Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ready, Steady...

Just a quick note for those who wanted to join me in reading Fair Play by Tove Jansson - I intend to start in a couple of days! On your marks...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Crow Lake

The camera is behaving slightly better today. Nothing I did, so think it's just fickle. The focus modes have all been experimented with beforehand, but thanks for the tips, guys!

I've realised that I haven't yet blogged about Crow Lake by Mary Lawson, so time to get that sorted out. First, I'll let you know the little process taken from having no clue
who or what Mary Lawson is, to being able to blog about Crow Lake. It goes something like this...

1) In the morning wander through the blogs, it goes something like this - Cornflower, Random Jottings, Dovegreyreader, Bluestalking, Booksplease, Crafty Person, A Work In Progress, Books and Cooks, Janice's Reading Diary, Angela Young, anyone else for whom I have time. Hadn't realised until typing that I had such a rigid structure. The 'anyone else' is vast and wide and takes many, many minutes - but before that, this is pretty much the daily round-up. I read to find out what my e-friends have been up to, but also largely for book recommendations. To differing degrees, I know I have shared tastes with these bloggers. If Elaine, Lisa or Karen like something, then I'm going to be interested. Crow Lake, however, started it's Stuck-in-a-Book life as a recommendation on Margaret's blog - she wrote about it here.

2) Books that REALLY excite me go onto the Blue Bit Of Card. Some bloggers, I know, write down almost every book they see recommended - I'm much more picky. Most books have to rely on luck - it's sink or swim. If I remember them, then they get read. If not; obviously we're memorable enough. The Blue Bit Of Card is for when a book looks great, but I don't trust my memory.


3) Usually I trot off to abebooks or Amazon. Crow Lake, again, is different - I found it on the shelves at
Honeypot, a church-linked bookstall/coffee morning/craft-making/gossip that Our Vicar's Wife organises and I was visiting.

4) Almost finished it on the train home!

So, back to the novel. It takes place on two time periods - Kate Morrison is a lecturer, invited to her nephew's 18th birthday party, which starts her thinking about her childhood - the other time period. She lives near Crow Lake in the back of beyond with her brothers Matt and Luke, and toddler sister Bo. When their parents are killed in a car crash, they learn to
fend for themselves. This novel shows the sacrifices each has to make, and the lasting ramifications of these - and the guilt Kate still feels about having a PhD when Matt had to sacrifice his academic futherment. Along the way their lives become entangled with the mysterious Pye family, haunted by years of hatred and violence within previous generations.

Lawson writes with so many character nuances, and is concerned with subtle issues of empathy, sympathy, unity, hope, hopelessness, courage, foolishness, pride, misunderstanding - it's all there, as anyone who's read it must agree. Kate's reunion with her family, along with the reader's gradual understanding of their shared childhood, is tautly emotional and very absorbingly written. The ending and the re-analysis of Kate's feelings demonstrate the most sophisticated writing on Lawson's part, and a truly complex depiction of family and humanity. There are so many categories this novel could fall in which would have put me off - tragic childhood; Southerners-are-salt-of-the-Earth; violence - but Lawson proves that, though a lot of dross may be written in these areas, they can be used brilliantly. Oh, and a lot of it is very funny too. For instance, Kate and Luke trying to teach Bo nursery rhymes for the first time:

'What are the main ones?' (Kate)
'I don't know. Teach her the ones you like best.' (Luke)
I couldn't think of a single one. 'I don't remember any,' I said.
' "Hickory Dickory Dock",' Matt said. He was sitting at the kitchen table writing to Aunt Annie.
Self-consciously I said, 'Say "Hickory Dickory Dock", Bo'
Bo paused in her work and looked at me suspiciously.
'She thinks you've flipped,' Matt said, scribbling away.
I tried again. 'Bo, say "
Hickory Dickory Dock".'
'Icky Dicky Dock,' Bo said brusquely. She looked around her, searching for a particular saucepan.
'Good!' I said. 'That's good, Bo. Now say "The mouse ran up the clock."'
'Dis pan,' Bo said. She seized the largest pan and started whamming the others into it in order of size. She was pretty good at it, too. She didn't make many mistakes.
'She's ignoring you,' Matt said in a pause in the din. 'She's decided you're nuts.'
'Come on, Bo,' I said. '"The mouse ran up the clock."'
'Silly,' Bo said, sparing a moment to wave a stern finger at me.

...

Term of the Week: Auction

An auction is a process which allows multiple publishers to bid on your work. Auctions can vary in shape and type, depending on the number of editors interested, the type of book, and the agent involved.

Before an auction occurs, an agent will get in touch with editors and explain the rules. They will set a date in which offers from publishers must be received and what terms must be included.

An auction is typically classified as either rolling or best bid. In a rolling auction, after all initial offers are received the lowest bidder is giving an opportunity to improve on the highest offer currently on the table. The next lowest editor can then try to beat this, and so on, until every editor who made an intitial bid has had an opportunity to re-bid. Those who don't are dropped, and a new round begins, starting again with the editor with the lowest offer on the table. This process can continue without limit until editors give their top bid, or an agent can establish beforehand a closing date to ensure that the auction doesn't get drawn out indefinitely. A best bid option is simpler - the editor must convey to the agent their best bid immediately, without knowing what other editors are bidding.


As I mentioned in a previous post, some publishers might try to pre-empt an auction by conveying an offer for a limited period. If the author and agent reject this pre-empt, this can sometimes be adapted as a floor offer - i.e. the minimum offer that a bid has to be for in an auction. By making a floor offer a publisher then gets the right to top the last bid made by ten percent if such auction occurs.


Your agent should establish clear rules for the auction, guided by what they believe to be the best strategy for a successful sale. No matter what, these rules should state that the author reserves the right to accept an offer on the basis of a publisher's comprehensive proposal rather than based on the highest dollar offer, since the most money isn't always the best deal.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Where Connie Did Next

Sorry that I didn't give anyone a last-chance-warning on the draw for Miss Hargreaves, but it has now been made and a winner has been drawn! I hope you know the responsibility which goes alongside having Connie to stay. She's been in illustrious company - half the list of blogs under 'people to meet' have allowed her a brief visit which extended into a lifelong affection. Once in your head, she'll prove impossible to forget. For those who've yet to make even the most cursory acquaintance, let me direct you to my post about her here. For those who've yet to meet Connie even cursorily, here's a quick summary: Norman and his friend Henry are on holiday in Lusk - on a dull day they wander into a church, and have to make conversation with ean even duller verger. On the spur of the moment, Norman says he has a shared acquaintance with the parish's beloved ex-vicar - and that acquaintance is one Miss Hargreaves. She's nearly ninety, carries a hip flask, bath and cockatoo with her everywhere, not to mention Sarah the dog. Continuing the joke, they send a letter to her supposed hotel, asking if she'd like to come and stay. When Miss Constance Hargreaves arrives on a train, Norman has some explaining to do, and the strange occurences are just beginning...

