Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reading out and reading in

Hm, I'm not sure that the Manchester Festival Hub at the Northern pub had quite taken off by yesterday evening. Maybe the problem is that the festival venues are spread out so far across the city, and it's only when a festival is concentrated on a small area that a drop-in/hang-out centre works. And I wonder how many people are aware of it? It's included only in the back of the brochure, as if as an afterthought.

It's a great shame, because there should have been far more people to hear Belinda Webb read from her punchy, linguistically inventive novel of a Moss-Side teenage rebel, A Clockwork Apple. And there were no copies of the books for sale: someone had failed to get them to Belinda in time.

Sometimes you can't help getting weary of the whole book-tour, festival scene: so much physical effort and expense for so little effect sometimes. I've been doing a fair bit of reading lately (I mean private reading of other people's books), and this, along with the fact that my writing is taking off at the moment, is such a richly personal experience that public readings by authors seem not just beside the point but to deflect from the real point. Among my most recent reading has been the utterly wonderful The Other Hand by Chris Cleave, two clever novels by Tobias Hill, including the proof of his forthcoming The Hidden which I was privileged to receive, William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault (for my reading group, and the prose of which I'm shocked to discover is over-abstract and woolly), and a whole host of short story collections, including two impressive collections from Salt, The White Road by Tania Hershman and The Scent of Cinnamon by Charles Lambert.

Indeed, the last two are about to take part in virtual book tours, the latest addition by web-savvy Salt to their publishing model - a brilliant way to bypass the drawbacks of real-life, expensive and ephemeral book tours. This will be one of the blogs hosting Charles Lambert with The Scent of Cinnamon (dates TBA), and I am very much looking forward to my/our conversation with the author.

Even so, I urge any of you who are able to come along to the Northern on Tib Street at 5.30 this afternoon, to hear two more quite brilliant Salt authors, short-story writer Carys Davies and poet Mike Barlow.

1 comment:

Rob Spence said...

Yes, I think you are right about the hub. Manchester doesn't really feel like a festival city at the moment. Glad that you are part of the Charles Lambert virtual tour - me too!