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February 2017

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Read an extract from Lucinda Hawksley's The Writer Abroad
23rd February 2017 - Lucinda Hawksley

 

The Writer Abroad

 

Lucinda Hawksley

Lucinda Hawksley is a writer and lecturer on art history and nineteenth-century history. She has written biographies of the pre-Raphaelite muse Lizzie Siddal; Charles Dickens; Katey, one of Dickens' children and Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise. She is the great great great granddaughter of Charles and Catherine Dickens and is a patron of the Charles Dickens Museum in London. Her book Charles Dickens and his Circle explores the man behind the novels and the lives of those around him. Her latest work is The Writer Abroad: Literary Travels from Austria to Uzbekistan, a literary journey around the world, through extracts from Arthur Conan Doyle in Australia, Joseph Conrad in the Congo, Charles Dickens in Italy, Henry James in France, Mary Wollstonecraft in Sweden, and many more. Read the introductory paragraph and an extract below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover of The Writer AbroadThe 21st century sees people travelling more frequently than ever

before. Places once considered impossibly remote have become

popular as holiday resorts, and journeying to the other side of the

world has become easier than travelling across a single country

would have been in previous centuries. In our modern era of

vlogs and blogs, texting and tweeting, few people make the effort

to keep a travel journal, and far fewer even consider sitting down

to write a letter to send home. The Writer Abroad looks back at a

time when the pen was mightier than the trackpad, and to when

travelling was an option only for the most adventurous – and the

most privileged – of people.

Lucinda Hawksley

 

Sir Ernest Shackleton, South! The Story of

Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914–1917, 1919

We said good-bye to the sun on May 1 and entered the period

of twilight that would be followed by the darkness of midwinter.

The sun by the aid of refraction just cleared the horizon at noon

and set shortly before 2 p.m. A fine aurora in the evening was

dimmed by the full moon, which had risen on April 27 and

would not set again until May 6. The disappearance of the sun

is apt to be a depressing event in the polar regions, where the

long months of darkness involve mental as well as physical strain.

But the Endurance’s company refused to abandon their customary

cheerfulness, and a concert in the evening made the Ritz a scene

of noisy merriment, in strange contrast with the cold, silent world

that lay outside.

‘One feels our helplessness as the long winter night closes upon

us. By this time, if fortune had smiled upon the Expedition, we

would have been comfortably and securely established in a shore

base, with depots laid to the south and plans made for the long

march in the spring and summer. Where will we make a landing

now? It is not easy to forecast the future. The ice may open in

the spring, but by that time we will be far to the north-west. I do

not think we shall be able to work back to Vahsel Bay. There are

possible landing-places on the western coast of the Weddell Sea,

but can we reach any suitable spot early enough to attempt the

overland journey next year? Time alone will tell. I do not think any

member of the Expedition is disheartened by our disappointment.

All hands are cheery and busy, and will do their best when the time

for action comes. In the meantime we must wait.’

 

 

#FoylesFive: Making Movies
22nd February 2017 - Magdalena Gudmundsdottir

#FoylesFive: Making Movies

 

For all you budding film makers out there, be it future auteur or big blockbuster hotshot, Magdalena's list will get you headed in the right direction.

 

The award season is here! As you cheer when the films you love win, or shout when they don't (I can't be the only one who does that) some of you will be thinking: I want to be the one making the films. To aid you in your film making pursuits, here are five books we'd recommend.

 

Get Started in Film Making by Tom Holden

This book is part of the Teach Yourself series and is a great practical introduction for complete beginners. It covers all the basics of film-making in an easy to understand and fun way. I particularly liked the 'insight' bits scattered throughout the book, and the tips and handy information are incredibly helpful.

 

Screen Writing for Dummies by Laura Schellhardt and John Logan

The Dummies series is brilliant: the expert writers take difficult and wide- ranging subjects and break them down into clear and straightforward books. They have often taught me new things, saved me from failing essays and stopped me looking like a know-nothing. The Screenwriting for Dummies is a practical guide but doesn't take the writing-by-number approach, instead it focuses on story and characters.

 

Documentaries ….and How To Make Them by Andy Glynne

Best Documentary feature is often the forgotten category of the awards but it is also the category that showcases some truly brilliant work. So why not make a documentary, we have the right book for you. Documentaries …. and How To Make Them, is an in-depth but clear guide that leaves no question unanswered. Both a journalist's and film maker's guide.

 

On Film-Making by Alexander Mackendrick

Alexander MacKendrick, acclaimed Ealing Studio director and all-round genius, has given us the definitive film making book. The Whisky Galore and Lady Killers director shares with us his vast insight into the world of storytelling through film. The book also includes an introduction by Martin Scorsese.

 

The Best Film You've Never Seen by Robert K Elder

There is perhaps no better way to learn about film than to listen to directors talking about them. This book interviews 35 directors, including John Woo, Danny Boyle and Guillermo Del Toro, on films they love but which are under- appreciated. It's a fascinating and addictive read. 

 

 

 

Matthew Blakstad on Why He Loves Paper
22nd February 2017 - Matthew Blakstad

 

Why I Love Paper

 

Matthew Blakstad

Matthew's first career was as a professional child actor. After graduating from Oxford with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, he began a career in online communications, consulting for a wide range of clients from the BBC to major banks. Since 2008, he has been in public service, using his communication skills to help the British population understand and manage their money. In 2012 Matthew took the Writing a Novel course at Faber Academy. Sockpuppet, his first novel, is now out in paperback. Matthew's writing looks at the ways technology is changing our experience of the world – and of each other. Yet in spite of his fascination with tech, he still prefers reading on paper. Here’s why.

 

 

 

Sockpuppet coverEach time I finished a draft of my debut novel, Sockpuppet, I went onto the self-publishing site lulu.com and ordered a printed paperback copy. A limited edition of one, with a single reader: me. This was my way of solving perennial problem of the writer: excessive closeness. When you’ve inhabited every sentence of a text it’s hard to see it fresh, as a reader would.

 

Parents don’t recognise their children’s flaws until suddenly they see them through a stranger’s eyes. It’s the same with a novel. When you commit a word processed draft to paper, the malleable text goes rigid, like a fly preserved in amber. This helps the author see the text in the third instead of the first person, so to speak. Paper has a special physicality, and a special power.

 

In The Social Life of Information, Paul Duguid tells how, in a university library, he once saw a medical historian sniffing a bundle of old letters. The man was hunting for the smell of vinegar, which was used by 18th-century physicians to treat cholera. The written narrative in those documents told the historian one story. To his informed nostrils, the scent betrayed another, sadder narrative.

 

Every printed book carries a similar additional layer of meaning, which is what makes it so different from an ebook. I believe this special quality will continue to protect the printed word from extinction. Many disagree. They point to the way digital downloads have disrupted the music and film industries, and predict the same fate for novels. The future of mainstream publishing, they say, is exclusively digital. Printed books will become the preserve of hipsters, who’ll lovingly sniff the pages of numbered-edition artisanal hardbacks. Just like Duguid’s historian with his vinegary papers.

 

Well, maybe. Recent uptake of ebooks has indeed been rapid, though their growth spurt has begun to stutter. My own sense, though, is that print will prove resilient to digital transformation, because some books simply work better in print.

 

Reading a book on-screen is qualitatively different to reading it on paper. Web designers would call this quality the user experience of reading; but since I’m a novelist, let’s call it the phenomenology. Put simply, the feeling of licking your finger before you turn a page, versus idly swiping left. Paper is specific; the screen is general. Paper is for dwelling on. The screen is for pressing ever forward. Physicality versus fluidity.

 

There’s growing evidence that we consume information very differently across these two formats. New psychological research shows that we effectively become more stupid when we read on screen. Closer to home, though, I can provide two examples from my own experience as a reader. First, when I tried to read the choked and convoluted prose of Will Self's Umbrella on my e-reader. It didn’t work. The words were too slippery. I had to switch to paper to digest them. Next, I read Neal Stephenson’s gargantuan space drama Seveneves in hardback. Aside from losing all feeling in my wrists, I soon realised that the thumping pulse of that book would have lent itself much better to ebook.

 

I’m not saying that literary fiction is better in print, and genre fiction in ebook. That’s too simplistic. My experience is that what works best on paper is the kind of chewy prose you need a machete to cut through; where you want to pause every now and then to take your bearings. While ebooks are best for breezy prose that drives you forward to an urgent conclusion. 

 

I hope that paper and digital formats will continue to co-exist. What happens in markets is, people choose what they like, and suppliers follow. My hunch is there’ll be a sifting process while we learn what kinds of fiction we prefer in each format. I’m willing to bet that print will still be favoured by many, if perhaps not most.

 

I hope I’m right. Because I still love paper.

 

*sniffs page*

 

*sighs deeply*

 

 

Author photo © Paul Treacy

 

 

Sara Baume on the Books that have Influenced Her
20th February 2017 - Sara Baume

 

Matchstick Men &Thingamyjigs: 5 Picture Books That Influenced Me

 

Sara Baume was born in Lancashire and grew up in County Cork, Ireland, where she still lives. She studied fine art and creative writing and her fiction and criticism have been published in anthologies, newspapers and journals such as the Irish Times, the Guardian, The Stinging Fly and Granta magazine. She has won the Davy Byrne's Short Story Award, the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, the Rooney Prize for Literature, an Irish Book Award for Best Newcomer and the Kate O'Brien Award. Her debut novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, the Warwick Prize for Writing and the Desmond Elliott Prize. She has received a Literary Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A Line Made by Walking, her second novel, is a profound meditation on the interconnectedness of wilderness, art and individual experience, and a powerful exploration of human frailty. It focusses on Frankie, a twenty-something artist, struggling to cope with urban life, who retreats to the rural bungalow on 'Turbine hill' that has been vacant since her grandmother's death three years earlier. It is in this space, surrounded by nature, that she hopes to regain her footing in art and life.

Exclusively for Foyles, Sara talks about the importance of art to her and her writing.

 

 

 

My second novel, A Line Made by Walking, is named after an important work of art by Richard Long, one of roughly seventy artworks described at intervals throughout its ten chapters. In addition to these descriptions, there are photographs embedded between blocks of text, one for each chapter. They are all of imperfect quality; their presence is intended to be enigmatic. Their inclusion is a nod, with respect, to W.G. Sebald. The great German writer, who died in 2001, often integrated slightly mystifying images into his unclassifiable books. Some of these were photographs he had taken himself; others were clippings or postcards he found by chance.

A number of years ago, Five Dials journal published a piece entitled ‘The Collected Maxims of W.G. Sebald,’ as recorded by David Lambert and Robert McGill, two of the author’s former students at the University of East Anglia. The ‘maxim’ I remember most clearly was: Read books that have nothing to do with literature. It happened to reach me at a time when I had been reading – worriedly, hurriedly – as much literature as possible to compensate for never having, officially, studied it. Sebald’s advice reminded me that I have looked as often, if not more often, to art and artists for insight and guidance, as to writers and writing.

The following are five ‘picture books’ which have been subtly, yet significantly, influential.

 

 

The Paintings of L. S. Lowry: Oils and Watercolours, with an Introduction and notes by Mervyn Levy, Book Club Associates, 1978

This monograph was in my grandmother’s house when I was a child, and found its way to me after she died.

‘I am a simple man, and I use simple materials,’ Lowry said, and despite being regularly disparaged by critics for such simplicity, he continued to paint into his eighties and stopped only when he believed he’d said, in paint, all that he had to say. Lowry was an only child, and never married. He worked as a rent collector for most of his life, tramping the city streets by day, and then taking to the easel by night.

His canvasses are typically stuffed with people and buildings, and yet, they exude loneliness.

 

Home-Made: Contemporary Russian Folk Artifacts by Vladimir Arkhipov, FUEL Publishing, 2006

A gift from my mother when I was an art student. In her eternal perceptiveness, she identified the similarity between the folk artefacts in this book and the contraptions I was trying to build in the sculpture department.

Arkhipov explains, in the introduction, how his collection of ‘thingamyjigs’ began in 1994 when he spotted, in the house of a friend, a hook made out of an old toothbrush. This publication brings together eleven years of collecting and over two hundred photographed objects, each accompanied by the story of their inception as told – always candidly, often hilariously – by the Russians responsible.

A TV aerial made out of forks, a toy train made out of a beer can, a string of rosary beads made out of white bread, ash, spit and thread – all together a vivid portrayal of what life was like in the Soviet era.

‘The most interesting visual traces left by creation’, Arkhipov concludes in the afterword, ‘are those that have not been subject to conscious aesthetic assessment by their creators...’ which was, in hindsight, an interesting message to receive as I was about to set out to try and be an artist.

 

Catalogue of Documenta 12, Kassel, Taschen, 2007

Kassel is a small German city on a river – the Brothers Grimm lived and wrote there for over three decades.

Every five years since 1955, it has played host to one of the most significant events on the international art world’s calendar: Documenta. The summer after I graduated, I travelled to visit the twelfth incarnation of this sprawling exhibition. That year, it was remarkable for its lack of a designated theme – the work took every shape, hailed from every continent, dated from the 14th century to the present, and the curators left it up to audience members to make their own connections.

The experience was singular; it showed me art as a form which lives – uneasily, yet relevantly – in the real world. I carried it all home with me between the covers of this catalogue.

 

Another Way of Telling by John Berger and Jean Mohr, Writers and Readers, 1982

This is the book I turn to when I’m struggling with words.

Berger needs no introduction, and Mohr, a Swiss photographer, was his friend and collaborator of many years. The most recent re-issue, published by Bloomsbury in 2016, includes the subtitle: A Possible Theory of Photography. It’s a book in five parts, about the meaning of and in – and outside, and around –photographs. Now that they are easier to take and more difficult to avoid than ever before, Berger and Mohr’s understated deliberations remain intriguing and salient.

 

Agnes Martin: Paintings, Writings, Remembrances by Arne Glimcher, Phaidon, 2012

Agnes Martin’s paintings are incredibly spare, to the point of there being, sometimes, practically nothing there at all. She often destroyed those which she considered to have – in some sense – failed. Martin lived into her nineties, and as she became frailer, her friend, dealer and author of this book, Arne Glimcher, was called upon to slash the ‘failed’ canvasses at her request.

I had to leave this monograph behind in Iowa City, in a library comprising solely of art books – such a vast selection that I was daily overwhelmed. I was based in the Midwest US on a long residency, and Martin’s life and work and words spirited me through a lonely spell. Her resistance to commentary made those explanations that she did, tentatively, offer, exceptionally radiant.

‘Artwork is’, Martin said, ‘a representation of our devotion to life.’

 

Picture credits:

Author photo © Thomas Langdon

T V Aerial made out of Forks by Vladimir Arkhipov courtesy of http://www.redoctobergallery.com/?p=499

L S Lowry's 'The Lake', 1937, courtesy of http://www.thelowry.com/gallery/work-by-ls-lowry-places

 

 

 

 

 

 

#FoylesFive: Book Boyfriends
14th February 2017 - Andi Yates

#FoylesFive: Book Boyfriends

 

Why not curl up with a book boyfriend this Valentine's Day? The good thing about book boyfriends is you can have more than one and they never talk back! Here are just a few of mine.

 

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater 

Being a werewolf doesn't stop Sam being slightly broken. He is also gorgeous and loves books too. The perfect boy next door boyfriend (even if he is a werewolf).

 

Half Bad by Sally Green 

Features the ultimate book boyfriend. From the moment Gabriel appears on the page he stole my heart. He's mysterious, dangerous yet loyal and handsome.

 

Divergent by Veronica Roth 

Who wouldn't fall for calm and collected Four? He's the strong, silent type, but once you get a peek under the surface it's impossible not to be little bit in love with him.

 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Finch is quirky. He's charming, he's deep and loving, he's dark, he's erratic and I want to just hug him until he's OK. He's really everything you'd want in a book boyfriend. I don't know anyone who's read this and doesn't want to be the person that saves him from himself.

 

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare 

Who to pick? I'm a bit of a fangirl over Mortal Instruments, so can't pick just one book boyfriend from the series. There's tormented and strong Jace who just needs someone to love him, but then there's dark, dangerous and fun Magnus with more to him than meets the eye...

 

 

 

#FoylesFive: Valentine Picks
10th February 2017

 

#FoylesFive: Valentine Picks

 
Some of our lovely booksellers at out Birmingham branch share their heartfelt picks for Valentine's day.
 
 
You're The One That I Want By Giovanna Fletcher
 
This book will melt your heart like a soft centered truffle. Bubble bath, glass of wine and Mrs Fletcher - Valentine's day sorted.
Sarah
 
The First Thing You See By Gregoire Delacourt 
 
Exceedingly Moreish! A witty, happy, sad and moving story of love at first sight. What would you do if a film star knocked on your door? The plot, style and characters will charm your socks off! Un coup de foudre!
Helena
 
Love in a  Dark Time By Colm Toibin 
 
'The love that dare not speak its name' is spoken in volumes here. Toibin elegantly and frankly illustrates for us what being in love meant for gay couples when it was unspeakable. Genuinely moving.
Jay
 
Chocolat By Joanne Harris 
 
Chocolate and Valentine's - a perfect match! The story starts on 11th February so you can read along in real time or just pig out and read it in one go. Serving suggestion: Enjoy with a large box of French truffles.
Helena
 
The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern 
 
This book is about a circus unlike any you have ever heard of. But among the illusions, deceptions and magic, the night circus is a love story of the most spellbinding kind.
Aileen

 

 

 

Latest Blog
Read an extract from Lucinda Hawksley's The Writer Abroad
23/02/2017

Read an extract from Lucinda Hawksley's The Writer Abroad

#FoylesFive: Making Movies
22/02/2017

Magdalena from our Birmingham branch has a selection of books for all you budding film makers out there.

Matthew Blakstad on Why He Loves Paper
22/02/2017

Matthew's writing looks at the ways technology is changing our experience of the world – and of each other. Yet in spite of his fascination with tech, he still prefers reading on paper. Here’s why.

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