Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. JUDITH (Publishing Director): My father loves reading newspapers and history books. My mother loves reading novels. If I publish a book I usually ask myself if my mother would like reading it too―meaning that it shouldn’t be pretentious or unnecessarily complicated. My aunt was the person who stimulated me most though―she was a great storyteller herself, as well as a librarian, and somehow she always seemed to know exactly which books to give me to read.
Maggie Gee was born to working-class parents, and climbed into an uneasy place between classes. She was educated at state schools, and won a major open scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford where she did an MA in English literature and an MLitt on Surrealism in England. She was one of the original Granta 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 1983.
Gee has published fifteen books, thirteen of which are novels, including her latest, which is published by Fentum Press, Blood. A new, extended and updated edition of her 2014 novel Virginia Woolf in Manhattan has just been published by Fentum in the US.
She is a Fellow and Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature, a Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, and was awarded an OBE for services to literature in 2012. She is a Non-executive Director of the Authors’ Licensing and Copyright Society.
Hear the Podcast of our conversation if audio is your thing
You grew up in Dorset before moving to the Midlands. Tell us about your early years. My first memories are of running on a beach, which is probably significant since I’ve always been drawn back to the sea. I had a brother so we ran around and I did boy’s things. Continue reading Interview | Print & Podcast | Maggie Gee, author
“Be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron
A strong woman is not defined by men, but is in full possession of herself and her life. She balances her masculine and feminine sides; is her own person. She has fought and survived many battles; internal and external. She works hard, gets straight back up when knocked down, speaks for herself.
The tenth and last talk of this year’s inaugural BookBlast® 10×10 tour, a nationwide celebration of independent publishing is @WaterstonesMCR featuring Carcanet Press which was conceived at Pin Farm, South Hinksey, Oxford, in 1969 by Peter Jones, Gareth Reeves and Michael Schmidt. Carcanet Press primarily publishes poetry. In 2000 it was named the Sunday Times millennium Small Publisher of the Year.
On Thurs. 8 November at 6.30 p.m., Michael Schmidt, a founder-director @Carcanet will chair the discussion @WaterstonesMCR with poets Jane Draycott and Jenny Lewis; talk theme: Claiming the Great Tradition: Women Recalibrate the Classics.
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
Meet Nafeesa Hamid in person at the BookBlast 10×10 Tour event, Waterstones, Birmingham, 24-26 High Street, B4 7SL @Bhamwaterstones 6.30 p.m. Thursday 25 October. Theme: The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write with reference to the anthology edited by Sabrina Mahfouz. In conversation with Elizabeth Briggs SAQI BOOKS chair, and poet, Aliyah Holder. Book Tickets
Where were you born, and where did you grow up? I was born in Pakistan and came to the UK at aged four. I grew up in Alum Rock, inner city Birmingham where I lived until nineteen. There was (and still is) a massive sense of community in Alum Rock, which is lovely for the most part, but also means everyone knows everything about everyone. I attended school in Alum Rock – Shaw Hill Primary and Park View Secondary (involved heavily in the Trojan Horse Scandal).Continue reading Interview | Nafeesa Hamid, poet | @NafeesaHamid
During a recent trip to Paris I indulged my compulsive book browsing and buying by visiting some of my favourite bookshops. They are plentiful and varied since France enjoys a fixed minimum price agreement unlike the UK where the Net Book Agreement was abolished in 1997 leading to the closure of over 500 independent bookshops, along with chains such as Dillons, Borders and Books etc. The success or failure of a book now largely lies in the hands of supermarkets, Waterstones and Amazon. Here are a few finds for the Francophile literary flâneurs among you. @AuDiableVauvert @ediSens_edition @EditionsdelAube @Diacritik @Gallimard @GlenatBD @_WProject_
Shredded: Life After Terror by Philippe Lançon (Gallimard)
“My book is not a narrative about Islamism or the state of the health service —subjects about which I am not sufficiently well-informed — it is a personal and intimate narrative. It is the story of a man who was the victim of a terrorist attack, who spent nine months in hospital, and who recounts as accurately as possible, and I hope with a lightness of touch, how this attack and his hospital stay changed his life and the lives of those around him; his feelings, his sensations, his memory, his body and his somatic perceptions, his relationship to music, painting, how he breathes and writes.” — Philippe LançonContinue reading BookBlast® France | Top 5 French Reads June, 2018
Where were you born, and where did you grow up? I was born in a small town outside of Chengdu, a major city in the southwest of China. And I grew up there. As a teenager, all I wanted was to get out of this place, this muddy, tiny, sleepy town. Years later, when I actually left and lived in Ireland, all I wanted is to go back and to live in the small town where I spent my adolescence. That small town has been lost. It has changed so much. There have been lots of constructions, new buildings, the industrial and high-tech parks and tones of immigrants. The government renamed it last year, making it a district of Chengdu city. My hometown is officially being archived in the history book — there’s no way I can go back now. So I write about it all the time in my stories.
What sorts of books were in your family home? Both of my parents were Chinese teachers so we have a sizeable collection of Chinese classics, contemporary Chinese fiction, and translated books. I can’t remember I read The Journey to the West for how many times. And I cried a lot when I read Su Tong’s books as a teenager. My parents love Russian writers and I read Gogol and Gorky with them.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up? I was born in Nottingham, as were my parents, but I grew up in Southern Nigeria. When we came back to the UK we moved around a bit before settling in Essex. I stayed there until I had my children.
What sorts of books were in your family home? There was a real spread of genres. My sister read historical fiction, lots of it, we were always battling for space on our joint bookshelves. My Dad liked humour and detective fiction, the Father Brown Stories, Simenon’s Maigret, and Jeeves and Wooster. There were also quite a lot of autobiographies in the house, I’m not sure who brought them, probably mum, but we all read them. I was lucky as a child, there was no limit on what we could read. If it was in the house anyone could read it. My dad believed that if it was too advanced for us we would lose interest in the book and put it back on the shelf. I think it probably worked. I never felt I had to finish a book that I wasn’t enjoying, but I never felt that any books were beyond me.