Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Book review: The Sweet Far Thing

Faye L. Booth reviews The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray, published in hardback by Delacorte Press

Everyone has at least one ‘escapist’ book; one that allows them to lose themselves in a fantasy and perhaps return to a younger, less worldly age. For many people nowadays, the Harry Potter series provides that opportunity. For me, one such author is Libba Bray.

The Sweet Far Thing is the final instalment in Ms Bray’s historical fantasy trilogy for young adults, starring Gemma Doyle, Victorian teenager and hereditary sorceress. For those who are new to the trilogy, a quick précis – the series opens with Gemma living with her mother in India in the days of the British Empire. After her mother’s violent death, during which Gemma experiences the first of many unsettling visions, Gemma is returned to England to attend finishing school at the Spence Academy for Young Ladies, where she meets and befriends the beautiful, romantically-minded Pippa, headstrong admiral’s daughter Felicity and shy working class orphan Ann, who is attending the Academy on a scholarship in order to be trained as a governess for the children of her wealthy cousins. As well as dealing with the usual nightmarish politics of teenage girls and the lessons designed to shape them into future wives and mothers of the Empire, the four are drawn, via Gemma’s developing abilities, into the magical world of the Realms, and the lethal struggle for power dominating them.

By the time The Sweet Far Thing begins, Gemma’s class are in their final year at Spence. Gemma and Felicity are soon to have their season in London and be presented at court before Queen Victoria, while Ann will be despatched to a life of servitude, her natural talent for singing neglected. In the Realms, the race is on to destroy Gemma and seize her power, while Gemma’s ongoing attraction to Kartik, a former member of the magical brotherhood the Rakshana, is developing all the more strongly. In this final climactic episode of the trilogy, written in the classic five-act format of the tragedy, characters will be killed; begin relationships; ‘come out’; take charge of their destinies. Perceptions of good and evil will be challenged, and futures decided for the young women whose fates initially appeared so set in stone. For the readers who have been with Gemma et al since the first book, The Sweet Far Thing is likely to be an affecting read, especially towards the end, as the losses and gains of the battle for the Realms mount up.

I found myself smiling at quite a few scenes, particularly those in which the teenage protagonists’ characters are explored. Bray’s talent for creating likeably flawed personalities is clear, and the younger characters in particular are in most ways very believable. They do not conform to the ‘frigid Victorian’ stereotype held by many people nowadays, nor are they wise and responsible beyond their years; indeed, Gemma frequently makes errors of judgement the sort of which one would expect from a young girl still coming to terms with life, both in and outside of the magical Realms.

Her relationship with Kartik is not presented as the be-all-and-end-all of her existence, and while the ending of the story is far from ‘happily ever after’, there remains a strong sense of hope and possibility for the futures of the girls at the centre of the tale. I was especially pleased to see my favourite character from the entire series redeemed at least to a degree, as I considered her to be the best role model in the trilogy (still do, actually), and was somewhat perturbed by her being demonised in the second book.

As with the novel’s two predecessors, there were a few minor factors that made me wince a little, such as the strong liberalism frequently displayed by Gemma, which seems a touch anachronistic for a 19th Century girl with her relatively privileged background. In particular, the corset as a metaphor for the restrictive gender roles of the time is perhaps a little overused, as are the regular complaints about wearing the garment made by the girls: to the vast majority of Victorian women who could afford corsetry, the idea of going without would be as popular as the idea of going braless would be today – a tiny minority might well have done, but they would indeed be the minority.

Also, a ‘respectable’ institution like Spence kitting its charges out in bloomers for an afternoon’s cycling would almost certainly lead to complaints from horrified parents, too, as in the early 1890s such garments would still generally be viewed as unsuitable attire for a young woman, particularly among the relatively conservative upper classes who send their daughters to Spence. The phonetic spelling used for the speech of working class characters felt a little uncomfortable (“Wot’re you luvbirds whisp’rin ‘bout?”), although not without precedent, being a technique employed by Dickens and Hardy among others, and the portrayal of the character who comes out to her friends as a “Sapphist” occasionally veers predictably towards the classic ‘butch’ stereotype.

