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April 2016

Read a Poem from Clive James' Latest Collection
29th April 2016 - Clive James

Clive James is the multi-million-copy bestselling author of more than forty books. His poetry collection Sentenced to Life and his translation of Dante's The Divine Comedy were both Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and his collections of verse have been shortlisted for many prizes. 

As a television performer he appeared regularly for both the BBC and ITV, most notably as writer and presenter of the 'Postcard' series of travel documentaries. His popular Radio 4 series A Point of View has been published in volume form. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003 he was awarded the Philip Hodgins memorial medal for literature. He holds honorary doctorates from Sydney University and the University of East Anglia. In 2012 he was appointed CBE and in 2013 an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Collected Poems 1958-2015 is James’ own selection from over fifty years' work in verse: from his early satires to his recent poems looking back over his extraordinarily rich life with a clear-eyed and unflinching honesty. Read one of the poems below.

Find out more at www.clivejames.com.

 

 

 

Be Careful When They Offer You the Moon        

Be careful when they offer you the moon

It gives a cold light

It was only ever made to light the night

You can freeze your fingers handling the moon

 

Be careful when they offer you the moon

It’s built for dead souls

It’s a colourless and dusty ball of holes

You can break an ankle dancing on the moon

 

When you take the moon you kiss the world goodbye

For a chance to lord it over loneliness

And a quarter-million miles down the sky

They’ll watch you shining more but weighing less

 

So be careful when they offer you the moon

It’s only dream stuff

It’s a Tin Pan Alley prop held up by bluff

And nobody breathes easy on the moon

Nobody breathes easy on the moon

Count to ten when they offer you the moon

 

 

 

Who will you nominate for the Ruth Rendell Award?
29th April 2016 - Jonathan Douglas

Jonathan Douglas, Director, National Literacy Trust, introduces the Ruth Rendell Award and calls for nominations from the reading public.

Schools, libraries, booksellers and individuals are being encouraged to make nominations for the Ruth Rendell Award, which was launched by the National Literacy Trust and is sponsored by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society.

The Ruth Rendell Award will recognise the author or writer who has done the most to raise literacy levels in the UK either through their writing and books or through their advocacy and championing of the cause of literacy.

Ruth Rendell, who died last year aged 85, was a bestselling author known for writing thrillers and psychological murder mysteries including the Inspector Wexford series. She also wrote under the pen name Barbara Vine and won a number of awards for her books in a career which spanned six decades.

Ruth Rendell was a long-time supporter of the National Literacy Trust since the charity’s launch 21 years ago. This award, celebrating the commitment of authors to the literacy cause, is a wonderful tribute to her.

As Ruth’s son, Simon Rendell, said: “Ruth would be delighted with the idea of an award for literacy, reading was a huge part of her life both professionally and privately.”

Nominations for authors or writers who have had a significant influence on the literacy cause in the past year are being sought from schools, charities, libraries, booksellers and individuals.

Joining me on the judging panel will be writer Jonathan Fryer, an ALCS board member, Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of the Reading Agency and Ginny Lunn, Chief Executive of Beanstalk. The Reading Agency and Beanstalk are both members of the National Literacy Forum, convened by the National Literacy Trust, which includes representatives from Government, business, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector.

We are delighted that Simon Rendell has agreed to present the Ruth Rendell Award at a ceremony at the House of Commons in December as part of the All Party Parliamentary Writers Group annual reception.

The person who nominates the winning author or writer will be invited to attend the award ceremony. For more information about the Ruth Rendell Award and to make your nomination, visit: www.literacytrust.org.uk/ruthrendellaward The closing date for nominations  is 31 May 2016.

Follow the National Literacy Trust on Twitter @Literacy_Trust

Photo of Ruth Rendell © Jerry Bauer

 

#FoylesFave: Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
27th April 2016 - Andi Yates

This is the first novel in the Black Jewel Trilogy, and one of my all-time favourite books. It's dark, sensual, disturbing, and completely addictive.

 

In a world where power and magic depends on the colour jewel you are gifted, corrupt and sadistic Queens rule the kingdom of Terreille. They are slowly depleting the earth of its magic, and twisting its inhabitants into becoming more and more like them. Men are no more than playthings, and even the most powerful of Warlords are kept as slaves.

 

Daemon and his half-brother Lucivar have been slaves for centuries, and just when they are sure there is no hope left, a prophecy gives them reason to live again. But the prophecy is just a child, and it will take more than even the High Lord of Hell and his sons to keep her safe.

 

Jaenelle is unable to master even the most basic of spells, she's an outsider, even to her own family. She is ridiculed, forgotten and left unprotected by those who should protect her.

 

It's as much a story of friendship, and making your own family, as it is a fantasty novel. It's a beautifully written series about fantastical characters that are 100% believable. I have to re-read the entire series at least once a year.

#FoylesFave

 

Find out more about our Birmingham shop here.

 

 

Alain de Botton on How the Search for the ‘Right Person’ Ruins Love
26th April 2016

Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a philosophy for everyday life. He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in thirty countries. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. His first book, Essays in Love, was published when he was twenty-three. The Course of Love is his first novel in nearly two decades and takes as its theme modern relationships.

Below, exclusively for Foyles Alain writes about how the search for the 'right person' ruins love. Plus, you can read an extract from his new book.

Author photo © Vincent Starr

 

 

How the search for the ‘right person’ ruins love

 

Modern technology gives us unparalleled hope that we will at last be able to track down that hitherto deeply elusive character: the right person.

 

Back in the olden days, you made do. You just got together with someone because their land was next to yours and your plough perfectly complimented their oxen. It was all pretty practical. But now we're Romantics with smartphones, out to find the ideal fit: someone who is beautiful, who totally understands us, and who is kind, easygoing and calm.

 

There are many obstacles to being married. And getting together with someone is only the first – and in many ways the least challenging – of these hurdles. Dating sites are devoted to the task of helping us find the ‘right’ person, which, in its view, means someone who shares our tastes, interests and general attitudes to life. Dating sites subscribe to the compatibility idea of relationships, which notes that we tend to get on best with people who share our interests. This might be true in the short term. But, over an extended period of time, the relevance of this fades dramatically. Indeed, the person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our tastes, but someone who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently and wisely.

 

The search for compatibility is dangerous because it has a tendency to escalate absurdly. Two people who like reading and sport might fall out terribly because one is obsessed with crime fiction, while the other is always wanting to talk about archaeology. One wants to go to the hockey match but the other is obsessed with canoeing. So the temptation is to refine the search. But this leads to astonishing levels of detail. One ends up searching for a partner who is keen on fly-fishing and the novels of John le Carrè, who loves going camping in North Cornwall in September and who is sympathetic to the Liberal Party (but also an enthusiast of tactical voting). But, of course, two such people could easily come to blows over the colour of the bedroom curtains, children’s names, the use of napkins, or the ethics of fracking.

 

When people actually are together long-term, what they have to deal with are all the things that they don’t like about the other person and don’t share. That is the real challenge of relationships and yet it is one that is implicitly denied by dating sites, which emphasise precisely the opposite: ‘compatibility’ as the key to love. The danger is that when lovers do get together, the moment they hit a hurdle, if they sense they are ‘incompatible’, they will panic. If their tastes in coffee or child rearing differ, then they had best split up – surely.

 

Rather than asking us ever more refined questions about our tastes in order to align them, dating sites should investigate what people are like when things end up mismatched, as they inevitably do in real relationships: when our lovers surprise us by not agreeing with us, when there is a need to back down, when one isn’t going to get all one wants. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate difference that’s the true marker of the ‘right’ person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it shouldn’t be its precondition.

 

These ideas are at the heart of my new novel, The Course of Love, which looks at how two people learn to love one another not because they are perfect, but because they understand, and have compassion for, where their imperfections arise. ‘Realism’ can sound like the opposite of love, a dour, consolation prize. But in my novel I try to present realism as a deeply exciting possibility for our relationships.

 

Extract from The Course of Love:

 

If the story begins here, it is because – though so much about Rabih will alter and mature over the years – his understanding of love will for decades retain precisely the structure it first assumed at the Hotel Casa Al Sur in the summer of his sixteenth year. He will continue to trust in the possibility of rapid, wholehearted understanding and empathy between two human beings and in the chance of a definitive end to loneliness.

 

He will experience similarly bittersweet longings for other lost soulmates spotted on buses, in the aisles of supermarkets and in the reading rooms of libraries. He will have precisely the same feeling at the age of twenty, during a semester of study in Manhattan, about a woman seated to his left on the northbound C train, and at twenty-five in the architectural office in Berlin where he is doing work experience, and at twenty-nine on a flight between Paris and London after a brief conversation over the English Channel with a woman named Chloe: the feeling of having happened upon a long-lost missing part of his own self.

 

For the Romantic, it is only the briefest of steps from a glimpse of a stranger to the formulation of a majestic and substantial conclusion: that he or she may constitute a comprehensive answer to the unspoken questions of existence.

 

The intensity may seem trivial, humorous even, yet this reverence for instinct is not a minor planet within the cosmology of relationships. It is the underlying central sun around which contemporary ideals of love revolve.

 

The Romantic faith must always have existed, but only in the past few centuries has it been judged anything more than an illness; only recently has the search for a soulmate been allowed to take on the status of something close to the purpose of life. An idealism previously directed at gods and spirits has been rerouted towards human subjects – an ostensibly generous gesture nevertheless freighted with forbidding and brittle consequences, since it is no simple thing for any human being to honour over a lifetime the perfections he or she might have hinted at to an imaginative observer in the street, the office or the adjoining aeroplane seat.

 

It will take Rabih many years and frequent essays in love to reach a few different conclusions, to recognize that the very things he once considered romantic – wordless intuitions, instantaneous longings, a trust in soulmates – are what stand in the way of learning how to sustain relationships. He will conclude that love can endure only when one is unfaithful to its beguiling opening ambitions; and that for his relationships to work he will need to give up on the feelings that got him into them in the first place. He will need to learn that love is a skill rather than an enthusiasm.

 

 

Becky Hardie Introduces the Hogarth Shakespeare Project
22nd April 2016 - Becky Hardie

Becky Hardie is Deputy Publishing Director at Chatto & Windus/Hogarth. Below, she introduces the Hogarth Shakespeare Project in which authors reinterpret their favourite play. You can also read interviews with authors of the first two books in the series to be published, The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson and Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson.

 

For over four hundred years, Shakespeare’s works have been performed, read and loved throughout the world. The plays have been reinterpreted for every new generation: as teen films (10 Things I Hate about You/Taming of the Shrew), musicals (West Side Story/Romeo and Juliet), science-fiction flicks (Forbidden Planet/The Tempest), Japanese warrior tales (Ran/King Lear) and contemporary novels (A Thousand Acres/King Lear), to name only a few.  

And of course Shakespeare himself borrowed almost all his plots from classical texts, histories, plays and other literary works.  So when we first came up with the idea of a series of modern retellings of Shakespeare’s plays, we had that tradition very much in mind. As soon as we started talking about the idea to colleagues they got it. It seemed so simple, obvious even. Naturally, publishers love this kind of thing. But what would the reading public think?

 

 

 

 

To find out, we sent Random House’s Consumer Insight department off to do some research.  We discovered that a very significant number of regular readers had read a Shakespeare play that year – 1 in 5 – and even more – 3 in 10 – intended to. In reality, however, more people had watched a Shakespeare play on TV or in the theatre. These readers were attracted to Shakespeare’s themes  – ‘It is hard to believe that one man can have so much understanding that is relevant today’, ‘His works illuminate the human experience in a timeless way’, ‘His works continue to be enjoyable and understandable because they are perceptive studies of human character – in short, he’s brilliant’. But there were barriers: people found his plays difficult to read, thought they were better experienced live, they carried with them connotations of school. But this seemed to be good news for us. Surely this apparently tricky combination of aspiration – the intention to engage with Shakespeare – and difficulty in doing so could be perfectly addressed by a series of modern retellings? 

 

 

Most of the readers we questioned were warm to the idea of modern retellings, but some of them didn’t want classics to be messed with. The exact combination of original text and contemporary author was crucial to these readers – the idea of a favourite author tackling a favourite play created real excitement. And their ten favourite plays? Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear and The Tempest.

This sense of anticipation triggered by pairing a particular play with a particular author seemed crucial to us. And when we first started approaching authors, this chemistry played a really important part. When an author had a connection with a play and was taken with the whole idea of the series, the reaction was immediate. We’d usually spend a bit of time trying to guess which author might pick which play, and we were always wrong. As soon as they chose, it was blindingly obvious. Anne Tyler? The Taming of the Shrew. Of course. Margaret Atwood? It couldn’t be anything but the otherworldly, magical Tempest.  Jo Nesbo? The bloodiest, darkest, most northerly play of them all. The Melrose Trilogy is a brilliant study of family dysfunction, so who better to revisit  King Lear than Edward St Aubyn. And Howard Jacobson? That was the only one that was perhaps a little more obvious.  

 

 

What began as a relatively simple idea has now gained its own momentum. We’ve partnered with publishers in 27 other territories and the books will be published in 22 languages around the world. This number grows every week, making it the truly international project we hoped for right from the start. We’re collaborating with other organisations – theatres, libraries, universities, media partners, festivals. The series has even spawned its own series of ‘retellings’: the portraitist Ralph Heimans has re-imagined each author in a Shakespearean way, as you can see from the images on this page. The paintings, including one of Gillian Flynn laid out on a carpet like Ophelia, are being exhibited at the Globe as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations.

 

 

 

We didn’t have any idea what was in store for us at the start of all this. This was even true of the novels themselves. We give no brief to the authors. They are free to do whatever they like with their chosen play. As we waited for the first books to arrive we struggled to control our nerves and excitement. But in they came, one by one, and our delight grew as each of them fulfilled their promise -- and more. Jeanette Winterson, an abandoned child herself, has written a story for The Winter’s Tale, The Gap in Time, that crosses time and continents in a whoosh of energy and delight in language and ideas. It does this even as it helps us with one of Shakespeare’s most puzzling plays. In Shylock is My Name, Howard Jacobson brings the original Shylock to a cemetery in Cheshire’s Golden Triangle, sits him down opposite his modern counterpart and has the two men discuss in depth Shylock’s motivations, his role, in Shakespeare’s most controversial play. Anne Tyler’s Kate is so Tyler you can hardly believe she’s been around for four hundred years. But her dilemma is as alive and kicking in the 21st century as Katherina herself was in the original play.  There’s also a strong sense that the authors have had fun writing these books, responding with complete freedom to an existing story and structure. Which is of course exactly how Shakespeare himself worked. 

 

Read our exclusive interviews with Jeanette Winterson and Howard Jacobson.

Visit our Shakespeare page

Above from top: Margaret Atwood, Jo Nesbo, Anne Tyler, Gillian Flynn, Howard Jacobson

All images © Ralph Heimans

 

Susannah Carson - What Would Shakespeare Think?
19th April 2016 - Susannah Carson

Susannah Carson is an author, editor and academic. She received her PhD from Yale, after earning graduate degrees at Paris III, La Sorbonne-Nouvelle and Lyon II, L’Université des Lumières. Her first edited book was A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Reasons Why We Can’t Stop Reading Jane Austen. Her work has appeared in scholarly publications, newspapers, and magazines. Below, she introduces Shakespeare & Me, a celebration by writers, actors and directors of what the Bard means to them - and us.

Read Ben Kingsley's contribution to the book - 'The Architecture of Ideas'.

 

April 23, 2016 marks 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. What would he have made of the commemoration of his death? Thank heavens I’m gone? It is a curious event to celebrate, and yet if anyone understood dying and grieving and the echoes we leave after death — indeed, if anyone taught us about such essential matters — it’s Shakespeare.

On a certain level, of course, we really are celebrating the fact that Shakespeare the man cleared out and left room for Shakespeare the myth to take over. Over the course of the last 400 years, we’ve done whatever we’ve wanted with the works: we have cut Act 5 of The Merchant of Venice, we have transposed Romeo and Juliet to Rome, we have rewritten a happy ending for King Lear, and we have even rewritten a happy ending for Hamlet. We currently cringe at such Lavinia-like mutilations, but they enjoyed great success in centuries past. Conversely, in their time our most celebrated recent productions might have been found unthinkable. Last year, Harriet Walter appeared as Henry IV following her success as Brutus in an all-female Julius Caesar. Women on stage! To mention a topic even more laden with tension brought with it from history, we can cite Eamonn Walker’s two and James Earl Jones’s eight Othellos. The first black man to play Othello — the most influential black character in western literature — was Ira Aldridge in 1825, whose London production was closed down by the pro-slavery lobby. From the end of the spectrum of the most controversy to the end of the spectrum of the most innocence: board books of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and Macbeth now introduce the youngest of impressionable minds to our greatest, well, tragedies.

None of these developments Shakespeare signed off on. He couldn’t; he was dead.

Are there any wrong interpretations of Shakespeare?

I put this question to Dominic Dromgoole in the Café Cluny in New York; he was then on tour with the Globe Theatre as its Artistic Director. If anyone would be able to tell good Shakespeare from bad Shakespeare with Shakespeare himself being dead, it would be Dominic.

Instead, he shrugged. “Well, you know,” he said, “all of God’s creatures have wings.”

I had expected a charitable answer, but nothing so generous and, at first glance, unhelpful. Surely there was some way to appraise the tangled mass of our modern Shakespeariana — in academic literary criticism, which these days apes science to secure funding, there are rights and wrongs. But what Dominic’s answer (developed in his essay) unlocked was that in the arts, perhaps especially in the theatre, it is better to be inclusive than exclusive, to be original, to find your truth — your truth; and that you can find your truth in lines written by another, even in the daunting, hallowed lines of Shakespeare.

This does not mean we each have to agree with each interpretation of Shakespeare that ever did and ever will exist. What it means, rather, is that as long as an actor, director, author, artist or even critic enters into a genuine relationship with the plays and poems, then the results always at least provide us with another slant of light, another chance to see the plays differently. Furthermore, if the results do truly resonate with us, then sometimes we see life and love differently, sometimes we notice more in the world than we did before, sometimes we change.

Shakespeare isn’t the most restraining: he is the most liberating of authors. The texts are neither closed nor static — as Jess Winfield, novelist and founder of the Reduced Shakespeare Company insists — and so our interpretations of them can’t be “locked down” or they die. The essence is shifting, moving, full of life. The redoubtable power of Shakespeare is not something he holds white-knuckled, but an influence he holds loosely, free, in the palm of his hand. We would know if he had wanted to change us. We would feel it; we would resist. Instead, he reveals a rare generosity of spirit, what Eamonn calls “warm-heartedness”. Such is immortality. The relay spark, lighting lanterns in us all, novelists, actors, directors, artists, comics creators, poets, and perhaps most importantly, most extensively readers and audiences — for conjuring in the imagination and sharing in a spectacle are acts of co-creation too, as graphic novelist Bill Willingham remarks. Shakespeare leaves room for us.

When I set out to put together the book, I meant to record how each of these contributors opened the different locked doors of Shakespeare; I had no idea that, as a result, I would be shown so many hidden rooms, so many unexpected vistas. The essayists propose varied and at times even opposing responses — but they are all honest responses, and so they all offer essential keys.

400 years of popularity is impressive, something to commemorate, something to congratulate, and it is a fitting moment to revisit the works and reevaluate our own readings and renderings. Shakespeare remains the most influential author of the Western Canon: but no matter how gifted he was as a technician, Shakespeare the myth would have been lost to time if Shakespeare the man hadn’t also been so very generous. With a mechanism as simple as generosity lighting the sparks, 400 years is perhaps not so very long at all — for he is always new of heart. He is always at the door of his Complete Works inviting us in, arms open wide, with the right words of comfort, condolence, or encouragement.

This is a collection of experiences of those who have been professionally, creatively, and warm-heartedly involved with the work of Shakespeare, who have made it their own, who have given it wings.

Read Ben Kingsley's contribution here.

 

#FoylesFive: Feminism Comes to Comic Books!
18th April 2016 - Becky Black

The #FoylesFive this week comes from Becky Black of our Bristol branch, who is joyously celebrating the arrival of feminism to the world of comic books.

 

Finally feminism is coming to comics books!

Gone (or at least slightly further behind us are the days where men dominated the the comic book world), making room for a more diverse array of characters, writers and plots. One of my favourite publishers of these diversified comics is Image, so here's a list of five of my favourites from them:

 

Bitch Planet by Taki Soma, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson and Valentine De Landro  

This is set in a dystopian world where the patriarchy is dominant (haha) and women who are 'non-compliant'  are banished to Bitch Planet, where they are imprisoned indefinitely regardless of their crime - which could be as simple as being overweight. The first volume centres round the imprisonment of Kamau Kongo as she struggles to survive in a hopeless situation.

The art is astounding, with a pulpy 60's feel to it that at once satirizes comics of the time and elevates them. Honestly, this is not a series to miss!

 

Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act: Volume 1 by Jamie Mckelvie and Kieron Gillen 

Whilst not written by a woman, this series exemplifies everything I love about comics at the moment. It effortlessly combines pop culture and ancient mythology, where every ninety years twelve gods are reborn in to the bodies of young people, who then become superstars.

The first arc centres round the character Lauren, a fan of the Gods, and Lucifer (a Bowie-esque character), as a conspiracy among the gods is born....

 

Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick: Volume 1 by Chip Zdarsky and Matt Fraction

Again whilst not written by a woman, this series is an excellently sex positive, hilarious and feminist story of two people whose orgasms stop time, so naturally they decide to rob a bank. Fraction and Zdarsky are a dream team who clearly enjoy writing together and also clearly love their characters. The series has everything (including ridiculous sex tips) and is a really good portrayal of modern relationships.

 

Saga: Volume 1 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Honestly this series is just so good: it's not only an epic scifi story about warring worlds, but also an epic love story about two people from opposite sides of the war starting a family and running from their respective states. It's hilarious, touching, exciting and addictive, read it now!

 

ODY-C: Volume 1

This is a gender-flipped psychedelic version of Homer's Odyssey set in space - and if that doesn't sell it to you I don't know what will. The first arc follows Odyssia as she pilots her crew through god-tossed space, planets built on the bodies of gods and inhabited by dangerous cyclops in an ever-increasingly dangerous attempt to make it home.

 

Imagimorphia Author Kerby Rosanes' Top Ten Tips for Unleashing Your Creativity
18th April 2016 - Kerby Rosanes

Though only 24, Philippines-based doodler Kerby Rosanes has over two million social media followers who love his mind-bogglingly intricate artwork. Every post receives tens of thousands of 'likes' and 'shares' - and his fans even get his amazing artwork as tattoos. He turned his hobby into an international career, and now works with brands including Nike, Ford and Moleskin. His first adult colouring book, Animorphia, has been a worldwide hit and his new book Imagimorphia is just out.

Exclusively for Foyles, below are Kerby's top tips for unleashing your creativity through drawing.

 

 

 

 

 

1. Take a break

Working every day can definitely drain your creativity. Go for a walk or take a short trip once in a while to see the awesome things you miss every day. Travel helps to recharge my creativity and, afterwards, I get back to my desk full of new brilliant ideas.

 

2. Spend time with nature

Spending time outside to enjoy the fresh air and the wild boosts my creativity. Nature, and especially the animal kingdom, has always played a huge part in my art so experiencing it myself is always a pleasure and an inspiration. 

 

3. Think INSIDE the box

It is quite common for us to hear the advice to 'think outside the box' - but for me it’s better to channel the creative spark by setting myself boundaries. Giving the page a structure with restrictions and guidelines gives rise to new and effective creative solutions.

 

4. Take risks

Trying out new things lets me discover more about my creative potential. The more I take risks, and the more I challenge myself to try new things with unpredictable outcomes, the better the results.

 

5. Listen to some good music

A good playlist is an important part of my artistic process. Music keeps me going when at work and supplies me with creativity and inspiration.

 

6. Create something in line with the things you love

When working on personal work, I make sure to pick themes and subjects I enjoy the most. If you work on something that makes you happy, nothing can go wrong along the process.

 

7. Search for inspiration

Inspiration is everywhere. Visit an art gallery or follow people and artists you admire online so you can be inspired by their universe and their work. 

 

8. Collaborate

Collaborate rather than compete. A shared brainstorm with a friend or someone within your industry will open up new opportunities and give you new ideas in approaching your own creative work.

 

9. Play

Play is a doorway to curiosity, discovery and creativity. I have a small set of action figures on my table. Whenever I feel less creative, I play with them for a moment and get back to work feeling refreshed. 

 

10. Get some sleep.

Probably the best tip ever. Get some sleep. Then sleep more. I always believe that people are more creative after a good sleep. Most of the time, my aha! moments come after a nap or a good night’s sleep.

 

 

 

Rebecca Thornton on the Appeal of the Boarding School as a Fictional Setting
12th April 2016 - Rebecca Thornton

Rebecca Thornton was a freelance journalist before deciding to devote her time to her real passion, writing. She enrolled in  the Faber Academny writing-a-novel course, where she was tutored by Esther Freud and Tim Lott. The Exclusives is the novel that came out of that course, which draws on her own experience of the pressures of teenage friendship and her reflections on the British boarding school system. Rebecca lives in London with her husband and two young children.

Below, exclusively for Foyles, Rebecca talks about the appeal of the boarding school as a fictional setting and why it’s not all jolly hockey sticks, fun and midnight feasts.

 

I always knew I wanted to write a novel set in a girls’ boarding school. I didn’t realise, though, that it would be a psychological thriller. Nor did I realise just how well the setting lent itself to the genre.

My first, and failed, attempt was a boarding school comedy inspired by the film, Never Been Kissed with Drew Barrymore.

I went to a boarding school and I found that when it came to writing about one, they just aren’t that funny. That’s not to say you can’t have fun when you are there. Quite the opposite. I certainly used to get up to all sorts of mischief: smoking behind the bike sheds, drinking in the woods. That sort of thing. And the more day-to-day japes:  ringing on housemistresses’ doorbells and running away. Shouting people’s names as they walked past our dormitory windows, and then hiding. Please don’t judge me. We had to pass the time somehow.

But with all of that comes a darker side. The appeal of setting The Exclusives in a boarding school, came from the tension that simmers behind those four walls: the fraught nature of gossip echoing round the corridors; the housemistresses (in my day, there were no housemasters), who live on the grounds, for whom the job is their life; the pressures of expectation.

Eating disorders were rife. Girls would disappear for entire terms whilst they went to eating clinics. Academic achievement was so important. One girl in my year didn’t get her predicted grades at GCSE. The girls talked about this for weeks.

I went to a secondary day school before I boarded. I know those problems exist there also, but there isn’t the same emotional intensity that you get when you live with a few hundred other teenagers, day in, day out. It was precisely this that gave me the mechanics of my novel. 

My two main characters, Josephine and Freya, are serious high-achievers. Josephine is Head Girl, Freya a beautiful prefect. They are both financially privileged, successful, competitive and clever. I found it fascinating to see what they would do when they were stuck behind four walls, without the freedom to leave. Psychologically, their fragile sense of selves slowly unfolded, whilst the bricks of the school remained upright and austere. What happened to them when they left the school was even more interesting. Suddenly left up to their own devices with no rules, nothing to conform to, the girls go on a night out that ends in disaster. And afterwards, they’re thrown back into the confines of the school and expected to jump straight back into the part of the perfect student.

Boarding schools in novels are often associated with Enid Blyton. I loved reading those books growing up. But I wanted to show a different side. I wanted to unpeel the emotional and psychological cogs of boarding, where it’s not all jolly hockey sticks, fun and midnight feasts.

 

 

Michael Schmidt Introduces a new Series of Forgotten Works of Fiction
7th April 2016 - Michael Schmidt

Apollo is a handsome new series of forgotten works of fiction, selected and curated by critic, poet and editor Michael Schmidt in conjunction with Neil Belton, editorial director at publisher Head of Zeus.The series challenges the established canon and aims to surprise and move readers with its choice of books. Below, Michael Schmidt introduces the series and its first eight titles, and invites suggestions for off-the-map classics that might make suitable additions to the series.

 

 

 

The Best Books You've Never Read

‘The best books you’ve never read’… a challenging tagline when you’re addressing a world of avid readers in a digital age. Yet when Anthony Cheetham of Head of Zeus invited me to become the ‘librarian’ of the Apollo imprint, I leapt at the chance. Having just finished writing The Novel: a Biography, I had a few books up my sleeve. Anthony had some up his, Neil Belton too, and each of our colleagues, friends and their friends knew a book that knew a book…

 

Our first list took its unusual shape: unusual in the books chosen and in the production values Anthony and his team insisted they should display, with handsome bespoke covers, glorious full-colour printed endpapers, strong binding, and generous setting. There’s nothing frugal about Apollo’s rediscoveries, the most beautiful paperbacks I’ve ever seen. It’s as though the Folio Society had gone populist but kept its commitment to quality. Yet the books are all priced at £10.

 

The first few titles chose themselves. Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, with its sense of the American south, its seasons, people, textures, smells, widens the reader’s world, providing living history. The little girl at the heart of the book is almost a first person narrator, innocent in ways that let us see and feel what is still beyond her ken. Speech, Welty said, is ‘another form of action’, each conversation an adventure in psychology, history, observation. John Updike compared her to the photographer-novelist Wright Morris: her speciality is the portrait, but the portrait in time, in company, sometimes in love. Faulkner loved her work, with its ‘narrative sense of human destiny’.

 

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead, originally published in 1940, is the funniest, most troubled and troubling book about growing up that I’ve read. The Australian novelist creates an America as real as Welty’s, but centred across the river from Washington DC. Samuel Clemens Pollit, father of a growing family in decline, is gung-ho on familial adventure, with an alienated wife. His idealism grows monstrous and darkly comic. The book centres on another girl growing up in hard circumstances. ‘This crazy, gorgeous family novel is one of the great literary achievements of the twentieth century’, writes Jonathan Franzen. In 1940 it was possible to write with nerves exposed and with laughter.

 

Why weren’t these books in print? Their sin, modern editors decided, is their length. In my view, neither is a page too long. And some Apollo titles are brisk. Josephine Johnson’s thrifty 1934 masterpiece, Now in November, is as astonishing today as when her editor Clifton Fadiman watched over its genesis. The author, in her early twenties, had a country wisdom and a prophetic style. God is absent from the parching landscape of her first book, a Pulitzer prize-winner celebrated in its day, as it will be in ours. ‘I should like to write a book,’ she told Fadiman, ‘which will interest you with what happens now, as well as for what happens next’. It seems to have been dreamed, not written, as though a Brontë – Emily, in fact – had strayed to another continent and age with her vision intact.

 

We include – because genre is no barrier to excellence – an electrifying western, Charles Nieder’s The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones, which recounts the turbulent last days of the Kid in Southern California: tourists visit his grave at Devil’s Point, and conveniently we visit it in this subtly-turned book. 

 

Mark Thompson introduces Salvatore Satta’s The Day of Judgment. It belongs with Lampedusa’s The Leopard among the classics of twentieth-century Italian fiction. Susan Sontag dubbed it ‘that now improbable gift, for which one cannot be too thankful: a great European novel’. In a remote Sardinian town around 1900, Don Sebastiano Sanna reflects on his life, his family's history and the fortunes of this backwater, which is peculiarly his. And the Serbo-Croat Nobel prize-winner Ivo Andrić’s Bosnian Chronicle, with its doomed cross-cultural relations, takes us to another lost world that feeds directly into contemporary conflicts. It is the news before the news. It informs us in ways that only fiction can. West meets East in distrust and misunderstanding. We learn no longer to anticipate climaxes, settling, alert, into the present tense and tension of the narrative.

 

Closer in time, Emanuel Litvinoff’s The Lost Europeans (1958) conjures post-war Berlin before the Wall, where Nazism secretly lives, where a few Jews survive, dazed, transformed. After Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin (1939), this is Litvinoff’s ‘hello’, twenty years after the sybaritic promise and moral destitution of Sally Bowles’s city gave way to the unapologetic prostitution and guilt-fuelled restitution of the post-war.

 

As a Mancunian, I’m delighted to bring Howard Spring’s 1937 novel My Son, My Son back into circulation, as if to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Manchester Bomb that destroyed the centre of Manchester and my Carcanet offices in 1996. Many of the streets and buildings that Spring’s characters knew still (only just) survive. Early chapters visit Deansgate, St Anne’s Square, Palatine Road, even the Old Cock Inn. ‘All the way from Ancoats to Hulme there was not a tree, not a shrub, not a twig to be seen.’ The story of a successful writer is tonic to those of us struggling to gain a toe-hold on Parnassus, and it’s comforting, as we watch William Essex rise from poverty to wealth, to see how compromises with principle damage him, his best friend Dermot O'Riorden, a reluctant Irish patriot, and their families. Their story belongs also to their sons Oliver and the Irish revolutionary Rory.

 

Apollo builds on these foundations. We will publish sixteen titles a year, each lovingly designed and advocated. A great novel restored enriches us, adjusts reading habits, our conversations and literary history itself. I choose books and choose choosers of books. The library will develop a rich coherence. All sorts of readers suggest books for consideration. If you can make a case for a genuinely off the map classic, please let me know!

 

 

Jenni Fagan on why writing a new character is like going on a first date
7th April 2016 - Jenni Fagan

Jenni Fagan was born in Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh. She graduated from Greenwich University with the highest possible mark for a student of Creative Writing, and won a scholarship to the Royal Holloway MFA. A published poet, she has won awards from Creative Scotland, Dewar Arts and Scottish Screen among others. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. Jenni was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists in 2013 after the publication of her highly acclaimed debut novel, The Panopticon. As her new novel, The Sunlight Pilgrims, is published, exclusively for Foyles Jenni writes about developing fictional characters and why writing a new character is like going on a first date.

Author photo © Urszula Soltys

 

 

 

 

 

 

Developing Character

So, you are sitting somewhere and a character turns up. They sidle onto the tube. Or they sit down next to you in a bar. You think they're going to read a book, or order a gin and tonic but they start chugging on a shisha, or texting in Latin, or sliding a flower over to you that you strongly suspect is stolen.

 

So, you are lying in bed and a character materialises making you get up and turn your laptop on. It's begun. The years with this character. It's awful. They'll turn up any time they want. You better settle in and hope they don't have any really, really irritating habits. You are going to know them like all the other people you see every day. Best get used to it.

 

In the kitchen in the morning you are trying to put the washing on, when you realise the thing that has been nagging at you about your character all night is the fact that they can't see the colour blue without wanting to visit their best friend’s grave. So there your clothes sit, on the floor, the washing machine door open, while you go and write it down.

 

Some people have others to do their washing. Real writers do their own. I might get that on a sticker  and slap it on the washing machine door.

 

Characters rarely arrive fully formed. It takes time to work out who they really are. It's like getting to know a new friend or lover, or becoming a parent. All the experiences you share allow you to get to know someone and it is no different for characters in novels. By putting your character in different situations they reveal new things about themselves.

 

Be careful to not make your characters just an extension of yourself unless you are doing so deliberately. They need their own political beliefs, quirks, taste in music, likes, dislikes, memories, future goals.

 

Sometimes you need to let a character be more elusive. Perhaps they are only going to create a particular atmosphere when they enter a page. If your character stays resolutely beige or never develops, it's okay to drop them off a cliff, with a parachute, saying — belongs elsewhere, do not return to owner.

 

Your character might change sex, name, hair colour, they might have an affair with a piccolo player in Honolulu and a child growing up in Tipperary. If you act like you know everything about them, they'll never bring you anything new. When you let them bring you new things, they'll be much more interesting.

 

There are lots of tricks people use to develop character. They might write a questionnaire asking their character what their earliest memory is, or what they are afraid of, or why they have a scar on their knee, or who was the first person they kissed. These details may never end up in the story but they will help the writer a lot.

 

Characters need flaws. They must be in a process of becoming or even a process of never becoming. If your character starts out whole and complete then where is the space for them to grow or change? What's the point in hanging out with them? People change in real life and characters do so each day that you write them. Eventually you can begin to imagine what they would think of things in your real life. That can be a little freaky. I had a character who was prominent in early drafts of a novel but by the end he was peripheral. I sat on the tube after deciding to cut most of his chapters and I could see him getting on the tube, sitting down, shaking his head sadly at me.

 

I mean I couldn't actually see him!

 

I could see him the way I do in the books and it gets real enough for them to feel pretty true, especially when you are hanging out with them for five years in an attic.

 

It's important to not always just write likeable characters, or even familiar ones. Writing furious, anti-social, frustrated, awkward, real characters is exhilarating. Writing someone who is polite all the time and just wants to be liked isn't so interesting.

 

It is the space where imagination and character meet that creates memorable identities. Allow your characters to surprise you. You might have wanted to write one that only ate spaghetti and slept in a round bed but if it turns out they live in a hut on stilts in the forest where bison run underneath then go with it. You might find out they play the mouth organ and they once saved a horse from drowning. They might make you cry. Or, for the rest of your life you will have an image of them holding out their hand, helping someone off the train tracks. Let them be real. Let them be true. Stop trying to make them say things you want to say. Go out and say the things you want to say and let them say things you never knew they were going to say. If you are surprised, the reader will be too.

 

Some people use their characters as puppets, you can see the author pulling the strings all the way through, it's hard to make a story feel natural when you can see the strings being pulled to create an effect or serve a purpose, that's not my favourite kind of writing.

 

Writing a new character is like going on a first date. You might think this person is really chilled out then you get in a car and they're a road rage maniac. Who knew until you clicked in your seatbelt and sped off through the city at night!

 

 

Yasmin Khan on the delicate spices and elegant flavours that characterise Persian cuisine
7th April 2016 - Yasmin Khan

Yasmin Khan is a London-based writer and cook who loves to share people's stories through food. She runs cookery classes and pop-up supper clubs, and consults on Iran-related artistic projects. Outside the kitchen, Yasmin has worked as a social justice campaigner for over a decade, with a special focus on the Middle East. To celebrate the publication of her new book, The Saffron Tales, from April 8th for two weeks, the Foyles cafe at Charing Cross Road will be serving three recipes from the book:

Sour cherry and dark chocolate cookie
Fragrant mixed herb and flat bread salad
Chocolate and pistachio torte

Below, you can read an extract from Yasmin's book and find a recipe for Fragrant Mixed Herb and Flatbread Salad.

 

Meanwhile, we have another cafe takeover in our Bristol branch at Cabot Circus. Starting Friday 8th April until 22nd April, our cafe will be featuring food from Elly Pear's new healthy cookery book Fast Days and Feast Days.

 

Author photo © Matt Russell

 

A Taste of Iran by Yasmin Khan

 

Persian cuisine weaves together a myriad delicate spices and elegant flavours gathered from Iran’s position at the heart of the old Silk Road. Those unfamiliar with the food often come to the sofreh (the patterned tablecloth on which dishes are served) expecting spicy, fiery flavours, perhaps more befitting the country’s climate and politics, and are often surprised to find that the cuisine is gentle and soothing – a poetic balance of subtle flavours such as dried limes, saffron and orange blossom.

 

Slow-cooked stews known as khoresht and elaborate rice dishes layered with herbs, vegetables, legumes, meat, nuts and fruit are the bedrocks of Persian cuisine, creating a dazzling mosaic of scents, textures and colours at the dining sofreh. There are innumerable different types of khoresht,

with regional and seasonal specialities, but each will be sure to have a sour and sweet balance – Iran’s most dominant taste.

 

Outside the home, kebabs are king and on every street corner you will find succulent cuts of meat or fish, often marinated with yoghurt and spices, threaded onto skewers and barbecued over hot coals. Kebabs are served sprinkled with sumac (a tart red spice made from the dried berries of the sumac bush) and are either piled high on white rice or tucked into large flatbreads, and are always accompanied by some grilled tomatoes, fresh herbs and crunchy pickles.

 

Iranians adore fresh fruit, which accompanies breakfast, lunch and dinner, and those in-between times when you might want to take a break from eating. The moment you walk into an Iranian’s house you will be presented with tea, sweets and a large platter of assorted fruit, and failure to eat at least three different varieties risks causing serious offence to your host. The country’s fertile soil and diverse climate nurtures peaches, apricots, grapes, persimmons, melons, kiwis, figs, cherries, quinces and, of course, the mighty pomegranate – Iran’s national fruit, shrouded in mythology and celebrated through the ages in Persian art and poetry.

 

Using fruit to flavour savoury dishes is another defining feature of Persian food. Pomegranates, plums, greengages, sour cherries and apricots are salted, dried and pounded into flat fruit leathers or cooked down into pastes or molasses to be added to savoury dishes such as khoresht and soups. When no one is looking, I’ve been known to sneak a teaspoon of homemade pomegranate molasses from my grandmother’s fridge, relishing its pucker-your-lips sharpness. Lemon juice, pomegranate

molasses and verjuice are all used to sharpen dishes, along with the bitter and piquant juice of Seville oranges (narenj).

 

Iran is a vast country and the regional differences are striking, not only in culture, language and climate but also in cuisine. Depending on which part of the country you are in, the dishes that are found on the sofreh will vary. Meatballs stuffed with prunes and walnuts might feature in the Turkish-influenced north-east of the country. Garlicky aubergine dips might appear by the Caspian Sea. Sweet rice dishes, layered with fruit and nuts, abound in central Iran; with perhaps some spicy fried squid in the south. In each region, the sofreh celebrates the best local and seasonal produce, in dishes that have been perfected over centuries to suit the local climate – but there are also some nationwide commonalities.

 

Fragrant mixed herb and flatbread salad        (domaaj)

 

I first sampled this fragrant salad at a small party at the home of Azadeh Sadeghzadeh, a vivacious young fashion designer from Tehran, and it is now one of my staple dishes whenever I am entertaining. I simply place a big bowl of it in the middle of the table and then let my guests help themselves to bowlfuls as we have a few rounds of drinks. It goes down a treat every time.

 

The salad works best with strips of Persian flatbread (page 60), but if you don’t have time to make your own, and can’t find any in the shops, then plain tortillas work just as well. The addition of golpar (see page 24), with its citrusy aroma, really lifts this dish, accentuating the sweetness of the pomegranates and adding a wonderful depth of flavour, so try and track some down if you can.

 

 

 

 

100g Persian flatbread (or toasted tortillas or pitta bread)

50g walnuts, roughly chopped

100g feta, crumbled

25g bunch mint, roughly chopped

25g bunch basil, roughly chopped

25g bunch tarragon, roughly chopped

3 tbsp pomegranate seeds, to garnish

 

For the dressing:

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

¼ tsp golpar (optional)

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper

 

Using a pair of scissors, cut the flatbread into small jagged pieces and place them in a large bowl.

 

Toast the walnuts in a small pan over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Add them to the bowl, along with the crumbled cheese and chopped herbs.

 

To make the dressing, whisk the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and golpar (if you are using it) with the salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and then get your hands in there, giving the whole thing a good stir to evenly distribute it.

 

Leave the salad for 10 minutes for the flavours to soak into the bread, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with a generous sprinkling of pomegranate seeds just before serving.

