Yesterday I was delighted to be invited to attend a bloggers afternoon at the Groucho Club hosted by literary agents PFD to meet and hear some of the authors shortlisted for this year’s Sunday Times/Peters Fraser Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award – and you couldn’t hope for a more diverse collection of literary styles – with one novel, volumes ofpoetry and short stories and finally a prose poem in the mix.
Unfortunately Max Porter couldn’t be there, but moderator Andrew Holgate (Literary Editor of the Sunday Times and one of the judges) introduced and read from Max’s book. Andrew introduced all four books, then the authors read from their books and talked with Andrew before some questions from the audience. All three authors talked with depth and intelligence about their work – but it wasn’t all serious!
Andrew McMillan told us that he would read the poem that he thinks most embarrasses his mother (but read with such style!), and Benjamin explained that he wouldn’t be effecting a Scottish accent for his main character, a fifty-something Scottish lady, while reading as it comes out sounding like Mrs Doubtfire! Talking to Jessie Greengrass before we sat down, she said that even though her short stories tended to being gloomy, she did try to insert some humour – that was definitely the case in the short story she read to us – set in a nuclear bunker.
I am only slightly ashamed to say that I haven’t yet managed to read any of the four books, although I’ve heard nothing but praise about all of them, and we’ve reviewed The Ecliptic and Grief Is A Thing With Feathers at Shiny. I said to Andrew McM as I got my copy of his poems signed, that I would hear his voice when I read them. Lovely bloke that he is, he apologised – but to hear him read his own poems in his Barnsley tones was magic, and as he writes his poems without punctuation, his reading gave me a real feel for their rhythms as I started reading them on the train home. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into all four books very soon.
I also had a nice chat with Andrew Holgate, and I was asking him about the balance of non-fiction vs fiction reviews in the press – it always feels as if the weekend papers often relegate fiction to behind non-fic (except when there’s a feature fiction article e.g. Zadie Smith), and much of the reviews are in round-up/short-take styles. We didn’t reach a conclusion, but it was a pleasure to get the opportunity to ask the question…
Thank you to PFD, the authors, and all there who made us bloggers feel so welcome.
The prize winner will be announced on December 8th. (See here for more details)
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Another real bookish delight this week was to receive my subscription copy of the latest Unbound book I’ve pledged to, to be printed.
Narcissim for Beginners is Martine McDonagh’s third novel (the main print edition will come out in March 2017 and I will probably review it nearer then). The Unbound limited edition subscribers editions are lovely though with embossed ice creams on the boards under the dust-jacket. I can’t wait to read it.
Being a fan of Martine’s previous two novels, I was especially touched to find a quote from my review of her first book, I Have Waited, and You Have Come (review here on my old blog) included.