All the same, the book is a pleasurable and entertaining read, both for adults and for its target audience, many of whom may just be getting into historical fiction. Buy the trilogy for the bookish teenager in your life…or just read it yourself, of course.

Faye L. Booth is the author of Cover the Mirrors

Book One – A Great and Terrible Beauty
Book Two – Rebel Angels
Book Three – The Sweet Far Thing

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Book review: Cover the Mirrors

Laura Wilkinson reviews Cover the Mirrors by Faye L. Booth, published in hardback by Macmillan New Writing, £14.99

Faye L. Booth’s MySpace carries a wonderful quote, and axiom, by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Molly Pinner, heroine of Booth’s debut novel, Cover the Mirrors, is certainly not a well-behaved woman, and she is a genuine player (in more than one sense of the word) in Booth’s fictional world.

Cover the Mirrors is Molly’s tale of rags to riches, loss and love, ignorance to enlightenment, and, ultimately, to fulfilment. Set in mid 19th Century Preston, when spiritualism was at the height of its popularity, the book opens with a fifteen year old Molly learning her sick maiden aunt’s craft as a spirit medium. After Aunt Florrie’s death, Molly inherits the thriving business and to the wealthy and bereaved of the town she proves herself to be a gifted communicator with the dead.

And while Molly clearly enjoys her work and is a shrewd entrepreneur the truth is that, like most teenagers, she is much more interested in the living, those made of flesh and blood, and testosterone. A dalliance with a local businessman, William Hamilton, leads to an unwanted pregnancy and an arguably even less attractive proposition: marriage. Molly understands that once married she will no longer be her own woman, her home and business will belong to her husband, and she is desperate to remain in control, despite her strong feelings for William. The crux of the novel lies in how this canny young woman negotiates this emotional minefield. There are other surprises in store but to expand on these would reveal too much – suffice to say that Molly encounters spectres of an altogether earthlier form that those she conjures for the delight of her paying customers.

Booth knows how to weave a compelling yarn, and is adroit at establishing convincing period atmosphere without letting it stand in the way of plot and character development. The story trips along nicely. Preston, in its industrial heyday, with its beautiful squares and grimy slums, rich and poor, is a perfect backdrop and Booth’s love for her home town shines through the prose, as does her fascination with the period. Booth’s research is meticulous, she transports you entirely, engaging all the senses - one can feel, hear, smell and see her world. There’s everything one could expect from a bodice-ripper: sex, romance, and intrigue. Wretched mill workers and handsome serving boys rub shoulders with wealthy socialites and dashing gents, and if this sounds standard historical fare then don’t be mislead. The writing is beautiful.

Molly is an impressive and all too rare creation in historical fiction - a real woman, neither sinner nor saint, she is flawed and affable. Lusty, busty and strong-willed she is a woman I could almost imagine being mates with, albeit one who wears petticoats and carries a reticule rather than skinny jeans and a tote. And the 'almost' is important. While Molly faces dilemmas that young women face today, she is very much of her time, and this is credit to Booth’s skill as a writer. Molly is not a 21st century girl trussed up in a corset, she is of her time. And this is true of the supporting characters.

As you would expect Cover the Mirrors displays traits of the debut novel, and there are a few nits to pick, though I’m not going to do that here. This is an accomplished book from a young author – Booth is 27 – go read it yourself. I’m looking forward to her next creation.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Feature: Self-Publishing

Publishing the DIY Way by Jacquelynn Luben

Self publishing attracts much of the same disdain as ‘vanity publishing’, yet, a number of esteemed authors have published their own work. These days, when publishers are generally huge conglomerates with their eyes on the bottom line, many good writers are unable to place their books and end up taking the self-publishing route.
In 1992, before it became usual and acceptable, I did it on my own; I became a self-publisher, in order to bring out my previously rejected book. To write for its own sake was not enough for me. I wanted to be read and heard.

