Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If at first....

One of these days, I'll be able to look back on the struggle, and I mean struggle, to persuade readers, reviewers and booksellers that Feather Man is exceptional.

But today, a glimmer of light appeared from a bookseller in Massachusetts, who is recommending Feather Man for the Book Sense pick in September.

'This beautifully written and disturbing Australian coming of age novel grabbed me from the first page. Sooky struggles to overcome her difficult childhood, with a father who abandoned the family, an emotionally distant mother and abuse by the one person to whom she felt close. The effects of this childhood are powerfully portrayed as Sooky moves from relationship to relationship and from Brisbane to London. It is her growing sense of herself as an artist which balances the pain.' Nancy Felton, Broadside Books, MA

It made me return to the first page of a novel which is the most successful Marion Boyars Publishers have ever published - and I expect you would not guess unless I gave it away:

'They're out there.
Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.
They're mopping when I come out the dorm, all three of them, sulky and hating everything, the time of day, the place they're at here, the people they got to work around. When they hate like this, better if they don't see me. '

This is the Chief on page one of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. Eat your heart out - booksellers who do not want to read past the first chapter of Feather Man because it is strong. See what the world would have missed if this ethic governed all reading.

To make Feather Man a success right now is similar to a mental image I kept in my head for over five years when I took on this down at heart (then - not now!) company. The mental image was of three figures - 0.00 - and in my mind our front window was decorated with them, triumphantly, with no other message. This was supposed to represent our financial situation - ie no debt! And when it happened (which it did), I felt triumphant in the extreme. So battles are what life is - and they are sometimes what makes it worthwhile.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Kit's LECP Mark 2

Well, I didn't expect to be quite as accurate as all that. Many thanks to Mark at RSB for flagging up the success although I should say that it was not so much boredom that drove me to do this as the realisation that, in my continuing Onix odyssey (updating the whole backlist), I was beginning to claim that we had exclusive rights for Hubert Selby titles in Gabon, (undoubtedly an important territory, but not perhaps quite as relevant as Great Britain) and that I needed some distraction.

Today, (to continue my fascination with Arno Schmidt) I found myself typing the following:

'A powerful science fiction parable set in 2008. Europe has suffered from a devastating atomic holocaust. In an effort to save their science and culture, the 8 great powers have settled their best and brightest on a jet propelled island, affectionately called 'The Egghead Republic'... The exuberant wit, humour and invention displayed by the author makes this a highly entertaining vision of the future.' The blurb to The Egghead Republic. How great does that sound? Jet propelled!

But to business:

tonight it's Turkey (about whose literature I know quite a lot) against Croatia (less so)


Elif Shafak (Striker)
Latife Tekin
Maureen Freely (Who has surely earned a residency qualification)
Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Kemal (In goal)

Now, I'm excited by this team. Not only is it dominated by Marion Boyars authors; the class of Elif Shafak, the energy of Latife Tekin and the tactical nous of Maureen Freely, it's anchored by a recent Nobel Prize winner and there's a very safe pair of hands in goal (in Turkey, they study his technique in school).


I had a lot of help in constructing this team, many thanks to my super scouts Mark and Steve.

Miroslav Krleža (captain)
Dragutin Tadijanović (In goal)
Dubravka Ugresic (striker)
Clarice Lispector (A naturalised Croatian - passport awarded hastily)
Tin Ujević (Another one of these utility players)

This is a team that I suspect would revel in the 'Dark Horse' tag. So that's what I'm going call them. The captain is author of the 'Croatian War and Peace' so we can expect him to be a supremely hard worker in addition to his undoubted talent - he's one of these players well respected by fellow professionals without achieving the renown of some. The striker is better known in the UK, and is well regarded for her passion and bravery in the challenge. Clarice Lispector brings some Brasilian flair, but is notorious for only playing really well for short periods. Again I know less about the other two writers except that they have plenty of talent and that for some reason I tend to play poets in goal.

So. With this prediction I really have to go with what I know and what clinches it for me is the understanding of the Turkish team: not only do three of the players play together at club level, but Freely should help Pamuk translate seamlessly into it ( I really didn't think that I'd find a football pun for literary translation). But I can't see Croatia not scoring...

2-1 to Turkey.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

It works!!!!!

Now, Croatia against Turkey. I've got one team covered...

Kit's Literary European Championship Predictor

Everyone else seems to be having more fun then me at the moment: Catheryn is busy inviting people to the launch of Victoria and Lucinda's Flavour of the Month, and Rebecca is either reading, or researching charity shops or things music related (more on the latter another time).

