Friday, November 30, 2007

Marion Boyars' Australian adventure

Not that any of us are actually going. There is, however, a web page. The people who are going are Clotilde Dusoulier and Maureen Freely who will be attending the Perth writers festival. Both are getting good reviews already which for a writer would I imagine be the best kind of welcome. And then there's Rhyll McMaster, who is of course, lives there and already got great reviews . Which reminds me, I should do an author page for her.

And for Pauline Kael who, fruit bat* eared listeners will have heard lauded on the Today programme this morning as one of the great critics in times past. The point of the interview being that there are no great critics in times present. The fellow speaking (I'm afraid that I didn't catch anyone's name, except for Pauline Kael's and Kenneth Tynan come to think of it, because I was brushing my teeth**) seemed to be suffering from that peculiarly contemporary fear that wot wiv that internet and all this dummingdown, our culture is getting diluted. 'Where are the heroes of criticism? Without them who will keep the barbarians gated?' He didn't but might have lamented. But then the other fellow he was talking to reckoned that these hero-critics had never had much sway outside of ivorniversity and that this species still flourishes in its natural habitat. For the little it's worth I think that there's still plenty of great critical writing out there and if there's one thing that the internet definitely has done it's been to make it easier to find...perhaps it's just that it has become more difficult to make a living as a critic. But then there are a lot more literary festivals, talks etc. than there ever have been Isaywithnoevidencetobackitup.
Anyway, the point is that Pauline Kael was a great critic; accessible, important and widely read so she should definitely get an author's page.


*is there an animal famous for its hearing? I chose fruit bat because they have big ears and the whole echo thing.
** very definition of too much information.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


It's an absolute pleasure to welcome Rhyll McMaster to our list - her first novel Feather Man is absolutely fantastic. If you read some of the reviews from Australia you'll see why we're so pleased to have found it. But I am not the person to talk, hopefully Cathy will be able to say a little more when she's not so busy.

But at the moment she is so I guess you'll have to make do with me. Who is very pleased at the moment, having discovered that if one uses mozilla firefox as their browser they don't have to type in the html code for each link manually. This is going so quickly! And speaking of links look there, on the right hand side, we've finally got some. Not having them was a real oversight, the blogosphere equivalent of turning up to a dinner party without a bottle of wine.

Two exciting new blogosphere discoveries that you'll find there are booklit and Vulpes Libris, excellent the both of them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's probably fair to say that there's not much that The Mail on Sunday and The Morning Star agree on, but we've found something:

Yes, a press cuttings envelope arrived this morning containing a favourable review from each organ for This May Help You Understand The World. You can read them here . There couldn't be better confirmation that Lawrence achieved the middle ground he was going for.

There was also a nice mention of it on Tuesday from BoringBlackChick .

Monday, November 19, 2007

This is more or less where we were on Sunday night. Underneath these actors' feet is the same red carpet that we walked along on the way the the premiere of Sleuth , tickets for which had kindly been givn to us by Paramount as publishers of, well, Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer. I believe I'm right in saying that it was a first red carpet experience for all involved. Each of our faces was duly scrutinized and then disregarded as un- (but hopefully not in-) famous, and we were not, for similar reasons, allowed to linger, blow kisses to the crowd or sign autographs. Once one has left the red carpet behind, going to a premiere is much like going to a regular cinema except you're not allowed to buy popcorn (packets are provided on the seat but it's just not the same. Having said that, my date still busied herself stealing more from other seats once she had finished her own), there are no adverts or trailers and the lead actors, producers and director all get on stage to thank you personally for having attended. I think that this should happen more often, especially at the places where one is allowed to buy popcorn but must take out a mortgage to get their hands on it.

And the film? I think I speak for the office when I say that we thought it very good - different from the original but similar enough to make each of us grab a copy to read and compare afterwards...


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't Forget!

Lawrence Potter will be appearing at the Peckham Literary Festival fro a Q&A session this evening at the Review Bookshop . Begins 7:30.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Excitement in the office this morning, tho' I can't yet say any more. This, coupled with my fiveish cups of coffee had made me rather jittery by midday and there's nohing better for calming the nerves than a spot of indexing .

Are there any rules for what you can and can't include in an index? The previous one that I did was pretty straightforward; words like 'George Bush' went in and words like 'and' were left out. The book this time is Horribly Awkward and is posing more difficult questions. For instance, I decided that I would only include 'real people' (I think that phrase should always be between inverted commas) and not characters. But then come challenges to the dogma: I'd ideally like to include Royston Vasey, How could one leave Homer, Marge et al. out from the index of a book on contemporary comedy? And is there really going to be an entry marked thus: 'Brown, Roy Chubby p.67'?

Whatever decision we make, it's going to be a long index. Comedians, you see, do not, sit happily in their own chapters like good little boys and girls but keep popping up in each others' spaces. Then there are people like Simon Pegg and Rob Brydon who don't have chapters of their own so just seem to muscle in on everyone else's...

In other news, I've begun my search for the best edition of 1001 Nights . Which is proving a lot of fun - that last advisedly, I'm aware that this might not be everyone's idea of amusement - I rarely get to walk into bookshops in civilian mode. Indeed, I didn't this time either, so quickly: Foyles is great because it has loads of our European writers in its fiction section, Blackwells Charing Cross is great for making The Bookaholics' Guide one of its Christmas picks and Waterstones Putney similarly, because it has lots of The Flea Palace and Chocolate and Zucchini .

