Tag Archives: Literary Salon

A Literal Literary & Cultural ‘High’ Light…

I am a big fan of books live, by which I mean events where you get to hear, see and even meet the authors. Be they literary festivals, events at bookshops, literary salons, recording of radio shows or even a signing (though I find signings a bit impersonal, it’s can all be a bit ‘thanks, now jog on… next’) put me down for them if I can get to them as they always give an interesting (both positive and negative) insight into a writer and their work which I find endlessly fascinating.

So when I was asked if I would like to attend what could be the highest cultural and literary salon in Europe, maybe even the world, I jumped at the chance and two weeks ago headed to the Shangri- La Hotel in London on the 52nd Floor of The Shard, a building I have always wanted to go into since it was built…

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The event was for author and poet, Tishani Doshi who was coming to talk about her work, her life and what makes her the artist and woman she is as well as the links and influences of both the British Isles and Asia have had on her work as a ‘citizen of the world’.

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I have to admit that I had not read anything by Tishani before, though as you will see this didn’t matter as I didn’t leave empty handed. (I don’t mean I kidnapped her, I mean I bought a book.) However the things that I knew she would be talking about, because the first year of this series of salons is all about the links between Asia and the UK and the fact I had heard wonderful things about The Pleasure Seekers made me feel pretty certain I would enjoy it. Plus canapés and champagne on the top floor of the Shangri-La were a pretty big incentive too…

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Anyway, from the moment Tishani started talking I was spellbound, quite literally – I know that sounds a cliché. She started by telling us a story, which was actually much more of a myth meeting a fairytale, about her life growing up both in Indian, before heading to Mold in Wales, then India again, then London, then America and back to India. She told us tales of her family which we had to guess if were true or not, she told us tales of The West vs. The East. She read from her poetry collections and from some of her fiction work. As soon as the opportunity came for us to be able to ask questions we all just wanted to hear more from her and her prose. She was incredible.

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In fact Tishani and her event was everything that I love about ‘books live’. I was completely engaged, I got to learn more about her as a person and as an artist, more about what captures her imagination and how she writes what she writes and she made me think, leaving my mind buzzing with thoughts and things to go and find out more about. I also wanted to go and buy everything she had ever written. Unfortunately for me, but fortunate for my bank balance, they only took cash at the book stall so I only managed to leave with The Pleasure Seekers (which I had signed, that isn’t me in the picture above). I have a feeling I will love and want to then read everything else.

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Oh the picture above? That is of my bathroom as I got a chance to stay in the Shangri-La afterwards which I will be telling you more about on Thursday, where you may also see a special guest. In the meantime though I would love to know of your thoughts on book events, which ones you have been to and loved, as well as some more unusual ones you have been to – especially if they are quite unusual like this one certainly was at 52 stories above the city. Speaking of which, if you would like to keep up to date with the future cultural events going on in the Shangri-La at The Shard then head here www.slculturalsalon.com I am hoping to go for an event in February that was secretly whispered in my ear, it is a corker though so sign up for updates or bookmark that sight if you happen to be in London, I highly recommend it! I would also love to hear from you if you have read any of Tishani’s works too!

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Filed under Book Events, Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Assumptions can be dangerous things; you are probably making one about me reviewing this book right now be it good, bad or indifferent. I admit I make them all the time despite the fact that I know I shouldn’t. One such bookish assumption that I know I make often is about books with too much pink on them, I just assume that they will be my cup of tea. Jojo Moyes latest novel ‘Me Before You’ is one such book I had been intrigued by but avoided due to the cover, yet thanks to a roundabout recommendation of it by Damian Barr (and the podcast of his literary salon featuring Jojo Moyes reading from the novel and discussing it) I gave it a whirl! I am so glad I did as it was a wonderful, funny, touching and emotional read and one much darker and deeper than the cover (which I don’t really think has any relation to the book to be honest) would suggest.

Penguin Books, paperback, 2012, fiction, 512 pages, borrowed from the library

As ‘Me Before You’ opens we meet Will Traynor, a young, ruthless and successful high flying business man. He makes mega bucks during the week in his office and spends the weekend’s mountain climbing, skiing or biking. That is until, in the opening chapter so I am not giving anything away, he is involved in a tragic accident. Skip forward a few years and we meet Louisa Clarke, your average kind of girl who it still living at home in her mid twenties and who has no aspirations to leave happily working in the local cafe, that is until its closed. She becomes jobless and the prospects are slim, until she takes on a job as the daytime carer/companion for a quadriplegic, Will Traynor.

