Lifesavers by Jane Davis

We’re embracing ‘Throwback Thursday’ with a blog first published by our founder and director Dr Jane Davis in September 2013. 

Continue reading “Lifesavers by Jane Davis”

Reading Round-Up

lessing_2743124bHere’s the latest nuggests of news from the world of literature, including libraries with famous donors, online libraries dedicated to bringing classics into the modern world – and even one that has no books at all…

How does such a thing work? Over to TRO’s Arts Admin Intern Rebecca Pollard with the lowdown:

Doris Lessing has bequeathed 3,000 books to a public library in Harare, Zimbabwe (where she once lived for over 20 years). Her opening remarks after being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2008 focussed on how people in Zimbabwe actively asked for books when she visited a school there in the 1980s.

The Guardian details this on its website.


How would you feel about entering a library with no books on the walls? A purpose-built bookless library has been unveiled at Florida Polytechnic University. The library features online electronic books and articles, and is relying on students to recommend the books and journals they need.

You can find more on this story here.


In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, an unpublished chapter of the story has been released online. The chapter, deemed too wild for children at the time, sees two new characters board a train out of the Vanilla Fudge Room.

The chapter also shows how Dahl’s original story changed to become the novel we love today: Charlie is visiting the factory with his mother, Mrs Bucket, rather than with Grandpa Joe, and we discover that Augustus Gloop was originally called Augustus Pottle.

You can read the unpublished extract on The Guardian’s website.


The British Library has recently launched the website Discovering Literature which features thousands of collection items about Victorian and Romantic authors. These items vary from modern articles written about these authors and their works, to the authors’ personal letters and their original inspiration.

The website is mainly targeted at GCSE and A-Level students, however it is the perfect way for everyone to access British literary classics and get into reading.

The website can be found here.


Eleanor Catton, the author of the Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries, has recently announced that she plans to use her prize money to establish a grant that allows writers ‘time to read’. The idea for the grant is based in the idea that ‘writers are readers first’, and so the recipients of this grant would simply spend three months reading, and after this time passes, they publish a report about what they read and share their thoughts on this with others.

You can read more on this article on The Guardian website.

The Golden Notebook Project

The Institute for the Future of the Book is running an ‘experiment in close reading’ in which seven women are reading Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook and carrying on a conversation about it in the margin. While the comment area–the virtual page margin–is only open to the seven there is also a forum where the rest of us can weigh in on the novel and on the experiment itself. Bob Stein, who is managing the project, emphasises that the best way to read the book is to buy or borrow a copy, but the online version is nicely done. I wonder whether this really adds a great deal to the large, diverse, and often complex conversational output of literary bloggers and their commenters, while the idea that “we don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment” is disputed by at least one commentator. It might also be disproved by arguably the largest and most complex conversation in history, Wikipedia. Nevertheless the level of detail this format makes possible is certainly intriguing as an opening up of the seminar room. Here’s what Bob has to say:

On November 10th, The Institute for the Future of the Book kicks off an experiment in close reading. Seven women will read Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook and carry on a conversation in the margins. The idea for the project arose out of my experience re-reading the novel in the summer of 2007 just before Lessing won the Nobel Prize for literature. The Golden Notebook was one of the two or three most influential books of my youth and I decided I wanted to “try it on” again after so many years. It turned out to be one of the most interesting reading experiences of my life. With an interval of thirty-seven years the lens of perception was so different; things that stood out the first-time around were now of lesser importance, and entire themes I missed the first time came front and center. When I told my younger colleagues what I was reading, I was surprised that not one of them had read it, not even the ones with degrees in English literature.  It occurred to me that it would be very interesting to eavesdrop on a conversation between two readers, one under thirty, one over fifty or sixty, in which they react to the book and to each other’s reactions. And then of course I realized that we now actually have the technology to do just that. Thanks to the efforts of Chris Meade, my colleague and director of if:book London, the Arts Council England enthusiastically and generously agreed to fund the project. Chris was also the link to Doris Lessing who through her publisher HarperCollins signed on with the rights to putting the entire text of the novel online.

Fundamentally this is an experiment in how the web might be used as a space for collaborative close-reading. We don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment and we’re hoping this experiment will help us learn what’s necessary to make this sort of collaboration work as well as possible. In addition to making comments in the margin, we expect that the readers will also record their reactions to the process in a group blog. In the public forum, everyone who is reading along and following the conversation can post their comments on the book and the process itself.

Here’s the link again to The Golden Notebook.

Posted by Chris Routledge