Saturday, 18 July 2009

‘Seductive, amusing’ – a round-up

Over on Asylum, a review of Christopher Reid’s ‘seductive, amusing and even touching’ The Song of Lunch which takes pleasure in quoting from the book a ‘vigorous rant on the current state of the publishing industry’. (The review also notes that the CBe books ‘are much more handsome in person than they appear on their website’. It’s true: on the site the books all appear to have jaundice. The yellowness will be corrected when we update in September.)

In today’s Guardian, Nicholas Lezard reviews Simon Rae’s Unplayable (typeset and designed by CBe): ‘young boys (and, let us hope, some young girls) will read this book, and like it, a lot. They will be given it by their fathers (for the most part); but their fathers will read it first . . . Simon Rae, who has written two grown-up books about cricket (one of them an enormous biography of WG Grace), seems to have acquired . . . the knack of writing fast-paced, entirely plausible and gripping narrative for children of a certain age . . . Plus you have the bonus of a brief but winning introduction by Gatting, where, as he is condemned to do for the rest of his life, he has to talk about That Ball from Shane Warne. And it's come out at just the right time. Maybe the England team should read it.’ The book is available here, or can be ordered from bookshops.

On Thursday there was a launch party for Unplayable down the road from Lord’s, on the evening of the first day of the current Test. Instead of drinking free wine and making small talk with poets I could have been drinking free wine and making small talk with Mike Gatting and other cricketers, but I wasn’t there, dammit, because that day I went in for some minor day surgery and when L arrived home and saw me slumped in my dressing gown with a patch over one eye and the other eye half closed beneath a bruised, swollen and stitched eyelid he said I looked like a character in No Country for Old Men.

Also worth recording: I sent some advance proofs of Nicky Singer’s Knight Crew to Benjamin Zephaniah, in the hope that that he might like the book and say so in words that could be used on the cover. This was a big ask; it takes time to read a book, time to think about it, time to put thoughts into words, and BZ is a busy man. (Also, I feel uneasy about the whole business of writers’ puffs for other writers, some of them being not what they seem; I’ve seen letters go out from publishers with the words of praise already written by the publisher and asking simply for the recipient’s yes/no.) Many writers to whom books are sent simply don’t reply.

Zephaniah read the book. He liked it, and wrote a letter to tell me why. He doesn’t always say yes – in 2003 he said no to an OBE. I have a lot of respect for Benjamin Zephaniah.

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