Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Brick Lane Bookshop

Congratulations to our friends at Brick Lane Bookshop, formerly Eastside, on its new makeover physically and online (at http://www.bricklanebookshop.com/). The new look and name make much more sense in the heartland of trendiness that is the modern Brick Lane. Anyone visiting would also be advised to go to the end of the Lane - fighting your way through jugglers, fly-pitchers and crowds - to the bagel bakeries. The Brick Lane shop is particularly good on East End history, carrying most of our books in that field, and will of course be stocking our Cable Street books. It seems a long way from the old THAP bookshop of 30 years ago - in pre-Eastside days.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Cable Street march goes ahead - update

Five Leaves is one of 42 (no, this is not connected to Douglas Adams) organisations backing http://www.cablestreet75.org.uk/ in organising a commemorative demonstration in London on Sunday October 2nd remembering The Battle of Cable Street in 1936. Other organisations range from trade unions to the Jewish Socialists' Group to the Bangladeshi Youth Group. Regular readers will know we have five Cable Street books being launched that day as part of the general celebrations, of which more anon, as well as a general interest in the issue. As I write, the Government has banned an EDL demonstration in Tower Hamlets on September 3rd following petitions and appeals from those in the borough. It is worth noting that there was a great attempt to have the 1936 march by Oswald Mosley banned. The then government refused, leading to the mass turnout of people to prevent Mosley's Blackshirts marching through, which led to the Battle. The point of this post is to note that the EDL banning also includes all other marches in Tower Hamlets for the subsequent 30 days. It does, however, appear that the march celebrating the famous anti-fascist victory (October 2) is going ahead as planned, with police permission. All the other events planned around that day will happen as planned. I'll post a complete listing of all the other events soon.

Doomed, we are all doomed

Pritchard's of Formby, The Travel Bookshop of Notting Hill fame, the Harbour Bookshop of Dartmouth and Derwent Bookshop in Workington - all due to close shortly, all had their closures announced this week. All good bookshops, all doing the right thing with author events, all locally popular, and all, at least occasionally, stockists of Five Leaves' books. Who do they blame? Supermarkets, taking away the mass market; WH Smith undercutting them on price for mid-list books; Amazon; eBooks; greedy landlords (don't they know a recession is on?). Add to that library closures, cutbacks in school buying, the closure of Borders and whatever is happening at Waterstone's and we have to conclude that we can't continue as we have been doing. The staff at Five Leaves Towers will shortly be having a summit meeting to go through our future plans. The office cat has been warned that Whiskas will be changed to Kit-e-Kat or a Kwiksave own brand. It really is that serious.
Meanwhile, the number of people doing creative writing classes proliferates. Who is going to publish them? Who will sell their books?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

What the papers say

Time for a round up of some recent press Five Leaves press coverage... The Thomas Hardy Society gives some nice coverage to our CD of C. Day-Lewis poems read by Jill Balcon. Both were vice-presidents of the Society. Indeed, both CDL and Jill are buried in Stinsford churchyard as is Hardy. Jill read the poems of both her late husband and Hardy at meetings of the Society and CDL read at the first Thomas Hardy Festival in 1968. Danuta Reah is picking up some coverage online for her Not Safe, the latest being at www.overmydeadbody.com/notsafe.htm. Her crime novella is based round the Sheffield refugee community, while David Belbin (who edited the book) has been interviewed in the Nottingham Post about his Five Leaves' refugee book Secret Gardens. You can read the interview at http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/Contemporary-tale-kids-run-tackles-reluctance/story-13185924-detail/story.html. The North issue 47 includes reviews of both the John Lucas' books we published last year as well as a rare review of our Hull anthology, Old City, New Rumours. Several other occasional Five Leaves' writers appear in that issue but it is worth seeking out (from www.inpressbooks.co.uk) for the articles on "reflections on 25 years of poetry" by some movers and shakers and, especially, Jeremy Pointing on 25 years of Peepal Tree press. Our book that is getting most coverage at the moment though is Roman Nottinghamshire, with a lot more to come. This is also our best selling book too, with its own dedicated website on http://romannottinghamshire.wordpress.com/. Naturally, the best headline is found in LeftLion, which has an interview with the author Mark Patterson announced as "Venneh, viddeh, vicceh", translated as "I came, I saw, I went shopping". LeftLion also includes a piece from Five Leaves' worker Pippa Hennessy about her first year at Five Leaves Towers which includes: "You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve learned about working class life in Stratford (London), Butlins in the 1950s, being Jewish in Glasgow during and after World War I, the life and times of Ray Gosling, and sodding fairies..." http://www.leftlion.co.uk/articles.cfm/title/the-five-leaves-diary/id/3864

