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129. A Night At The Bookshop…

129. A Night At The Bookshop…

Waterstones, which boasts the largest bookshop in Europe (as I was informed by staff when I spent the night outside it recently to meet Haruki Murakami), recently turned a potential publicity nightmare into a publicity dream with some slick marketing.

When an American tourist popped to the upper floor of the Trafalgar Square branch of the chain, he came down to discover he was locked in.

Rather than roll around naked covered in all of the books, or make the coolest book-fort ever, he tweeted about it until he was released.

The fool.

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Waterstones quickly teamed up with Air B ‘n’ B to offer ten lucky readers the chance to spend the night in their flagship Piccadilly shop overnight, with inflatable mattresses, celebrity guests and, of course, tea to keep them company.

For some reason, a friend of mine thought this might interest me and posted the details on my Facebook page.

All potential lock-ins had to do was to answer the question:

“…what book you would read if you were to spend the night in a bookshop, and why.”

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This is, obviously, an impossible question to answer. To obvious, and hundreds of others will have answered the same. Too obscure, and you will look like you are showing off. Anything about bookshops is out, of course, and after hours of trying to think of a single book which might stand out and get me picked, I decided to do what the best students have been doing since time immemorial, and answer a different question instead: what bookS I would read!

Here is my answer: what would yours be?

“If I were to spend the night in a bookshop, I would (not wasting time sleeping for a minute, of course), do my best to read a book from each formative stage of my (reading) life so far, and finish (around coffee o’clock in the morning) with a book I have always wanted to read but never gotten around to, these being in order: my childhood (and current all-time) favourite, ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de St.Exupéry; my pre-teen years passion, ‘The Worst Witch‘ by Jill Murphy; my teenage companion in pain, ‘The Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4′ by the much missed Sue Townsend; my high school graphic novel-discovery days staple ‘The Sandman‘ by Neil Gaiman; my university-days, tongue-tapping go-to ‘Lolita‘ by Vladimir Nabakov; a selection of short stories, possibly ‘Fictions, by Jorge Luis Borges to represent my (ongoing) world-travelling days; and I would finish, if there were any minutes left in the day (night?), by reading a book of poetry, a promise I often make to myself and rarely fulfil, maybe ‘The Waste Land‘ by T.S.Eliot, (with Whitman’sLeaves of Grass‘ as a potential substitute, should I somehow finish them all.)”

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PS In case you’re wondering, I didn’t win. I probably should have answered the question and taken my chances. Maybe they didn’t believe I could have read all of those books in one night, but they obviously don’t know me: if I don’t sleep on overnight flights in order to watch as many movies as possible, I certainly wouldn’t be sleeping if I got to spend the night in Europe’s largest bookshop!

Since I wasn’t in the country at the time of the sleepover, not winning was probably a good thing. Although if you think I wouldn’t have paid whatever it cost to fly back to London for the night to spend the night in a book shop, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to this blog…

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Posted by on November 6, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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107. ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July…

107. ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You,’ Miranda July…

Short

stories

are

BRILLIANT!

I have found myself reading a lot of them recently, and even discovering new favourite authors, from George Saunders to Etgar Keret.

They are an art form unto themselves, following different rules, logic and styles to other types of literature and, best of all, if you’re not enjoying one it’s all over soon enough and you can move onto another.

But even knowing all of this, and with glowing praise from newspapers, magazines and authors (including my beloved Dave Eggers) on the front and back covers, I was still blown away with how good Miranda July‘s 2005 debut ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You‘ was/is.

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As you can see from the website she set up to promote the book, she has a quirky, indie sense of humour which comes flooding out in the 16 tales told in this compilation, but it is a humour interwoven with an array of emotions and issues: ball-shrinking awkwardness, (‘Making Love In 2003‘ is the best excuse for paedophilia since ‘Lolita‘ only in a more sci-fi, hilarious way, if you can picture that); feminism; social awkwardness; sexual awkwardness; physical awkwardness, (it occurs to me, writing this, that there is a lot of awkwardness in there, which I probably should have guessed given the title…but awkwardness, as fans of ‘The Office‘ will know, is often amusing); and underlying it all, love.

