Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Well, I'm just back from holiday in Italy to a mountain of mail, proofs, catalogue shaping up, and stuff. So why am I taking time out to blog? I just thought this one may be fun for people to contribute to.

We stayed in a very remote hamlet in Italy of renovated cottages. Most of the other guests were English - mainly families with young children. Said young children bonded in the first days by naming all the inflatables around the pool - lilos, balls, rubber rings - with no reference to their parents on choice of names. Each one was called after a Harry Potter character - so it was - throw me Voldermart, there goes Harry - but no one wanted to touch or be thrown Ron. He was the outcast - the ginger. Sorry about that Ron, but apparently you get the girl in the book, so all is OK really.

But the point of this blog is - what were the other holiday makers reading, and what have you spotted on your travels around the holiday world this summer? I can note a depressing amount of chick lit, one Alastair Campbell Blair book, one Paul Coehlo, several Meg Atkins, some thrillers by people I have never heard of (sorry), and hardly any literary fiction or serious non fiction.

Our book hoard taken along? - T.C. Boyle, two Sarah Dunant books (we were in Italy), The Black Book (Pamuk), The Inheritance of Loss, Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay (over 600 pages), The Memory Keeper's Daughter, some terrible book by Jane Grey which has had 16 printings (we did have 3 teeenage girls with us), Potter of course (read by 3 of us but not me - I wait for the movies), Mother's Milk, and about ten others which I can't recall this moment. I think all were read by at least two people and in some cases three or more as we were five in total. But what a minority we were. I always return from holiday thinking that book review pages should be made really accessible - more interviews with readers - more like - well, a book blog. But maybe I'm biased.....

Monday, August 13, 2007

So last Tuesday we got a call from a bubbly person at Colman Getty PR firm asking whther we were planning on going to a meeting that we had been invited to a few weeks ago. seeing as that particular Tuesday was also the day when the Booker longlist was announced and that particular PR firm is the one that organizes the Man Booker prize , I said yes, I could probably make it. In spite of the resulting disappointment that evening, I ended up going to that meeting.

I found myself there because fate transpired to put me at another meeting just around the corner from The Groucho Club, meeting one of our forthcoming translators, Frank Wynne, to do an interview for the new catalogue. Frank's story is fairly rare in the world of translation because his story - although full of frustrations - is actually rather successful. You see Frank was the translator of a littleknownFrenchwriterwhoisnownotsolittleknown: Michel Houllebecq. For us, he's doing Banquet of Lies by Amin Zaoui (web page to follow shortly didn't know that it wasn't up already) and the interview went excellently. It'll be available to read soon enough I think. Unfortunately it went so excellently that I ended half an hour late for the Booker thing. Which was the first point that set me apart from the rest of the publishers. The second was probably my hat. The third was that I was not from a publisher whose book had been nominated for the Booker longlist. Not that it wasn't fascinating; the chief concern amongst the publishers was whether their book would be nominated for the shortlist and if so could they please know in advance (No). Afterwards I found time to (trapped by a waiter who refilled my glass five times in fifteen minutes even though I was too bamboozled to touch the first) talk to a few people before shuffling off as discreetly as possible. Still though, it was a good to be in such company, a pleasure to be invited and we'll hope to be there again next year ...

In other news I note through Chekhov's Mistress that there's a piece on Witold Gombrowicz in the new Dalkey Archive Press issue of Context .


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Continental Collisions: an interview with Elif Shafak and Maureen Freely in the Guardian .

'Instead of focussing on the writing, we focus on the writer' says Shafak - talking about Turkey. A brief glance at the Booker hullabaloo will confirm that this is a fault not exclusive to Turkey by any means.


Monday, August 06, 2007

A moral quandary: this morning I phoned what seemed to be a pretty relevant bookshop to ask whether they were planning to do anything in terms of a retrospective of Ingmar Bergman. 'Well', said the bookseller in a tone of voice I've heard more often used when one is talking to carpet baggers, ambulance chasers or venture capitalists, ' I suppose if we were Waaateerrstones (This last was well drawled) we'd have put something up immediately, but seeing as we're not...'. The obvious gist being that it would be a rather tawdry thing to do a tribute/display just because someone had died. This of course had the effect of making me feel rather tawdry. Until a couple of things occurred to me:

One: I would love to see Ingmar Bergman displays in Waterstones up and down the country, that would be exactly the kind of thing, in my humble but impassioned opinion, that Waterstones should be doing on the death of a great artist.

Two: That doing nothing would be worse thing to do of all. Our duty as Bergman's publishers is to promote his writing, now more than ever. How nice it would be to see his film scripts for sale in as many places as possible so that people who may not even be aware that they are available (as I suspect that many do not) might have the opportunity to pick them up and get another perspective on his work. I love that image, it's one of the reasons I do this in the first place. It is sad that people so often only come across an artist's work through obituries and tributes - but we always cherish most that which is taken away from us.

So there.

In other news Enlightenment was reviewed in the Guardian on Saturday and I'm reliably told that an interview with Maureen Freely will appear on guardian unlimited very soon.

That issue of the Guardian was something of a double whammy as there was also a profile of Amiri Baraka in that issue. Four Black Revolutionary Plays is fascinating reading. A lot more fun than you'd think.