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Sunday Schedule

Alice Hughes9 November 2014

So it’s Sunday and reading week is drawing to a close. Hope you’ve all had a lovely break and the chance to get stuck into some course reading. The Oxford Street Christmas lights have been turned on and it looks like the rest of this term is going to fly by! Here’s our weekly calendar of publishing classes and bibliophile-worthy events…

Monday 10th

An evening with David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks (Waterstone’s Piccadilly – 6.30pm)

Exclusive Midnight Launch: Stephen King’s Revival (Waterstone’s Piccadilly – 11.30pm)

Tuesday 11th

Sales, Marketing and Promotion class: The Practitioners Perspective: Marketing and Publicity with Martin Neild, Georgina Moore, Communications Director at Headline and Auriol Bishop, Creative Director at Hodder. In this session we’ll be learning how to master the interlocking tools of marketing plans, writing copy, metadata and budgets (Chandler B01 – 10-1pm)

Author Management class: New ways of working with Authors with Gareth Howard, CEO and Founder of Authoright (If anyone witnessed the very heated, Amazon-focused concluding panel at the SYP conference on Saturday, you’ll recognise him!) (Bentham Room 4 – 2-5pm)

An Evening of Terror & Wonder: The Gothic Imagination with The British Library Curator Talk (Waterstone’s Piccadilly – 7pm)

The V.S. Pritchett Memorial Prize winner announcement with A.L. Kennedy in conversation with Paula Johnson (The Tabernacle – 7pm)

Wednesday 12th

The First World War Conference: Literature, Culture, Modernity (The British Academy – 9.30am-5.00pm)

Thursday 13th

Publishing Skills class: Writing Skills with Jon Reed, author and publishing marketing consultant, and James Owen, author. (Cruciform B115A – Public Cluster- 10am-1pm)

Publishing Project meetings 2pm onwards

Michael Frayn in discussion with Marcel Theroux on Matchbox Theatre (Daunt Books – 7pm)

Ray’s Jazz: Paul Riley Quintet (free! Foyles Charing Cross Road – 6.30-7.30pm)

Friday 14th

The Bookseller Futurebook Conference (The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre – 9am-6pm)

(For all you arty publishers…)

Opening of A Victorian Obsession: The Pérez Simón collection (Leighton House Museum – open 10am-5.30pm)

Portrait artist Jonathan Yeo in Conversation with Tim Marlow (Royal Academy Burlington House – 6.30-7.30pm)

….And finally because none of us ever really grow up, Matilda the Musical might take your fancy. This award-winning, grotesquely magical show is on at Cambridge Theatre until 20th December.

Book Review of the Month: Night by Edna O’Brien

Alice Hughes4 November 2014

NIGHT edna

“To face the music at last. To be on one’s tod. Do I mean it? Apparently not.” (p7)

Night has been republished by Faber and Faber this year to complement Edna O’Brien’s bestselling memoir Country Girl which details the way she was driven into exile after the publication of her silence-breaking first novel. Edna O’Brien’s first novel The Country Girls was banned and publicly burned after being released in Ireland following World War II, where female sexuality was strictly censored.

Now, thanks to controversial publications like hers, feminist activism, the sexual revolution and their subsequent effects, we can all read Edna O’Brien’s classic novel Night unashamedly on the Tube. Yet what is interesting about Night is that it is much more than a reflection on how the so-called ‘times’ have changed – many of the narrator’s problems resemble our own. Told by an original modern voice Mary Hooligan, as she lies approaching middle-age on a four-poster bed, the story consists of unchronological, often racy accounts which culminate as necessary truths. Delving into the pages of a dazzling novel like this is better than an out-of-body experience, because it forces us out of the in-built, unseeing nooks and crannies in which we like to hide. Mary is lying in a bed foreign from her own, being paid by the couple who own the house to look after it, and perhaps this is why her narration is so perceptive.

