Sunday, 13 February 2011

World Book Night!

I was selected as a Giver for World Book Night (the highlight of my year so far) and was devastated to see this article in the Guardian - ‘World Book Night branded ‘misguided and misjudged’ – quoting independent book shop owners complaining that it will be damaging to their trade.

Well, firstly, they seem to have missed the point of World Book Night. The biggest give away of free books ever attempted is surely exactly the event where, overheads be damned, a million people will celebrate the joy of reading, the glory of the written word and the, frankly, VITAL practice of friends, family and strangers sharing and recommending books!

Secondly, if these booksellers could draw themselves away from spitting at Kindle users on public transport long enough, they would realise that there is huge potential here to harness a whole new wave of book-buyers. Someone gives you a free copy of The Blind Assassin by Margret Atwood, and your eyes are opened to the genius of Atwood’s writing. So, naturally, you go along to your local bookstore and ask for another Atwood recommendation. This seems like such a blindingly obvious scenario, and one to be HUGELY CELEBRATED, that it is heartbreaking to me that these noble booksellers are taking such a mercenary and uninspired view of the event.

The absolutely amazing Jamie Byng (who is an Edinburgh University English Lit alumni, I believe) who bought out Canongate in his mid-20s (!) and is the man responsible for publishing “two obscure books written by a little-known Chicago lawyer named Barack Obama” (God, Byng makes my heart all nutty and excited) and has now initiated this wonderful event. Defending World Book Night, he says:

"The key thing surely is to embrace the possibilities that it offers, which are enormous and forward-looking, rather than cynically dismiss the idea before it becomes a reality."

Yes, Mr Byng. Oh, and will you marry me, please?

The content of my box of free books with be Seamus Heaney’s New Selected Poems, and as I feel that I’m running out of overzealous adjectives, it will suffice to say that this collection of poems has given me hours and hours of joy, and I am thrilled to have an opportunity to share that joy with others. It is my fervent wish that, out of my 48 books, one will surprise and delight the reader enough to begin a lifelong love affair with poetry.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication by Seamus Heaney

1. Sunlight

There was a sunlit absence.

The helmeted pump in the yard

heated its iron,

water honeyed

in the slung bucket

and the sun stood

like a griddle cooling

against the wall

of each long afternoon.

So, her hands scuffled

over the bakeboard,

the reddening stove

sent its plaque of heat

against her where she stood

in a floury apron

by the window.

Now she dusts the board

with a goose's wing,

now sits, broad-lapped,

with whitened nails

and measling shins:

here is a space

again, the scone rising

to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love

like a tinsmith's scoop

sunk past its gleam

in the meal-bin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm a giver too and really looking forward to it. I think the saddest thing about the indy bookshop backlash is that this vocal minority can't bring themselves to say at least a little tiny thank you to us enthusiastic readers, their loyal customers... and without whom they might be in even more trouble than they suggest they are, who will be out there enthusiastically flying the flag for books and reading. All I'm hearing is them moaning about us giving things away for free and thus devaluing them, and them having to store a few boxes of books, and how bad this will all be for sales i.e. profits, i.e. money. They are shooting themselves in both feet as far as I can see.