Holiday reading

So. Three months later than planned*, I’m posting some of the writings that padded out the quieter moments of my family jaunt to visit friends in Spain. In (cringe) October. Immediate I am most definitely not. And I wonder why I just can’t take to Twitter…

My introduction to the great Sebastian Faulks

Alan Bennett: Mum's quiet-time companion

Of late, Alan Bennett has come to enjoy an almost godfather-like status in our family. He pops in (well, into conversation) during most of our gatherings – my Christmas 2008 gift to mum was a signed copy of his The Uncommon Reader – delivering advice and regaling tales of old Yorkshire and his own ‘mam’.

As well as Seb Faulks, I had my head buried in Jim Cartwright’s Road, devouring lines in preparation for November’s run of the play at Bath’s Rondo Theatre while Malaga’s insects devoured me.

Between The Rotters' Club's covers: my brother's brand of escapism

And of course we were surrounded by Spanish writing. While we tried our darndest to piece together shameful half-phrases and exclamations, the brilliant typography and stunning layouts (not to mention the illiterates’ joy, the pictures) punched through our linguistic ignorance. Viva municipal warnings!

Room 4: Aspirational apartment lit (well, that's what the photos suggested)

* In my defence I have been relearning to ride a bike and re-reading Jacob’s Room. Productive, no?

The 24-Hour Book

Putting paid to notions that it takes years to write a book (damn! There goes my excuse) is the 24 Hour Book Project, a groundbreaking new initiative that’s challenging a bunch of writers, editors and publishers to take a book from pie-in-the-sky concept to published material in JUST ONE DAY.
The 24 Hour Book Project
The brainchild of the folks over at Completely Novel , the 24 Hour Book Project will kick off with a group of experienced writers putting their heads together via online collaborative writing tools. The squad includes Kate Pullinger (who’ll be heading up the project as the lead writer), Sarah Butler and Chris Meade, with the narrative being based around a group of city centre allotments, the exploration of communal spaces and the literal and symbolic walls built and smashed by individuals within a community.

Pens hit paper tomorrow (3rd October) from 10am, with volunteer editors and publishers taking the baton on Sunday to take the story to publication. And the best bit is that not only can you follow it all live online, but you can get involved – throw suggestions into the mix via Twitter (follow @24hrbook and use the hashtag #24hrbook); upload media including videos, music and images here; or help edit the book online from 10am BST on Sunday (email 24hrbook@completelynovel.com for the skinny on that.)

If that all sounds too much like hard work but your not averse to quaffing free champers, you might still be able to bag yourself a ticket for the book’s launch on Monday 5th October, 6pm, at Soho’s House of St Barnabas, where you’ll also be able to buy a copy of the book and see highlight’s of the weekend’s frantic authoring activity.

Amelias Magazine Logo
As if Amelia’s Magazine wasn’t damn fine enough already, what with its cultural insights, fashion fixes and ecological know-how, it’s just had a make-over – and its first contribution from The Bind!

The new face of Amelia's Magazine

The new face of Amelia's Magazine

 Check out The Bind’s bit on Margaret Atwood’s new novel, The Year of the Flood, and its accompanying tour, and watch out for future book-based goodness brought to you fresh from The Bind’s nib via those lovely people at Amelia’s Magazine.

On the day Dan Brown’s new novel dominates the books blogs – and the financial concerns of booksellers the world over – you wouldn’t blame the humble short story writer for having spent the past 10 hours with their head hung over a frequently refilled brandy glass, bemoaning their supposed drawing of the literary short straw when it comes to opportunities of making a mint.

News of The Sunday Times' award is yet to reach Russia's short story authors

News of The Sunday Times' award is yet to reach Russia's short story authors

 But, dear Bind reader, the short story writer doesn’t need your pity. Oh no, in fact, the short story writer has tossed the brandy glass, turned on their heels and left your compassionate countenance in the dust in their dash for what is being touted as the world’s richest prize for an individual short story.

Short fiction's Fairy Godmother: Lynn Barber

Short fiction's Fairy Godmother: Lynn Barber

The Sunday Times‘ literary editor Andrew Holgate, and writers Lynn Barber, A S Byatt, Nick Hornby and Hanif Kureishi are the fairy godparents who will bestow this prize, the Sunday Times/EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. But who cares what it’s called?! Not the potential entrants, I’d wager, who are more fussed about the fact that, come March 2010, when the winner is announced at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, they could be £25k richer. And five runners up will receive £500 each. Which they will probably spend on brandy and Dan Brown books with which to fuel both their stoves and their all-consuming bitterness.

The award is open to authors to have been published in the UK and Ireland, with the winning stories will be published in The Sunday Times Magazine and online with additional podcasts/audio download. Tell your friends! The Bind, meanwhile, is off to learn about sustainable fish farms from Hugh.

