The Middlesteins - Jami Attenberg. Signed copies.

Middlesteins250Last Wednesday we were honoured to have Jami Attenberg come and read from The Middlesteins  (along with Melissa Harrison whose brilliant book Clay is also just a click away up there on the left). It was a special evening on a cold night at the top of a hill in south east London.

The Middlesteins is now being read on Radio 4 as the Book at Bedtime, you can catch it here and find out for yourself how good it is.

It really is a wonderful book and don't for a second let that rather *homely* cover put you off - Jonathan Franzen loved it and he's never wrong.

Better still, we have a few signed copies for sale, but you will need to be quick.

 


Clay by Melissa Harrison - Reviewed by Richard Jones

There is something immediately seedy about urban wildlife, something threatening, something unnerving. In an era when half the world’s population now lives in cities, humanity is turning its back on nature. City parks should be trimmed and manicured — neat, tidy, well-lit, safe. Nature, in all its danger, should really be out there, somewhere else, in the countryside — in the wilderness. As humans become urban creatures, they foster a mistrust for the wildlife that creeps into their concrete confines. This, then, is a book about that mistrust.
 
Luckily, Melissa Harrison picks us a gentle and intimate path through the green spaces of own her personal corner of South London. She does not, however, present mistrust per se, but the four intertwined characters are highlighted because they are the trusting few, where the many thousand possible others pass through every day without a glance.
 
Most days eight-year-old TC bunks off school to explore forgotten corners and follow animal footprints in the dust. He’s always hopeful of finding owl pellets, with their secret vole bone contents wrapped up in fluff and fibre. Sophia, 78 and a long-standing resident of the local housing estate she has seen slip into decline during her half-century residence tries to recall, or recreate, a more caring time when her children played free and wild in the little park. Sophia’s rather privileged nine-year-old granddaughter Daisy lives a few gentrified streets away; she is allowed some freedom on her regular visits, but all the while she feels the shadow of her mother’s disapproval, that mistrust again. Josef, working late shifts in the takeaway and homesick for the lost farm in Poland, recognizes another lost soul when he meets TC in the park, and though forty years separate them, there is, nevertheless, a kindred sympathy.
 
The four disparate characters’ lives cross and intertwine like the narrow tracks across the common, and the green space itself becomes a fifth, brought alive by Harrison’s clear and lyrical prose. She is no country-dwelling nature columnist. No, they would look out to distant vistas of sweeping hills, rolling fields, long lines of hedgerow, or murky far-off mountain peaks. Instead, like any true urban naturalist, she has her ears tuned to the tumble of a blackbird song, and her eyes firmly fixed on the nearest tree, with its squirrel skittering crabwise up the rough bark.
 
Whether it be the blind thistles pushing through cracks in the broken tarmac, or the tiny green tortrix caterpillar dangling on its impossibly thin thread from an ancient oak pollard, it is clear that Harrison is comfortable (she even revels, perhaps) in the sometimes scrappy remnants of a once greater countryside now enveloped, eaten into, broken, dishevelled, but still wild, still wonderful. She has successfully and evocatively woven them into a superb and captivating debut novel. It’s the first book of my year, and it’ll take some beating.

Richard Jones, curious entomologist and ardent urban naturalist, is the author of Mosquito, Little Book of Nits, and Extreme Insects, all currently available from Bookseller Crow.


Book of the Week: Object Lessons.

Objectlessons
Mal Vester had a pa who died in the Australian desert after drinking all the water from the radiator of his Land Rover. His momma had died just like the coroner said she had, even though he had lost the newspaper clipping that would have proved it. Not lost exactly. He had folded up the story and put it in the pocket of his jeans for one year and one half straight because they were the only pants he had and the paper had turned from print into lint and then into the pocket itself and then the jeans had become as thin and as grey as the egg skins his momma had put over his boils when he was little.
Opening paragraph of Dimmer by the brilliant Joy Williams.

Saw her read once in Waterstones on the Charing Cross Road and afterwards she sat cross-legged on the floor and chatted with us.We talked about her novel Breaking and Entering and the t-shirt that one of the characters wore Shit Happens it said.

Book of the Day: Gallatin Canyon Thomas McGuane

Galatin-canyon200Brilliant book of stories by one of my favourite authors.

Place exerts the power of destiny in these ten stories of lives uncannily recognizable and unforgettably strange: a boy makes a surprising discovery skating at night on Lake Michigan; an Irish clan in Massachusetts gather at the bedside of their dying matriarch; a battered survivor of the glory days of Key West washes up on other shores. Several of the stories unfold in Big Sky country, McGuane’s signature landscape: a father tries to buy his adult son out of virginity; a convict turned cowhand finds refuge at a ranch in ruination; a couple makes a fateful drive through the perilous gorge of the title story before parting ways. McGuane’s people are seekers, beguiled by the land’s beauty and myth, compelled by the fantasy of what a locale can offer, forced to reconcile dream and truth.


 Listen to Sam Lipsyte read Cowboy here.

I'll sell you a new copy (Harvill Secker 2006) for £4.99


Steven Appleby at The Bookseller Crow

Crow-Appleby-INVITE-1 copy

Absolutely proud as a proud thing to be hosting an evening with Steven Appleby for the launch of his new book The Collected Loomis Cartoons. If you've ever seen Steven sign a book you will know that it's a very special thing indeed. And he's even done us an exclusive bookmark too.

Is it too early to mention Christmas?

Can't make the evening, but would still like a signed and dedicated copy to be sent to you?
You can buy one here. (Be sure to note your dedication.)

Alternatively, call 020 8771 8831 or email to reserve a copy for collection at a later date.

#Fridayreads The Chill - Ross Macdonald

Thechill
Another in the handsome series of Penguin Macdonald re-issues. Last week I read The Goodbye Look - an expression less romantic that the Donald Fagen lyric might lead us to believe. The Chill starts with a fast elegant pace and namechecks Salinger and Kerouac and well as making a crack about waiting for Godot, or possibly Lefty, or even Lefty Godot all within the first 42 pages.

Elmore Leonard called the series the finest detective novels ever written by an American.

Somewhat weirdly, William Goldman is quoted on the jacket of Black Money published by Phoenix, as saying the exact same thing.

They can't both be wrong.


Our Top Ten June 2012

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Our latest Top Ten.

Jim Bob storming it with Driving Jarvis Ham which has sold exactly twice as many copies as Bring up the Bodies. Just goes to show what can be achieved if you accompany your book reading by standing on a box and singing a selection of your hits from the 80s. Hilary should consider it.

Our book group read Irma Voth this month. Nineteen and a half people out of twenty thought it was wonderful. It is wonderful. You should read it.

Justine and Richard's book at number three, and frankly if it wasn't you would be dead to us. Dead I say. And they've gone up 300,000 places on amaz*n in the last day. I didn't look. I just know.

 

 


The Little Book of Nits. First review.

Nitsstandard
Justine's book, The Little Book of Nits gets its first (early) review in the London Evening Standard

We will be launching it on publication day 24th May at 7.00pm. Book a (free) ticket here.

Also joining us to celebrate will be our good friend Richard Guard author of Lost London - An A-Z of forgotten landmarks and lost traditions.

Lostlondon copyRichard also happens to be the lead singer of the brilliant Dulwich Ukulele Club, some of whom, if perhaps not all eleven, will be in attendance for a glass of cider a sing song and a general rock of the house.

 

 

 

Pre-order a signed copy of The Little Book of Nits

Buy a signed copy of Lost London.