So spring hasn’t sprung with quite the gusto we’d hoped for but while these grey clouds pass there’s the latest issue of The Reader to sink our teeth into.
In every issue of The Reader, you’ll find Nellibobs – otherwise known as Brian Nellist – recommending ‘The Old Poem’; a poem pre-dating more contemporary times which, owing to the wealth of verse that is written each century, may have been unfortunately forgotten or consigned to history before its due. The latest issue features Edward Young – a poet whose name may not be immediately familiar, but mention the phrase ‘procrastination is the thief of time’ and you’re sure to have heard of him, as he was responsible for the immortal line. His major work was the blank-verse poem Night-Thoughts, describing his musings on death over a series of nine ‘nights’ – all of which are poems in their own right. Within Night-Thoughts, Young ponders the loss of his wife and friends, as well as opportunities and the status of life as being something fragile.
On a day where it can be too easy to put things to one side, why not have a read through the following – taken from Night-Thoughts, and which includes the most famous pondering on procrastination – and see if you feel inspired.
By Nature’s law, what may be, may be now;
There’s no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thought can rise,
Than man’s presumption on to-morrow’s dawn?
Where is to-morrow? In another world.
For numbers this is certain; the reverse
Is sure to none; and yet on this perhaps,
This peradventure, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant we build
Our mountain hopes, spin out eternal schemes
As we the Fatal Sisters could out-spin,
And big with life’s futurities, expire.
Not ev’n Philander had bespoke his shroud,
Nor had he cause; a warning was deny’d:
How many fall as sudden, not as safe!
As sudden, though for years admonish’d home.
Of human ills the last extreme beware;
Beware, Lorenzo, a slow-sudden death.
How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push’d out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That ’tis so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man’s miraculous mistakes this bears
The palm, “That all men are about to live,”
For ever on the brink of being born,
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They, one day, shall not drivel: and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise;
At least, their own; their future selves applauds;
How excellent that life they ne’er will lead!
Time lodg’d in their own hands is Folly’s vails;
That lodg’d in Fate’s to Wisdom they consign.
The thing they can’t but purpose, they postpone.
‘Tis not in folly not to scorn a fool,
And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
All promise is poor dilatory man,
And that through every stage; when young, indeed,
In full content we sometimes nobly rest,
Unanxious for ourselves; and only wish,
As duteous sons our fathers were more wise.
At thirty man suspects himself a fool,
Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan;
At fifty chides his infamous delay,
Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve;
In all the magnanimity of thought
Resolves, and re-resolves, then dies the same.
The first issue of The Reader in 2016 is here and it’s a very special one indeed as it heralds our sixtieth edition. There are plenty of diamonds to be found inside Issue 60, ranging from the brand new to the nostalgic, and the inclusion of our ‘One -Pagers’ – the raw, powerful and punchy moments from works of literature that make us feel alive and which we often turn to at times in need of affirmation.
‘We seek the ‘lines of life’. When readers tear from books the words that suddenly matter to them, that is their own pre-poem, the beginning of their work as receivers and transmitters of suddenly felt meaning. Reader writers: apply within.’ – The Reader Writers, Philip Davis
You’ll still find plenty of broader content within Issue 60, including new poetry from Carol Rumens, Julie-ann Rowell, Claire Allen and Vidyan Ravinthiran. The big themes of change and the future – still on many a mind as the year is fresh – feature in Gill Blow‘s story ‘Ladies of the Soil’, and Raymond Tallis seeks perspective on life from the imagined vantage of his future death in an extract from his new book The Black Mirror.
Sitting alongside future thoughts are frequent glances back towards the past, as we republish poems by Les Murray and U.A. Fanthorpe from our earliest issues, and revisit our childhoods while keeping feet firmly in the present day as we talk to Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, co-writers of the hugely popular Ladybird Books for grown-ups. Our second interview visits photographer Tim Booth, who talks about his stunning collection A Show of Hands – a collection of portraits of hands.
Marjorie Lotfi Gill features in The Poet on Her Work, turning distance that feels like helplessness into clarity as she writes on the subject of gun violence. Charlie Darby-Villis writes about reading poetry in a high security prison, and the poet David Constantine responds with his own recollection of visiting HMP Low Newton. More on the particular power reading can offer come from pieces by Drummond Bone, Ben Davis, David Abrahamson and Claire Sive.
All this alongside our Regulars and Recommendations – there’s much to celebrate in our latest milestone.
