Monthly Archives: January 2014

Let’s Talk About Sex…

Well ok, let’s talk about sex in books – as I bet the title of this post raised a few eyebrows which sex seems want to do including sex in books. Last Sunday I posted a review of Mateship With Birds, Carrie Tiffany’s second novel, which I thought was a rather amazing and brilliant book. I also mentioned that it had rather a lot of sex in it, which I had taken as a kind of metaphor for the characters inner frustrations. After I write and post a review I allow myself to go and read other reviews of the book by other bloggers or broadsheet critics and see if my thoughts matched up with theirs, what surprised me was how many of them had judged the book for the amount of sex that was in the book (apparently too much) and how this took away from the books other qualities, some people even saying it would have been a better book without the sex.

Initially this made me think ‘oh what a bunch of prudes’ as I had thought the sex was very powerful, not arousing but very powerful in terms of the insight it gave to the characters, the way it matched the charge of the atmosphere and everything else. I then thought ‘oh goodness, does this make me a bit of a pervert’ as I seemed to be one of very few people who hadn’t minded it that much. Yes it was graphic, but it wasn’t gratuitous or just done for the sake of it. It gave me a lot to ponder, and indeed I talked about it with Thomas on the latest episode of The Readers. Would I have felt differently if the book simply had been gratuitous?

Well, if it had been the case I probably would have thought ‘is there any need’ but I wouldn’t have called it ‘a dirty, filthy book’. Sex is after all a part of our lives, we are all the products of it in general and we have all done it, so why is it still such a tricky (I nearly said sticky but that would have been wrong) subject for some people to read about? Especially in an era where one of the biggest selling books of all time is now Fifty Shades of Grey which from what I read (when I skimmed through a copy I bought The Beard’s mother as she didn’t want to) I thought was really just graphic and gratuitous sex for the sake of getting tongues wagging (no pun or euphemism intended) and sales – which worked.

But who am I to judge. Look at Lady Chatterleys Lover or Lolita both of those were released to horrors and have become classics. Then there is of course Marquis de Sade or Anais Nin, one who has become seen as a saucy romping classic writer the other a feminist. I also noted that here in the UK we have an award for the worst sex in a book and yet not one for the best, is that because really sex in books makes us cringe and feel awkward and so it is best to laugh at the awful sex scenes? Yet surely the good sex in books should be celebrated as books embrace all that we as people do, or should it be like the Mills and Boons of old and simply leave the bedroom door firmly closed?

It is interesting isn’t it? What your thoughts about sex in books? Or will you all be too shy to comment?

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The Week That Whizzed By Before The Looooong Weekend

I feel like I have no idea where the last week has gone. Actually that is a big lie, I know exactly where the week has gone. Work ate it. I spent Sunday working most of the day, then working until 9pm on Monday (in the office) and then 11pm (at home so in some comfort/reach of cupcakes) last night. I have been well aware that the summer will be utterly mad and I will be working left right and centre (which I embrace as I like to be busy at work), I wasn’t quite expecting it to be this mad this soon.

Hopefully the madness is over, for a while at least, though this has meant that in the last four/five days has involved working or slobbing on the sofa/sleeping. Though I did manage to record an episode of The Readers where I moan about having no time to read – oh dear! Hoorah’s ahead though as with all those extra hours I have now got a lovely long three day weekend ahead of me and (after having spent this afternoon having a lovely lunch and then lazing with a DVD, the cats, sweets and the Beard – who feels he hasn’t seen me in forever) I am going to dedicate those days to these…

A Long Weekend of Books

Yes it is time for a long weekend of book binging. I have a huge craving for crime so plan on heading straight into some S. J. Bolton, then I really want to read Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall which I bought in Waterstones when I fell in deliriously the afternoon before it won the Costa, Deborah Levy because I have become a huge fan and some lovely ‘early Levy’ books turned up in the post this week. Then I have two books with ‘deadlines’ of sorts to them. Oscar Wilde’s short stories have been chosen by Kate for the next Hear… Read This! and book group is a week on Saturday and Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder has been chosen by Rita – all I know is it is a fictional tale involving philosophy and its history, I am terrified of it yet also hoping reading it might make me seem brainier and able to spout philosophical diatribe left, right and centre. Ha!

