Incoming Thoughts…

Be warned this post contains a lot of incoming books, my thoughts on them and a bit of an angry rant. First Note: If you love this sort of post then carry on, if you don’t then hopefully you will be back tomorrow for the return of The Persephone Project. Second Note: I have decided Savidge Reads might be going rogue over the next few months in preparation for 2014, partly brought on by the books I have received and the thinking they have made me do, and a more no nonsense style is required which if you a) scroll quickly down to the bottom of this post before you leave b) reach after looking at a bit of book porn you will spot. Savidge by name*… where was I? Oh yes these incoming book posts.

It is funny how these kinds of posts can divide people. Some people see them as delightful posts of Book Porn and some see them as a blogger or reviewer just showing off. I go both ways with it dependent on the blog. I would assume by now you know which of those camps I am in, if you need to be told it is the Book Porn camp then I suggest you leave and don’t darken my blogs door again. Ha! So who is ready for some bookish nattering…?

So last week I was in London. This was in part to interview the amazing Jennifer Saunders, who I was very nervous of meeting and who was really lovely and I bonded with over psychopaths, for the Christmas special of You Wrote The Book, go to a press event of Penguins (where I met Deborah Levy and had a moment of mutual fandom, very strange but very lovely) as well as going to the Not The Booker event on The Saturday. I decided to make an extended break of it and catch up with friends I had not seen for a while. Naturally one place I had to go was Persephone Books to see Nicola Beauman, its founder, who I have been writing to for the last year or so since The Persephone Project started. We had a lovely cup of coffee chatted about books old and new and I was even allowed into the printing room (with a sneaky peak at one of their possible future books) and down into the Persephone cellar where the damaged books live. I didn’t leave empty handed…

photo 2 (2)Now the picture here —> actually is missing a book as I left having bought almost as many books as I was given… I decided as a thank you to my lovely friend Catherine who let me stay she simply had to have a lovely new copy of ‘The Shuttle’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett, my favourite Persephone so far as it has a sensational feel, whilst I saved one from the damaged shelves. I also saved a copy of ‘Julian Grenfell’ by Nicholas Mosley as it is the next Persephone I don’t have, well apart from ‘Few Eggs and No Oranges’ by Vere Hodgson (Persephone’s biggest book so far) which I bought a pristine copy of as a treat along with the one for Catherine. The final one I left with was ‘The Mystery of Mrs Blencarrow’ by Mrs Oliphant which Nicola insisted I take as it has a lot of Liverpool in it. She was far too kind and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

photo 5There is something so special about smaller publishers, like Persephone, and how they go the extra mile to make their books look even more appealing as well as having a certain uniformed identity. Between all the Not The Booker chatter this is something I had been talking to Sam Jordison (the chair of the inaugural judging panel) about along with the fact that I was beginning to get this real urge to go rogue and off the bloggish beaten track and read some more undiscovered or off the radar gems. He introduced me to Galley Beggar, a publishing house he co-founded which I had no idea about till then (sorry Sam) and promptly delivered me with two of their latest titles; ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’ by Eimear McBride and ‘Everlasting Lane’ by Andrew Lovett. Aren’t these gorgeous editions, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but we all do. I am now very excited about discovering both a new publishing house and two new to me authors. If you fancy reading books a little of the bookish path I thought you might like to know these guys are about.

I did leave London with a few more books than that but they aren’t out till 2014, something which I am actually going to talk more about next week. I can say that I think 2013 has been a bit of a safe year in publishing (that will get me emails, sorry but its true – some lovely books have come out, only one or two of which have made me think ‘wow original’ or blown my socks off) though from the looks of things 2014 is looking really, really, really exciting – especially for more off the road novels. photo 3Anyway one additional book I got —> ‘My Brother Jack’ by George Johnston is extra special as it was from Kim of Reading Matters and had come all the way from Australia and is one of her very favourite books. No pressure on me to like it then, ha! I was really touched when we meet for a few pints, and a whole lot of chatter, and she whipped this out as I wasn’t expecting it. Odd but delightful fact, I had taken a load of proofs for her from Penguin yet neither of us had told the other we had treats. Lovely stuff.