If you’re keen to make a literary resolution for the year ahead, yearly subscriptions to The Reader begin from £24, offering four issues of the magazine. You can also purchase your copy of Issue 60 for the price of £6.95. There’s the chance of winning a full set of the Ladybird Books for grown-ups within the issue, so don’t delay in ordering!
For more on The Reader, see our website.
The Penny Readings 2015 is just under two weeks away and we’re excited to announce our headline act for this year’s show.
Actress Maxine Peake will take to the stage at St George’s Hall, Liverpool on Sunday 13th December to join our annual festive extravaganza. Familiar from television and film roles in Dinnerladies, Shameless, Silk, The Village and The Theory of Everything, Maxine recently played the title character in a radical re-imagining of Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, making her the first female Hamlet on a major stage for 35 years.
In The Reader 55, she was interviewed by Philip Davis about her propensity to take on challenging roles, as well as making the connection between acting and screenwriting:
“It is not about being confident. I don’t go ‘I am a good actor’. I want to take bigger risks and enjoy it more […] Now the way I try to think about everything is: Why not?“
Maxine will appear at the Penny Readings alongside Liverpool-born actor Shaun Evans, star of Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour, Whitechapel and BBC Two’s recent The Scandalous Lady W.
We’re also delighted to have Publiship supporting the Penny Readings 2015.
This year’s Penny Readings sold out in a record 90 minutes, with anticipation high for another seasonal celebration of reading, music and entertainment. Dickens will make his regular appearance in the form of the festive classic A Christmas Carol, and we can promise many more treats in store to start Christmas in true Reader style.
The show will start at 6.30pm on Sunday 13th December in the Concert Room. Doors will open to the foyer at 5.30pm, where stalls and refreshments will be available.
Shared reading group members and The Reader volunteers have been notified of their ticket allocation and will receive their priority reserved tickets from their group leader and volunteer coordinator within the next week. Public tickets for the Penny Readings 2015 are sold out.
In need of something to bring a warm glow into the lengthening Autumn nights? The latest issue of The Reader is here to offer a wealth of new fiction and poetry, alongside a range of illuminating essays and thought pieces – and the bright cover artwork by Michael Troy is sure not to get lost amongst the gloom.
In Issue 59, you’ll find new work from two big names and returning contributors to The Reader. Blake Morrison introduces his poetry collection, Shingle Street, and the profoundly moving first chapter of The Life-Writer by David Constantine offers an enticing insight into the new novel from the author of In Another Country, the inspiration for the recent award-winning film 45 Years.
The Poet on His Work features Jonathan Edwards and his poem Song, where the low culture – ‘the earthy, the musical, the ordinary, the real’ – sits alongside the poetic:
“This poem took ten years to write. It took a few hours. I’m not the first boy in the history of the world to write a poem about a girl.” – Jonathan Edwards on Song
Marjorie Lofti Gill, Ian Tromp and Mary Maher complete the poetry line-up.
Dr Steve Mowle, a partner at Hetherington Family Practice and Associate Director for GP Education for Inner South West London, talks to Fiona Magee about life as a GP, the long-term relationship between patients and doctors and how reading within a group is part of ‘social prescribing’.
Tim Parks uses Chekhov to rebel against the problem of ‘biographical fallacy’; the ‘poet’s poet’ F.T. Prince comes to our attention courtesy of Anthony Rudolf; Brian Nellist recommends a Neglected Novel – as well as offering The Old Poem – and there are more from The Reader regulars, including Ian McMillan and Enid Stubin.
Curl up by the fire and order your copy, available to order from the website. If you’re on the search for Christmas present suggestions, a year’s subscription to The Reader – giving you four issues – costs £24 in the UK and £36 abroad.
45 Years, recently released in cinemas, is on the surface a film about the span of time. Kate and Geoff Mercer are approaching their 45th wedding anniversary, living steadily and seeing out their retirement in a Norfolk village, taking each day up with their well-known routines. On one ordinary day, not long before their anniversary, Geoff receives a letter with the news that the body of his former girlfriend – missing after an accident on the Swiss mountains fifty years previous – has been found. The revelation proves to be devastating to the couple, and beneath the settled surface memories and the shadows of time gone by – and not experienced at all – rise up once more.
The film, starring acclaimed actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as its leads, has received glowing reviews by critics and is being talked up as a potential candidate to be in line for a BAFTA next year, after already receiving plaudits for both actors at the Berlin Film Festival 2015. Seeing it on the big screen, it may be surprising to hear that it started life as a short story written by patron of The Reader David Constantine and was first featured in Issue 9 of The Reader magazine all the way back in 2001.