But fortunately I have football to keep me going. I am thoroughly enjoying the 2008 European Championship and not solely because England aren't in it. It has now got to the quarter finals stage, and the matches are getting much more difficult to predict (not that anyone who watched the Czech Republic/Turkey game would claim that the group matches were exactly predictable). To help, I have turned, as I often (always) do, to books.

I have developed a system: literary five a side. Five 20th century (otherwise it gets too difficult) authors from each country in question are pitted against each other and then a judgement is made (by me) as to who would win. Marion Boyars authors will feature prominently of course - thank god that the French are out, that would have made for some very difficult decisions.

So tonight it's Germany vs Portugal.

Kit's teams:


Heinrich Böll
Peter Weiss (striker)
Gunter Grass(who was trained rather energetically in his youth)
Arno Schmidt (who has oddly popped into my life fairly frequently of late. Not only did a nice man called Dirk order a copy of The Egghead Republic for a student prize giving but then the next day he appeared in a completely unrelated book that I was reading. In the book he went to visit James Joyce. Joyce was rude, apparently. After such a strong coincidence, I've got to play him.)
Erich Maria Remarque (to play in goal)


José Saramag
Fernando Pessoa (who is a very useful pick because he can play in a number of different positions)
Eugenio de Andrade (in goal)
José Cardoso Pires
Mariela Gabriela Llansol

Right, so how does this pan out? They're certainly both brilliant sides, I defy any team not to score a few goals with the creative talent of Saramago and Pessoa in the team. But then, Pessoa, in spite of his versatility, has been known to be fairly anonymous for long periods... I'm not that familiar with the final three players although I'm assured that on their day they can be as good as anyone. The big question for Portugal is whether they'd simply be a collection of great players or a great team.

For Germany on the other hand, I suspect that their teamwork would be their strength. With the two Nobel Prize winners, Böll and Grass, in the engine room they would not want for energy, and Weiss and Schmidt, with their unusual playing styles, would be a handful for any defender. There might be question marks about the goalkeeper, does he have the stomach for a fight (sorry)?

Nevertheless, Kit's literary predictor says that in spite of a brace from Saramago, Germany prevail 3-2.

Tonight we shall see if I'm right...


Monday, June 16, 2008

My reaction to the petrol shortage

I usually drive the short distance from home to the office daily, since the car is also used for huge publicity mailings and supermarket shopping for our family. But as soon as the tanker drivers declared their industrial action, I felt a genuine who cares attitude descend on me. So I took to my bicycle. And I walked to the Farmer's Market.

People who wonder why this literary list suddenly has two fabulous cook books on its list, need some explanation. I am a keen cook, and find it relaxes me after a week of proof reading and managing a company. This weekend I bought asparagus, gooseberries and goat's cheese (and other things) - and cooked a broad bean and feta cheese and bean salad, a gooseberry and apple pie / crumble with cinnamon topping (I made too little pastry for a top layer and decided that a crumble of brown sugar, butter and cinnamon would work - it did), a quiche with asparagus, broccoli and goat's cheese and some spare ribs marinaded for a day, and a potato salad. All ingredients were carried home by me in a very unglamorous shopper with wheels which I also used to take our books into the London Book Fair.

At the bottom of the shopper, before going to the market, were six library books. I read The Outcast by Sadie Jones, and will hopefully read another two books in the evenings this week.

So, I hope you'll see that I practise what I preach - reading and cooking. And I managed to leave the car at home this morning too, and the bike is waiting to take me home, perhaps in a rain storm, but who cares... Catheryn

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Website!

When I said that I'd been thinking about the internet, this is what I meant. Catheryn had the idea for something white and opinionated a few weeks ago and here is the result. I shan't add much here as there are already a number of essays over there. Including one on designing the website. We plan on changing the essays at regular intervals, to keep up interest. AND we're involving everyone, even Rebecca makes an appearance.

But that's not all the news, The Streets of Babylon has been getting attention all over the place:




and I had a great exchange with Glenn at International Noir. A very fine blog.


Oh, and if anyone was interested, I was an hour late for the thing at Bethnal Green

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

summer rushes

Catheryn's just pointed out that I'm still not blogging very much at the moment. I have , however, been thinking plenty about the internet recently... but that will have to wait or else I'll be late for the thing. Just. waiting. for some files to uploooooaaaaad. There, finished (new B-format [198x129, 7.99] edition of The Concubine of Shanghai, loadsaorders)!

Anyway, much more interesting than anything I'd say is this Rhyll McMaster interview with Anthony Thwaite* .

Right, does anyone know how to get from Putney to Bethnal Green in fifteen minutes?


*I do of course mean Mark