Finally, when I got back from London I discovered the postman had had some arduous labour whilst I had been away as there were a lot of books awaiting me. Why mention these too? Well I have started doing something new. When books come in the following happens…

  • If I have asked for it, and I maybe ask for two or three books a month if that (just to clarify), then of course they go straight onto a special set of shelves for reading ASAP – with a little ‘when the mood takes me’ thrown in.
  • If it is for work it goes on another shelf. Almost a high priority one as I need to separate these for fear of going mad.
  • If they are unsolicited I now read the blurb (which I never used to do) and the opening page and then if I think the book is a must read or a must try it stays…
  • If I don’t it goes.

photo 5 (2)For extra clarity, the ones pictured have stayed or are work books and the only ones I asked for were Ciaran Collins ‘The Gamal’; because it is a bit off the beaten track and five people I trust have told me I must read it, ‘Mr Loverman’ by Bernadine Evaristo; because they ran out of proofs at the Penguin bloggers night way back in February and I waited for the paperback, ‘The Woman in Black: Angel of Death’ by Martyn Waites; for obvious reasons that I am obsessed with the Woman in Black and am interviewing Susan Hill soon and want to discuss this with her. Blimey that is a lot of books isn’t it?

You can see why I am going to be having a small cull when the final shreds of this lurgy have passed. I have clarified this all for you more than I normally would because of this…

*Just to underline something. I have blogged for six years and do this free of charge simply for the love. Six years, not six months. Secondly I work freelance on several book pages in several magazines. Thirdly I created a book prize because I love books. Fourthly I make three podcasts free of charge discussing books with other co-hosts or the authors of said books. These are the reasons I have built up delightful relationships with publishers and they send me books, many unsolicited. This has all come through passion, dedication and hard work, leading to a good presence. I do not condone the new attitude of constant ‘book blagging’ – publishers give books out where they want to – but when I hear that a blogger or two have been slating me to several  publishers for getting sent ‘too many books’ and yet also telling some publishers that I said they could ask for books I have to address it. Naturally I am very upset to have heard about this and felt it needed addressing as it has put me in a very awkward position in the last few days.

Right, issue addressed, back to the lovely books and your thoughts… Which of these have you read or fancy reading? What is your favourite Persephone Book? What was the last book you gave to a friend? What books have caught your eye lately? What have you bought, borrowed or been sent of late?

31 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

31 responses to “Incoming Thoughts…

  1. I do so hope you love Mr Loverman as much as I did. It is my book of the year so far, I was lucky to get one of the proofs, but had to save reading it until near the publication date – it was worth the wait. Wonderful.
    The book I want to read from that pile is the James Smythe – is it a sequel to the Explorer?

    Congrats on your ‘presence’. With the podcasts, blog and everything else you do so much for the love of books.

    • Awww thank you Annabel. That is very kind of you.

      I just finished Mr Loverman which I have not written about yet as it is my choice for Book Group which isn’t till a week on Sunday and some of them read the blog – I can say that I loved it! The Echo is indeed the sequel to The Explorer, its out in Jan.

  2. I enjoy these posts a lot – nice to see what you’re reading! Am envious of the Woman in Black sequel though – the Hammer books have been great so far. Also the Kate Mosse, would love to read it.

    • I am quite torn on the Woman in Black sequel, I love the first – and the original – so much that I am not sure I will like anyone apart from Susan Hill writing it, but we will see. I have not read Kate Mosse before and I feel like I should have so these short stories will be a good start.

  3. Some lovely books there Simon – I really must read more of the Persephones on my TBR. I have to be predictable and say I’ve probably loved Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day most so far – but I have only read a few. As for your rant, I think it’s justified – if publishers are kind enough to give you review copies, that’s all well and good, but that’s not why people should be writing a blog – it should be for love of the books and wanting to share their thoughts, nothing more. Sorry you’ve encountered some less than nice people!

    • I was really angry especially as the person in question was another blogger. However in hindsight I think the person is just a bit insecure and for some reason must find me threatening which again is really sad. Anyway onto nicer things… The Persephone’s are wonderful, I am loving reading them in order.

  4. So sad to see you still are having those kind of problems Simon, especially people complaining you get too many books! The cheek. We all get a bit jealous now and then, but the grown up thing is to check it at the door (and go put the book on a wishlist).

    I love having a nose at people’s new books, even if they have just raided the library (a guilt free pleasure). Those Galley Beggar books look very stylish.