Where we find love, how we find love, how it finds us, how it avoids finding us, what we put up with to convince ourselves we have it – these are all things you may learn reading this book. But most of all, you will have fun.

At the 2013 Hay Literature Festival I had the honour of attending a talk by the aforementioned George Saunders using a wonderful Donald Barthelme short story to deconstruct the art of the short story. (I am delighted to find that the piece itself is free to read online here). It was all about the journey and not the ending, the author leading the reader to new, unexpected places, and doing it in under incredibly restrictive parameters. (I think. I don’t remember it too well, and don’t have time to go back and listen to it, which you can do if you feel like, here).

If you haven’t read many short stories, you could do a lot worse than start here.

418x9PVeHEL  nbhmty-russianweb  images  nbhmty-hebrewweb1  Miranda July + Short Stories 

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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88. My Top 10 Most Favouritest Books EVER!…(pt.1)

Having already attempted to condense my favourite authors down to a Top 10 here and here, (and with more to come, no doubt), I thought I’d turn my attention to favourite individual tomes for anyone looking for something great to tuck into. The choices were endless, (as this list, too, may end up being), but for now here is the first part of an all time favouritest top ten of books EVER (as always, in no particular order).

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Lolita,’ Vladimir Nabakov

There was a time when I was worried that my favourite book was about a man in love with a pre-pubescent girl, and my favourite film was ‘Leon’/”The Professional,’ about a pre-pubescent girl in love with a man. But they are both amazing pieces of art, so too bad, Freud. Nabakov, already featured in my Top 10 Authors selection, wrote one of the most linguistically gorgeous works on one of the most disturbing topics, and the clash of these two factors, (along with the dark humour, paranoia prevalent in so much of his fiction), are what drives this book forward, and into my Top 10. The ultimate unreliable narrator.

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This Is Your Brain On Music,’ Daniel.J.Levitin

Science writing has made a big impact on me since finishing my French literature degree: it allows me to delve into all of the things I didn’t understand in science classes at school and, most importantly, to understand the world around me (and the people in it) a little better. This incredible book explains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the biological, chemical and evolutionary way we experience that (more or less) uniquely human invention: music.

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Life, The Universe And EverythingDouglas Adams

As a twelve-year-old, nothing made me laugh more than the first three ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ series, and none of them made me laugh more than the third of the original trilogy. (Things went off the rails with the fourth and fifth in the ‘increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s trilogy,’ or maybe I had just outgrown them). Blending ridiculous sci-fi, hilarious characters of both an over- and under-whelming nature, and explaining things you never even knew needed explaining, (from the ubiquitous ’42’ to the game of cricket), I laughed so hard at a scene involving the wonderfully named Slartibartfast that I may have done myself permanent injury.

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Everything Is Illuminated,’ Jonathan Safran Foer

Where history, linguistics, family, travel, comedy and tragedy collide. Everything from the striking book cover, to the interwoven past and present stories add up to make this book that rare thing, (no matter what the publishers and press so often claim): a modern classic. Semi-autobiographical, based on the author’s experiences researching his Jewish ancestor’s experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland, I have never read a book which had me alternately laughing out loud and choking back tears with such consistent ferocity.

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‘Winnie-The-Pooh/The House At Pooh Corner,A.A.Milne

A two-for-one deal to end part one, as I can’t separate these children classics. If you only know the bear of little brain from the bland Disney remakes, treat yourself to the gorgeous, down-to-earth illustrations of E.H.Shepard in the 1920’s originals, featuring some of the most surreal, word-twisting, hilarious and touching literature you could ask for. The characters will be familiar, with their individual philosophies and world views, and their adventures may well have you looking at the world in a whole new way.

Fun trivia: the 1960 Latin translation, ‘Winnie Ille Pu,’ is the only Latin book ever to feature in the New York Times best seller list.

Also, it gives me a chance to end this blog with possibly the cutest thing I have ever seen: the Soviet-era Russian cartoon version, ‘Vinnie Pux,’ which manages to outdo the original: a better way to spend ten minutes I cannot imagine.

Look out for Part Two coming soon!

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in BOOKS

 

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