I knew all about vanity publishers from writing groups, and had even interviewed one for a Radio Four programme, Punters, so I avoided them. I had a personal reason for self-publishing. My book, The Fruit of the Tree, is the story of the birth and death of my baby daughter, my second child, born after two miscarriages. When, after the birth of my second daughter, I had recovered from my grief, I wanted to share the knowledge I had gained from my experience, not just with other bereaved parents, but with others who had no knowledge of tragic premature death. Having a few short articles published only fuelled my desire to write a more detailed account of my bereavement and subsequent happiness.

The Fruit of the Tree was written over three years, and was completed seven years after my daughter’s death. Then, in the next ten years, it was sent to several publishers, retained by them for a few months and then returned. Once, I was told it would be ‘a difficult book to sell’. I didn’t understand why.

I was in touch with the support organisation dealing with cot death, and my manuscript was shown to a publisher who wanted to bring out a self help book. My autobiographical account was not what they were looking for, but they liked what they read and asked me to write their book. Cot Deaths - Coping with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was published by Thorsons in 1986, and brought out in a new edition by Bedford Square Press in 1990.
With a track record, I thought it would be easier to find a publisher for The Fruit of the Tree, but I was wrong. I rejoined a writing group and started writing fiction, but still the book claimed my attention. I decided I would publish it in 1996, the 21st anniversary of my daughter’s death.

Having read Peter Finch’s practical but humorous book, How to Publish Yourself, I obtained quotes from printers. £3,000/£4,000 seemed to be the norm for about 1,500 copies of a perfect bound paperback of 60,000 words with full coloured cover. It was beyond my price range.

Then, in Writers’ News, I read about Anne Kritzinger, a ‘short-run’ printer with modern equipment. I met her and gave her my manuscript with an order. She scanned it into her computer and produced 300 copies at around £1,300. I followed this up with additional orders later. My publishing name was Nelson Houtman - the maiden names of my mother and my Dutch grandmother. I liked the mix of Europe and traditional England - shades of Weidenfeld & Nicholson. Interestingly, booksellers sometimes react as if the name is familiar to them.

I avoided the cost of an expensive cover by choosing a black and white photo on a plain green background (regarded as a two colour cover - black plus one colour on white card). This may have been a false economy, as a good cover is essential, and much later, I changed printers and had a new cover.Printing is the easiest part of publishing. Next, I sent out press releases and flyers to magazines and radio stations, a tedious task, which nevertheless brought about some articles and radio broadcasts. I mailed the main ‘charter’ bookshops, as well as libraries.

I had learned much from having a book published. Thorsons had distributed approximately 300 review copies, while Bedford Square had only sent out about 60, first offering a press release. My attitude was always one of caution, and I opted for Bedford Square Press’s approach.

The death of a child is an emotive subject. Many people who have experienced such a death want to know how other similarly bereaved people feel, and need ammunition to counter the expectations of others. I felt that bereaved people would be helped by reading of my experience, in either of my two books. However, I also believed that, with its background of other more light-hearted events, The Fruit of the Tree was a book that could be read by anyone. I hoped too, that professionals in the medical field would gain insight from reading such a detailed first hand experience. However, gradually, I became aware of the difficulty of trying to interest a diverse audience in such a book, and I began to understand the conventional publisher’s dilemma. No review of my book has convinced me that I was wrong to believe in it, but from a financial point of view, I could see that it was not a commercial proposition.

The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, though they mentioned the book in their newsletter, did not regard it as a self help book, so were not prepared to sell it, irrespective of any discount that I might give them. Some medical publications failed to review it for the same reason. On the other hand, to persuade people not connected with cot death to read it was equally difficult. They shied away from the idea of the death of a child, and imagined that they were going to find it extremely grim. Those that steeled themselves to read it, were full of praise and surprise. They often used the word ‘enjoyed’, and then apologised, though I welcomed this praise. I had not intended to write a dismal catalogue of tragedy, and had deliberately included many funny and silly episodes. Life, after all, is made up of a cocktail of all these things.