Still haven't got my camera fixed, so just imagine that the draw took place underwater. Patch, being of a fluffy disposition, understa
ndably wouldn't like to be underwater - so I'm afraid I used a little box instead. It's quite pretty, but this doesn't come out at all in the picture.



Congratulations to...


For those without supervision, you'll have to trust me that the paper says DANIELLE - well done Danielle!! Book-swap ahoy. If you email me your address to simondavidthomas@yahoo.co.uk, then I'll pop Miss H in the post to you - and I'll send you my address for the surprise package in return! How exciting! Will, of course, let you all know the book for which Connie has gone a-travelling...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oh how much more doth beauty beauteous seem

I've just come from a domestic little scene in the kitchen, having rustled up caramel shortbread and rock cakes. I love baking, but it doesn't tend to go entirely smoothly - often because I don't have the exact ingredients and utensils required, and tend to assume that it won't make too much of a difference. Today's caramel shortbread required a shallow baking tin... two candidates stepped forward; a casserole dish and a grill pan. Hmm. Not, as I mentioned, the exact utensils required. In the end I plumped for the correct depth - the grill pan - and realised that this would need rather more shortbread than the recipe stipulated. So far, so good. Made twice the amount, pressed it into an even layer across the greased grill pan (firmly cleaned beforehand, fear not)... and discovered that the grill pan's handle was non-detachable. I.e. the oven door wouldn't close. Quickly scooped up the mixture and put it in the, quite small, casserole dish. Which could only really fit the original recipe, not twice the amount, as I'd made. Ho-hum. Despite charitably eating quite a lot of raw mixture, the shortbread filled the dish when cooked, and had to have the top cut out. And somehow it's not very shortbready - more like a crunchy cake. Good enough. The caramel worked, which is the hardest bit, so I daresay it'll be edible enough.

ANYWAY, can't offer a
photo as my camera is still very blurry - as exemplified by the blurry pictures today. Karen, at Cornflower, wrote the other day about notebooks and diaires and the beauty to be found there. Completely agree - there is something indefinably gorgeous about a really lovely notebook, because it's not just beautiful in and of itself - it also speaks of possiblities, potential. My latest notebook, though, is not space for a novel or blueprints for a cathedral etc, but rather 2008's diary. I blogged about diarising aaages ago, and the past few years I've tried to find beautiful books in which to write, rather than the bog standard ones you can get from The Works. Have experimented with dated/undated; lined/blank; white/coloured pages, and have settled upon blank/undated/white as my favourite. My latest has lines, but wait til you see the outside...



That, ladies and gentlemen, is Mr. William Shakespeare's signature on the front. He missed out the first 'e', but we'll let it slide. The cover of this faux-leather notebook is Shakespeare's writing of the play 'Sir Thomas More' (ok, academics argue that he might not have written the bit commonly attributed to him, but it's the only way we're going to get a self-handwritten copy of any of his writing). Had to buy it, really. Stole that picture from Amazon, but will make up for it by letting you know that you can purchase the notebook from them here. From January, I shall be writing my daily ramblings in there, purging out the dull stuff and keeping the best and most bookish for you lot!

So, if you haven't already commented on Cornflower, and even if you have - do you have this notebook addiction? What is it that links the bookish with notebooks - do we just love books in whatever shape or size they come? And, if you keep a journal, what sort of diary/notebook do you find is best?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fairly Exciting News

I don't think I've officially announced my exciting news in regards next year, so I shall dedicate a post to it right now. You were going to get new accompanying photographs, but my camera is currently refusing to focus properly. Usually does this when it's tired, so have put it to bed (aka 'charge') and think about what it's done. Or rather, not done.

You probably know that I'm currently working in the Bodleian as a Graduate Trainee, with an eye to going to library school and the
n librarianship. Well, those plans haven't really changed - only maybe postponed for a bit. I've decided to apply to do a Masters at Oxford next year - eep! Twentieth Century English, hopefully with my thesis on domestic/'middlebrow' fiction between the wars and its thematic and stylistic relation to contemporary highbrow lit. I.e. what did Bloomsbury and Devon think of each other? Excited about it - but of course wanting to apply is a long way off getting a place and, importantly, getting funding. Eep again. But what working in a library has told me, perhaps above everything else, is how much I miss studying! Not that I'm not enjoying myself, of course - only I didn't realise how much I'd miss it. I knew I'd long for the student lifestyle, but above all it is the academic side that I yearn for... and I'm not just saying that in case my tutor finds this blog! And hopefully a Masters won't just be my self-indulgence, since it is very helpful if I choose to go into subject librarianship... and who knows, not ruling out the doctorate just yet...

So, those who are sad that they missed Stuck-in-a-Book's degree (and it was almost over by the time I started this blog)... here's hoping that the world of Oxford will be seen through your screens come September 2008!

On a rather more mundane note, I'm afraid recent spamming in the comments has meant I'm going to (try to) include the word verification bit on commenting. Sad. I didn't want to - because it makes it inaccesible for the visually impaired, and I know one visitor is, and it's just irritating - but had half a dozen spam comments today and it'll only get worse. Grr!

Question: What's a pre-empt?

When a Publishers Lunch story says a book was sold "in a pre-empt," what does that mean?

A "pre-empt" is a preemptive offer. A publisher conveys this offer in advance of an auction or an expected auction in an attempt to preempt other publishers from getting the book. Typically this offer is conveyed for a short period of time (24 to 48 hours) before it's pulled from the table.

The biggest issue is whether the offer is good enough in order to preclude going to auction. Problems also arise when the offer is for more rights than the author and the agent want to grant.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Books I'm Jonesing For

Here are a few books I really want to see:

A serious treatment on the rise of cable television, filled with behind-the-scenes interviews with both the suits and artists who made it happen. Journalism credentials necessary.

American history in the 19th century. The issue chosen needs to be specific, but with enough umph to carry a whole book. I also think that there's room for more history books focusing on a single year or even a few months (April 1865 is a great example).

A gritty, hard-boiled urban fantasy mystery series. Imagine Lehane or Connelly, but paranormal. Must be set on earth in the present or very near future.

