The New International? Literature in an age of ‘globish’

The Institute of Ideas‘ seventh annual ‘Battle of Ideas’ takes place on 29-30 October, and there will be an exciting programme of events taking place around the country leading up to it – including a debate about the current status of world literature and how a writer is influenced by the national tradition in which he or she writes:

Is the interest in global literature evidence of a rootless cosmopolitanism, hostile to the influence of the social and political realities of a particular author’s nationality and cultural background? Are we kidding ourselves we even understand works in translation? Is great national literature universal because it is great, or great because it is universal?

These questions and more will be debated by the speakers, but let us know your own thoughts on the matter – do you read literature in translation? Does an author’s nationality affect how you read their work?

The New International? Literature in an age of ‘globish’

Thursday 20 October, 7.00pm until 9.00pm

Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA

£7.50/5: buy online or by calling 0207 269 9220

Recommended Reads: The Songlines

In the first instalment of our new regular feature, in which The Reader Organisation’s staff will share some of their reading recommendations, our Events and Projects Manager Maura Kennedy tells us about The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

“In Alice Springs – a grid of scorching streets where men in long white socks were forever getting in and out of Land Cruisers – I met a Russian who was mapping the sacred sites of the Aboriginals.”

So begins the subtle magic of Songlines. Chatwin’s kaleidoscopic style merges history, geography, sorrow, humour, the colloquial, the epic,  into one mesmerizing vision which traces the world’s oldest living civilization from its Dreaming past to its devastated present. This opening sentence, with some aptly placed line breaks, could begin a poem on Australia’s complex past – and Chatwin’s prose is truly poetic in its beauty, scope and precision. The rhythm of “In Alice Springs  — a grid of scorching streets ..” lulls the reader into the mirage of Chatwin’s prose; a dreaminess that is punctuated by his telling contrasts and subtle humour: the ubiquitous men in long white socks haven’t been there “forever”, unlike their aboriginal countrymen – and who is the Russian tracing this ancient history? Songlines is one of the most beautiful and engrossing books I’ve ever read, made all the more precious by Chatwin’s premature death two years after its publication.

If you’re reading anything at the moment that you’d like to share with us then let us know, and maybe we can unearth some hidden literary gems along the way!

Wirral Bookfest 2011

There’s something for everyone at this year’s Wirral Bookfest, with a great mix of events including comedy, poetry readings and local history. Today,  you can hear about Viking Wirral from Professor Stephen Harding in Birkenhead Central Library from 2.15pm, and tomorrow former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion will introduce his latest book of poems, The Cinder Path, at Bromborough Civic Centre from 7pm.

Other highlights include ‘Jane Austen, Bronte and Love’, a talk by Elizabeth Williams about two of Britain’s best-loved authors, which takes place at 2.30pm on Thursday in Bebington Central Library, and the Bookfest Bookswap at the Pyramids Shopping Centre in Birkenhead, where you can bring along your old books and swap them for new (second-hand) books that you’ve been dying to read! (Friday 10am-3pm).

So, whether you’re a keen reader, or haven’t been to your library for a while, head along to this year’s Bookfest, where you’re sure to find something to fire your imagination!

For more information call 0151 606 2665 or visit http://www.wirral.gov.uk/my-services/leisure-and-culture/libraries/bookfest-2011.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again

Our Read author Frank Cottrell Boyce’s new book is out today – the first in his new series of books about the adventures of the flying car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again tells the story of a family who get more than they bargained for after they soup up their VW camper van with an old racing car engine, and before long are zooming around the world as Chitty comes to life again and is restored to her former glory. So if you’re a fan of Frank’s warmth, wit and deft storytelling ability, then you’re sure to enjoy his latest outing as he steers this much-loved children’s classic on an exciting new course.

The Unforgotten Coat Makes a Splash in America

Thanks to this year’s Our Read book giveaway, tens of thousands of people in the UK and beyond have read and enjoyed Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat, and now it seems that our stateside cousins are also relishing the adventures of Chingis and Nergui.

Frank’s story about the two Mongolian brothers who arrive in Bootle and enlist a local schoolgirl as their ‘good guide’ to the area has been warmly reviewed by Betsy Bird of the Fuse #8 blog, who suggests that it might be his best novel and describes the book as:

the kind of book you get when an author gets an original idea and works it into something memorable. This is one story kids will read and then find difficult to forget.

Bird also praises the distinctive layout of the book, with its notebook-style page design and inventive use of Polaroid photographs, combined with Frank’s deft storytelling abilities:

Few authors have a way of turning you over on your head in the course of reading a children’s title. Boyce can. Can and does. This is, without a doubt, one of the best little books I’ve ever read. A brilliant melding of text and image, it’s a wonderful example of what can happen when an author goes for something entirely new.

The story has also caught the eye of Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, who praised the book’s positive approach to foreign cultures and described it as:

a funny and affecting book for children ages 10 to 14

So if you haven’t read The Unforgotten Coat yet then we can only encourage you to do so, whatever age you are!

‘Dorset Delights’ – Places Still Available!

There’s still time to sign up for our ‘Dorset Delights’ reading course with Brian Nellist, which starts on Thursday 13 October in Birkenhead Central Library. Brian will be leading us on a literary tour of Dorset, during which you can share in his wisdom, insight and infectious enthusiasm for literature.

The course runs for ten weeks, and we’ll be concentrating on Thomas Hardy’s optimistic early novel Under the Greenwood Tree, a selection of the poems and a few of his short stories as well as poems by his friend and mentor William Barnes.

The first session will be 10.30am–12.30pm on Thursday 13th October and then a further nine consecutive Thursdays at the same time, with the last session on Thursday 15th December.