I also plan on doing some reviews and catch up on comments here and blogs all over the shop. Bliss. What are you reading at the moment or are planning to read? How do you manage to find time to read when there seems to be no time to read? Have you read any of the books I plan on devouring this weekend? Note: I know I won’t read all of them! What else is news?

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Mateship with Birds – Carrie Tiffany

So as it is, or probably with the time difference and the fact I have ended up working six hours from home today (on a Sunday and everything), Australia Day today I thought it would be nice to get a review of some Australian literature up on Savidge Reads. I am often telling myself I must read more Australian fiction as I like it whenever I do and so it seems an appropriate nudge. After much mulling and debate I settled on Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany, which won the inaugural Stella Prize in 2013 and which I have had waiting on the shelves for too long. Far too long as it turned out as I was left rather astounded by this book.

9780330544467

Picador Books, 2013, paperback, 224 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

On the outskirts of a town somewhere in Australia in the early 1950’s we join two neighbours. Harry owns a dairy farm and spends his days between milking his herd and watching the local wildlife, mainly a family of kookaburra’s, and looking over his past seemingly happy with and yet questioning his lot in life. Betty rents the house next door with her two children Michael and Little Hazel, often wondering what has become of her life and often wondering about Harry. We follow these two characters, Betty’s children, and their weird neighbour Mues over what I thought was a season – though it could be much longer or indeed shorter as Mateship with Birds has a sense of nothing and everything happening all at once, all in the grubby wilds of the countryside.

Dairy pastures are difficult to establish in gullies where there is seepage and drainage. They drift like continents; their hides are maps of uncharted countries. Keep the herd on dry ground through the winter. Sunlight shines ginger through their ears. Plants shelterbelts to reduce wind speed. Elastic ropes of snot hang from their nostrils; their hocks are stuck with shit.

There is much to love in Mateship with Birds but what stood out for me was the depiction of two people who are intensely lonely. No matter how many cows Harry has to milk, inseminate and calf or how much interest he takes in the birdlife he is a man who has been left by his wife and left with a huge chasm he doesn’t know what to do with. Betty may have her day job caring in nursing home and two school children/early teenagers to look after yet her life is spent pretty much in an internal monologue, and one that is filled with disappointment and heartache, she knows people talk about her in the town and avoids it, and mirrors, all she can.

Betty tries not to look at her reflection in the co-op window. She glances. There’s nobody about. She stands in front of the glass, pulls her stomach in and smiles. The puffy flesh of her cheeks rises up around her eyes and she is brought up sharp by the sight of herself so doughy, so exposed, like when her hair has just been cut and set and there is too much of herself on display. This is how she feels most of the time now; always blowsy, always overstuffed.

Harry and Betty have befriended each other out of mutual loneliness and mutual interest, there is an underlying tension between them which they never talk about. Both headed for middle age they have no one else and so Harry regularly visits for Sunday dinner or to help out and has indeed taken Michael under his wing on the farm and in the ways of being a man, which leads to Harry writing to Michael about how life was for him as a teenager and pass on all his, in unflinching detail, experience with women and sex. Let’s say we soon learn he might not be the best man to pass advice onto.

Writing is actually a big theme in the book, which makes sense when you have so many characters with little to do and so much going on in their heads. Harry writes the letters to Michael, he also keeps a note of the lives of the kookaburra family that nest nearby, written in the most gorgeous verse it is pure poetry. Keeping with nature, another major theme of the book, Little Hazel keeps her nature diary, and her mother a diary of the children’s illnesses year by year. Each of these forms of writing gives another insight into all the characters and often adds a real sense of humour to what could have possibly become a depressing book though never does.

