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Penguin Bloggers Night

March 10, 2012

As I wandered uncertainly into the literary enclosure on the 5th floor of Waterstone’s Piccadilly I was kind of hoping Lizzi would be there, as I always get a bit nervy about mingling. My usual solution is to pretend to be very intent on something or other, more often than not exuding such a sense of purpose (/crazy) that people are reluctant to approach me. This is what I fully anticipated, but luckily the charming Joe Pickering came up and offered me a pen to write my own name tag. Thus I had a sense of purpose. And once my name tag was eloquently completed (misspelt), I felt a sense of belonging and entitlement which enabled me to successfully mingle…with the books on the table in front of me. Luckily a very nice guy from Spinebreakers, Penguins “youth arm” (his words. I think.) took pity on me and initiated a mingling sort of conversation. And I was very impressed by the Spinebreakers initiative. That is just the kind of thing that might have saved me from reading John Irving’s World of Garp at the tender and impressionable young age of twelve.

The first reading was a gory and extremely compelling segment from Naomi Aldermans latest book, The Liar’s Gospel. The line that struck me most in this description of the ritual of slaughter was this:

“One day, worms will eat your body, and do you think they will notice your intellect?”

Who knows though, maybe intellect has a special flavour? Coconut, or something.
Following Alderman was debutante Jennifer McVeigh, author of The Fever Tree, a love story set in the highly political climate of the British-run South African diamond mines in the 1880s. The section she read was extremely subtle, and definitely enticing. Lizzi and I had a chance to have a good talk to her as well, about plagiarism, inspiration, and having so many equally great ideas for a novel it was impossible to pick just one, “just like that girl with lots and lots of boyfriends! Not that I was ever her, though maybe with ideas…”.

Maria Lewycka's lovely new book.

As it will be too long write a paragraph on each of the twelve authors I will highlight Marina Lewycza, whose sharp depiction of a starry-eyed virginal would-be revolutionary hit straight home, Robert MacFarlane whose beautifully written “secular gore” fell within

“the unpoliced borderland between fiction and non-fiction”

(I absolutely loved that line, and it may well have convinced me to pick up a rare non-fiction book).

Amanda Hodgkinson, Tom Bullough, Greg Baxter, Nikita Lalwani, Nell Leysho and James Kelman had equally diverse and interesting readings, though some of them perhaps are less to my personal taste (luckily I have lovely proof copies of most of their books to find out whether this statement is true or not).

Excellently hijacked by its own narratorOne of my personal favourites of the evening must have been Nat Segnits segment (that was a pun) from Pub Walks in Underhill Country,in fact released over a year ago. I don’t know if I am going through a phase of loving funny books, but I laughed more than was probably decent and socially accepted (but to my defence so did Joe Pickering). Luckily, during our chat at the bar afterwards, Nat gave me the exact page numbers (and I had already secured a copy of his book) from which he had been reading, as such I can quote and share the fun. But it must be said that his comic timing is pretty good and as such added to the experience. The scene is a hilarious (but of course very serious as well) depiction of “a man-and-wife rambling team who have ‘got their wires crossed'”:

“I’m coming!” I yelled, dashing into the house (….) as I mentally rehearsed my pitched grapple with the intruder, all consciousness of my natural limitations in strength and fearlessness flushed from my mind”.

I promised Signet I would favourably review the part of his book I had heard, i.e. pages 62 – 64. Please consider the above just that, or perhaps one could call it a “taster review” – a review BY someone who doesn’t have time to read the whole book, FOR someone who doesn’t have time to read a whole review. Ideal in todays self-publishing, kindle-toting days if you ask me.

A review from the rest of Signets (so far) excellent book will follow shortly (once I finish it, that is).

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