Sunday 4 February 2024

Two months, two books

Second month of the year and the second CBe book of the year is published this coming week. Katy Evans-Bush’s Joe Hill Makes His Way into the Castle is, according to an early review (by Rupert Loydell in Tears in the Fence) a ‘persuasive, personal, original and revolutionary collection’. No ‘pallid depoliticised reservoirs of poetic sentiment,’ writes Fran Lock on the back of the book: ‘None of that here. But a humour and an honesty that persist despite it all. No little dramas of abjection, but real life. We cannot look away.’ For starters, go to the book’s website page, where you can download an excerpt that includes K E-B’s preface – in which she spells out the presence in the book of the US poet Kenneth Patchen (subject of a CBe blog post a couple of weeks ago) – and a note on Joe Hill. And then press the ‘Add to cart’ button.

There’ll be a party for the book on 14 February. Katy will be reading from the book at the Faversham Festival on 24 February.

This follows Lara Pawson’s Spent Light, which was launched at the London Review bookshop on 24 January and in less than a week had four reviews (Guardian, Financial Times, Irish Times, Spectator) and sold out its first print run. Phew. This is not how things usually work around here. I’m more used to staring out of the window and hoping the sun will come out. The reprint will be in the warehouse in the next day or so. Meanwhile, I have copies here to fulfil orders from the website page.

If you do order from the website, think about the Season Tickets on the home page: 6 books of your choice for £45 or 12 for £80 (UK only; free postage). This is ridiculously generous. If Joe Hill or Spent Light is one of your choices, you’ll be saving £3.49 (or £4.33) off the cover price.

Thursday 1 February 2024

TLS / Royal Society of Literature

Really odd piece in the TLS this week by MC about the RSL. Are you with me? Don’t worry if not, it’s an ingrown toenail in the long-running series about writers and status that no one cares about except writers. RSL = Royal Society of Literature. First two paras in the TLS are starter waffle, which is what this column does, with added pepper, and there’s a place for this and I read it.

Get to the point. Which he does in para 3: ‘According to Private Eye, the society is currently trapped in an “ideological purity spiral”’. And so it continues, lots of quotes wthin quotes, gossip, who said what to who, which is how anything bookish becomes news and gets a Guardian piece – posh people bitching.

So much of MC’s piece is in quote marks. MC himself is in quote marks: ‘We’. A couple of things I pick him up on: ‘senior RSL members’: you just mean older, don’t you? Older and whiter. You imply the new members are junior. All RSL fellows are equal, or they are not. MC’s mockery (fair enough: all selection is invidious) of the ‘specially selected’ panel that will nominate candidates for new fellowships – ‘Who selects the selectors?’ – slides comfortably past the previous old-boys club way of nominating: they selected themselves. And please, please, do not say ‘august institution’, irony is over; when Marina Warner bemoans a ‘lack of respect for older members and a loss of institutional history, which was something members cherished’, she is talking about an institution first given royal patronage by the particular King George, I forget which, there were several, who declared: ‘We do hereby declare and make known, That the Slave Population in Our said Colonies and Possessions will be undeserving of Our Protection if they shall fail to render entire Submission to the Laws, as well as dutiful Obedience to their Masters.’ That is a part of the RSL’s institutional history; I think a big part; to bemoan lack of respect for it is at the very least complacent. Why, seriously, does the RLS not ditch the Royal bit?