Poem of the week – Ode To Bicycles

bicycle-159680_1280As Yorkshire is welcoming the first ever Tour De Yorkshire this weekend I thought it would be nice to have a bicycling poem on the blog this week. The race kicked off today in Bridlington and is finishing in Roundhay in Leeds on Sunday.

I found this poem on the Bicycling Life website. It is written by Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet. Pablo was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971 and died in 1973. Interestingly he was portrayed as one of the principle characters in the film “Il Postino.”

Ode to Bicycles

I was walking
down
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
the
earth
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.

A few bicycles
passed
me by,
the only
insects
in
that dry
moment of summer,
silent,
swift,
translucent;
they
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
factories,
giving
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
hard
beetle backs
of the whirling
bicycles
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.

I thought about evening when
the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
stilled,
because
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn’t
a translucent insect
humming
through summer
but
a cold
skeleton
that will return to
life
only
when it’s needed,
when it’s light,
that is,
with
the
resurrection
of each day.

Pablo Neruda

I will be enjoying the race ending on Sunday in Roundhay Park. Our mobile library will also be there so you can enjoy bikes and books – a perfect combination. It will be even better if the sun is shining!

Read Regional Author Events

PrintWe are very pleased to be taking part in the Read Regional campaign again this year. Now in its seventh year, Read Regional is a unique campaign run by New Writing North that partners with libraries and publishers to give readers the chance to meet authors in their local libraries. As well as the author events, all of the Read Regional titles are stocked in 19 library authorities across the region, creating a wealth of northern literature available to borrow. To find out more about all the authors featured in this years campaign visit the Read Regional Website.

Last-King-of-Lydia1We are hosting 3 events over the next few weeks. Next Wednesday 29th April Tim Leach will be visiting Chapel Allerton Library to talk about his latest book, The Last King of Lydia. This is the story of Croesus. Croesus was the wealthiest man of the ancient world, whose name is proverbally associated with magnificent riches – ‘rich as Croesus’, as it is sometimes said. Yet the thing that seemed to concern him the most in his life was not wealth or power, but happiness. Come along at 5.45pm to hear why Tim chose Croesus to write about and the research he carried out to do so.

Quick-The-copy1On Monday 11th May at 5.45pm Rothwell Library are hosting an event with Lauren Owen. Lauren will be talking about her debut novel, The Quick. This is a Victorian gothic tale set in Yorkshire. To discover the secrets of ‘The Quick’ you must first travel to Victorian England, and there, in the wilds of Yorkshire, meet a brother and sister alone in the world, a pair bound by tragedy. You will in time, enter the rooms of London’s mysterious Aegolius Club – a society of the richest, most powerful men in England. And at some point – we cannot say when – these worlds will collide.

TookeyMissel-childCVR6mmLater in May we will be hosting a Poetry morning at Oakwood Library. This is on the 21st May and starts at 11.00am with a poetry workshop where you can read and discuss a selection of poetry.  Following that Read Regional poet Helen Tookey will read from her latest collection of poems.

Do You Think You Could Write For Television?

Channel 4 has joined the Northern Writers Awards to search for undiscovered writing talent from the north of England. The scheme, launched recently is to identify raw and diverse television talent from the north of England. Launched by Northumbria University, Newcastle, the new award will offer a unique opportunity for two writers to be mentored through the script commissioning process with Lime Pictures and RED Production Company. The Channel 4 / Northumbria University Writing for Television Award will open for submissions on Friday 14 November, as part of the annual Northern Writers’ Awards, and is open to both complete beginners as well as those who already have some writing experience.

One of the winning writers will be mentored by Lime Pictures in Liverpool (Hollyoaks) and will shadow the process of script development, from first draft to broadcast script. This may lead to a commission to write an original episode of the serial that will be broadcast on Channel 4. The other winner will be mentored by RED Production Company in Salford (Scott and Bailey; Happy Valley) and will receive advice on script development and technique. They will also receive support from top television professionals to develop their own original ideas for broadcast. Channel 4 has a unique remit to represent and to portray the diversity of contemporary Britain, so would particularly encourage submissions from Black and Minority Ethnic and disabled writers, who are particularly underrepresented in this area of the TV industry.

Further details of the competition can be found at Northern Writers Awards

 

Harrogate History Festival

Harrogate History FestivalIf you are a history lover then Harrogate History Festival’s have just the thing for you. They are the organisers of the hugely successful Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival and they are branching out again this year after last years inaugural festival with a weekend devoted to historical books and their writers. The second Harrogate History Festival takes part this weekend from Thu 23rd Oct – Sun 26th. As with the Crime Writing Festival all the events take place in the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate making it easy to either go along to several events or just book the ones that interest you. You could really immerse yourself and go along for the whole weekend.

Highlights of the festival will include events with Bernard Cornwell (the creator of Sharpe – remember Sean Bean?), Alison Weir and Elizabeth Chadwick on Friday night. If that isn’t good enough there are countless other events to whet your appetite with Sandi Toksvig, Peter Snow, Sarah Dunant and many more.