The sessions will take place in the Meeting Room at Birkenhead Central Library, Borough Road, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 2XB.

The cost of the course is £60, with concessions for pensioners, students and those receiving income support (£50), Get Into Reading members (£40) and Get Into Reading members receiving income support (£30). All proceeds support The Reader Organisation.

To book your place you need to fill in a booking form, which you can find here, or contact Mike Butler, Communications Intern, at mikebutler@thereader.org.uk or 0152 207 7207.

See for yourself what it’s like to read with Brian here.

Dorset Delights with Brian Nellist

Treat yourself to some serious reading for pleasure on this ten-week reading course with Brian Nellist. Brian will be leading a literary tour of Dorset from the comfort of Birkenhead Central Library, where you can share his wisdom, insight and infectious enthusiasm for literature.

Today Dorset has become a national playground and retirement home but in the past it was a place of rural poverty with an important seaboard (Poole harbour), local fishing and quarrying. That was the Dorset that Wordsworth and Hardy knew, though Jane Austen writes of the beginning of tourism at Lyme Regis. We shall read a few things rather slowly so as not to burden you with a lot of time-consuming demands.

In Part I we shall read Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree, a selection of the poems and a few of his short-stories as well as poems by his friend and mentor William Barnes. After Christmas in Part II we would read Jane Austen’s last novel Persuasion, Lyrical Ballads and ‘The Ruined Cottage’ by Wordsworth and maybe short stories by T. F. Powys and John Fowles. You could sign up for either part or both.

All proceeds support The Reader Organisation.

The first session will be 10.30am – 12.30pm on Thursday 13th October and then a further nine consecutive Thursdays at the same time, with the last session on Thursday 15th December.

The sessions will take place in the Meeting Room at Birkenhead Central Library, Borough Road, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 2XB.

The cost of the course is £60, with concessions for pensioners, students and those receiving income support (£50), Get Into Reading members (£40) and Get Into Reading members receiving income support (£30).

To book your place you need to fill in a booking form, which you can find here, or contact Mike Butler, Communications Intern, at mikebutler@thereader.org.uk or 0152 207 7207.

See for yourself what it’s like to read with Brian here.

2011 Sefton Writing Competition is ready for launch!

The 2011 Sefton Writing competition was launched on Monday 4 September 2011.

The Competition has been going since 1991 and is open to all ages, offering prizes totalling £1000 across three categories of adult poetry, adult other writing (stories, essays, lyrics etc) and a children’s section.

Entry to the competition is £2 per item but under-14s can enter for free. The deadline for entries is Monday 28 November.

This years winners will be announced at a special awards event at the Royal Clifton Hotel on Wednesday 7 December (6.30pm –8.30pm). The event is to be hosted by David Lonsdale (Heartbeat, The Royal) with entertainment from poet Kei Miller.

Emma Lloyd, Marketing & Programme Manager says:

The Sefton Writing Competition is an annual event that receives hundreds of entries. Past winners have gone on to write their own material and becomes published authors and poets.

We want to support writing initiatives and will publish the winning entries in the new SEFTON magazine and online.

Tickets are available to those who have entered the competition and can be booked over the phone on 0151 928 1919 and picked up from The Civic, Crosby.

Entry forms can be downloaded from the Sefton Arts website but can also be picked up from Southport Tourist Information Centre, libraries, leisure centres and council outlets across Sefton.

Tickets for all Sefton Celebrates Writing Festival events and workshops are on sale now, just call 0151 928 1919 or go online and book your tickets at www.seftonarts.co.uk.

‘Strange New Today’ Conference

The Reader Organisation’s Director Jane Davis, our research colleague at the University of Liverpool, Dr Josie Billington, and The Reader magazine‘s editor, Professor Phil Davis will be talking at the ‘Strange New Today’ Victorian Studies conference at Exeter University on September 17th.

Jane and Josie will hold a discussion on crisis, Victorian literature and “the reading cure”, and will highlight the informative and remedial value of Victorian literature for working through social, cultural, and psychological crises.

In ‘The Victorians’ Phil Davis identifies the realist novel as a ‘holding ground’ for the complex emotional and psychological concerns which emerged from rapid industrial and social change.  Through literature, and the public nature of the periodical press, authors and thinkers found a new medium of expression – reading and writing became remedial aids in times of difficulty. Such intellectual productivity, coupled with the desire to explore new emotional, social and psychological territories, caused these dramas of discovery to be played out in the very hearts and homes of the public.

This English Nation, will it get to know the meaning of its strange new today?

– Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present

The conference will be held in collaboration with The Reader Organisation and will explore what Victorian literature can tell us about the society in which it was produced and how it continues to enrich and comfort the lives of readers today.

Any queries regarding the conference can be directed to southwestvictorianists@exeter.ac.uk.

Recycling Johnson Cheque Presentation

Wirral Councillor Phil Davies and his wife Sheena paid us a visit at the Lauries Centre in Wirral on Friday to present us with the £1,117 which they raised from their ‘Recycling Johnson’ sponsored cycle in June, during which they cycled an immense 504 miles around the Isle of Skye and The North Western Highlands.

It was a great opportunity for us to say a big thank-you to Phil and Sheena for their hard work and generosity, and to hear about the highs and lows (literally!) of their epic journey.  The money raised will help to support the charity’s weekly Get Into Reading sessions with looked-after children in Wirral, and will enable us to continue to inspire a love of reading in young people in the area.

You can read more about the Davies’s two-wheeled adventure on their Recycling Johnson blog – we’ve heard they’re planning another long-distance cycle soon so we wish them all the best with that! We’d like to offer our thanks once again to Phil and Sheena for their efforts, which are very much appreciated by all of us here at The Reader Organisation.