1951/52
Michael: Concussion from bicycle accident, infected toe from spider bite (?), kicked by cow, v. bad cough, pecked by gander, eye infection, warts on feet, skewered with fork, burnt foot, constipation, infected splinter, nits.
Little Hazel: Tummy upset, headaches, chilblains, pecked by gander, warts, cough, scratched by cat, diarrhoea, nits.

I mentioned the theme of sex previously and indeed it is one of the main themes of the book. Okay, let us be frank there is A LOT of sex in Mateship with Birds, though really any surprise about that should be left at the door when ‘mateship’ is in the title yet it may surprise some as every few pages or so one of the characters either masturbates, inseminates or ejaculates at some point – or thinks about doing it. This will not be for all readers, as it is rather graphic, and I know some readers went completely off the book for it. Yet Mateship with Birds is a very animalistic and quite grubby (in a muddy sense initially) book anyway so I personally thought it worked really well and made sense often working as a metaphor for what else was going on in the book or a way of unleashing internal mental frustrations as well as the physical ones. Plus you also have a group of characters who have very little else going on, throw in that and the heat and it’s all going to get a bit heightened.

When the air is dry and thin
(early February)
you can hear the river birds to the north.
I thought at first
they were an echo,
but when you get your ear in
it’s clear
that each family sings its own song.

I do hope the sex factor doesn’t put people off this books though as really what Mateship with Birds is all about is loneliness, wanting to belong and looking at the question of what family is. I think Carrie Tiffany excels as she manages to create a novel that reminds us we aren’t so different from the birds and animals around us we like to think, we are all beasts and we function the way nature intended us to.

I do love an ‘earthy’ book and a grubby countryside setting – as I think there can be much darker things going on behind those countryside curtains, I also love a book with fully formed and rather dysfunctional characters whose lives you get thrown into. All of these loves are ticked in Mateship with Birds and more. It is wonderfully written and I highly recommend you give it a whirl; sex, warts and all!

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Filed under Books of 2014, Carrie Tiffany, Picador Books, Review

Other People’s Bookshelves #28 – Simon Wilder

Hello and welcome, after a small hiatus while I was in London too hung-over to blog thanks to Kerry Hudson’s bad influence, to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves. This week we are in London town (though I will be sticking to non alcoholic beverages as we peruse these shelves) and are all round book designer Simon Wilder’s for the day. I am very jealous of Simon’s shelves indeed and I think you may all get a slight book porn overdose, but before you do, here’s Simon with more about himself and his book and blogging addictions…

I’m 55, a graphic designer – I design books. Picture books; cookbooks, reference books, coffee table books. I have recently designed some fiction covers for Helena Halme for the Kindle, and now she’s started putting them into paperback. You can see some of them here. I also take pictures. Too many. I blog them. I’m an over blogger. http://999faces.tumblr.com http://waiterpix.tumblr.com http://maybeitsabighorse.tumblr.com http://wereallgoingona.tumblr.com I expect to finish my 999 faces project towards the end of next summer and am hoping to have an exhibition of it. I could spend a long time talking about it, but it’s not what we’re here for today. And I’ve lived in London all my life.

Bookshelves

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

A book only has to be hardback for me to keep it. A few years ago I gave 30 years worth of paperbacks to the charity shop. Hundreds of them. I was giddy about it. They weighed me down. I also loved having so much extra space. Since then I give a laundry bag of newer paperbacks to the charity shop whenever it becomes full. I really dislike the smell of old books. I hate the brownness of the paper. Hardbacks are made from different stock, and I prefer them as objects. It’s really about decoration. I’m aware that this is all slightly soulless of me, but, really, the content of books is what’s most important, and I’ve read that.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

