Selasa, 02 April 2013

Penguin Bloggers' Night

I love an event for bloggers - always wonderful to see friends old and new - and was delighted when Lija emailed to invite me to the third annual Penguin Bloggers' Night.  I am a veteran of all three, as were several of the other bloggers there, and hopefully I'll be able to attend more in the future.

Candid snap of Polly, Simon, and Kim... :)

This wasn't just put on for us to hobnob with other bloggers - although it was fantastic to see friends like Simon S (Savidge Reads, Hayley (Desperate Reader), Annabel (Gaskella), Sakura (Chasing Bawa), Kim (Reading Matters), Polly (the erstwhile Novel Insights), David (Follow The Thread) and doubtless others whom I've forgotten right now.  It was lovely to meet Rachael aka @FlossieTeacake. Also in attendance, the primary purpose of the extravaganza, were various authors with forthcoming books.  Indeed, with my crib sheet to hand, I can tell you that we saw Catherine O'Flynn, Joanna Rossiter, James Robertson, Mohsin Hamid, Rhidian Brook, Bernadine Evaristo, Alicia Foster, and Jonathan Coe.

All the authors read excerpts from their books, and were introduced by pieces of music (of their choosing) played energetically by the real-live-pianist.  Very classy, Penguin, very classy.  There are too many to talk about all of them, so I'll just pick out a few.

The one which really grabbed me was Alicia Foster's reading from Warpaint - a novel set in 1942, telling the war from the perspective of various women artists.  It sounds like a new and interesting angle on a much-described period, and I went home clutching a copy.

The excerpt from Joanna Rossiter's The Sea Change made it very obvious that she's a product of a creative writing MA, but that's no bad thing if one is in the mood for that sort of thing - very poetic, very imagery-driven, and possibly very brilliant.  Difficult to tell from a short excerpt.

Jonathan Coe, mid-reading

I'd only come across two of the authors in attendance, and one of those was Jonathan Coe.  I have to admit that I haven't read anything by him, but have The Rain Before It Falls on my bookshelf. Well, I did have his new one, Expo 58, in my hands until I heard his excerpt... it was basically all about toilets.  I have a big sense of humour deficiency when it comes to toilet humour (in the literal and figurative senses), so passed my copy on to Polly immediately.  Sorry, Jonathan.  I'll still read The Rain Before It Falls, especially since it's apparently inspired by Rosamond Lehmann.

Whilst catching-up with various bloggers of long-standing, I was intrigued to see the emergence of the vlogger.  Someone at Penguin whispered to me "We don't really know what they are!" when she mentioned that quite a few vloggers were dotted around the room.  They weren't difficult to spot; they were the young women with striking hair or make-up, making those of us who keep determinedly hidden by pages of text and pictures (rather than video) look rather... bookish, shall we say?  I felt like a member of a family folk band might feel, when encountering Chuck Berry.

"I don't know much about book vloggers," said I to the Penguin lady, "but there is one I watch - Sanne at booksandquills."  And, while walking to my seat, I happened to walk straight past her.  I felt - believe it or not - a little starstruck.  I've made friends with at least 50 people from blogs and online book discussion, and feel like book bloggers are my kindred souls, rather than deities (and I think my readers feel the same about me) - but Sanne felt a little bit like a celebrity to me.  Maybe it's that whole thing about seeing the person on the screen?

Sanne is filming on the left; Lija from Penguin is on stage.

I went and said hello to Sanne, and she gamely pretended to know who I was, while I probably babbled away too much.  She asked me to take a couple of photos with her very fancy camera, which I completely messed up, and we parted ways.  It was fun to chat about bookish gatherings in general, and it was nice to meet someone from the new generation of bibliophiles - I watch quite a few vloggers and Youtube comedians, but she is the only book blogger I watch.  (Our taste in books isn't at all similar, although she did talk about Three Men in a Boat a while ago, which I recommend watching if you'd like to try out a vlogger - here.)  The audience is different, and the style is different, but the love of books is the same.

This has turned from a post about Penguin's event into musings on vloggers!  Maybe that will come another day - maybe a book blogger will turn their hand to vlogging? - but for now, thank you Penguin for inviting me and putting on a fun and interesting night, thank you Foyles for hosting so well, and thank you authors for writing and not being unnerved by speaking to those internet types.

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