But back to the 1001 nights - it seems that there's three major translators: Antoine Galland, the man who introduced the stories to the West, Richard Burton, who was not, as I thought for a tantalising moment the same Burton who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy but is still pretty gosh darn interesting and Husain Haddawy, who is , I think, contemporary. Oxford World Classics do the former (The first English translation of the former, I mean), Penguin the latterish and Everyman the latterest. There is also a version of the Burton with an introduction by AS Byatt by Random House. Oxford World Classics is the only complete text the other two are 'Tales from' but are still pretty hefty. The problem is, I had imagined that there would be a deluxe edition with pictures so that if I were ever to play a favourite uncle role, I would be able to stop during the narrative and ask 'does anyone want to see the pictures?' ...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Another week another party, this time the Sebald lecture , which, along with the Independent Foreign Fiction prize is the most high profile literature in translation event of the year. More on that further down.

News first:

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs is due another round up:

Peter Stothard (Literary editor of the TLS) used it to read up on Sherlock Holmes sites among other things, Bookseller Crow on The Hill has been selling it , it has been mentioned by librarians here and here , and perhaps most excitingly of all, it has been reviewed on the Complete Review without a grade . I await confirmation that this is a first.

and also

A new author page for Ivan Illich .

Back to the party. It began with readings from six prize winners from all across the world, I especially the one that won the Rossica prize but they were all excellent and the thing about the Purcell room in Queen Elizabeth Hall is that the seats are actually quite comfortable so one could listen to six readings quite happily.

Then came the Sebald lecture itself, this year given by Marina Warner . It was splendiferous, bouncing around between the work of Sebald itself, 1001 nights, via inanimate objects, talismans, the Pitt Rivers museum and a talking umbrella. I'm pretty certain that at one point I saw sparks flying. It also inspired me to a new project: I don't own a copy of 1001 Nights and it's one of those books one should have, if only to leave to a favourite nephew in their will. So in the run up to Christmas I shall spend a portion of my weekends dedicated to finding the very best edition - booksellers beware - I fully intend to be one of THOSE customers...


Friday, November 02, 2007

I left the office on more of a cliff hanger than I meant to last night – when I came into the office this morning I was looked at expectantly: a prize won perhaps? Or a great deal with a major chain? No, the answer is more prosaic:
I had just begun to edit a really good book.

But first thing's first, yes I was allowed in to the Paramount offices but no, they did not mistake me for an actor. More of a delivery boy, which is what I was as I meekly left my package at reception. Although if Hollywood action movies have taught us anything it's that there is always a very good chance that the person manning the reception desk of an office building at night is not, in fact, a security guard but an international terrorist so I suppose that being meek and quick was exactly the thing to do...

But back to the really good book . It is, as those who just followed the link will already know, The Streets of Babylon by Carina Burman as very recently translated by Sarah Death and it is an absolute joy to work on.

The Streets of Babylon ( Which was contracted quite a while before I arrived at MB and about which I knew very little) introduces us to Euthanasia (She would have preferred Ariadne or Malvina) Bondeson, successful Swedish novelist, soon to be amateur detective and a wonderfully infuriating narrator, as she and her beautiful companion Agnes arrive in London for the 1851 Great Exhibition. She is a properly top drawn character, as engaging as anybody I've read in contemporary fiction recently. Whether she is admitting her own frailties:

'I can reveal to my dear readers my difficulties in finding my way in strange cities. Even in Stockholm, my hometown, it is not always easy. I am neither inattentive nor stupid, but my surroundings spin like a cogwheel in my head. I presume it is all to do with the rotation of the Earth.'

'Words are a necessity for my comprehension of the world. That is why I talk a lot'

or describing English foibles:

'Perhaps the explanation for this interminable tea drinking is the possession of so many colonies, whose economy one wishes to support. '

She's just marvelous.

Of course Euthanasia can't take all the credit, the author Carina Burman and the translator, Sarah Death should probably take some. They've produced a text that seems to me to have just the right measures of scholarship - the book apparently owes a lot to the work of the 19th century Swedish writer Frederika Bremer who both Burman and Death revere and on whom both have written academically – and entertainment – it's pacy and funny.

Anyway, I can rest happy this weekend because I know that I've got old (but still 'slender and agile') Euthanasia to get back to.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

I've had a fantastic day today but more on that later, first more news:

The, yes you've guessed it, Bookaholics Guide to Books Blogs received ANOTHER review: this time in a rather well written review by Peter Carty ('elsewhere in the blogosphere, the pixels are more mixed') as The (daily) Independent's Tuesday Book . It's surprising that The Independent is the only paper that has a book review every day, I know even before I entered the biz that I always used to read it, being situated right next to the 'Days Like These' section.

(In a faux California accent) In entertainment news this week two adaptions of Marion Boyars books are to be playing in London. Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer has been adapted by Harold Pinter for the screen and will start Michael Caine (Who played the younger part on stage years ago) and Jude Law (who is apparently the next Michael Caine). There is a rumour of tickets to the premiere so it would seem that one of the things this company does is run in to Jude Law (see blogs passim). This is the film's page .

The other adaption (I refuse to believe that 'adaptation' is a word) is of The Investigation by Peter Weiss by a Rwandan Theatre Company at the Young Vic which looks absolutely brilliant.

I am actually running off to deliver some copies of Sleuth to Paramount as prizes. The other members of the office don't think I'll be let in the door and my protestation that I look like an actor were met with stifled laughter. We shall see.

Oh dear, I suppose that I'll have to delay the explanation of my joy for later. The nature of it is such that I should be similarly excitable tomorrow.