I start to believe I grew up on the peripheries of a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Continue reading Interview | Toby Litt | Author of the Week

Review | Wrestliana, Toby Litt | Book of the Week

“I decided to write a book about William, and to pay tribute to him by calling it Wrestliana. By doing this, I would explicitly take William on, on his home ground. Because all of this ‘being a man’ stuff was something I needed to wrestle with. To be a better son and to be a better father. To be a better man.” — Toby Litt

The author of over fifteen books, Toby Litt continues to be effortlessly experimental as he moves skilfully between genres, from a thriller set in high-octane Media London (Corpsing), a coming-of-age tale which turns disturbingly murderous (deadkidsongs), and a parody of chick lit in Finding Myself; to a Henry Jamesian portrayal of bereavement casting a blight over life (Ghost Story), facing the male midlife crisis as a Canadian rock band goes on tour in I play the drums in a band called okay, and a superb collection of twenty-six essays on a diverse range of subjects (Mutants). At times he combines a variety of forms in one book. Continue reading Review | Wrestliana, Toby Litt | Book of the Week

Interview | Heidi James | Author of the Week

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Chatham in Kent and grew up in the surrounding towns – called the Medway towns – so in and around Rochester, Chatham (on various estates), Gillingham. I left when I was seventeen and moved to London, but even though I’ve not lived there for a long time, Medway remains a potent influence.

What sorts of books were in your family home? Who were early formative influences?
My mother and grandmother were avid readers, and I was taught to read and love books from a very early age; but they were busy, working class women who’d left school early so the books in our homes tended to be Catherine Cookson and romances, Mills and Boon etc. Having said that I had lots of classic children’s books and I had a couple of teachers who were pretty amazing in encouraging me to read widely. When I was teenager I skipped school to go the library in town and would read anything and everything curled up in a chair by a window that looked out over the River Medway. I read a lot of Dickens, Daphne du Maurier and Stephen King. I used to read any of the Penguin Classics, because that seemed to be a foolproof method of reading; I was hungry to learn, but hated school. I suppose my earliest influences that I was consciously reading to learn to write were Angela Carter, Plath and Sexton and John Steinbeck. I loved his work.
Continue reading Interview | Heidi James | Author of the Week