In Another Country – the original title of the story – subsequently became part of Under The Dam, Constantine’s 2005 collection of short stories, and reprinted as the title story in a new collection from Comma Press, released next week. The film adaptation alters a number of elements from the story, so even if you have already seen the film it’s well worth reading In Another Country to look at the tale from another perspective. Since its first publication in The Reader, the story has proved a popular, absorbing and thought-provoking choice in many of our shared reading groups – even as recently as this week, where one of our groups in London read it, and found the struggles of characters moving.
David Constantine has continued to be a regular contributor to The Reader in the past 14 years in both poetic and story form, most recently featuring in Issue 55. You can find our very own Brian Nellist a.k.a Nellibobs reading his ‘Mid-afternoon in another narrow bed’ on YouTube here.
His story Witness will be featured in The Reader’s upcoming anthology A Little, Aloud with Love, to be published in January 2016.
45 Years is currently showing at selected cinemas across the country.
If the heat is making you yearn to sit in the shade with some new reading material, then you’re in luck as Issue 58 of The Reader has arrived and it’s packed full of literary goodness to help you while away the long hot hours.
The contemporary very firmly combines with the classic this issue – new poetry comes from Matthew Hollis, Robert Etty, Claire Allen and Julian Flanagan with new fiction – the thought-provoking One, Two, Three, Four – from Greg Forshaw. To accompany the ever-popular Old Poem feature by Brian Nellist, we’re now introducing The Old Story to bring back a forgotten gem from the past, the first coming from Katherine Mansfield.
Bill Bailey talks to Fiona Magee about his own unique brand of comedy and why he’s not a fan of jokes, his relationship with language, ambitions to write a book and his belief in the importance of reading out loud.
“That’s the great power of literature: not all the information is there – you have to bring something as well to it to make it” – Bill Bailey
A trio of formidable female writers share their work: in this issue’s The Poet on Her Work, Anna Woodford discusses her poem ‘The Gender and Law at Durham Research Group’, looking at how two specialised languages – that of poetry and of law – respond to personal loss and the threatened loss of self. Salley Vickers‘ essay on The Winter’s Tale also examines loss – in particular the slow story of possible restoration after it – and extracts feature from Sarah Helm‘s If This Is A Woman, a scholarly and at the same time unswerving history of Ravensbruck, Hitler’s concentration camp for women.
All this, as well as a preview of the Storybarn, Liverpool’s new interactive story centre for children and families, by Jane Davis; tales from the Versewagon by Ian McMillan; five featured books about sisters from Angela MacMillan, and much more.
“Literature still serves all the purposes that oral storytelling once achieved, and remains essential to our wellbeing” – Joseph Gold, The Story Species
Visit our website for full details on purchasing: http://www.thereader.org.uk/magazine
We might still be waiting for the temperatures to rise, but something guaranteed to put some warmth into Spring is the latest issue of The Reader.
Amongst the green leaves are two new short stories by Connie Bensley and Tim Parks, the latter of which is an account of the last days of the mysterious ‘Mrs P’:
“From being someone with time on her hands, happy to get company when she could, Mrs. P has become someone it is rather difficult to get hold of, a person you need to make an appointment with.” – Mrs P, Tim Parks
There’s poetry by the plenty with new work from Greg Moglia, Howard Wright, Chris Allen, Martin Malone and Marjorie Lofti Gill, Imtiaz Dharker writes on ‘Over The Moon’ from her collection Undone in the Poet on Her Work and we go back to the 17th century for Brian Nellist’s latest selection of The Old Poem.
Acclaimed film and television director Ken Loach speaks to Fiona McGee about his long standing relationship with writers and writing, tracing the connection into film and his own work, highlighting the importance of substance over visual style:
“The only thing that I’ve ever looked for is somebody who could write real people. If you read a page and the characters live and the dialogue sounds true then you’re looking at the work of a writer.” – Ken Loach
Two illuminating essays, considerable different in topic, come from author Salley Vickers and pioneering biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who write on instinct and sacrifice and psychic pets respectively.
There’s lots more to look forward to, including Ian McMillan on Ted Hughes and Five Wild Encounters recommended by Sarah Coley.
Issue 57 will be landing on doorsteps throughout the country and on The Reader Organisation’s website very soon, but in the meantime if you haven’t already got your subscription to The Reader now is the perfect time to do so. A year’s subscription gives you four issues worth, costing £24 in the UK and £36 international.