    P.S. Try to read The Echo when you’re not feeling down, it’s rather bleak (but good).

    • I get jealous, well envious is probably a nicer word, of other bloggers and the treats they get but I would never be mean about it – that isn’t what the blogosphere is all about as we lovely bloggers know.

      Eimear’s book from Galley Beggar Press is the one which won the Goldsmith’s Prize and is written in the most unusual style but it is BRILLIANT!

      I will listen to your advice on The Echo, I think this whole series might have a bit of a bleak edge to it😉

  5. Lovely lovely books🙂 I too loved The Shuttle – what a charming gift for your friend – I’m sure she’ll love it, I enjoyed the Mrs Oliphant novellas – I remember them as perfectly complementing each other.

  6. I’ll admit to some occasional envy when I hear the bloggers I admire chatting about ARCs and the like. And then I am forced to acknowledge that if I admire them, well, obviously they are really good bloggers. The have influence (on me at least). And a lot of them spend a lot of time on their blogs. I love blogging, but I don’t spend the time, and I don’t have that kind of influence. Publishers choose specific bloggers not because they are nice, generous folks, but because they want their books to find an audience. If I were a publisher, I would give you an ARC. I wouldn’t give me an ARC. That’s life.

    • I think envy is understandable, jealousy and actually then being a bit mean spirited about it is something completely different. You make the most valid point though, whilst I disagree a publisher wouldn’t want to send you books it is their choice who they send what to. You should ask, they can only say no – always my attitude😉

  7. Every time I see one of your posts like this, Simon it makes me want to run out to indie bookstores, set up camp and buying lots and lots of books. Completely agree with you on the smaller publishers and the uniform identity, I love it, it’s like collecting a set. It certainly makes for a more enjoyable purchasing experience, although that probably makes me sound incredibly shallow (Hi, I’m Alice and I judge books by their covers.)

    Hearing about ‘book blagging’ and you being slagged off makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. Book blogging is about the love of all books, not just a desire to be able to get the newest ones for little to no work. I’m sorry to hear this has caused you trouble, it’s a incredibly unfair position to put you in. It’s bloody rude as well.

    Speaking of book lending – today I found a nifty cafe with a book shelf inside where you could read, borrow or buy books. Naturally this got my friend and I nattering about reading, and while I couldn’t lend her any I gave her a long list of ones she may like. I ended up leaving with a copy of Wuthering Heights and a book on WW1, all donations went to charity so not only did I get to leave with two books I got to give to a good cause as well.

    • Welcome to Book Covers Anonymous Alice, take a seat we will be with you shortly😉 Hearing that I make you want to camp outside, or indeed inside, your local indie bookshop makes my heart sing.

      Book blagging winds me up royally, as does getting slagged off but to be fair I put my words, tweets, posts etc out there and so really I should toughen up and just ignore it, the buggers.

      Your local café sounds wonderful, we need more cafes like that I think.

  8. I am so naive I didn’t even realise that bloggers expected to get free books. If I review something it’s usually a book I’ve just picked up in the library. I have been sent the occasional review copy, and I’m always very grateful, but I’ve never asked.

    I loved ‘Few Eggs and No Oranges’ – but my mother, who lived through the war, found it incredibly irritating and felt that Vere Hodgson had had a very easy time of it compared to many. My absolute favourite Persephone is ‘The Fortnight in September’ which I would recommend to anyone – but especially to anyone who remembers family holidays on the South coast.

    I recently watched ‘Julie & Julia’ and was so taken with Julia and her husband that I’ve now borrowed a collection of her letters ad ‘My Life in France’ – both of which our wonderful East Lothian libraries ordered for me.

    I’ve been to Persephone Books’ shop in Lamb’s Conduit Street, and also had the enormous pleasure of attending a tea they held at Annabelle’s in Edinburgh to celebrate the writing of DE Stevenson – am always hoping they will hold another event up here.

    We have a book bothy in the phone box in the next village to ours – I love the idea of swapping books and the fact that you never know what will turn up there.

    • I never expected to get free books when I started and I still don’t. In fact anytime books come through the letterbox it feels like Christmas morning, it’s lovely. Now I am in a position where they send me books if they like and I am allowed to request titles.

      I need to get cracking on Few Eggs and No Oranges as it is huge and I should be reviewing it a week on Sunday, gulp! The store is amazing isn’t it?

