Archive for September, 2009

Hot Buttered Crumpets

Enid Blyton- my secret literary love

Enid Blyton- my secret literary love

My case is packed, the cat has been delivered to my mum-in-law (to be) and I’ve got my sunnies, ipod and a lovely pile of books- I’m off to Cornwall! Yes, my belated summer hols are finally here! We’ve opted for the rather trendy (it turns out) “staycation”, ready to brave  English hospitality and seaside drizzle in return for a delicious feeling of eco-smugness. I’ve never been so far down south before and am hugely excited, rather weirdly because of my first books crush, the blessed Enid Blyton. (Yes, I was the only girl in Sunderland to be gutted when my mum didn’t send me to boarding school..) And, for whatever reason, in my fantasy Blyton land, all the action took place in Cornwall- partly because I’d never been there but also from the inherited notion that posh people come from a distant southerly land- so, for me, the south coast is a world of lacrosse, smugglers and high tea.  We’ll have to see how long this will hold for (I expect to be having my usual hankering for concrete and the internet by about Sunday) but until then hope to have having have a wizard week (with lashings and lashings of ginger beer- of course)!

Oh and don’t forget to read the October book- the meeting is closer than you think…. xx

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Stop Press: Radio 3 wants you…

Thinking_is_freeExciting news has come my way. The collected members of New Writing North book groups have been invited- by non other than Radio 3!- to take part in their Free Thinking Festival taking place at The Sage this October! We’ve been invited along to talk to the amazing author Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk about Kevin is her biggie) about her new book A Perfectly Good Family. The idea is that we go to the Sage on the Saturday 24 October and she talks, reads and answers our questions about the book- kind of like a communal and slightly more up-market version of our usual sessions. We would then have a normal book group as planned in November to talk about A Perfectly Good Family as usual in Sunderland.

No book-lover could turn down such an opportunity and so I’ve got us in on the party. This will mean some slight alterations to the programme – we’ve made the Lionel Shriver book the November book (which means we’ll read all of the listed books a month later than planned) and if you’re coming to the Sage event that’ll involve some traveling and reading the book a bit earlier than you might have done otherwise (or you can just treat the event like a “taster” before you dive in). I also know that some people won’t be able to make it to Newcastle but DON’T WORRY if you can’t; i’ll provide a full run down of whatever Ms Shriver says and you’ll still be able to participate fully in the November meeting!

And, quite frankly, it was always only a matter of time before BBC came to their senses and realised that they are lacking the wit and razor-sharp insight into arts and culture that our venerable book group has to offer. Who needs Jonathon Ross? We’ll justify their license fee…

Oh and the October book remains Jacob Polley’s Talk of the Town!

Now we are 1

Happy Birthday to Us!

Happy Birthday to Us!

There are a lot of people in the world who seem to be pretty pessimistic about the state of the world- turn on the radio, open a newspaper and you’ll be hit with any number of articles about “Broken Britain”, economic crisis and climactic meltdown. And don’t even get me started about the things you can find on the internet. It’s not a pretty world.

But then I wonder… because, in a rather uninspiring corner of Sunderland (some would say), a group of people can come together- different ages, genders, backgrounds- to talk about books and somehow become really great mates in the process. And while I wouldn’t suggest we’re saving the world, a year of book group has made me feel a bit more optimistic about people and books and community spirit. It’s like a tiny revolution.

So (before I make you all sick), thanks for a fabulous year and a great night on Thursday. Birthday cake, delightful new venue and books- what more can a girl ask for? And The Boy with the Topknot provided a heap of subjects to start the new season- the knotty topics of mental illness, race, integration and language itself- and I think we pretty much all agreed that it was a funny and thought-provoking read which made us look at the world in a slightly different way (even if some of us wanted to give Sanghera a good shake by the end and tell him to grow up!). I was struck by the comment that Sangera’s ironic journalistic style works as a “way in” to such difficult issues but then it starts to prevent the reader from becoming really emotionally invested in his life; that seems to pretty much hit the nail on the head.

A bit closer to home for next month, to Carlisle and acclaimed poet Jacob Polley’s first novel. I think it’s going to be a bit of a love it or loathe it one, so get hold of it quick and see how it goes. Hope you all have an adventurous, mind-expanding month and I look forward to seeing you all soon. x