A selection of British literary highlights this month:
The winner of the Man Booker Prize, “a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth Nations or the Republic of Ireland”* was awarded to Anne Enright for The Gathering. Anne is an Irish novelist who has previously written three novels and a non-fiction book as well as essays and short stories. Readers looking for more of the authors works should check out The Wig My Father Wore, What Are You Like? and The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch.
In other prize news when Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize, her response was less than enthusiastic. “Oh Christ. I couldn’t care less,” is not the most politically correct acceptance speech but it is at least short. Lessing’s best known works are probably The Golden Notebook and The Grass is Singing.
A recent statistic says that 20% of British children leave primary school unable to read. This translates to 1 in 5 children being physically unable to follow the educational syllabus due to lack of key stage skills. This has prompted Channel Four to run a season called Lost For Words where children are encouraged to read through various methods, including a book club run by Richard and Judy. There will also be three programs focusing on Monteagle Primary School which implemented a new reading scheme using phonics with the goal of achieving 100% literacy. Read about the various projects featured in the series here (http://www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/L/lost_for_words/monteagle.html).
Susan Hill author of The Woman in Black and the soon to be released The Man in the Picture is running a free online creative writing course at her web-site (http://blog.susan-hill.com/blog/CREATIVEWRITINGCOURSE). She has recommended some wonderful classic authors to read, such as Graham Greene and Wilkie Collins, in the hope of improving writers' abilities. Her tips on writing are remarkably sensible, as well as business-like and differ greatly from the usual cast iron rules set out by manuals on novel writing. Hill is determined to explode some of the tedious myths about writing and to get those closet writers scribbling. First chapters are now being accepted (once you join the course) but all previous hints and exercises are still available.
On a personal note I am finding it increasingly difficult to find a comfortable place to read in public in Britain. I don’t have a break room at my office and generally reading in public in Britain is not a cozy experience. I feel as if readers are alternately being stared at or being shunned. Coffee shops are noisy, bus stations cold and libraries often too far away from workplaces to be of use. Does anyone have an ideal place in the British Isles for public consumption of books?