      A book bothy sounds AMAZING who came up with that brilliant idea?

  9. Col

    I enjoyed your post – even the rant bit. There’s a great Joe Jackson song called “Rant and Rave” – when I go off the deep end it usually comes into my mind! While I enjoyed the rant I didn’t really understand it as I wouldn’t know a publisher if I sat on one (god help them if I DO sit on one though as yesterday I tipped the scales at FIFTEEN STONE! Jesus!). Anyway it’s a world I know nothing about but I picked up that you obviously have influence! Alas I doubt your “name” would be much use to me in that sense, as I just read what I buy, and I buy sometimes on the basis of recommendations in blogs I like (like Mr Loverman which I bought after Annabel’s great review of it). So whoever did the deed it wasn’t me is I think what I’m saying!!!! However along with books my second love is Man United – have you got any influence with Sir Alex Ferguson that I might tap in to for a ticket…………….?!

    • Sometimes we need a rant and actually what is good to know is that anyone who isn’t part of that sphere won’t get it which is possibly a good thing.

      Alas Col I have no swap or influence on Alex Ferguson at all. Sorry about that. I can tell you, if you haven’t read it yet that Mr Loverman is as good as Annabel says it is.

  10. I love your Book Porn posts. I guess I don’t understand the irritation or jealousy of some people. I just want to learn about new books–I don’t care where or how you got them. [shrugs]

  11. David

    I’d heard of Galley Beggar, but not of that Andrew Lovett one, which sounds fabulous – just ordered a signed copy directly from them. Have to say, I’m not a fan of those black covers (stylish yes, but a bit dry perhaps? Also the cover layout is very reminiscent of the Faber Library books from the mid-90s) and with the exception of the Persephones, which seem to be designed with room dressing in mind, I’m not that excited in general by some of the very uniform covers from the small presses (thinking here of Pereine and & Other Stories). Though the uniformity does indeed give them a clear identity and makes them collectible, I suspect another reason for it is that they are relatively cheap given their budgets must be very tight.

    I have a couple of Persephones but my Mum is a real fan and has loads of them and they do look lovely all together – I keep meaning to get around to trying some (very tempted by Helen Hull’s ‘Heat Lightening’ and RC Sherriff’s ‘The Fortnight in September’).

    I bought a cheap copy of ‘My Brother Jack’ earlier this year and still haven’t got around to it, so thanks for reminding me.

    • Oh do start with The Fortnight in September – I am on a constant mission to persuade people to read it, it is so well written and enjoyable. Hope you enjoy it.

      • I am going to follow this advice too, I know it was for David, but this is one of the most popular Persephone’s apparently so looking forward to when it turns up in my Persephone reading project.

    • I like the uniformity of the Galley Beggar covers a lot. I think it gives them a signature look and if the two I have are anything to go by means that when you see another cover of theirs you instantly have to have it. I will be telling you much more about them in due course😉

  12. You MUST like My Brother Jack or I will never talk to you again! No pressure. I’m joking, of course.🙂

    Oooh, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. I reviewed it a month or so back and found it incredibly challenging and confronting.

    • No pressure indeed😉

      I have just read A Girl Is Half Formed Thing and am interviewing Eimear in the morning, I think what she has created with that book is a very clever and wonderful thing – especially as it really makes you think about language and how its used.

  13. “What have you bought, borrowed or been sent of late?”

    The author, Carolyn Chun, lent me a copy of her first book “How to Break Article Noun” and also, following a comment I made about loving the work of Sappho, the very challenging (for me) “Eros the Bittersweet” by Anne Carson. For my birthday I received the final (posthumously edited) book in Fermor’s splendid trilogy of pre-WW2 walking across Europe – “The Broken Road” – which I am about 2/3 of the way through.

  14. Mr. Loverman certainly sounded very interesting when I heard Evaristo reading from it – but I haven’t managed to get myself a copy yet but I do plan to read it at some point. Regarding ‘book blagging’, I think it’s a good to recommend other bloggers to publishers but not use other bloggers as an excuse to get books!

    • I often recommend bloggers to publishers, especially if they ask me about a certain book and its not my cup of tea, I am happy to refer them on.

      Mr Loverman is brilliant, just brilliant – finished it this morning.

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