Christmas BOOKings now being taken

It's the 25th, and you know what that means - only two months until Christmas. Yep, usually I'm there with the Grumpy Old Men and complaining that Christmas comes earlier every year, with tinsel going up as soon as the Easter eggs have been melted down for fondue. But I'll make an exception for books, as it's not their fault that marketing has to happen in October. Today I'm going to chat about two different Christmas books - very different, actually, but both worth mentioning.
This week, like a couple of other bloggers, I was sent Lynn Brittney's Christine Kringle, described as a book for children of all ages. All the Gift Bringers from around the world are meeting for the annual Yule Conference, which debates such issues as whether Gift Days should be internationally universalised, or whether women can be become the hereditary Gift Bringer if a Yule family have no male offspring. This is especially important to Christine, daughter of Kriss Kringle, as she has no brothers and wishes to inherit her Yule duty. In the midst of this, the council of Plinkbury, a town in Worcestershire (hurray!) decide to ban Christmas. Off flies Christine and her Japanese and English friends to get Christmas reinstated... An enjoyable book, though not my usual fare, and was delighted to see Worcestershire get in print, as it was my homeland for thirteen years. Can't work out if Plinkbury is based on a genuine town, though... there certainly isn't one of that name. Unsurprising, really.
When I started the book, I was a little dubious at all the national stereotypes. You know - Italians in the Mafia; British sullen; Japanese polite and industrious; Americans saving the day. But Brittney melds these characters into a fun plot which keeps you turning the pages. I do have quibbles with the polemics Christine delivers - as a Christian, I didn't like to see the Christ part of CHRISTmas swept under the carpet so much, quite openly, and I'm too British not to blush at some of the bits about loving ourselves and finding a hero inside every one of us and so forth. But if you're feeling Christmassy and uncynical, give this one a go.

The second Christmas book I wanted to mention is Jostein Gaarder's The
Christmas Mystery, initially published in 1992. The book is divided into 24, being the first twenty-four days of Decemver - like a big advent calendar, in fact. The central character, a little boy called Joachim, is given a mysterious old advent calendar - each day opened provides a slip of paper and a picture. Through the story on the bits of paper, we follow Elisabet as she wends her way through the shepherds and wisemen as they journey towards Christ's Nativity - and Joachim's family try to connect it to the Elisabet who disappeared at Christmas 1948. This is a beautiful book, with mystery and atmosphere and the magic of Christmas without making the festival commercial or saccharine. I read it last year, a chapter a day through advent, and would definitely recommend reading it that way.

Oh, and don't forget you still have a chance to get Miss Hargreaves!

Hope Solo


I've been debating whether to post something on the Hope Solo incident for a few weeks. It really has nothing to do with publishing though, so skip this if you don't like soccer. As for me, I am a rather rabid soccer fan. I watch at least three matches a week, and support both the Men's and Women's National Team vociferously.

The WUSNT didn't perform well in the World Cup, barely winning it's initial matches before losing to Brazil 4-0 in the semifinals. There also was significant controversy surrounding the recently fired coach, Greg Ryan, and Hope Solo, the goalkeeper. Solo had been the starting goalkeeper for the team for over two years and had a superb track record. Ryan then made the unprecedented move of switching goalies for the Brazil match. For chemistry reasons this is simply not done - the goalie acts as the manager for the whole defense and it takes time and practice to act as a cohesive unit. In addition, rustiness is very common for goalies - action in games is absolutely necessary to keep sharp. Finally, with the exception of only one goal, Solo had been superb for the team throughout the World Cup and in top form in every game she's played for more than two years.

So of course the team loses, and of course Solo says the switch was a mistake. You don't become a professional athlete by being a shrinking violet. Perhaps she should have kept her mouth shut (even though she was right), but what followed was in my opinion an even worse display of immaturity.

Check out Bonnie Ford's article on ESPN Soccernet for more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Publishing Trends Survey

Interesting survey conducted by Publishing Trends... the information about compensation is sad, but accurate.

Fancy a Book-Swap?

All sorts of experimentation today... I do apologise if it doesn't work.

Fancy a Book-Swap?

I was wandering into Arcadia, one of my favourite shops in Oxford and one which is mentioned here, and bought a little Penguin paperback, with anticipation of its being sought after with my readers on this blog. And, if you'd like it, leave a comment - or email simondavidthomas@yahoo.co.uk - and I'll make a little draw. To make it fun and reciprocal, all I ask is a paperback-swap i.e. send me anything at all that you think I might want to read, even if it only cost 5p! How's that for a deal?

But what is the book I'm offering, you ask? Well... it's probably got more mention than any other on Stuck-in-a-Book, and is one of my very favourite novels. The video will give the rest away. It took me an age to get it to work, and then I forgot that videos will show you a shot from the middle as their default screen, which rather removed the mystery. But humour me, and play it anyway. I've put a gap in the blog to extend the surprise... If the video fails, then your answer can also be found here.

Tempted?! Remember, just comment or email, then the winner can have a paperback exchange with me.

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Term of the Week: Beauty Contest

Jane Smith submits her book to a bunch of agents, and ends up getting lots of favorable responses and offers of representation. Now she has to decide which agent to go with, and so she either meets with them personally for lunch or drinks, speaks with them on the phone, or corresponds via email to obtain more information. She asks all the important questions - agent biography, submission plans, commissions, general agenting strategy, etc., and then decides which agent to go with.

Agents call this a "beauty contest." We've all been in them, and we've all won some and lost some. They're no fun for us, but great for Jane Smith and writers everywhere. Editors have no sympathy for agents regarding this since they are constantly in beauty contests of the agent's making - i.e. auctions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Old Penguin/New Penguin


Today I'm going to chat about the New Penguins. Or do I mean Old Penguins? Or Penguins experiencing a second childhood? Before you think I've gone all David Attenborough (does that mean anything Across the Pond?) I am talking about the world of publishing. I'm probably not very uptotheminute, but I haven't seen much discussion about the OldNew Penguins across the blogosphere, and thought I'd contribute my tuppenyworth.

For years - ever since I first found an old orange-striped Penguin paperback - I've maligned Penguin's decision to ditch these covers. Yes, they're Penguin Classics covers are often beautiful and well chosen, and I daresay some of their other choices aren't aesthetically unpleasing, but there is no book jacket so distinctive and iconic as the old Penguin strip
es. Moan on, I did, and moan. And, I can only imagine as a direct result of my solitary moaning, Penguin celebrated their birthday by reissuing several recent books in these old covers. Be still, my palpitating heart! Well, not completely still. That would be rather a fatal error.

So I did what any self-respecting bookaholic did, and scurried along to all good bookshops (or at least one of 'em) and beheld a table full of these beauties. Light Blue for big idea; Green for mystery; Orange for fantastic fiction; Pink for distant lands; Dark Blue for real lives; Purple for viewpoints. And in a
buy-one-get-one-half-price offer.

My first choice was quite easy. I've been wanting a copy of Claire Tomalin's Jane Austen : A Life ever since I borrowed Our Vicar's Wife's copy a few years back - and to have a nice purple Penguin copy... But I was determined to get a truly iconic orange Penguin, in which guise so many of my favourite novels have appeared. Hmm... (quick perusal of stall)... well... no, not really... and I don't want that. Haven't heard of that, doesn't look very good... Saw that for 10p the other day...