It could so easily fall into the clichéd story at which you may all be assuming will take a certain twist. Louisa is hapless, clumsy and unsure and Will is edgy, offensive and incredibly frustrated. Neither really wants to be there but that is the way it is and so they both meet in the middle with slightly awkward humour. It is this humour, which had me laughing out loud, that makes the book rather special, you laugh at what you shouldn’t but not in a callous way, because as a reader you really care and you really feel the frustration and anger Will must feel being in his situation and the frustration and emotions of those dealing with Will dealing with himself.

The second genius stroke, which was also quite a risk, is the way the story develops and it might not be the one you would hazard a guess at because Moyes throws in a very big, and controversial, subject as we go on and that is the right to die. How it all works out I will not divulge, I would just urge you to read on and discover as it, I think, is handled beautifully. I should state here that I never felt that Moyes had used the subject to ‘shift copies’ and I think that is something that should be mentioned as I can think of some authors, who will remain nameless, who have happily cashed in on ‘moral dilemmas’ – this is not such a book in case the thought had fleetingly crossed your minds and you are a bit cynical like me.

There are few books which you read where the characters walk off the page and you genuinely feel like you have been spending time with them because they are as real as your mates, the last book I read where I felt like that was ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls. There are also relatively few books which deal with a tough subject or subjects in a truly honest fashion, which encompasses the light and dark, the funny and the heartbreaking, and here Moyes excels again (this interestingly reminded me of ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman). The two combined just make for a really enjoyable, emotional and rewarding read. There are also some slight twists and the like thrown in for good measure but it is the relative normality of the characters and the way they interact, good and bad, which also sets this book apart.

Having listened to Jojo Moyes talking about ‘Me Before You’ she said that it could be ‘a career breaker’ and ‘not an easy sell’ as the subject matter which it covers is a delicate one and, in the wrong writers hands, could offend or patronise people. Thank goodness for Jojo Moyes taking the subject under her wing as with a deft hand she makes this a very human story, one which will have you laughing on one page and quite possibly crying the next (have tissues to hand, advice from someone who didn’t). Ignore the cover, read the book. I did in one sitting.

Who else has read ‘Me Before You’ and what did you think? Has anyone read any of Moyes other books? I know my mother has some of them on her shelves but we have never discussed them, should I be secretly pilfering them next time I visit?

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Filed under Books of 2012, Jojo Moyes, Michael Joseph Publishing, Penguin Books, Review

Bookmarked… A New Northern Literary Salon

While I have been in and out, and in and out, and in and out of hospital, I have been planning and plotting, planning and plotting, and planning and plotting. One of the things that I noticed they didn’t really have up in the Manchester way books wise, apart from enough book shops (no independents at all in town), was that there didn’t seem to be a literary salon. Well what’s one to do except start one?

So I have been liaising with a colleague and friend of mine, Adam Lowe, and we are pleased to announce that we will be hosting a new northern literary salon in Manchester from August called ‘Bookmarked’, the venue is 88% booked, the co-hosts – that’s Adam and I – are really excited, and we have a lovely logo (thanks to the very kind Gav Reads)…

So what the heck is the plan going to be? Well after having seen all your responses to your thoughts on what a Literary Salon should be maybe we have gone down the wrong route? The idea overall is an entertaining and enlightening evening of bookish chit-chat. We will have two authors and an audience. The latter will have hopefully read one or both of the specific titles we have chosen to discuss (and hopefully the audience will have read). Think of it as a slightly edgy twisted version of Richard and Judy only with two male hosts. The authors will read, we will interrogate and share our thought before handing over to the live audience and their questions. With an interval and refreshments between each author and their book, like an ad-break but with some booze and nibbles hopefully. There will also be readings and signings… and a chance to buy books.

It is all kicking off in August, with dates and authors to be announced (I can tell you that September looks like it is going to be a crime cracker – I will say no more for now) in due course. I will have high hopes that you will be visiting at some point if you can? We are thinking of doing vodcasts and podcasts if we can get some helping hands from anyone who knows how to do such things, anyone?

Oh and you can add us on twitter @BookmarkedSalon

So maybe I should ask that question again, because your advice and thoughts are always wanted here, but what would be your ideal literary salon, or literary night in this kind of format? Which authors would you love to see talking (feel free to give us a wish list) about their books? What has been the best literary event you have been to and why?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Bookmarked, Random Savidgeness