I have one bookcase for cookbooks, another for ‘reading books’. Both are arranged by colour of spine. The reading books are fiction to the left, and much smaller section of non fiction to the right. They’re also arranged by height. I know this is all a bit silly. I much prefer fiction, rarely read anything else in book form (Although Damian Barr’s Maggie and Me was one of my favourite books of 2013). Arranging them all by colour is no problem for reading books – I so rarely reread that I never have to look for them. It’s more of a problem looking for a cookbook. But then you get taken places that you hadn’t thought of, which I love. I sometimes think it would be brilliant to have all the recipes listed alphabetically, by ingredient and by country on my iPad. But one of the things I love most about books is that they make you discursive. I may think I want beef stew, but maybe I really want bouillabaisse, I just hadn’t thought of it. And if I do decide on beef stew, will it be Provencal or Irish? So many choices. Everything is about choice. And talking of Kindles (and their like), I tried one for six months. I don’t feel sentimentally attached to traditional book technology. I gave it a proper go. But for all Kindle’s virtues, turning a real page is still exciting to me, seeing how far I’ve read, how much is left of a book, is part of the pleasure of reading. I don’t think I’m too old to change, but I prefer an actual book. My 79 year old mother, far more conservative in all areas of life than me, very happily changed to reading on a kindle. Although, after two years of it, she went back to printed matter, for pretty much the same reasons as me.

Blue-shelf

What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

Almost certainly something by Enid Blyton, or EE Nesbit. Maybe Peter Pan or a Mary Poppins. Oh, Swallows and Amazons? Doctor Doolitle? I can’t remember which, although I remember the experience and how brilliant it felt to be able to choose like that. I loved all the Edwardian children’s classics when I was growing up. I was one of those few boys who loved reading. I belonged to the Puffin club! I, most unusually for a boy, loved reading when I was a teenager, and I still love it. The only one I still have is Peter Pan. It’s a hardback.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I try not to do anything that I feel embarrassed by. I have enjoyed some TERRIBLE books, although I’ll defend Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls to the end. No, I read whatever I’m drawn to. I don’t read much chick lit or science fiction. Ok, none of either. I think Zadie Smith is horribly overrated and I’m maybe embarrassed that I bought THREE of her novels, never got further than page 50, before I admitted this. I may find it too easy to discard a book if I’m not enjoying it after, say, fifty pages, but often fewer. If I’m going to get more pleasure flinging a bad book across the room than I’ll get from continuing to read it, I’ll fling.

Grey-cook-2

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

That Peter Pan, maybe. Or my copy of Catcher in the Rye that I read and reread when I was 17. It’s the only paperback I’ve held on to. I might want to keep my signed copy of The Boys: my father was a survivor of the holocaust. He was in concentration camps before being brought here in 1945. The brilliant Martin Gilbert wrote this book about him and the few other teens they could find alive that came here at the same time. It was incredibly important to my father that his story was told to the world. I have an album of photos of generations of my family who lived before I was born, many of whom I never met. That’s the book I’d miss. Otherwise I don’t think I’d care if they all burned.

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

I was desperate to read The Dice Man, Portnoy’s Complaint and The Exorcist when I was 13, but they were forbidden to me. My mother was so frightened by The Exorcist that she burned it. Brilliant. She read all of Harold Robbins, and I wasn’t allowed to look at them, either. I think it was the sex that drew her and what made her want to keep them from me. So, all a bit Fifty Shades, although I suspect better written. I have since read Portnoy’s Complaint, and almost everything else Philip Roth has written. He’s one of the greatest 20th century authors. The Dice Man was a sensation when it was first published and still sells, but I remember finding it dull when I eventually read it. I don’t think I finished it. The Exorcist so scared me in the cinema that not only did I never read it, I didn’t make it to the end of the film.

Purple-cook-shelf

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I buy every book I want to read. Of course, I don’t want to read every book that makes it to my home. I don’t know what happens between the shop and my bedside table. I find it difficult to read anything because someone tells me to. I prefer, somewhat neurotically, to be the first reader of a book. I don’t want to find bits of other peoples’ dunked biscuits on the pages. I really love books of photography, but don’t buy them these days – I treat them like magazines – flick through then not open them again. It’s an expensive hobby.