Selling is not easy. Even those people who were most interested, were more likely to loan the book to a friend than recommend it. I sometimes reminded people, who weren’t going to buy it, to get the book from the public library, where, at least, there was the possibility of benefit from Public Lending Right. My efforts at obtaining publicity triggered off some unsolicited orders, but, after that, I turned to selling through other ways.

I started with local bookshops and extended to telephone sales country wide, including many independent book shops, offering Firm Sale where I could. Waterstone’s were helpful, and, at that time, each store made its own purchasing decisions. W.H. Smith, however, decided not to stock copies, which was probably just as well. They order on Sale or Return, and when sales start dropping off, return the balance. This is very difficult for the self publisher to weather.

In total, I sold around 1,000 copies of my book, but, eventually, I needed to get back to writing rather than selling. However, I enjoyed being a publisher and have returned to it again, now as a Director of Goldenford Publishers. I did not make a profit on my efforts, but I got The Fruit of the Tree out to an audience that would appreciate it, and in doing so fulfilled the ambition of many years. will be reviewing The Fruit of the Tree later this year.

Book review: A Mighty Heart

Marian Jane Williams reviews A Mighty Heart: The brave life and death of my husband Daniel Pearl by Mariane Pearl published by Virago, £10.99

Although I knew from the outset that Daniel Pearl was murdered, this did not detract in any way from the tension and empathy I felt towards Mariane Pearl as she travels through a time of utter horror in her life – the kidnap, search for and death of her husband. Mariane faced what many families and friends have faced – the knowledge that a loved one is in mortal danger, held by fanatics, and utter bewilderment as to why.

Daniel Pearl was an international journalist who passionately believed in unearthing the truth, believing that doing so would make for a more informed public and, therefore, a better world. He was the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal and was in Karachi, Pakistan with Mariane at the time of his kidnap, staying with his friend and colleague Asra – an Indian born Muslim woman who was raised in West Virginia and who became Mariane’s closest friend and invaluable support through the subsequent trials. Shortly after arriving in Pakistan, Danny leaves to meet a contact one day and never returns.

Mariane Pearl writes with extraordinary, cool clarity of the ensuing days and nights which followed his disappearance. With the organisational skills of her friend Asra they searched for the reasons why he was singled out for kidnapping; why he was in Karachi; what his views on international journalism were and which of his contacts and fixers were involved. The search involved asking every question and following every clue into the labyrinth that is the world of fanaticism and terror. Among those whom the women enlisted in the search were the Pakistani police, Pakistani Intelligence, the FBI, the world media and her husband’s employers and friends.

At times the sheer numbers of people involved in the search or possibly involved in the kidnap, make for quite complicated reading. Trying to absorb and remember the different names and where they fit into the puzzle can be distracting, but this is a compelling story told with candour and a heart-wrenching emotional honesty.

Mariane is herself a remarkable journalist and she writes a very personal and moving tribute to the man she loves. Although her situation was horrifying, frightening and extremely emotional, her journalistic skills coupled with her own unbelievable determination, the iron grip on her emotions, and her constant hope, provide a fascinating and deeply felt account of that time in her life. Here is an admirable woman who, with a handful of equally determined and compassionate helpers, is a shining example of the power of the human spirit to transcend horror. Her love for her husband, her determination to use all in her power to rescue him and find answers to the many questions surrounding his disappearance and above all, the closeness of spirit and mutual strength which obviously existed between the two of them is the beating heart of this remarkable tale.

Book review: The Post-birthday World

Katie Allen reviews The Post-birthday World by Lionel Shriver, published by HarperCollins, £11.99

There comes a moment in many people’s lives when the safe contentment of a long-term relationship is challenged and disrupted by the temptation of someone else. Whether to act on it or not is a hoary topic that has been batted back and forth across countless agony aunt pages and glasses of pinot grigio, but it is one that Lionel Shriver has brought freshly to life in The Post-birthday World.