I came away from the orange Penguins entirely empty-handed. Fantastic Fiction? For each title I either had it, didn't want it, or could get it (in a different cover) for next to nothing in a charity shop. Hmph. So I bought The House at Riverton instead. Great idea, Penguin, but a little more thought in the fiction department, perhaps.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Book Quotes: Lance Armstrong

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE: My Journey Back to Life
by Lance Armstrong and Sally Jenkins
Putnam, 2000

Sunday, October 21, 2007

50 Books...


15. Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead - Barbara Comyns

The early stream of books to include in my 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About has slowed to a gradual flow, and that was sort of deliberate. I suppose I didn't want to overwhelm people. This site mentions a lot of books - as you might expect on a literary blog - and also suggest a great deal as being worth reading. I suppose I want to say "Even if you ignore everything else I mention, pay attention to this list." Of course, you're perfectly welcome to ignore the list too, but I'd like you to pay special attention to them if you so wish(!) They're all there for a reason - because they're touching or hilarious or brilliantly written or just very indicative of my taste, and I know that you're unlikely to hear about them unless I mention them.

So, after that little preamble, step forward no. 15 on the list - Barbara Comyns' Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead. Those of you who are more knowledgeable than I will have spotted that the title is from The Fire of Drift-Wood by Longfellow.

We spake of many a vanished scene,
Of what we once had thought and said,
Of what had been, and might have been,
And who was changed, and who was dead;

The only other Comyns I've read was Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, so she certainly has a way with titles. I bought Who Was Changed... a few years ago, partly because I'd quite enjoyed Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, partly because the mix of a Virago paperback and an interesting cover piqued my interest. Had I turned to the first sentence, I daresay I'd have read the novel much sooner: 'The ducks swan through the drawing-room windows.' How can you not want to read on?

The n
ovel opens with a flood, and things get stranger and stranger. If I were to choose one word to describe this novel it would be "surreal" - but surreal in a very grounded manner. Exactly like the cover illustration, actually; part of 'Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta: Dinner on the Hotel Lawn' by Stanley Spencer. Throughout the events (which I don't want to spoil for you) Comyns weaves a very real, earthy, witty portrait of a village - especially the Willoweed family. A cantankerous old lady who won't step on land she doesn't own, Grandmother Willoweed, rules over her docile son, Ebin, and his young children Emma, Hattie and Dennis. Grandmother W is a truly brilliant creation - without the slightest feeling for anybody around her, she is still amusing rather than demonic. For some reason this novel was banned in Ireland upon publication in 1954 - perhaps for the occasional unblenching descriptions, but these are easily skipped if you, like me, can be a bit squeamish.

Though quite a slim novel - my copy is 146 pages of large type - Comyns writes a book which lingers in the mind, one that is vivid and funny and absurd and a must read for anyone interested in off-the-wall literature with human nature at its heart.

And it's cheap on Amazon.co.uk...

(please do go and read a rather better review on John Self's Asylum blog here.)

"Gone Baby Gone"

"Oh no girl, don't do it!"

My wife and I looked over at the person sitting next to us in the theatre, an expression of shock and disgust on our faces. Besides destroying our movie-going experience, this idiotic person clearly missed the whole point of the climax of the wonderful new film, "Gone Baby Gone".

I'll come back to this, but first let me say that if you go see "Gone Baby Gone" and manage not to find yourself sitting beside a really stupid "movie yeller", and you also manage to not sit in front of an older woman who constantly kicks your stadium seat, this is a thoroughly enjoyable film (I only mention that the woman behind me was older because she really, really should have known better, as compared to some fifteen-year-old punk who thinks it's funny).

Adapted from the superb book of the same title by Dennis Lehane, the film stars the impressive Casey Affleck as Patrick Kenzie, a local Boston PI who is hired by the distraught aunt and uncle (Amy Madigan and Titus Welliver) of a kidnapped girl to join the police investigation. Riding shotgun with Kenzie is his girlfriend, Angie Gennaro, played by a rather limp Michelle Moynahan. Angie is hesitant to take the case because she predicts an unhappy ending, but Patrick remembers the girl's mother (Helene, played by an awesome Amy Ryan) from growing up, and thinks he might be able to help.

The two eventually sign up and are teamed up with two condescending police officers (scene chewing Ed Harris and the under-appreciated John Ashton, of Beverly Hills Cop fame) by police chief Jack Doyle (an overacting Morgan Freeman), and using Patrick's neighborhood connections the kidnapping comes to a quick climax. But not everything is how it seems, and since he's a perfectly drawn noir detective, Patrick is simply too stubborn to let things go.

Though there are some problems that arise with the transition of the book to film, director Ben Affleck does a wonderful job of recreating Lehane's world, a place where nothing is black and white. And this brings me back to the climax, and that stupid movie yeller sitting next to me. There are some choices we make that can't be classified by right or wrong. Some decisions you just make, and then live with for the rest of your life. And unless you're George Bush or the woman sitting next to me in the theatre, the choice is not an easy one.

Exploring the gray that inhabits us all, "Gone Baby Gone" is a definite hit that I guarantee you'll talk about for days after, and Casey Affleck is a star in the making.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

E-Friends?

I have a (free) account with StatCounter.com, and they tell me interesting things like the countries in which I'm being read; the keyword searches which lead to SiaB; the length of time people spend here before getting bored and going away (a startling number stay for '0 seconds'). The other day I noticed a lot had come from normblog... curious, thought I, and pootled off there to find out whys and wherefores.

Well, thank you Elaine! The lovely lady of Random
Jottings has entered the blogging hall of fame, in the form of a normblog profile. Have a look at it here. There are all sorts of questions about blogging, reading, politics, personality and so forth - bits and pieces which you might pick up from her blog, but which are usually in the background. Anyhow, in the course of this interview Elaine mentioned my blog as one of her favourites, hence what we in the business call increased traffic. Shucks, and thanks!

And this got me thinking... Before my blogging
days, as you probably know by now, I was (indeed, still am) a member of a Yahoo group dovegreybooks@yahoogroups.co.uk - it began as a group devoted to those nice grey books I talk about quite a lot, but chatter is often about a whole range of books, which we call 'doveish' for want of a better word. There are only three of us from the day I joined (January 2004) but many past and present are very dear... whats?

That's the point of today's post. What are these people? Well, they're friends of course. I'd count many of you as that, too, of course. Most of you know more about me than colleagues I see everyday, and we certainly have more in common than many people I socialise with - the main reason I blog and am in the Yahoo group is because I love 'meeting' other people who love books like I do. But - or is just me? - do you ever feel embarrassed talking about FRIENDS when you've never met them? The whole thing can sound like people who hold online conventions about cartoon characters, or participate in online dating. Nothing wrong with those things, I daresay, but they're not what we're doing right here. Plus, let's face it, for the most part those things are a little geekier than we're willing to admit to. So... what do I say? At the moment I tend to say "e-friend" in an ironic, very postmodern sort of way. There just isn't the right language yet, or the right social knowledge of this sort of very real friendship.