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

Oh, The Goldfinch. I finished it two weeks ago and it is the book of the year. Sensationally good. I’m already sad that, because she writes so slowly, we only have a few more Donna Tartt novels to look forward to, at best. And she’s spoiled me for other writers. I’ve started – and abandoned – SIX books since finishing the Goldfinch. Nothing compares to it. Everything else tastes like ashes.

Grey-shelf-2

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Only the unwritten Donna Tartt novels

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I’d like them to think I’m a suave sex god.

Cookbook-shelves

******************************************

A huge thanks to Simon for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves! Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Simon’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband – Natalie Young

If there is one thing I like in a book it is that, in this case almost literally, it brings something new to the table. Be it a different spin on something, a subject to my attention that I haven’t thought about before or may even have written off, whatever the case a book with a quirk gets a big tick. As does a book with many layers, I love picking up a novel thinking it will be about one thing when really it is so much more Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband (which we will just call Season To Taste from now on) by Natalie Young is a book that does both of those things. It is a book about murder and cannibalism, the latter which I naturally would avoid, which is also a book about so much more. It might get a little squeamish in places, though it is most certainly worth it.

Tinder Press, 2014, hardback, 288 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

One day, seemingly out of the blue, in the garden of her country cottage Lizzie Prain hits her husband of thirty years over the head with a spade and kills him. Rather than ring the police, or simply bury his body in the garden or nearby woods Lizzie takes it upon herself to get rid of the body in another way, by eating it. By her calculations she can freeze it and eat it over the matter of a few weeks, maybe a month, and then go to Scotland and find a new life for herself. We follow her from recently murdering her husband until she is ready to consume the very last mouthful.

She opened up the freezer. His right hand, wrapped in a bin liner and labelled in marker pen on a sticky label, was at the top, in one of the removable wire baskets attached to the rim. It was resting on the bag that contained the left hand. The other parts were underneath the baskets, piled up and labelled in black bags, and mixed in with the frozen vegetables.

In a novel such as Season to Taste it would be very easy for the author to sensationalise it all, going to town on the horror of it all. One of the many things that I liked so much about Natalie Young’s second novel is that she never over dramatises the act of murder and cannibalism instead Young takes the more silent and subdued approach wrapping a shocking act firmly in reality. We follow Lizzie as she goes into some strange denial-meets-out of body functionality, one minute working out how on earth she can cook her husband before then working out where she can get a decent set or ten of rubber gloves – would the supermarket or the garden centre be more ideal? There is also a dark humour in moments like that too, dare I say one may chuckle as they ponder which they would go for?

Really though I don’t think cannibalism is the heart of what the story is about. Really it is about is Lizzie, and interestingly I still don’t think of Lizzie as a cannibal despite what she does (I do think of her as a real person though clearly) and at no point do you find what she has done is evil or despicable, in fact you just feel very sad for her. She encapsulates what it is like for anyone to be unhappy without really being aware they are until a sudden moment in their life, in a way it is about depression and how we know something isn’t right but we can’t work out what – as someone who has had depression on and off in the past I found how Natalie wrote this stunningly insightful. Lizzie was a woman whose husband was controlling. He wasn’t a man who punished her, though he may have been having an affair, he didn’t scream or shout and wasn’t violent, he was manipulative in other more silent ways and Lizzie became trapped, a victim of a safe marriage she so seemed to crave.

There was the time she’d found him trying to hang himself from a tree by standing on paint cans he’d put on the wall at the bottom of the garden. Possibly he’d been doing it for attention. He’d looked back at the house to see her standing in the kitchen window. Then, after a while, he’d given up. He’d let his neck out of the noose and come back in, smiling, to put the kettle on.

