Sunday, 6 March 2011

World Book Night and Day

Well, that's been a week and a half and no mistake!You'd have to have been living in a hole in the ground not to know that yesterday was Book Book Night. It was preceded two days before by World Book Day, which has been running for many years now as a way of promoting children's books. As a special treat for this year the Guardian has started an online Children's books resource run entirely by young readers
here Brilliant idea!

I didn't do any gigs this year but wrote most of chapter three of the current Stravaganza novel, which was an acceptable alternative, I hope.

On Friday I was in Trafalgar Square for the pre-World Book Night bash. The photos were done in the dark in a crowd on my iPhone and only a few came out well enough to use. It was a bit like a more sedate version of a rovk concert, with Jamie Byng coming out and waving, "Hello, London!" Indeed there were some rockers reading too - Nick Cave from Lolita, ad Suggs from a very gloomy John Betjeman poem.

It was well compèred by Graham Norton and there were lovely distinctive voices from Philip Pullman (growly bear Iorek), Alan Bennet (Nation's favourite Teddy bear), Margaret Atwood, Tracy Chevalier, Rupert Everett - heavens, too many stars to name. And Boris Johnson.

But when Sarah Waters came out to read from Fingersmith, which was the book I had chosen to give away and asked who was giving that title, I yelled "me, me!" in a very noticeable way, so I'm glad the picture of Sarah reading from her book came out.

The stand-out performance for me was Lemn Sissay, who read Tennyson's Ulysses virtually by heart with such passion and involvement and intelligence, as well as being really rather gorgeous, that I won't forget it in a hurry.

I had asked Margaret Atwood on Twitter to wave to me and she did indeed give some very good waves - surely one of them was for me?

I had to get back to Oxfordshire that night and go to pick up my books next morning before giving them out at Bampton Library. Which did not leave me much time for filling in the numbers in the back of the books. But I managed it. And got given a book myself! (All Quiet on the Western front, which I had never read).

I checked on the list and I have read 12 of the 25. Hearing the readers made me want to read 2 more, there are 5 more I already wanted to read and 2 I wouldn't touch. Which leaves a few I have no strong views about. I wonder what next year's list will be like?

I'd certainly be up for doing it again but next time I will also follow Nicola Morgan's amendment. While not knocking the WBN idea, she suggested that people might like to buy an additional book, preferably from an independent bookshop and give to someone appropriate, with the note in the front, "Given in the spirit of World Book Night by ... and bought from ..."
I think that's an excellent idea. There have been so many of them this week.


catdownunder said...

I hope WBN makes it to my part of the world next year. Nothing was said or done - except by me and one or two people I suggested it to. I would like it to be Nicola's version. We are going to lose some bookshops because of the Borders/A&R disaster here but we can surely try and save the rest!

Nicola Morgan said...

Mary - sounds as though you had a fab time and did lots of good work. A lovely story! And thank you for mentioning my contribution. I do think the organisers missed a chance to support and include even more (all!) authors and booksellers, and I hope they'll take it on board a little bit next year. This year, it got everyone excited - fantastic - next year, I think we can get every book reader and lover on board, and focus on keeping the whole book business alive.

JW_Firth said...

Great stuff - as you say, it would have been hard not to notice, which has to be a good thing. Maybe they'll start calling it book week.
I'm also a big fan of Nicola's suggestion - as catdownunder says, we can at least hope to save out indie book shops! Also, perhaps giveaways could include less-well known contemporary fiction too, rather than just familiar titles, to help to broaden people's minds as well as their bookshelves :)

Kate Davies said...

Lemn Sissay came several times to the school I used to teach at to perform his poetry - I'm almost certain he was the first poet/author I ever saw in action. He was brilliant and the kids loved him.

Sue Purkiss said...

The comment supposedly by Kate was actually by me - I hadn't realised she was signed in!

adele said...

Lemn Sissay is indeed should have seen him twenty years ago when he was a young poet starting out in Manchester. Stunning. And your booknight sounds superb.