Monday, 19 November 2012

An uncommon sunday; Jarvis, 6Music and me

It's not everyday that my dad wakes me up with a rousing rendition of Pulp's Common People down the telephone. But then it's not everyday that I get a story played on BBC 6Music, by the most excellent Jarvis Cocker. All thanks to brilliant Book Slam and the annual Too Much Too Young, in which the story features.

You can listen to the show HERE (my story comes in at 35.01). The link will be live just until the 25th November. Jarvis, and Adam the producer, have chosen some great tunes to split it with, including a masterful version of Don't Be Cruel. And the way the end of the story rolls into the next song made me happy, happy, happy. 

Too Much Too Young publishes a week tomorrow. Pre-order it HERE, check out the launch events HERE. In Jarvis's words, 'it's good, in't it?'

Thank you for a very cool sunday, Mr Cocker.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

News just in...

A footnote/ squeal-accompanied-addition to my last entry... You can hear me read my story, Me and Bobby McGee, from the new Book Slam collection Too Much Too Young on Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service tomorrow, from 4-6pm GMT, on BBC Radio 6Music. You'll also be able to 'listen again' for seven days, thereafter. I love 6Music. I love Jarvis Cocker. This might just be the coolest thing. I will not sleep tonight.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Too Much Too Young - a Book Slam book

As regular readers of my blog know (hello! And thanks) since the start of the year I've written a roughly-monthly column over on Having run excellent live literature and music events for the past nine years, in 2011 Book Slam (London's best literary night club - TM) published their first short story collection - One For The Trouble - featuring stories from a stellar line-up of event alumni. The book is cloth-bound, hard-backed, has one of those cool lil dangly ribbon page-markers, and each is signed by every one of the contributors (the likes of Hari Kunzru, Helen Oyeyemi, Joe Dunthorne, Irvine Welsh, William Boyd...). One For The Trouble has always sat on my 'special' stack of books in my writing room, reserved only for the finest volumes, so imagine my DELIGHT when I was asked to contribute a story for the second Book Slam collection... titled TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG

The brief was the same as last year - to write a story inspired, closely or loosely, by a song. That's the kind of thing I could happily spend weeks, months, years deliberating over, but in the end I plumped for ME AND BOBBY MCGEE. Much as I love the drawly cowboy notes of Kris Kristofferson's original, given the name of the anthology I took the Janis Joplin version. She recorded it just a few days before her death in 1970 and it was released in 1971, her first number one and a posthumous one, at that. I've always loved it (my dad used to play it on his guitar when I was growing up) and it's a song that's bursting with story - the footloose romance that came and went; wistful, celebratory and sad, all at once. I played it over and over, and an idea for my own story started to form... whatever happened to a guy like Bobby? As Janis sings: 'One day up near Salinas, I let him slip away/ He's looking for that home and I hope he finds it/ But I'd trade all of my tomorrows for just one yesterday/ To be holding Bobby's body next to mine.'

TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG features brand new stories from David Nicholls, Diana Evans, Jeremy Dyson, Marina Lewycka, Nikesh Shukla, Jesse Armstrong, Jackie Taylor, Craig Taylor, Patrick Neate, Salena Godden, Chris Cleave... and I. Now you can see why I'm so excited. I've written about the collection over on the Book Slam website, and I reckon my assessment of it is only about eleven twelfths unbiased. Seriously, you're in for a treat... you can read what I thought of it HERE

If you'd like to pre-order the collection (it publishes on 27th November), you can do that HERE. Just as before, each copy is signed by all of the authors (I took a not-so-speedy 4.5 hours... but each 'Emylia' is written with big love and no little joy). There's currently a sweet offer where if you pre-order TOO MUCH TOO YOUNG you can get two free tickets to any one of the three (yes, three!) launch events on the 27th, 28th, and 29th of November. As the lovely people behind it say, 'Book Slam was founded almost a decade ago to support a diverse reading culture and stand against what is, for us all, an increasingly monolithic cultural life.' I vote YES to that, don't you?

Friday, 9 November 2012

December ELLE

In the December issue of ELLE I've written about my two grandmothers as part of the feature 'My Other Mother'. Despite almost sharing a name, Anna and Annie couldn't have been more different and I talk about my memories of them both; my lustrous Hungarian Nana and my delicate English Gran.

My Granddad sneaks in there too. I wonder what Jack and Annie Hall (yes, that was her real name, and no, I've never seen the film - I really should) would say if they knew their picture was in a fashion magazine? 'Ooh-er', probably. I love this photograph. I think I remember playing Dominoes at the kitchen table that day, my Dad saying 'Mimi' and snapping as I turned. Or maybe I've just seen it so many times that I can't separate the moment from the record of it. Images like this inspired me to write The Book of Summers; 'All photographs testify to time's relentless melt' (Susan Sontag).

Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Last week I took myself off to the seaside for a few days. I love the coast in winter, and I've found the perfect spot in which to hole up and write; solitude, perfect peace, and a fine view. My work? The second draft of my next novel. Part of the appeal of this sort of retreat is that I get to leave so many of my day to day distractions behind, including the lovely clutter of my writing room, with its books and pictures and piles and stacks. There's something about the sparsity of space and singularity of purpose that meshes nicely and suits me very well - for a few days, anyway. I couldn't ditch all my paraphernalia though - I did pack three postcards. A little bit talismanic, they remind me of what I'm writing and where I'm writing it; cool-crisp days, romantic city streets, the genteel glamour of Lac Léman - and a hint of darkness. BEYOND BEAUTY is due out next summer.