One of the great things about going to book festivals and author visits is hearing what authors are reading and recommending.  Who are the fellow writers they rate? Then you can add the names to that ever expanding list of books you may not really want to read but which you fervently wish you had already read.

When Ian Rankin visited last year he named Lanark as one of his favourite books and Alasdair Gray as one of the writers of his generation.

I’d never heard of it, and was compelled to seek it out only to find that Rankin is not alone in his authorly admiration, Iain Banks and Anthony Burgess both liked it as well.

It is extremely hard to summarise; its sub-title is A life in four books but it begins with book three; it’s set partly in twentieth century Glasgow and partly in a strange other world, it’s political as well as fantastic and you probably just have to read it really. But even if you don’t the nice new edition we recently received at the library is worth reserving just to have a look at the cover, drawn by Gray himself.

Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby is a much admired author who has recently followed the trend for adult writers like Michael Chabon and Sherman Alexieto pop out a Young Adult book. On his American book tour for Slam Hornby has been talking up Paul Zindel’s The pigman, a true YA classic first published in 1978.

Looking at the Future

The great Australian news magazine, The Bulletin, has ceased publication, but this website still gives you access to many of their articles and reviews. A recent article I read with interest was Ten Life Changing Trends by futurist Richard Watson. His 10 trends for the future are:

  • Concious capitalism “embracing a model in which shareholders, employees, customers, and the environment are all deemed important.”
  • Making things ” resurgence of interest in arts and crafts” Internet technology enables people with specific hobbies to communicate and share ideas, plus a longing to slow down and participate in more meaningful activities.
  • Robotics
  • Industrial provenance “emergence of ethical and environmental concerns (and) the issue of traceability……opportunity for local suppliers to create product biographies, with details of social and environmental impacts of everything from manufacturing and distribution to disposal.”
  • Data Visualisation ” Our new visual culture is partly a response to Too Much Information but it is also a reaction to time famine.”
  • Data mining
  • Rhythm and balance ” People will seek out quietness and islands of tranquillity”
  • Intimacy “move back towards a small number of more intimate relationships……Spaces (and services) that allow people to engage in face-to-face conversation. Also old-fashioned communications like letter writing and actual meetings”
  • Fantasy and escape “more people escape via everything from physical emigration to movies and virtual worlds.” Continue reading

Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights – Story into song

Waiting for Kate BushI’m reading a Kate Bush biography by Rob Jovanovic and might also tackle Waiting for Kate Bush which sounds  a bit quirky (satirical novel and music biography). Before Bjork, Tori Amos, and other female singer songwriters who flirt with the odd side, there was the mighty Kate Bush, with her spooky vocals and interpretive dance. She has inspired a range of artists, even Outkast has namechecked her.

Any book on Kate will of course talk about her legendary 1978 song Wuthering Heights (BBC Radio 2 Sold on Song article). Kate becomes Cathy – Heathcliff’s ghostly lover howling at his window. The mood and tone of Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights is conjured up in a song.

What other songs have arisen out of literature? I thought of Paul Kelly’s beautiful song Everything’s turning to white, based on the Raymond Carver story So much water so close to home – also the inspiration for the Australian movie Jindabyne. It tells the story of a wife tormented by her husband’s inaction. He and his fishing buddies find the body of a girl in the river, but leave her there while they continue their expedition.

There’s a neat database called Songs inspired by Literature (SIBL) that lists a whole lot more songs – and I followed this train of thought, ending up with The Smiths (a literary band if ever there was) and found out my favourite lyrics  from Reel Around The Fountain, “You’re the bee’s knees, but so am I” and “I dreamt about you last night, and I fell out of bed twice” are quotes from the film adaptation of A Taste Of Honey by Shelagh Delaney. Who knew?