In O’Brien’s story you’ll find dreamt up words and fantastical names for the most ordinary of people, feasts of Modernist and Shakespearean assemblies, Old and Modern Irish turns of phrase, Victorian and bitingly contemporary prose. Mary’s memories of her childhood in Coose are as vivid and honest as those of her sexual encounters. She encapsulates the lovers she uses to avert both loneliness and intimacy as “[a] motley crew, all shades, dimensions, breeds, ilks, national characteristics, inflammatingness, and penetratingness” (p27). She is not afraid to spill all the tragi-comic details of her life, whether about her marriage to the cold desperado Dr. Flaggler, her divorce, her loneliness without her son Tutsie who has left to travel around the world, her relationship with her alcoholic father Boss and the death of her mother Lil.

Night teaches us we are all products of language – strings of signifiers and idioms. What makes language so powerful is that it can spread across time and acquire new meaning in different contexts. From her new bed Mary is overcome by memory, but she is still able to command the archaic and elemental, whilst slipping ingeniously into visions of our present. Her linguistic anti-monument celebrates the expression we are all capable of if we travel outside the comfortable, enclosed towers of ourselves.

Mary spins many tales of her love life, but these go beyond the well-worn love formula of lovers, the boundaries they face and the conclusion of resolution or tragedy. Through her astute stream of consciousness human relationships are awkwardly unsteady, unbalanced in power, exposed and unanswerable, showing the way we talk of a lover often reveals more about the way we view ourselves.

Her relationship with her mother is at once suffocating and irreplaceable. Lil’s funeral becomes darkly comedic as Mary jumps into her grave and later Lil makes a bizarre ghostly appearance. Both these moments reveal the way we deal with the painful truths and gruesome details of life – we either laugh or cry – and we all share that strange oscillation between life and death, eros and ending.

Throughout Night Mary recounts vulnerable moments mirroring the emotions we keep hushed and private, whether being ordered to pose in a certain way during her time as a nude model in a life drawing art class, or being instructed during experimental sexual experiences. In doing so, she exposes the scripts we read and the saccharine parts we play in social situations. She continually performs our shared fear of excessive social visibility and being viewed as an outsider; during an upper class dinner party with her mock-eccentric lover the Duke she tells of our simultaneous position as object and voyeur: “I watched their mouths, I watched their tongues, like tentacles, I watched their jaws, I could visualise my own” (p112).

Above all, Mary has a refreshing appetite for everyday life and it is her unique insight which discloses how true revelations come about in un-cinematic ways without glitzy props or dramatic backing music. What’s more, Edna O’Brien’s synaesthesia of the everyday sheds shameful light on our replacement of human nature and relationships with the laminate of ornament, scripts and images. In Mary Hooligan’s world one tiny ordinary stimulus makes every part of us retort involuntarily until we see human experience anew. The mundane and embarrassing become heart-stoppingly beautiful because they are worries shared by us all.

Introduce yourself to Mary Hooligan and prepare for a winter night of woozy lust and misplaced illumination. It will take a long time before O’Brien’s provocative page-dust settles – and perhaps, if you pick up the uncomfortable pleasure of Night, it never will.

Edna, O’Brien, Night (London: Faber and Faber, 2014)




Thought of the Week: “Information is not knowledge”

Alice Hughes20 October 2014

Not only was Albert Einstein the most famous scientist of the 20th century, he also said something crucial to the publishing industry.

These words of wisdom were “Information is not knowledge”. Today, not only are more books being published, they are also being produced across copious physical and digital formats. When travelling through such an unpredictable, variable sea of literature, discoverability veers further and further from an unperturbed serendipitous browse, towards a tear-your-hair-out stressful experience.

This week, in Marketing and Sales, James MacFarlane from BookGenie451.com is coming to speak to us. On their website you’ll find the all-too-familiar fact that ‘university students often spend up to 70% of their time searching for the right reading material’.

Fortunately, students can now turn to BookGenie451 for assistance; this ingenious software uses multiple advanced, patent-pending algorithms to connect readers to what they need to read. So curation is a vital key for unlocking discoverability and reaching not only the right market, but also new audiences. After all, if it wasn’t for the way Faber and Faber packaged Eimear McBride’s Baileys Women’s Prize and Goldsmiths Prize-winning novel A Girl is a Half-formed Thing through its major advertising campaign including bus-side advertising; her experimental and truth-spilling work may not have stirred so many hearts.

Let’s hope our Marketing and Sales session on Tuesday will give us the encouragement and think-out-of-the-box creativity we need, so we can curate our content in bold, astute and resourceful ways!