Language aside, my question for you today is - which e-friend (for want of a better word) have you known the longest? How did you e-meet, and have you met in the Real World? What was it like?


My longest e-friends are mostly in the blogosphere now - Elaine at Random Jottings, Lisa at BlueStalking, and Lynne at Dovegreyreader. The other dovegreybooks Yahoo group member whom I've know since January 2004 is Lyn, who introduced me to it, and thus to a whole different life of reading, and this blog. Ruth, at Crafty People, joined around the same time, I think. I haven't met any of these people, but have met Karen at Cornflower, and Barbara and Jane from dovegreybooks. The former event was lovely, though I'd only been blogging for a fortnight or so, and had only just 'met' Karen online. The latter - met both of them at a book event, by design - was really, really nice. I thought it might be a bit awkward, but we had good fun and, though brief, it was a delight to put a face to a typeface. I don't seek out these meetings, but am not adverse to them if they occur - and think it would be great fun if they happen by coincidence. Doesn't blogging open up a lot of possibilities?!

p.s. for those who read this yesterday - Blogger is now letting me put up sketches again!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Random Movie Musings

I admit it - I am a cinemaphile. I can sit through a six hour double feature without moving. I geek out when classic B movies are run again on HBO (Thirteenth Warrior, anyone?). I giggle like a school girl when the season film preview edition of Entertainment Weekly comes out. Free movie passes are like gold to me. I love the smell of buttered popcorn and the sound your shoes make as you walk on the sticky floor of a theatre.

Yet I sadly must admit that since opening the agency at the beginning of the year I've gone to the theatre less and less. This is certainly not for a lack of proximity - there are three theatres within a twenty minute walk of my home. I'm simply too tired most of the time, and the recent releases just haven't gotten me excited enough to overcome the calling of my couch. It doesn't help that the wife and I don't share the same tastes in movies (mine=good movies; hers=weird foreign movies).

But in the past two weeks I've managed to see two fantastic films, The Assassination of Jesse James and Michael Clayton, and this weekend we have plans to see another, Gone, Baby, Gone. I've actually been anxiously awaiting the movie for years, since I first read the book of the same title, by the great Dennis Lehane. For me, this and the three previous titles in the Kenzie series are the pinnacle of mystery/suspense writing (If you're an aspiring writer in this genre, it's required reading).

I was a bit nervous when I heard that Ben Affleck was attached, but when he wisely decided to make his brother Casey the star I breathed a sigh of relief. I've only seen good reviews so far, and I hope that this time Monday I can post one as well.

Attack of the Killer Assistants

I received a great comment in my previous post about treating the assistants of the publishing world with respect, and I felt it was worthy of putting the comment front and center. Just like everyone else in the business, I was once an assistant myself and so I speak from experience.


Good assistants are the life force of publishing. They are uniformly underpaid and could easily make twice as much in another industry, but they stick it out because they love books.


They read your queries, partials, and manuscripts. They pass on your phone messages. They file your royalty statement and mail you your check. They remind their boss to call you back. They show up for your readings. They are the unseen wheels turning the machine. And one day, through a combination of hard work, aptitude, and luck, many will become editors, agents, publishers, and publicists and have assistants of their own.


But when you're underpaid and underappreciated, you tend to feel like a martyr. And let me tell you, martyrs have long memories. They remember the smallest slight for months, and certainly will recall the time you yelled at them for the rest of their lives. They bide their time, waiting patiently until they are in a position to serve their revenge, a dish cold but delectable.


I have never yelled at an assistant. I suggest that you don't either.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bokking Thorugh Thrusday

Boking Thrugh Thurssday thsi weke iz abowt speling orr grammer erorrs.

"You may or may not have seen my post at Punctuality Rules Tuesday, about a book I recently bought that had the actual TITLE misspelled on the spine of the book. A glaring typographical error that really (really!) should have been caught. So, using that as a springboard, today’s question: What’s the worst typographical error you’ve ever found in (or on) a book?"


Beeing inn an libary, i seee alot off thiss, thogh its allmost allways acidental. Misslabelling teh syde off volyumes, taht sortov fing. Cant thinc off eny blatent erors inn tituls oar eeven conntents off buks themselfs... all so ca'nt kepe tihs upp four mutch longerer, sew shal tern teh qestion ovver two ewe...?!

Client Responsibilities

I received an interesting question from a potential client yesterday. After asking some great questions about what she can expect from me as her agent, the writer then asked what her responsibilities were in our relationship. I thought this was a responsible and smart question, and one that gets overlooked.

The most important thing for me and I think most agents is that my client acts professionally. This means working hard and meeting deadlines. It also means being open to editorial guidance, though of course there will be times you disagree and will need to stick to your guns. It also means treating people with respect, and I'm not just talking about your agent. I also mean editors, publicists, book sellers, reviewers, and even readers.

Professionalism also means that you need to keep reasonable expectations. Publishing can move at a glacial pace, and there are also some archaic customs that should have been tossed aside years ago. Changes are being made, but it's a slow process and patience is absolutely required.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not Quite The Booker


Wouldn't you just know it? I start to dabble in the twenty-first century, and the book I read doesn't even win the Booker. That's gratitude for you. Hmph. Well, can't see myself bothering with Anne Enright's The Gathering, even with the accolades of the Booker panel, but I have now read one of the shortlist at least. My library-trainee-chum Lucy, a McEwan aficiando to the death, leant me her copy of On Chesil Beach to see if Ian could redeem himself in my eyes. For the record, my previous experience with Mr. McE goes something like this: Atonement - great, especially the beginning; Enduring Love - amazing opening chapter, kinda tailed off after that; Saturday - umm, what happened Ian? So I'm pleased to say that, while On Chesil Beach isn't particularly like any of the others there, it met with approval from Stuck-in-a-Book and McEwan is back in my good books. There's almost a pun there.

Have now returned Lucy's book, so shall type my thoughts as best I can without it. I'm sure you all know the premise by now - virginal newly-weds Edward and Florence experience an awkward honeymoon, and McEwan uses this tiny canvas to present their lives and the lives of a generation. Two such fully-formed characters he's not written since Briony in Atonement - no cliches (imagine the accent, if you will) or easy portrayals, these are real people experiencing real situations. The only issue I take is that Florence seems like a real person from about 1910, not 1962... feels a bit like McEwan flipped through his Decades of the Twentieth-Century Book and picked the first one which wouldn't have them encumbered by a World War. Still, that's a minor quibble, and we'll let it pass.