Historical fiction is a great way to find out more about a particular period as well as immersing yourself in a great story. Want to go back and be a part of the Roman Empire? Then Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series is a good place to start. What about travelling back to fifteenth century Italy and the Borgias? Sarah Dunant covers this period in her novel Blood and Beauty.

 

There really should be something for everyone at the festival so if you are looking for a good way to get out of the Autumn weather then have a look at the programme.

 

Man Booker Prize Shortlist

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014 shortlist of six books has now been revealed! They’re all in stock, links below. Be the first to read them.
 

Paul O’Rourke, 40 year-old slightly curmudgeonly dentist, runs a thriving practice in New York. Yet he is discovering he needs more in his life than a steady income and the perfect mochaccino. But what?

As Paul tries to work out the meaning of life, a Facebook page and Twitter account appear in his name. What’s at first an outrageous violation of privacy soon becomes something more frightening: the possibility that the online “Paul” might be a better version of the man in the flesh. Who is doing this and will it cost Paul his sanity?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

A love story unfolding over half a century between a doctor and his uncle’s wife. Taking its title from one of the most famous books in Japanese literature, written by the great haiku poet Basho, Flanagan’s novel has as its heart one of the most infamous episodes of Japanese history, the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in World War II.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

As a child, Rosemary used to talk all the time. So much so that her parents used to tell her to start in the middle if she wanted to tell a story. Now Rosemary has just started college and she barely talks at all. And she definitely doesn’t talk about her family.

J by Howard Jacobson

Set in the future, a world where the past is a dangerous country, not to be talked about or visited,J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

Calcutta, 1967. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind before disappearing is this note…

 

How to be Both by Ali Smith

A novel all about art’s versatility.  Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions.  There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s.  There’s the child of a child of the 1960s.  Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.

 

Chair of the 2014 judges, AC Grayling, commented on behalf of the judges:

‘We are delighted to announce our international shortlist. As the Man Booker Prize expands its borders, these six exceptional books take the reader on journeys around the world, between the UK, New York, Thailand, Italy, Calcutta and times past, present and future.

‘We had a lengthy and intensive debate to whittle the list down to these six.  It is a strong, thought-provoking shortlist which we believe demonstrates the wonderful depth and range of contemporary fiction in English.’

Don’t judge a book by its cover – Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Several people have told me in the past that this is a good book. I considered it, but then always put it off as it is classed as a Sci-fi novel. I know that shouldn’t influence me but I am not naturally drawn to Sci-fi novels.

However Flowers for Algernon was chosen as our book group book of the month so home it went with me. The copy we were reading was one of the specially produced yellow covers for Gollancz Publishing 50 year anniversary. I am sure that if you are a Gollancz fan, then the cover is iconic, but it really didn’t float my boat. But I got past it and I am so glad that I did.

Flowers for Algernon was first published in the 1960s and is classed as Sci-fi due to the nature of the technology in it. Other than that it is set in a very real world and written about a very real character called Charlie. Charlie is an adult with learning difficulties, although as the book was written in the 60s he is referred to as retarded. This caused me to gulp a bit as I read it, but I persevered.

Charlie is relatively happy with his life, he has friends at the bakery where he works, he attends a literacy class with other adults like him in the evenings where he gets on well with his teacher. He likes his class but never seems to remember anything he is taught. Charlie wants to be clever and is offered a chance to change and he accepts it. He enters an experimental programme to alter his brain function. This programme has been previously tested on animals and has a success story with Algernon the mouse.

As the book continues Charlie’s and Algernon’s fates become intertwined and Charlie’s world completely changes as his IQ rises. I won’t give any spoilers to the end, but the clue is in the title of the book. Be prepared – you may need tissues.

I am really looking forward to the book group discussion about this book as the book raises so many questions. Should Charlie have taken part in the experiment? Would he ultimately have been happier if he had stayed ‘dumb’. Does being very intelligent cause its own problems? Is it better to not remember when people are unkind to us?

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone that hasn’t read it. Don’t be put off by the cover!

Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth is missingI was very lucky to go along to the Big Bookend event last night with Emma Healey. Emma’s debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing is a mystery story with a difference.  Maud, the main character is 81 years old and has dementia. She keeps remembering that her friend Elizabeth is missing, in fact she has pockets full of notes to herself that tell her just that. How will she convince anybody that there is a problem, when somedays she can’t even remember her own address?

The event last night, run in conjunction with Arts and Minds was excellent. Emma is a young writer and this is her first novel, but she spoke with confidence about her writing and the book. There was a good audience and at the end of the event there was a lively question and answer session. This raised some excellent points about the importance of books like this; those that normalise mental health problems so you read about the person, not  the illness.

The book is out today and I am happy to predict that it will be a summer smasher. I was fortunate to read a preview copy and I loved it. My grandmother suffered from dementia and this book really brought back mine and my families experiences with her, both good and bad.

Elizabeth is Missing is one of the  books that Arts and Minds are reading this year for their Sharing Stories project. All six books feature mental health, learning diability or autism. All the books are available through Leeds Libraries and Arts and Minds would love you to read them and comment on their blog.

This event was one of many Big Bookend festival events. There are lots more happening this weekend, check their website for details. www.bigbookend.co.uk