For full details on subscribing, visit the website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/magazine
Described as “a novelist in the great English tradition of moral seriousness” by the Washington Post, Salley has been one of the biggest names in modern English Literature since the publication of her first novel Miss Garnet’s Angel in 2000, which was described as a ‘word-of-mouth bestseller’. Her novels show an acute awareness of human nature and invite us to side with the onlooker who becomes involved in the story. Her latest collection of short stories, The Boy Who Could See Death, will be published in April.
Salley has also been a regular contributor to The Reader magazine, in Issue 39 with Epiphany, her short story on the topic of mortality, Issue 54 with an essay on ‘Why Poetry Matters’ and Issue 55.
Now residing in London, Salley returns to her birth city of Liverpool for what promises to be an insightful and inspiring talk in a historic series, sponsored by The Reader Organisation.
This year’s Lent Talks take on a new format: speakers talk for 45 minutes (most will also look for questions and contributions from the audience), with audience members invited to stay for refreshments for 45 minutes afterwards to meet the speaker and each other.
Because the talks are a gift to the City, there is no charge and no need to book. You may have to come early to guarantee a good seat but everyone is welcome.
Back issues of The Reader 39, 54 and 55, in which Salley is featured, will also be available for free on the night.
For further information, see the Diocese of Liverpool website.
2014 is fast drawing to a close, and what a year it’s been for us here at The Reader Organisation. Looking back it’s almost hard to believe how much we’ve crammed into the space of twelve months. It’s been a time defined by growth and development, with new shared reading and volunteering projects around the UK, events for all ages and interests with a packed programme at Calderstones Mansion House all year around, a new anthology to add to our bookshelf and our number of staff has surpassed 100.
Before the bells of the New Year ring, we’ve got time to look back on the year that has been…and there’s been so much happening that we’ve had to split it into two parts.
At the start of 2014 we announced Better with a Book, our fifth annual National Conference, which explored the connections between reading great literature, improved mental health and the reduction of social isolation. The British Library Conference Centre was vibrant with interested delegates, all of whom came together for a day focused on the impacts of shared reading. Guest speakers included Lord Melvyn Bragg, who spoke about the effects of reading on his own life and that of his mother, who was diagnosed with dementia; Baroness Estelle Morris, and Dr Alice Sullivan of the Instiute of Education. Most memorable were the personal stories of our Readers, who shared their experiences of how reading has changed their life.
Calderstones Mansion House – the future International Centre for Reading – came to life with a series of special events throughout the year. From Half-Term Hijinks and an Easter Extravaganza for children and the family to historical tours of the Mansion and an authentic 1940s-style Tea Dance, there has been tons for the community to enjoy. We were delighted to welcome back Shakespeare’s Globe for highly praised performances of Much Ado About Nothing, and the Secret Garden opened up to amazed audiences as we held our first Children’s Literature Festival, complete with storytelling, competitions and giant games of Quidditch.
The London Penny Readings returned to the Southbank Centre as part of London Literature Festival, and back in Liverpool the ever popular festive reading and entertainment extravaganza the Penny Readings sold out in record time.
2014 has brought four new issues of The Reader, with contributions from names including Erwin James, Alan Howarth, Margaret Drabble, David Constantine, Maxine Peake, Miriam Gamble and Michael Schmidt.
To mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, co-editor of The Reader and Godfather of The Reader Organisation Brian Nellist compiled a new poetry anthology, On Active Service: 1914-1918, remembering the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people commemorated in their own words.
Media and special appearances
Shared reading has been making headlines again, with the positive effects of reading aloud and the pioneering research of Centre of Research for Reading, Society and Literature (CRILS) being mentioned in The Telegraph and The Independent.
The happenings at Calderstones and the City of Readers project received lots of local press, and reading aloud came to the airwaves as our groups were featured in two programmes on BBC Radio 4. In his series exploring the English language, Stephen Fry looked at the art of reading aloud – “a life-changing business” – featuring input from our some of our group members, who attested to this statement. Calderstones Mansion House also featured in Open Book, being showcased as a ‘reading oasis’ for the community.
Our social media channels are continuing to get people talking about great literature – we have over 8,400 followers on Twitter – with our regional Twitter accounts sparking lots of interest too – and more than 1,700 likes on Facebook.
And over the summer, The Reader South West got a visit from a very special guest at one of our regular groups. Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall enjoyed some shared reading with our group members at Exeter Library while on tour in the area, as well as finding out about our work across the region.
Part 2 of TRO’s Review of 2014 is coming tomorrow.