McEwan (controversially) called On Chesil Beach a 'novelette'. Controversial because this more or less disqualified him from the Booker shortlist, but somehow they managed to sweep that under the carpet. Whether or not it was wise to label the book thus, I think I agree with the term - if McEwan had only included the honeymoon scenes, then this would be a (long) short story. Since he intersperses these sections with substantial chunks of background, it's more than that, but it still doesn't quite feel like a novel. Usually huge amounts of back story irritate me, and here they weren't always welcome, but generally they are woven in in such a way as give characters deeper dimensions affectively. I certainly didn't want more - the characters' backgrounds offer the central story, almost a vignette, poignancy and integrity, but any attempts to make this a thousand page tome would have lost all the spark and depth.

I shan't spoil the ending - except to say that it is the opposite of Atonement in terms of effect. Much of Atonement examines the consequences of a single action; On Chesil Beach examines the single action and allows the reader to extrapolate the consequences.

How fast is superfast?

As those of you who have queried me might have discovered, I have been trying to respond to queries sent via my website's submission form as they come in. I've gotten a few angry responses with suggestions that I didn't actually read the query - which of course is not true. I promise, I have no automatic rejection set up. In fact, in the past two weeks I've made offers of representation to two writers who submitted to me via the submission page form. However, I've also gotten some nice (and funny) responses from people who appreciate hearing back so quickly. Here's one...



About TITLE OF BOOK....

That rejection letter was lightning fast! Thank you!

AUTHOR NAME

The sender strenuously insists that there is no sarcastic intent in the above email. In fact, the sender looks forward to getting any response, whether it’s good or bad. An “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” twenty minutes later is a thousand times better than an eternally empty Inbox. The sender is genuinely impressed with your promptness, for it far surpasses any other rejections to date. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Six(th) Sentences

Mel, whose little biography dominated yesterday, also brough another website to my attention recently - Six Sentences. Can't decide whether or not it's intended to be a pun on sixth sense - if not, then it should be.

Quite a simple idea - what can you say in six sentences? If the short story is too long for you, then this is the website to which to head. Obviously a single sentence could be infinitely long (discuss) but the contributors take it sensibly,
and use a small canvas to make a big impact. Some famous people have made their efforts known - Sting, Stephen King, Tom Cruise (think some of these are just six sentences stolen from other places, come to think of it...) and Mel George, of course. Haven't written anything myself yet, though I probably will when I've had time to ponder on't - but a fascinating little domain of miniature thoughts, experimenting successfully. Worth checking out in an idle moment - got to be better than day-dreaming, anyway.

And, like that website, today's entry is short. Because my camera is charging, and so I can't do any of the posts I've been thinking about. Will just share an amusing incident from the library today - fresh from tipping a trolley of books over myself yesterday (both librarian and books are in a stable condition) today an oldish man told me cheerfully that "40 years ago what I was doing would be vandalism". Um, ok, except what I was doing was dealing with his enquiry and typing on a computer... left me with a bit of confusion, but all adds to the rich tapestry of life.

Lyons Confusion

Got a query today that was jointly addressed to Jennifer Lyons and me. To avoid any confusion, Lyons Literary LLC and Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC are two distinct agencies with absolutely no connection to each other. And no, we're not related!

If you want to submit to Jennifer's agency, check out her Publisher's Marketplace page for more information. If you want to submit to Lyons Literary LLC, please go to my agency website submission page.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Cinderella DOES go to the ball?!

I've always assumed there are some books which one knows psychically.

Well, obviously that's nonsense, but there are all sorts of books which I don't remember having explained to me, but which I knew about, down to most of the plot twists. I'm not just talking boy-gets-girl, I'm talking Jane-Eyre-Madwoman-in-Attic. It would never have occurred to me to put a *SPOILER* warning in front of that, as I might if I were revealing climactic moments of more obscure literature. Sorry if I've spoilt the novel for you... I rather assume that m
ost of my readership know about old Bertha, even if they haven't waded through Gilbert & Gubar. I didn't read Jane Eyre until I was 17 or thereabouts - but I knew the whole plot without, as far as I'm aware, having heard or seen any adaptations. So it was fun, but it wasn't surprising.

Writing yesterday about the Queen's (fictitious) introduction to literature made me think about my friend Mel. She is a very, very dear friend, and hopefully won't mind me writing about her (!) Though a bright lass, she's not as book-obsessed as I am, and some of the classics are still unread for her. That makes it sound like I'v
e read the lot, which is incredibly far from being the case, but Mel still had The Big Three to read. The Big Three are not books I consider to be the best in the world, nor to have a huge amount in common, it's just I've never met anyone who liked one of them without loving the others too. What are they, you ask? Jane Eyre, Rebecca and I Capture the Castle. She's now done all three, and loved them - but the reason I write about it is because she didn't know what would happen next! I had great fun hearing updates on Jane Eyre, with surmises and surprises along the way - what would be in the attic? A deformed son? And they were getting married but half the book seemed to be left - what could go wrong?? What a treat it must be to have a completely fresh introduction to such a classic.

So, any books you've done this with?
Shocked to learn that Elizabeth gets over her prejudice? Astounded that Scrooge turned out not too bad? The nearest I've got is with Rebecca - I knew most of the plot beforehand, but not one important twist. My biggest gasp-out-loud moment came in To The Lighthouse, but I think a fair percentage of you may not have read TTL yet. YET, I say...

Oh, and as an aside - do you, or anyone you know, break my Big Three declaration?!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Common/Uncommon

Had a lovely time at home, soaking in the countryside, and am now back in my usual blogging spot of Oxford - specifically the desk of the back bedroom in Regent Street. While down in Somerset (or Zumm as I affectionately label it) I was able to offer my lovely Aunt Jacq. a cup of tea, for she also lives in Zumm, and she reciprocated with much more exciting gifts...

No, not my birthday of anything - she just saw them and thought of me. It pays to make your opinions known, doesn't it?! Well, you all know I love Virginia Woolf - and I'd ummmed and ahhhed over the Alan Bennett for a while, glad the choice was made for me.

Haven't used the mug yet, but a car journey too and from Bristol to see The Carbon Copy (the whole Clan together for a few hours at least!) allowed me to read The Uncommon Reader, and greatly did I enjoy it. Haven't read any Alan B before, though did see The History Boys film, and have vague recollections of Talking Heads being on in the car in my younger days. It was great fun - I'm sure everyone knows the plot by now. The Queen bumps into the local library van, and, out of politeness, borrows an Ivy Compton-Burnett. Love her or loathe her (ICB, that is), you have to acknowledge she's not a great one with which to start the long path of literacy:

'She's not a popular author, ma'am'.


'Why, I wonder? I made her a dame'.