The birthday in question is that of Ramsay Acton, snooker star, and it is celebrated every year with his wife Jude and her friend Irina and partner Lawrence. The novel is told from Irina’s point of view. One year, after Jude and Ramsay have separated, Lawrence is detained by business and Irina and Ramsay mark his birthday alone. At the end of the evening, they are tempted to kiss, and the novel explores, Sliding Doors-style, the two possible outcomes. In one, Irina and Ramsay kiss and a passionate affair begins – in the other, they resist, and Irina returns to Lawrence. The twin plots continue in simultaneous chapters that become increasingly intertwined as Shriver plays with the concepts of fate and inevitability.

The split chapters take some getting used to, but it is an intriguing device that grows ever more complex. Not only are entire scenes, such as the climactic snooker tournament, enacted twice, but motifs and fragments of prose appear in both storylines – in one, Irina has left Lawrence and he runs after her, fretting about her inadequate jacket, in the next chapter, they are uneasily still together, and it is she who runs after him with a better coat. The same phrase chimes in each chapter: “You’re not dressed for this!”.

These details are what make Irina and Lawrence’s dilemma so claustrophically convincing: real relationships are not performed on windswept moors, but bump against squabbles about the TV remote and how one of you likes the toast. It is the storyline of the affair I found less believable, simply because Ramsay, until a few twists in the denouement, seemed to me a facsimile of a character, the stereotypical un-literate but sexy bit of rough. Shriver seems to have hit a false note with his dialect, which admittedly he has adopted as a middle-class boy turned Cockney geezer snooker player, but off-puttingly it makes any conversations sound like Irina is having a heart-to-heart with Dick van Dyke: “I won’t be treated like a bauble by a bird who’s snug as a bug with another bloke” and even “I watch buff birds strut the pavement, first thing goes through my head ain’t ‘Blimey, love a bit o’ that, ‘ey!’”!

Lawrence himself is something of a stereotype too: middle class, intellectual, emotionally inept, sexually uptight and bossily unappealing: “Irina wasn’t accustomed to talking so much. Early in that speech Lawrence would have interrupted that she had made her point, so enough already.”

Perhaps Shriver’s point, as she summarises so succinctly in the prefacing quote, is: “Nobody’s perfect”. Neither man is 100% right for Irina, and as she puts it: “whichever a woman ends up with, she’ll wonder if she wouldn’t rather have the other”. This novel explores that ‘wondering’, the way choice and risk can change a life, and also whether some things are just inevitable. It is also an intricate investigation into the English class system, aging, sexuality and the whole structure of marriage.

The Post-birthday World is much too long and verbose at 600 pages, and needs a severe amount of editing. Also Irina is so buffeted by passion and panic in one relationship, and by an increasing sense of unease in the other, that her character is often subsumed by her circumstances.

However the central conceit is an interesting way of dealing with a situation that has occupied mankind since Eve and the apple, and it struck sharply with me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Book review: The Thorn Birds

Nicola Davies reviews The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough, published in paperback by Virago

The Thorn Birds has been hailed as the ‘Australian Gone with the Wind’ which filled me with a sense of foreboding. But it was neither longwinded nor overrated, and I was not once tempted to skim through for the good bits. As far as ‘epics’ go it managed to grip me pretty much throughout.

The backdrop is the magnificent Australian outback, and more specifically the great sheep station, Drogheda, home of the Cleary family. Meggie Cleary is only four when we first meet her. Youngest in a clan of boys, and daughter to a withdrawn mother she has to fumble somewhat blindly through the best part of her life. Her ‘guiding star’ is the warm and loving priest Father Ralph de Bricassart, whom Meggie is devoted to from day-one. As she blossoms into a woman, rather inevitably her feelings deepen and translate to lust – and a Lizzie/Mr Darcey style ‘will they or won’t they’ situation ensues for a tantalizing long period. (They nearly do a couple of times and then they actually do.) The author rather cleverly plants the seed of the fallibility of the man of God with the introduction of his flaccid penis early on – from then on he is flesh and blood rather than a sexless priest, and it’s rather inevitable what will eventually happen.