Thursday, 18 August 2011

East Midlands Book Award

Anyone living in the East Midlands with a book out this year should know about the East Midlands Book Award. Submissions are now open and the judges - the composer Gavin Bryars, retired academic Marion Shaw and bookseller Debbie James, from the Kibworth bookshop, should be hard at work on the early entries. Books have to be published for the first time this year, with the award being given at the end of May at Derbyshire Literature Festival. The winner gets £1000 but the shortlist will also be promoted to bookshops and libraries in the region. Any genre is acceptable including fiction, poetry and "creative non-fiction" eg biography and travel. Books for adults and children go into the same pot. Entries must be submitted by publishers or agents and, as suggested by this, self-publishing is excluded. Last year, the first year, 42 books were submitted. The winner, as mentioned previously on this blog, came from one of the smallest publishers and an astonishing six out of eight books on the shortlist came from the independent sector. Books don't have to be set in the East Midlands. Full details are on www.writingeastmidlands.co.uk/awards/

Monday, 15 August 2011

The return of radical bookselling?

Radical bookselling has been in the doldrums for years, patiently waiting for the return of a Tory Government (as one friend said). But now the existing bookshops appear to be doing quite well, and there is a new People's Bookshop in Durham, a new radical bookshop opening in London in the autumn and a mixed radical/general shop opening in deepest Suffolk sometime soon. To mark this revival there is a modest seminar in Liverpool on Thursday 13 October, at the Bluecoat, as part of the Chapter and Verse Festival. Mandy Vere from News from Nowhere will look at the current state of radical bookselling, and one Ross Bradshaw will be delving into radical bookselling history over the last century or so. More importantly, the seminar will be promoting the (you read it here first) new annual radical book prize, Bread and Roses, with £1000 going to the best radical book published in 2011. More details to follow.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

August 12 1952

One of the saddest literary memorial dates is August 12, 1952, the day when Stalin murdered many of the leading Soviet Yiddish writers, together with other members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. The writers included Dovid Bergelson, Peretz Markish, David Hofstein, Leib Kvitko and Itzik Fefer. Others had already been killed, including the novelist Der Nister and the theatre director and actor Solomon Mikhoels, but it was this event that closed the era of left-wing Soviet Yiddish literature, and, together with the Czech Slansky trials, indicated Stalin's late anti-Semitic turn.

Five Leaves' f0llowers might recall an earlier announcement that we would be publishing a book of fiction and poems, From Pogrom to Purge, by the murdered writers, edited and mostly translated by Joseph Sherman. This book was near publication when Joseph became very ill and then died, with some minor parts of the translation incomplete. The book was put back, naturally, and for some time I did not have the heart to return to Joseph's book, yet wanted it to appear as a memorial to his scholarship and in memory of the writers. We were planning to finally complete the book this year when we realised that next year is 60th anniversary of the trial and execution, so it made sense to postpone the book yet again, but bring it out for the 60th and organise a suitable event around it. This is acceptable to Joseph's family and we will announce the details of publication in due course. Meantime, apologies to those waiting on the book. I am sure you would agree that it should appear for the 60th anniversary.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Playtime with Mortimer