Mr Hutchings refrained from saying that this wasn't necessarily the road to the public's heart.

As she pursues more and more books, with the help of kitchen boy Norman who becomes her constant aide, her royal duties start to suffer... This book, as well as being witty and just the right combination of absurd and plausible, also offers some genuine insights into the realm of reading, without being too truism-y. 'I think of literature,' she wrote, 'as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but cannot possibly reach'. Ever felt like that?!!

And just a final word about the sketch. Not a great one today, I'm afraid, so if you need a clue just think 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Book-buying Begins At Home

Every Saturday morning Our Vicar's Wife runs The Honeypot from our garage. Not many people can say that sentence, can they now? The Honeypot is about a year old now, and is a church-linked initiative but open to all, where people can drink coffee, buy goods, get involved with crafty activities, generally natter, and... buy books. Donate them too, of course. Now we have shelves of secondhand books adorning the garage wall, which I raid every time I pop home. Sorry to see that my duplicate copies of Woolf and the Brontes remain in place, alongside a stray Iris Murdoch and an AA Milne - but then not everyone can enjoy my esoteric tastes, and who says Virginia Woolf is necessarily better than Virginia Andrews... euch, I need to wash out my mouth with soap.

Anyway. Today was no different to other Saturdays, and whilst saying hello to the visiting villagers, I managed
to scoop up a handful of books. Set my back £2 for the lot...

- John Banville, The Sea
This counts for having a finger on the pulse, so far as Stuck-in-a-Book is concerned. Won the Booker in 2005, didn't it? And has a pretty cover. Bonus.

-E.F. Benson, The Osbornes
Haven't read any non-Mapp & Lucia books by EFB, so this nice old hardback can slip into the tbr pil
e.

-Doris Lessing, The Sweetest Dream
Now this really is up-to-the-minute stuff. Well, published in 2001, but as you probably all know, Ms. Lessing was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this week. I read a transcript of her reception of this news, and she sounded ungrateful, but watching it on youtube, she just sounded witty and grounded. Strangely Chick Lit cover for this book, which isn't quite how I remember Memoirs of a Survivor

- Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
I feel I should own a copy of this... will I want to read it? Any thoughts?

-
Mary Lawson, Crow Lake
Just as I was going to buy a copy online... great review by Margaret over at Books Please here, which made the novel seem irresistible.


And I thought I'd have nothing to read on the train home...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Flattery will get you everywhere...

Another brief post today - but with a link to a rather longer one. If you just can't get enough of my library burblings, then you're in luck - Lisa (Bluestalking Reader to many of us, and also one of the loveliest people I know) asked me, bless her, to be a guest blogger on a library blog she runs, over in the US. We go back a few years now - on the dovegreybooks online reading group - and she has watched me morph from highschooler to Grown-Up, always with kindness and wittiness and general loveliness. Well, I'm still basking in having been labelled charming by her ;-) Before I descend into a, wholly justified, bout of mutual appreciation, here is my contribution to the blog. Some of it is stuff you've read before, maybe, but if you want to print off and memorise my first few weeks' experience, it's a useful resource. And of course you should have a mosey around the website: lots and lots of interesting things to read about. Her mention of my sketches does, however, make me remember how negligent I've been. Could Do Better.

Query Pile

Jenny Rappaport from Lit Soup explains why she can't give you an update on the status of your query. Ditto for me.

No Phone Calls Please!

Do not call an agent to pitch your book! I can't stress this enough. If agents took calls of this nature they would never have any time to get work done. Think about it - I get more than thirty queries a day, and usually more - and if I had to have a three minute phone conversation with each author about their project that would mean I would spend an hour and a half of each day talking about a project without getting any sense of whether you can even write! I can evaluate a written query far faster than you can pitch it orally, and I'll actually get a sense of your writing style as well.

Every agent I know prefers queries by either email or mail, and you should check their websites or book listings to confirm their preference.

Here are the only valid exceptions that I can think of for this rule:

1) Time is of the essence. For example, you have already received an offer or are expecting an offer from a publisher.

2) The agent was referred to you by one of the agent's clients or associates (for example, an editor or film agent).

3) You have big-time credentials (for example, your work has been published recently by a major commercial house).

In addition, please do not call to follow up on queries sent by mail or email. If you haven't heard back from an agent in a long time about a query, you should follow up in the same format that you sent the original query in.

As for following up on the submission of a partial or full manuscript sent at an agent's request, I personally still prefer to receive a follow up email, and not a phone call, though other agents may feel differently.

So if you've called me or any other agent in the last few weeks and left a voice mail about a new book you have and were wondering why we never called back, and you don't qualify under any of the above-listed exceptions, hopefully this explains things.

A New Blog

Seal Press has started a new blog, with posts from two of my favorite publishing people, senior editor Brooke Warner and publisher Krista Lyons-Gould.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Initially...

Back in Somerset now for the weekend, Our Vicar and Our Vicar's Wife and all. Long train journey, on which I finished one book and made good headway through another, and I look forward to seeing the countryside again in the light.

Just a brief ponder today, brought on by talk of L.P. Hartley yesterday - has an author's name, or appellation thereof, ever caused you confusion? I know it probably shouldn't make a difference, but when I discover that an author is male when I thought they were female, or vice
versa, it alters the way I read or think retrospectively of their work. I didn't realise, you see, that LPH was a man until a few months ago - in fact, I was sure he was a she... and, do you know, I became more reluctant to read The Go-Between when I discovered this. Perhaps it's based on the knowledge that I usually prefer books by women, but either way it's a form of bigotry, I suppose, and thus ought to be stamped out... Is bigotry too strong a word? Well, probably. But it definitely makes a difference. Or is this distinction rational? Do you do the same?

Some other authors where confusion has arisen...
- Who didn't think Richmal Crompton was a man when they first read the William books? Many of my friends still don't realise.
- Harper Lee - thought she was a man for years...
- J.K. Rowling - while I always knew Jo was a woman, this is an example of initials being used for deliberate ambiguity, so that boys would be happy to read Harry Potter.
- D.H. Lawrence - another one I got wrong for a few years... but having read a couple of his books, it could never have been a woman could it, really?
- P.L. Travers - another poor woman whose gender was assumed otherwise by my younger self

Then there are those with whom I never had trouble - or perhaps just guessed correctly. P.G. Wodehouse, L.M. Montgomery, L.M. Alcott, C.S. Lewis, A.A. Milne, E.M. Delafield, J.R.R. Tolkein... is there something about these that ties them to their gender, or did I just guess luckily? And which authors do you accidentally gender-realign?!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Term of the Week - Industry Standard

"Industry standard" is a term that most often comes up in the negotiation of your contract. Basically, it means that your request should be acceptable because it is the standard practice in the publishing industry.

Knowing what is standard practice is essential before negotiating any contract, which is why I advise either securing an agent or an attorney for these negotiations. While some industry standards are well known, such as paperback royalties of 7.5% of the list price, some are less so (a reservation of rights clause).

P.s.

A few people were having trouble accessing Our Vicar's Wife's blog... all should be well now!

The Answer Is...

Well, I sort of cheated, because I've already talked about this book this week - but not a I've-finished-it review yet. The book was...


The Go-Between. It was rather hiding on the shelf too, wasn't it. This split posting gives me a chance to answer some of the questions you lovely people put earlier! The anonymouses are confusing me rather, as I try and work out which is whom... would help if anonymous people signed their name, though of course they may prefer the intrigue and mystery... your prerogative! So, anonymous numero uno, yes I do shelve my tbr (to be read) books and my read books together... well, since most of my books are in Somerset I've brought tbrs, favourites, and books I want to blog about. I know it's methodical to shelve them separately, but I like the idea of them mingling - the books I've encountered jumbled up with ones which are yet foreign countries.

Which leads me nicely to the opening line of The Go-Between: 'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there'. As I read somewhere else this week, what makes this sentence so memorable and evocative is the present tense for the past - 'they do', not 'they did'. Clever, LP Hartley.

And from the first line onwards, this novel was a delight.
Hartley breaks all sorts of rules - don't have the main action of your novel take place after a huge preamble; don't have it all as flashback etc. etc... and he still produces a wonderful novel. The prologue begins with a man finding his old diary, and reminiscing from there, remembering more and more of what happened decades ago. I knew vaguely what the plot was, so I knew that the schooldays bit couldn't last for very long - from the picture of Julie Christie on the front, if nothing else. And soon enough Leo heads off to Marcus' for the holidays, in a very upper class house and family to which he feels foreign and inferior. Gradually he finds his role in the web - as the go-between, taking notes between Marian and her two love interests; Hugh (think Mr. Bingley) and Ted (think Mellors without the accent).

Shan't spoil the ending of the main novel for those who don't want to know, but will just say that it manages to be a big surprise without sacrificing emotion to sensation. Ditto the epilogue. Throughout Hartley writes so well - that quality which I can't put my finger on, but can only describe as thick, treacley, substantial... Oh, and there is documenting of a cricket match which Ian McEwan should have read before he wrote the interminable squash match in Saturday.

Carole askes why I love this sort of novel so much - well, the 1900-1950ish domestic novel, I suppose. Ermm... Good question. The period was the first when ordinary lives and ordinary incidents became fodder for novels, and good domestic novels tread the line between whimsy and common sense perfectly, and often very wittily. Ideal.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Guess Which?

Oh dear, it's crept past midnight again (though I am trying to deceive the computer into thinking it's still Tuesday... we'll see if it works). And I'm very sleepy, so you'll have to prepare yourself for a book review tomorrow - to whet your appetite, I'll show you a photo of a bit of my bookshelf. The book I'll be reviewing is one of those in the picture... guess which. Not too tricky, perhaps, but means you get both text, photo and interactivity without me having to use my brain at all.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

BAFAB - the results are in!

Patch the Wonder Dog wasn't feeling quite as athletic as last time, but offered to help this time's BAFAB in a more adminastratorial position. I pointed out that adminastratorial wasn't a word, but he assured me that it was - or at least very soon will be. Please try and use it in conversation within the next week.

So, rather than rolling around in sellotaped bits of old paperchains, Patch wielded pen and paper...


And then selected the one winner...


Which is...


Congratulations Karen! We had two Karens entering the draw, but this is the one from verbatim.blogs.com. Just select one of the thirteen-so-far books in my 50 Books You Must Read..., and I'll pop it in the post to you. My reviews of them are all links in the list, so should help make a decision... Then email me at simondavidthomas@yahoo.co.uk and we'll sort it out from there...

Thanks for entering BAFAB, everyone - more next time!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bookcases Do Furnish A Room


Ow. I have just performed the most exercise since... well, at least eight years. And it took much longer than I anticipated - which is why today's post has slipped over into Sunday. Oops!

No, I haven't run a marathon or won the rugby world cup (topical, no?) Yes, I have battled with the tester of mental and physical agili
ty which Argos label a 'bookcase'. It took about three hours. I have genuine blisters. But it got done. Some will suggest that giving up on screwing in screws, and lunging at them with a hammer instead, is a short-sighted and foolish measure. To these people may I repeat - blisters. And the bookcase hasn't fallen down yet.

So here it is - looks simple, doesn't it? At least the instructions were in English, unlike some Ikea bookcases I've purchased. And a tent I tried to put up a while ago appeared to have instructions in Polish or Dutch or something that was of minimal use to me - though doubtless swathes of Poles or Dutchmen have successfully put up enough to keep fields of campers dry. Oh, and the list is purely photographic-angle stuff, promise.

More importantly, on go the books. Only a small fraction of my books came with me to Oxford. Which brings me to the question of ordering - this can raise strong opinions from people. Harriet recently shelved some books in colour order - something which looks beautiful, but which I think is only practical in the home and should never be attemped by anyone trying to sell books; how am I to know where to look?! My friend Barbara-from-Ludlow arranges many of hers in subject/period/tone etc. in a very personal system which means everything is with companionable neighbours, as it were. What did I go for? Alphabetical, I'm afraid. The librarian in me coming through, isn't it? There are slight twists - separate shelf for Persephone Books and one for my beautiful Jane Austens. Sorry the titles and spines aren't very clear in the photo - I think it's because it's past midnight, and thus dark... and another day without a sketch, but I think the image of me putting this contraption together is quite amusing enough without further illustration.

BAFAB draw tomorrow - or, rather, later today - so very last chance to enter: here!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Fancy reading a book?

Our Vicar's Wife was very touched to have lots of you pop over to visit her, so do keep saying hello! Carole asked me if Our Vicar would complete the family of bloggers... well, we can ask him, but I'm not sure he'll take the bait. We'll see.

I mentioned my Book Group the other day - well, our next meet-up is November 13th, and we nominated potential books for a poll. At the moment my suggestion, Tove Jansson's Fair Play, is winning, with 7 votes to 2. Looking likely that it will prevail, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to extend the group to all readers of S-i-a-B as well. Fancy joining in?


I've not read Fair Play, but loved A Summer Book and The Winter Book by Jansson, also author of the Moomin books. Her writing is beautiful and evocative and did I mention beautiful? It;s about two woman growing old together on an island, I think... "philosophically calm - and discreetly radical" according to the blurb. Would be great if people fancied reading it before November 13th and sharing their views, so that I can take a barrage of opinions along to the book group! If you want to, then it's here for Amazon UK, and currently in the buy-one-get-one-half-price in Borders... Sorry US-residents, you might have to take sneakier routes.

What fun!