The setting is spectacular – the author manages to capture the sheer scale and magnificence of the outback. Characteristics of nature are cleverly humanized (storms are tantrums, the sky vomits water and bunnies’ tails are like powder puffs) and in turn human emotions/contraptions are likened to elements of nature (suspicion creeps like bark and cars are like hoards of panicked frogs). This blurs the boundaries between man and nature – indicating a way of life so close to the land, and so dependant upon it. Death (of which there is adequate amounts) is described in explicit detail – perhaps less to shock but more to epitomise its matter-of-fact inevitability.

As an atheist I expected to find little in the way of identifying with the devotion of a priest to his God, forsaking everything else – and found it frustratingly futile. I was relieved that Meggie renounces her faith and grows increasingly pissed off with God (quite understandably so). However, I was not convinced by the Thorn Bird moniker – these being birds whose preordained fate is to impale themselves on a thorn, but sing the sweetest song just before they die. Meggie feels she has no control over her destiny – that she will never be able to shake off the hold Father Ralph has over her, and after a while she gives up trying, submitting to her destiny like a thorn bird. I did feel that she could have tried a bit harder.

The Thorn Birds definitely fulfils the ‘epic’ criteria – managing to span decades of Meggie’s life, a world war, and even examines her child’s life as a grown up. The journey is undoubtedly long, harrowing in many places, but is certainly compelling and well worth taking.

Book review: Living with Mother, Right to the Very End

Marian Jane Williams reviews Living with Mother, Right to the Very End by Michele Hanson, published in paperback Virago, £9.99

“What to do with Mother?”

A question which confronts many of us faced with an aged lone parent who cannot continue living on their own. Luckily my mother, who was in hospital at the time, reached this stage just a few weeks before her death. But father- in-law required almost constant care for a year. He refused to go into hospital and to live with family members, so a rota system was set up to check on him without being too obvious about it. Although the situations were different, the stress the family was under in each case was high. Most of us want to do the best for our parents, but there needs to be a balance if you are to enjoy your own life too. Living with Mother is a positive and hilarious account of how one family coped and found that balance.

Michele Hanson writes a delightful, bitter-sweet tribute to her faultfinding, bossy but vibrant, feisty and very funny mother, who moved into Michele’s home for the last ten years of her life, living her daughter, granddaughter and their many friends. Three generations of women under one roof is not an ideal scenario, family relationships are tested to the brink, but I must admit to a feeling of envy for Hanson’s turbulent, hilarious and obviously very loving household.

The book is compiled from her popular Guardian columns with the result that each chapter is very short – just 2 pages - and wonderfully easy to read. There is a short piece, written by Michele’s daughter, which gives another, perhaps sadder, perspective and also illuminates the tumultuous but loving relationship of granddaughter and grandmother.

Michele Hanson writes with endearing honesty and dark wit about the trials and tribulations of coping with an aged parent, and the tragedy of seeing that parent decline from bossy, forthright, lively head of the household to frail, bedridden, yet courageous old lady who still manages to rule the roost, who wants to die, yet who always manages to defy that final leap and who manages to provide a laugh for them all – even at the end. Somewhat akin to my own mother and, I feel, somewhat akin to many readers’ own circumstances. A delightful book.

Book review: Getting Even: Revenge Stories

Laura Wilkinson reviews Getting Even: Revenge Stories, edited by Mitzi Szereto, published in paperback by Serpent’s Tail, £8.99

Getting Even is an anthology of short stories, edited by author and erotic writing workshops pioneer Mitzi Szereto. New writers sit alongside established names like Stella Duffy and Clare Colvin. A mixed bag, there is something here for most women, especially those who have been betrayed by a male lover.

In her entertaining introduction Szereto suggests that the book is not partisan, citing stories about revenge exacted on those who are not men, and pointing out that the collection also contains stories written by men. This is misleading. Of the seventeen stories only two are penned by male authors, and thirteen are tales of women seeking retribution on men.