Five Leaves has never been too fussed if our writers, even our regular writers, bring out books with other publishers. Let a thousand flowers bloom, or something like that. I was pleased then when Playtime: eight plays for and with young people by Peter Mortimer (Flambard, £8.99 via www.inpressbooks.co.uk) popped through the post. Peter has written several books for Five Leaves and is currently working on a commission for a book about Nottingham but he also works with other publishers, particularly in the North East. The book is what it claims to be, eight playscripts mostly written with and by children and then performed. There is a Five Leaves connection in that one of the plays is the revised Croak, the King & a change in the weather written in Shatila, as part of his stay chronicled in our Camp Shatila. I spend my life avoiding children in practice while interested in education in theory, and found Peter's introduction interesting, basing his work in schools on ideas popularised in his adopted North East by Dorothy Heathcote. who "showed teachers how to use drama as a creative, holistic experience that widened the framework of the curriculum". He combined this theory with the practice of going into schools with an entirely and nerve challenging blank slate, not even thinking of what play might be created until he started talking to the children. Peter ends his introduction by saying that schools are welcome, at no charge, to use the playscripts and "If I'm around, I'll come and see the production."

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Chain reaction

It can be interesting - well, OK, only marginally interesting, to come across stray connections in books. I've just read Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes. I'd dissent somewhat from the 100% glowing reviews, though I'm glad I read the book. The lives of the swinish rich rarely appeal, and the Ephrussi banking dynasty, whose story this covered, behaved badly at times. The next book I read (yes, I have been on holiday) was the Complete Works of Isaac Babel, which included a short piece about when Babel was bounced as a child in pre-Revolution Russia when only 5% of the Jewish children in his school could go on to the next level of education because of anti-Semitic quotas. There were forty Jewish children and Babel was determined and successful in becoming one of the top two. He succeeded, but lost his place when an Ephrussi bribed some official to ensure that his child was promoted instead of Babel. No doubt this is a useful model for Conservative policies in higher education. Moving on, the next book was Stalin Ate My Homework, an autobiographical memoir of Alexei Sayle's childhood. Alexei was so named in honour of Maxim Gorky, born Alexei Pehkov, by his Communist parents. Gorky was a mentor of Isaac Babel and published some of his early work in Novaya Zhizn. I am sure that there are greater connections in this world than these three books, picked up by chance, but there you go.

On holiday again

One of the great advantages of living in a world of books is that wherever you go there will be something of interest. Two weeks in Youlgreave/Youlgrave (people spell it different ways) then. The old Co-op building, now the YHA, was used in the filming of The Virgin and the Gypsy, as was the unfortunately-named Raper's Lodge. The village also has a Reading Room though is nothing on display (or on line) giving its origins other than being listed with the village's four dissenting chapels in the 1870s. I just missed a performance night from the local writing group in the village. A short walk up Lathkill Dale brings you to Over Haddon, the former home and burial place of Maurice Oldfield, the proto-type for Le Carre's Smiley. The nearest bookshop is the excellent indie in Bakewell (http://www.bakewellbooks.co.uk/) which manages to have an excellent local stock for visitors, and a wide stock for the eclectic book buyer. That it stocks our three books set in Derbyshire (Claws by Stephen Booth, A Beautiful Place for a Murder by Berlie Doherty, The Naming of William Rutherford by Linda Kempton) was noted.

But the main book connection for me was a visit to my old friend David Lane in Bakewell. David was once a stalwart of Nottingham CND, Nottingham Veggie Soc. and an astonishing amount of national organisations concerned with peace and animal rights. He'd cut his teeth as a conscientious objector and as a member of the old Pacifist Youth Action Group. When I moved to Nottingham his Concord Bookshop (one of the astonishing number of five radical bookshops in the city at the time) had just closed. The shop reflected his main concerns but was in the way of developers. David continued his involvement with the book trade wholesaling vegetarian, environment and peace books, mostly to wholefood shops. Though David never made much money (capitalism was never his forte) he did chomp his way through a lot of books and cheap pamphlets, especially at Christmas. I know this as I was a volunteer packer from time to time: anything for a good veggie meal. David would often surprise far flung accounts sending in big orders by turning up the next day with a trolley, having worked out it was cheaper to take the goods by train than use a carrier, giving himself a day out for the hell of it. Even better if he could take in some petitioning or demonstrating while he was at it. Sadly, with the closure of some key accounts and others moving to more commercial suppliers Concord had to close, having a useful half-life selling books at stalls and festivals. It was good to see David again, not least to hear his standard opening remark... "Did you see that article in Saturday's Guardian..."