The enigmatic investigator: Mr Lemony Snicket

The enigmatic investigator: Mr Lemony Snicket

It’s a chilling warning: “As if the recession weren’t bad enough, now British readers have the threat of a new series from Mr Snicket hanging over them,” Cally Poplak, director of publisher Egmont, tells The Guardian this week. “As a responsible publisher, of course we shall put all our efforts into ensuring no child is exposed to yet more misery from Mr Snicket’s investigations.”

The Bad Beginning

Here comes trouble: Book one – The Bad Beginning

Lemony Snicket‘s reports into the harrowing lives of the Baudelaire siblings, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, began in 1999. Snicket (the pseudonym of American author Daniel Handler) brought the sorrowful plight of the trio – orphaned by their evil uncle, Count Olaf, in his attempts to get his claws into their family’s wealth – to the world over 13 books: A Series of Unfortunate Events.

And, once the series came to an end in 2006, and the trials and tribulations of the poor Baudelaires had been made public (helped in no small part by a 2004 film adaptation of the first three books, starring Jim Carrey as the crawling Count Olaf) that was the last we heard of tenacious young Violet, Klaus and Sunny. 

Count culture: Jim Carrey calls attention to the frightful plight of the Baudelaires in 2004's film adaptation

Count culture: Jim Carrey calls attention to the frightful plight of the Baudelaires in 2004's film adaptation

Will we pick up with them again? Has Snicket unearthed more devastating tales of dread and deathly disasters? The Bind, alas, remains in the dark, and Snicket’s investigations shrouded in secrecy. “I can neither confirm nor deny that I have begun research into a new case,” is all the elusive sleuth Snicket will reveal, “and I can neither confirm nor deny that the results are as dreadful and unnerving as A Series of Unfortunate Events.”

Reader, you have been warned.

Retro pattern fiends and curtain makers rejoice! Those lovely people at the Victoria & Albert Museum have thrown open their archives of prints, wallpapers and textiles and laid the dusted-down innards bare in the V&A Pattern book series. The first four installments are published this month.

These four titles cover (pictured above, L-R) the mind-boggling creations of  ‘Digital Pioneers’, the stunning style of ‘The Fifties’, exotic and sensuous ‘Indian Florals’ and the eye-popping patterns *swoon* of ‘William Morris‘.

William Morris's 'Single Stem' print

William Morris's 'Single Stem' print

The first to find its way into my loving arms (and my disc drive – each book is accompanied by a CD of all the images featured in it) will surely be the tome of Morris’s treasure. All those muted twisted thistles and lolloping leaves remind me of childhood mornings, lying in bed in my grandparents’ spare room and visually picking apart the gradually brightening patterns printed on the curtains while waiting for the signal (the bright tinkle of the bell on Sian the Cairn Terrier’s collar) that it was no longer too early to get up, trot downstairs and empty the contents of the Fimo box out on the kitchen table.

One of the V&A's Indian Patterns

One of the V&A's Indian Patterns

Check out the chintz for yourself with the limited-edition boxed set for £30 (the books are available individually for £7.99) from the new V&A Bookshop, the V&A Museum’s shop or online.

Photo: Steve Forrest/Rex Features

Photo: Steve Forrest/Rex Features

Britain’s best-loved bookish eccentric, techy Twitterer and fantasy uncle (imagine the Christmas party games!) Stephen Fry has long worn his Oscar Wilde-loving heart on his sleeve. Brian Gilbert’s 1997 film Wilde saw Fry cast as the exuberant author, and recently he noted the formative influence of Wilde’s work in his navigating that pot-hole riddled road between awkward adolescence and a more assured adulthood relatively unbruised.


In 1973, a 16-year-old Stephen Fry penned a letter to his middle-aged self (published in 1997’s autobiography Moab is my Washpot) and in response to his teenage self Fry recently wrote, via The Guardian:

“I know what you are doing now, young Stephen. It’s early 1973. You are in the library, cross-referencing bibliographies so that you can find more and more examples of queer people in history, art and literature against whom you can hope to validate yourself. Leonardo, Tchaikovsky, Wilde, Barons Corvo and von Gloeden… So many great spirits really do confirm that hope! It emboldens you to know that such a number of brilliant (if often doomed) souls shared the same impulse and desires as you.”

And now Fry’s calling the rest of us over to the Wilde side with him, having just selected his favourite Oscar Wilde stories for a new collection acquired by Harper Collins. The collection’s as yet untitled, but The Bind gathers that it’s due to be published in October, in hardback (yum) and in addition to 33 mouth-watering illustrations by Nicole Stewart. Fry will also be penning a general introduction to the collection, and foreword to each of the stories.

Oh, and as if we needed any more reason to launch efforts to trace our lineage to the Fry family tree, today saw the kick-off of the second series of Fry’s English Delight on Radio 4. The programme title? ‘So Wrong it’s Right’. In reference to my level of excitability over your new show, Stephen, how very correct you are.