Perhaps this would not be a problem if the women wreaking their revenge were not, on the whole, such a down-trodden bunch. They may be able to dream up and execute some stomach-churning acts of vengeance, but the reasons why they ended up as the wronged party in the relationships are altogether less empowering. The women come across as bitter man-haters, used and abused by stereotypical, heartless alpha males, though I am sure that this is not what the authors always intended.

However, revenge is a fascinating subject matter to explore, and given its nature it could be that the protagonists, and antagonists, come across so badly precisely because vengeance is such a negative and destructive force. It damages the perpetrator as much as the recipient and this is explored extremely well in Clare Colvin’s artful tale ‘Love and Death in Renaissance Italy’.

Tales of retribution have permeated our culture for centuries, from the Bible through Shakespeare to films like Se7en, and they are at their most powerful when mythical or legendary – when quotidian forces like law and order fade into the distance. Umi Sinha’s ‘Parvati’ works extremely well because of its mythical quality and because it is so beautifully written.

Dark humour flickers throughout – ‘How to Kill an Aries’ by Tony Fennelly and hagsharlotsheroines founder Becky Bradford’s ‘More Than Skin Deep’ are especially good at this - and though I am yet to be convinced a single theme is enough to sustain an anthology (genre, yes), Getting Even: Revenge Stories will make you shudder and chuckle in equal measure.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Evening of Short Stories, Brighton

Short Fuse Stories presents:
Day of the Dead / Dia de los Muertos
Thursday October 18th, Studio Bar (down in the Crypt at Komedia) Doors open 8.30 Entrance £4 / £3 concessions

Now that the nights are drawing in and the trees are moulting so prettily, why not treat yourselves to a warming toddy at the bar and a bevy of spine tingling tales? Listening to October's pick of the creepiest ghost stories, both new and old, will give rise to spooky frissons and melancholic musings guaranteed to make you Grateful not to be Dead.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Harlots' Events

Lectures and workshops by sex educator Deborah Sundahl, London, October 2007

Deborah Sundahl is the leading expert on the G-spot and female ejaculation. She has three groundbreaking videos on this subject, is a workshop leader, and a spokesperson for female sexuality - 22 years helping women to discover their erotic self.

The following dates have been confirmed:
Tuesday, October 9 – a workshop for women, downstairs at the Bridge Bistro and Bar, 388 Wandsworth Road SW8. The downstairs part of this restaurant has been freshly redecorated for parties and workshops. It will be completely sealed off for privacy during the workshop, which will start at 8pm. If you would like to have dinner before, we will reserve a table for women that are attending the workshop to meet each other and chat. The cost of the workshop is £50, the dinner is optional and not included, but the food at the restaurant is cheap and really good.

Wednesday, October 10 – a lecture at Coffee, Cake and Kink, 61 Endell Street. Tickets are £30, the price includes a glass of wine when you arrive and coffee, tea and cake at the break. For more information about the coffee shop, see

Thursday, October 11 – a lecture at Sh! The Womens' Erotic Emporium, Britain's first and only sex shop for women, 57 Hoxton Square N1. Tickets are £30, the price includes a glass of wine when you arrive and coffee, tea and cake at the break. For more information about the shop, see

For tickets to any of these events, please call Nikki Anderson on 07793 047 747, or email

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Book Launch - London

Dubravka Ugrešić in conversation with Marina Warner

London Review of Books Bookshop Thursday 4 October at 7PM

Dubravka Ugrešić was born in 1949 in what is now Croatia. Following the outbreak of war in 1991 her trenchant opposition to nationalism, both Serbian and Croatian, made her a controversial figure at home and abroad. In her latest book Nobody’s Home (Telegram) she takes the reader on a kaleidoscopic tour of Europe and America, finding that as the former Eastern bloc throws itself whole-heartedly into Western-style modernisation, the West itself is, ironically, beginning to take on some of the characteristics of the old Soviet state.

She is the author of The Ministry of Pain (2005) and Nobody's Home : The Ministry of Pain was nominated for both the Independent Prize for Foreign Fiction and the International Man Booker Prize. You can find more information on more information on the LRB website: