Sunday, July 13, 2014

Insider trading in the publishing industry, by Sophie Fitzpatrick

Who's Afraid of the Booker Prize?
Who’s Afraid of the Booker Prize? a novel has as its protagonist a thirty-something male called Alistair Wye, forced to attend on professional relationships in the narrow context of London and its publishing culture. Happily, I am outside that parochial little enclave, but have gleaned something of it through Peter Cowlam’s carefully honed prose. Central to that culture is the mutual destruction of public reputation, an extinction conceived as the slow strangulation of the writer’s soul. The particular soul here is a writer’s with a line into B-movie tie-ups. All other executions are committed gradually, over time, and that makes it difficult to determine who is the murderer, who is the murderee (to recycle that literary infelicity). Perhaps it doesn’t matter, when the point is the drama and not the drama’s outcome. This is certainly so for Wye, amanuensis to star literary figure Marshall Zob, who can’t seem to win the one prize he thinks should crown all other attainments (the Man Booker, to which we may now have to add the Folio). In his formal manifestation, and in terms of the stultifying British class system he operates in, Wye’s social ancestry is found in the English butler, a servile being with a good grasp and overview of everything – for Wye the literary blow or hand job, indeed any other conflation, fellation, or whatever venality public success has called for.

On the face of it, Wye is so much wiser than the cultured prigs he serves, albeit equivocally. He is shrewd and thinks tactically. His antagonist and boss Zob is but the illusion of cultured liberalism. Underneath the pretence he is uncomfortably aware that this is all a veneer, a mere marketing ploy, though it does have the benefit of stroking his sexual appetites. His one-time tutor and advocate, Dr Andrew Glaze, is deluded enough to have given his protégé the gloss of literary kudos. A series of letters that has passed between them is the monetary yardstick of their relationship, Zob deciding to flog off that material into the marketplace once his mentor has had the decency to shuffle off his coil. Wye couldn’t care much about that, and continues to dream his dreams of getaway, of high-performance cars and speedy escape.

He knows how the farce he is put upon to oversee will end. Yet he floats, amused, at a level somewhere above its ‘social decay’, a phenomenon he is closely witness to. His reflections are the satirist’s, skewed and unsentimental. The only feminists he ever seems to have encountered are career-minded solipsists (bar one, who, in a theatrical sense, is an angel). Speed and technology and contempt for the literati are the holy triad in the only art movement he is able to tolerate. The women are whorish (bar one, who, in a theatrical sense, etc.), but it’s the men who lose face or in one case have the decency to die. They are defeated, and their defeat is devoid of meaning. Now all Wye has to do is chronicle their fall in his diary, a sardonic narrative scrupulously attended to, and one expertly infolded into the letters and postcards he is tasked to catalogue, those missives penned by the faceless Zob and the dead Andrew Glaze.

It’s all a sad exercise in intellectual dishonesty and the mania for celebrity, and, depressingly, is most probably an accurate reflection of the life and writing times of a little place called London.

Sophie Fitzpatrick is a translator from Sydney, Australia, currently working in Singapore. She has an ancestral interest in Scottish independence.

Who’s Afraid of the Booker Prize? is published by CentreHouse Press, paperback, 261 pp, £9.99. See all purchase options here.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Marisa, the prose of pure sensual pleasure

Marisa, print and ebook available
As the author explains, ‘When I worked in the City (early 1990s), I encountered a great many well-meaning bigots like Bruce, hero, or anti-hero, of my novella Marisa. He is a young old fogey, but I have very kindly arranged for him, as his first serious lover, a diametric opposite in Marisa – arts polymath, feminist, socialist. I thought I’d like to see just how he gets on with that.’

Print book still available, but now also an ebook.

Marisa, by Peter Cowlam, is published by CentreHouse Press. See Kindle and all other purchase options here.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Aggie and the Ice Floe

Aggie and the Ice Floe, by Power McTeal
As children's author Power McTeal explains, 'Aggie and the Ice Floe is my adventure story about a young boy whose sleepy world is woken up to a first fall of snow. It is inspired by a trip I made recently to the Niagara Falls.'

When that young boy Aggie rushes outside to play, he doesn't expect quite the adventure the snow has brought with it, and the friendship he will form with a balloonist called Brandon, who rescues Aggie as he gets into difficulty playing on a frozen river.

The author goes on: 'I am so lucky my book is adorned with the beautiful illustrations of children's illustrator Dawn Hunter.'

The book is published by CentreHouse Press, release date 1 July 2014. Primary school age range six to nine.

Go to CentreHouse Press kids' books for all purchase options.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Peggy Seeger and the Engaged Music of Sam Richards

Peggy Seeger
Legendary folk music revivalist Peggy Seeger makes CHP author Sam Richards’ The Engaged Musician ‘a must for all musicians who wish to live and work as part of our own time and times’. She goes on, ‘It will also come to the aid of those musicians who fear they cannot work and live thus,’ musicians who find themselves and their music at insurmountable odds ‘with the rich mainstream or minor stream currents of modern cultural life. The jumping-off point for the thesis of the book is Hogarth’s painting, The Enraged Musician, the latter being infuriated and un-engaged with common street music and “noise” under his window. Just one consonant in the adjective is changed and hey presto, we have an opposite definition of the artist. He/she is now one who welcomes variety and who learns from the work of others instead of living and working in self-imposed (and, by inference, elitist) isolation. Professor Richards is a classically trained musician and composer who has steeped himself in popular, ethnic, “fringe” and experimental musics – he quotes from an astounding variety of genres. The 360-degree vision is impressive and refreshing. Richards’ tolerance, understanding, perspective, veiled humour and a minimum of jargon make this book a vital read for anyone in any of the arts.’ Peggy Seeger, December 2013

The Engaged Musician is published by CentreHouse Press. See Amazon and other purchase options here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Madness of Vivien Leigh

Two Plays
by Garry O'Connor
As playwright Garry O’Connor points out, almost half a century after Olivier opened the new National Theatre at the Old Vic, there is one figure of twentieth-century film-and-theatre fame hardly ever spoken of, yet who, it might be claimed, deserves greater recognition and the ultimate Olivier accolade. The Madness of Vivien Leigh is based on books O’Connor has written about Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Ralph Richardson. Darlings of the Gods, a main source, was first published in 1984 by Hodder & Stoughton, and filmed as a three-part mini-series five years later, scripts written by Roger Simpson and Graham Farmer, a screen collaboration between Thames Television and ABC Australia. A further source is the adaptation he later made as a novel, his first to be published, which Coronet brought out in 1989. The Madness of Vivien Leigh is now paired with one other play by O’Connor, Debussy Was My Grandfather, and is published by CentreHouse Press collectively as Debussy Was My Grandfather / The Madness of Vivien Leigh.

The book is available at Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, and most other retailers.