It also marvellously and rather emotionally, creates the feeling that I am sure many of us have had when we become aware that we are stuck in a rut. You have those feelings of despair and boredom yet simultaneously feel that you are safe and that being almost unsettlingly settled might actually be the best you can achieve in life. The when you break away from the rut and do something different or drastic the feelings of elation come, tinged with fear and a sense that maybe boring and stuck was the better option. I have not had these feelings as well evoked in a novel as I have in Season to Taste.

Really, and do bear with me when I say this, Season to Taste also a novel about grief and how it feels to lose someone, be it as they have left you, you have left them, simply vanished or have died – even if you killed them. You can be the one to end a relationship, just as you can if you have been deserted, and still feel the grief of its loss, the denial that it has happened and the mixture of fear and joy of what is coming ahead. This is depicted at its rawest as Lizzie tries to function in a new life of freedom following an old life of regulation.

Since Monday, then, Lizzie had worn the peg and sniffed menthol and eucalyptus. She had taken to standing in the shed where whiffs of her living husband were still in the air. There were three or four moments of pure denial this week when all senses agreed Jacob was still alive. She smelt him that afternoon in the shed, and then felt him as a breath at her neck at the kitchen table on Monday and Tuesday night. She even thought she’d seen him briefly in the garden, first thing on Wednesday morning, crouching over his hole.

How does Lizzie cope? Well you will have to read Season to Taste to find out but I can say that her coping mechanism is brought to us through a series of bullet points in the novel of some of the voices in Lizzie’s head after Jacob’s death. There is the angry vindicated voice ‘The world is full of parasites.’ There is the factual voice ‘It is going to take you less than a month. Think a fortnight. Think three weeks max.’ There is the practical and purposeful voice ‘All sorts of interesting recipes can be found on the internet.’ or ‘A bit of crispy celery might be nice.’ There is also that unbearably grief stricken voice ‘Put the dog’s bed in your bedroom if it helps you feel less alone.’ It is through these insights that we see all the complexities of Lizzie, even if no one else including herself can.

I hugely admire what Natalie Young has done with Season to Taste. It would have been easy with a subject like this to have gone for a really sensational and gory-for-sales novel. Yet instead she has creates a much more subtle and intricate tale of an average woman who has ended up in an average life and wishes she wasn’t and then acts on it in a moment of a breakdown. Don’t get me wrong, some of the book is not for the faint hearted and I wouldn’t advice reading it whilst eating (I may never see scrambled eggs in the same way again) but the rawness, yet sensitivity, of the subjects of grief, loss and despair are almost unbearably brilliant. It is also in many places deliciously darkly humorous, I giggled grimly all too often. So as you can probably tell I thoroughly recommend you spend time with Lizzie Prain, I won’t forget her in a hurry.

For more insights into Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband you can hear myself and Natalie in conversation on the latest episode of You Wrote the Book here.

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Filed under Books of 2014, Natalie Young, Review, Tinder Press

Does The Imprint Matter?

A few things have been making me ponder the imprints of books over the last few weeks. First up was when I was discussing a book and someone asked me what the imprint was and then if that imprint was very good which was something I wasn’t aware I give much thought to but then realised that I do. A bit like prizes actually thinking about it, you know the ones you really trust the selection of, or not as the case may be.

While in London I bumped into Meike Ziervogel who wrote Magda and also runs Peirene Press, who translate novella’s, which instantly reminded me I hadn’t read as many of their brilliant (they have all been very good so far) books as I have meant to. I also have a friend who has been looking for a new publisher and who asked me if I would recommend any, I instantly reeled off three or four who I would recommend because a) the staff there are lovely b) overall the books I read from their publishing house are just up my street – a publisher to trust on all counts. I also spotted a receptionist in a museum reading a Penguin Modern Classic this weekend, which I instantly recognised from the brand which whenever I see a copy of second hand I snatch up even if I know nothing about it because I trust them on previous experience.

