Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bookworm's comment inspires a new blog

Also in today's blog

Mary S Lovell, biographer
A new blog on the book block
Applicable to publishing?
Bookworm on the move
Is blogging worthwhile?

Earlier this month I was reading The Mitford Girls, sub-titled The Biography of an Extraordinary Family, by Mary S Lovell.


"Mary was an accountant and company director for 20 years before becoming a writer. She wrote her first book in 1981 at the age of 40, while recovering from a broken back which was the result of a riding accident. She returned to accountancy but during the following 5 years she also published two further non-fiction books that were written in her spare time.
Her interest in aviation began in the late 'fifties and over the next decade she and her first husband, Cliff Lovell, established and flew a collection of rare vintage aircraft. It was through one of these airplanes, a De Havilland Gypsy Moth used in the film Out of Africa, that she first heard of the famous aviatrix, Beryl Markham.
After a subsequent meeting Mary decided to write Markham's biography and this book, Straight on Till Morning, researched and written in under a year, became an immediate international bestseller. Mary decided to retire from accountancy at this point to write full time."

I have her marvellous book Straight on till Morning on my bookshelves in Guernsey. But Mary Lovell has written many other biographies - her subjects include Amelia Earhart, Jane Digby, Sir Richard Burton, Betty "Cynthia" Pack and Bess of Hardwick - I look forward to reading this summer.

In the foreword to The Mitford Girls, the author notes that recognition of the Mitfords "begins at about the age of fifty. In other words, if the questioner is over the age of fifty I generally receive a sage nod, below that the polite enquiry, 'And who are they?' "

I think I read Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love the year it came out, 1947, when I was 18. Her books have been a life-long pleasure, re-read, at a guess, every decade with as much amusement as the first time.

The UK and US book jackets shown at Ms Lovell's site are in gif format. For bloggers, the jpeg format is preferable. So I can't show you the UK and US jackets of The Mitford Girls [called The Sisters in the US]. In my view the American jacket is far more attractive. You can see both
here.

There's a rather sneery review by Lynn Barber
here

A new blog on the book block


On April 2 I wrote a piece headed Rant by Coates chez Charkin


"There was a splendid rant by Tim Coates, guest-blogging at Richard Charkin's blog yesterday. Don't miss it!"

For those who don't know about him, Mr Coates is "a former bookseller who has become a well-known advocate for improvements in public-library service. He was the first U.K. bookseller to open an all-night bookstore with a cafe, sofas, and the comfortable style we now associate with bookstores around the world. In his current work, he strives to bring the same customer orientation to libraries.

In the 1980s most bookstores, except for those in the major university towns, were dingy; stocks were poor, and it was quite frightening to ask for a book if you weren't sure what you wanted. Across many countries, there was a movement to improve, to open the windows and turn on the lights. Tim Coates was at the forefront of that movement. In England he was managing director first of Sherratt & Hughes and then of Waterstone's bookshops and of the English book chain WHSmith in Europe."

More here.

Last Friday I received the following email.
"Anne, your comment on Richard Charkin's blog inspired us to get a blog up and running for Tim. The Good Library Guide is a project we're just starting up. Cheers, Karen"


Karen Christensen is the CEO of Berkshire Publishing Group of whom it has been written
"It takes a splendid little Berkshire publishing house to do what a major international trade publisher should have done long ago: make available in concise, readable form, Patterns of Global Terrorism 1985-2005, the indispensable State Department reports that experts, scholars and engaged citizens have consulted for decades." Benjamin R. Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld, Kekst Professor of Civil Society, University of Maryland."

The Berkshire Publishing Group is not based in Berkshire, UK, but in "Great Barrington, Massachusetts (the small New England town where African American intellectual and activist
W.E.B. DuBois grew up), and prides itself on its innovative resources for libraries and popular audiences. Written by international networks of expert authors, our latest titles…define what global reference is all about.
Here at Berkshire Publishing online you'll find up-to-the-minute information from a myriad of top reference sources, and you can jump into the discussion, too, with our blogs, webinars, newsletters, surveys, online journals, and other global experiments. Join us, please, in creating new international dialogue, building global networks, and thinking about tomorrow."
Here's a sample from Tim Coates' new blog.
"What exactly is the sound of chickens coming home to roost? Is it identifiably different from the sound of other quintessential chicken activities? Well, whatever, if you go into your local library these days you will probably hear it. Always assuming, of course, that it is audible above the noise of the coffee bar, kiddies' games area and piped music.
Last week it was revealed that Britain's libraries are lending 16 per cent fewer books than they did just five years ago. In one London borough the drop has been 41 per cent. But is anyone surprised? If you are looking for a good book, almost the last place you would go in modern Britain is a public library. My local branch, once the toast of literate North London, recently had a £1.4 million "makeover" and reopened with what looked like fewer books than I have in my front room."

Applicable to publishing?


Looking for something else in what was once Britain's most serious and reliable newspaper but is now part of Mr Murdoch's media empire, I came across a piece by Richard Morrison headed "Return to British values : I have a modest suggestion."

He wasn't writing about what is nowadays known as the publishing/bookselling "industry", but his comments apply to it.
"…one of our age's most dispiriting "truths": the notion that slick presentation is a far surer route to success than a solid record of quiet achievement. Once upon a time this cynical philosophy was largely confined to political and media circles. Now, however, it has insidiously permeated professions that should know better…Bad enough that it creates the perfect climate for natural-born bluffers. Even worse is its effect on hardworking, modest individuals. Increasingly they find that if they don't develop the knack of shouting about what a good job they are doing, they are horribly vulnerable. But continual self-promotion makes such folk uncomfortable. It goes against the grain. They just want to be left in peace to do a good job. So they end up hating the profession they once loved.

It's yet another form of cultural apartheid, isn't it? The well-off middle classes can flock to bookshops, which are booming. But the poor are being slowly but systematically robbed of one of the greatest birthrights of a British citizen: free access to great literature.
This strikes me as a scandal. But it would, wouldn't it? I'm so 20th century."

Bookworm on the move


Next weekend I shall be en route from the backwoods of Spain to St Malo, there to catch the ferry to St Peter Port, the main town on the island of Guernsey.

If everything goes to plan, we'll spend Friday and Saturday night with a Spanish friend and her English husband who live near the mountains behind the fishing port of San Carlos de la Rápita. There, having written a blog in the run up to our departure, on Saturday morning I'll visit one of the town's internet cafés to hit the Publish button before joining the others for a drink at a bar on the waterfront. [See photo]


On Sunday morning we'll set out for the Pyrenees, crossing them somewhere midway between the Atlantic end and the Mediterranean end.

If there is no new blog here next Sunday, the plan will have gone awry and I'll hope to blog from Guernsey on May 7th, which will mark the start of my second year as a blogger.

Has blogging for the past 12 months been a worthwhile venture?

Certainly not financially. Since starting to blog in May 2005, I've written around 75,000 words and not earned a centimo from it. On the other hand I've enjoyed it and made many interesting contacts.

11 Comments:

At 23 April, 2006, Anonymous Margaret McDonagh said...

I was very interested in your piece on Mary S Lovell. I read her biography of Jane Digby a year or so ago and it was fascinating, very accessible. I have A Rage To Live on my TBR pile. It was good to hear more about Mary Lovell, thank you.
Best wishes,
Mags

 
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