 

Serves 4 as a starter

 

Alan Cumyn's Top Ten Outlandish YA Fiction Reads
5th April 2016 - Alan Cumyn

Alan Cumyn is the author of twelve wide-ranging and often wildly different novels. A two-time winner of the Ottawa Book Award, he has also had work shortlisted for the Governor General's Award, the Giller Prize and the Trillium Award. He teaches through the Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a past Chair of The Writers' Union of Canada. He live in Ontario, Canada.His latest book is Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend, a blissfully outlandish YA novel about breaking free and discovering your true self.

Below, Alan selects his top ten outlandish YA fiction reads.

 

 

 

 

 

1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 
The fire-bombing of Dresden through the bizarre adventures of Billy Pilgrim. Everything dies. So it goes.

 

2. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Gregor Samsa wakes up as a bug, and a whole literary tradition cracks open.

 

3. Fell of Dark by Patrick Downes
Inside the young, mad brains of a saint and a killer.

 

4. Fly on the Wall by Emily Lockhart
What really does go on in the guys’ locker room?

 

5. Noggin by John Corey Whaley
So your head gets cut off and frozen for five years, then when you thaw you’re stitched onto someone else’s body. You should be happy the whole thing works, right?

 

6. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Original weirdness. The monster is more human than the creator.

 

7. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The toad is addicted to motor cars. You got a problem with that?

 

8. The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
This inspired Hitchcock and all manner of twisted tales. What happens when ordinary things turn sinister?

 

9. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Coming of age during the giant praying mantis apocalypse.

 

10. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Genre-blasting, dark as dark, but strangely imbued with gentleness and hope. Rape, suicide, incest, bears, fairy tales… and gorgeous writing that keeps pulling you along.

 

 

The Secret Life of a Restaurant Critic
1st April 2016 - Joshua David Stein

Joshua David Stein is a restaurant critic at the New York Observer and a regular contributor to New York Magazine, The New York Times and The Guardian. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two sons. Can I Eat That? is his first children's book, a whimsical-yet factual-series of questions and answers about the things we eat...and don't eat! Below, exclusively for Foyles, Joshua talks about the secret life of a restaurant critic - as the father of two small boys who are not always as adventurous as their foodie father would wish!

Author photo © Lauren Margit Jones

 

I would like to say that as a restaurant critic every meal I eat is an Instagram-ready feast: uni, bone marrow, kimchi, microcress, ‘nduja. Whatever ingredient is au courant would pass by the dinner table borne in endless delicious succession by a tattooed waiter with a pleasingly remote attitude. Alas, this is not so.

The secret life of a restaurant critic is the not-so-secret life of a father of two young sons in a household where both parents work full-time and then some. When things are grand -- and I arrive home before the children, Achilles and Auggie have already eaten and are often in their pre-bedtime bath -- dinner is a thirty-minute rhetorical exercise with Achilles. It’s a poker game we always lose. Typically my wife makes some iteration of chicken or pasta with a vegetable side. This my younger son, two-year-old Auggie, eats with a joy and an abandon that swell my gastronomic heart. Much of the meal ends up on Auggie’s cheeks, chin, hair, chair, hands, but most of it ends up inside him.

At four, on the other hand, Achilles has become a shrewd negotiator. Will he eat pasta with tomato sauce? No. Will he eat pasta without tomato sauce? Also no. One bit of collard greens in exchange for a cookie? He takes a bite only an electron microscope would register. He gets a cookie.

Often dinner for Achilles is a cream cheese sandwich. If he knew what a chip butty was, he would eat a chip butty. We are keeping this knowledge from him. No, the menu of what that child eats reads like a haiku:

 

Cream cheese, on egg bagel or toast.

Chicken Nuggets, sometimes.

Pancakes on Saturday.

 

That is the endgame, nine times out of ten. We cycle through a losing negotiation, working mostly on strategic retreat.

Sometimes, of course, when my wife is not home, I cook. This is a rare occasion, not entirely successful but great fun nonetheless. I have two modes: pancake and aebleskiver mode, which is reserved for weekend mornings, and dinner mode, in which case I avail myself of exactly one of my extensive cookbook collection.

Splattered and spotted, the book once had a nice white cloth cover. Now it bears the remains of the recipes made from within it. It’s called A Family Meal, appropriately enough, and is by Ferran Adria. These score or so meals are recipes the kitchen staff at el Bulli created to feed each other. Each meal has three courses and the preparation is such that they are realised in correct coursing order. Now, do my children eat these potato chip omelettes, pork chop with roasted red pepper, and coconut macaroon feasts? Well, one does. The other has cream cheese.

But even the above is rare. More often, by the time I arrive dinner has been had and the children tucked into their beds. That is when the siren call of delivery grows too seductive to resist. Hungrily my eyes turn to my phone where a host of apps eagerly await my fingers. The secret life of a restaurant critic is near nightly visitation by anonymous men bearing plastic bags and wearing bike helmets.

So as a food critic, do I rue or regret that this is my life? Not at all. Of course I wish I could spend every night with my kids. But as a professional reviewer of restaurants, my secret life is the normal life for most of my readers. It keeps me from being jaded by restaurants. Every night I do get to go out, I’m genuinely excited. It keeps my standards high since the stakes are high too. Time is my most limited quantity. So when that kimchi uni taco does arrive at my table, it is greeted with great enthusiasm, like a friend too rarely seen.

 

 

April Foyled
1st April 2016 - Simon Heafield

The world of book lovers responded with a mix of delight, astonishment, wonder and horror to our announcement this morning that Foyles had launched holographic booksellers. There were also many people who saw straight through the announcement (appropriately for a story about a hologram) and realised that it was indeed an April Fools' prank. Congratulations if you guessed it, and if you didn't - well, thank you, that's very flattering.

If you've taken the time to visit our YouTube page as a result of the Bookseller2000 video, I hope you'll also check out our recent video staff picks, and our interview with author Rowan Moore. We're planning to create many more videos like this for book lovers, so please do subscribe to the channel for top advice on what to read next.

And the holographic bookseller? Well, while we think digital innovation is very important, we would never underestimate the importance of our wonderful, 100% human booksellers. Their knowledge and passion is the reason we exist, and I don't think technology will ever be able to replicate that. So sorry, Bookseller2000, but I think it's time for you to retire.

 

 

 

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