This isn't a biased subliminal picture, it just looks pretty.

This isn’t a biased subliminal picture, it just looks pretty.

Mulling it (I like a good mull) all over made me wonder if I am partial to certain publishing houses in particular and where my bias lies. To get a negative out of the way, a certain book won a prize the other day and I looked at the publisher and rolled my eyes as I don’t really like them, not because of their books but because their publicity departments are a nightmare to work with. It shouldn’t matter but then again it does, a lot like one publishing house who has a publicists whose tweets were so up their own bottoms I blocked them and have avoided their books since. Bad, I know. Judgemental? Very. Yet once you have an impression of an imprint it sticks, good or bad. And it isn’t just the publishers you know in reality, it is also just the publishing houses you read regularly simply as a reader. For example Gran used to say she could generally trust Virago’s if she was stuck for a book to read.

Obviously I am working my way through the Persephone Classics (if a little slower than intended) and the reason for this is because through all the ones I have read, which I think is about ten or twelve now in total, maybe more, there is only one which I haven’t like and I have forgiven it everything because it is a Persephone – which is clearly a rather partial leaning isn’t it? I am hoping that when I re-read it (it was The New House by Lettice Cooper) I ‘get’ it the second time around and am 100% proven that all Persephone’s are brimming with wonder. Anyway, I digress…

Another pair of publishers that haven’t gone wrong for me are another two small independents (I need to mull over the bigger imprints more). They are Peirene Press (who I have already mentioned) and And Other Stories. Both feature novels that tend to be short-ish and cover fiction from all over the world and even though every book has something different about it you understand why it fits in the imprints umbrella, a certain je ne sais quoi if you will? I have actually rearranged my shelves recently so that these imprints’ titles all sit together and I can make a beeline for them as I must read more of them. In fact I really must pick one of them up next!

What about all of you? Do you have a certain publisher that you turn to when you need a good read and are pretty much certain any of their books will do the trick? (Feel free to tell me which one publisher it is!) Are there any you’ve had a pretty bad failure rate with? Do you have a classic or independent print you make sure you have the whole collection of and really support? Or does it simply not matter?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

I’ve Been Away, What Have We All Been Reading?

Oops, it appears that Savidge Reads has been left in a state of neglect this week while I have been away having far too much fun got my own good, and indeed for blogging it seems. Where have I been? Well thank you so much for asking (hee hee) I have actually been in London for the last four and a bit days and it has been a really wonderful time, even if I have come back even more tired than when I left. I meant to schedule posts while away and then thought ‘chill out, Savidge’ so I did.It does mean you can expect a bumper week of blogs next week though…

Post Office Tower

I will give you a full catch up in a post over the next few weeks but some of the highlights have been; meeting a potential Green Carnation sponsor, discussing prize judging with Natalie Haynes, drinking cocktails out of a giant clam with Kim of Reading Matters, feeding the ducks on Hampstead Heath and ending up in a scene from The Birds with Catherine Hall and her two little boys – who know me now as Uncle Sugar Bear, meeting up with one of the other Not The Booker judges, celebrating Gay’s The Word bookshops 35th Birthday – where I saw, but didn’t dare speak to, Sarah Waters –  before going clubbing with Kerry Hudson and showing bemused 20 years olds people in their 30’s can still dance… even to the Macarena and cocktails in Waterstones with Polly and Michelle. It has been brill and I am rather sulky to be back.

I also, thanks to the 2.5 hours it takes to get to and from Liverpool to London and back (take out a snooze on the way as I left Liverpool at 8pm after a late night work seminar and a big snooze on way back as I was so hung-over from Saturday night) I did the first big binge reading that I have managed this year. It is Ray Robinson’s Jawbone Lake which I am about 70% through and finding a very gripping ‘literary thriller’.

Train Reading

Which led me to wondering what you have all been up to and what you have all been reading. So divulge all please…

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Filed under Random Savidgeness