Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Scott Prize shortlist

The shortlist for the 2012 Salt Publishing Scott Prize has recently been announced - so, being one of last year's winners, I just wanted to say a quick congrats and good luck to the 11 who have made the cut. You can see who they are here. I recognise a few names on there so it's going to be really interesting to find out who the winner is, when the decision is made around April. If you want to find out more about each shortlistee, Salt are running a series of interviews on their blog - click here and look at the blog post list on the right-hand side for #ScottPrize - The Shortlist in Profile. There's a few on there already, more to come. So good luck everyone. From the story extracts I've seen so far, it looks like it's going to be a tough year.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The woman who sniffs books

You might have heard of 'cooking the books' but have you heard of 'smelling the books'? Well, apparently, this is just the kind of thing Rachael Morrison likes to do.

I first heard about Rachael, a senior library assistant at The Museum of Modern Art Library (MoMA), in an episode of Alan Yentob's arts programme 'Imagine'. In the programme, she explained that she is hoping to sniff every book in the MoMA Library collection and document what each one smells like - recording her findings in a ledger.

The book sniffing challenge, though, is not part of her day job - Rachael is also an artist. What she's actually doing, alongside her regular work, is creating a piece of performance art called 'Smelling the Books'.

In an article on the MoMA blog, Rachael says this 'personal olfactory exploration is to foster a discussion of the future of print media, the ways we read, methods of classification, and the way in which smell is entwined with memory.'

So far she has managed to sniff her way through a few of the 300,000 books she plans to. But she's already documented a surprising range of smells - anything from nail polish, sun tan lotion and dirty socks to smoke, late summer rain and armpit.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Bookshop buzz

There seems to be a bit of a buzz about bookshops at the moment - those independents which are bursting with individuality and character as well as offering a great selection of reads. The first thing I noticed was The Guardian's Independent Bookshop guide back in September. Then there was a post by Jen Campbell saying she wanted to write a series of 'spotlights' to help spread 'the joy of physical bookshops'. You can read the first of her posts about Ripping Yarns here, the bookshop where Jen herself works.

Then there was this on Flavorwire showing photos of what were declared to be 'The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World'. Of these my own particular favourites are Barter Books, Alnwick, the famous Shakespeare & Company in Paris and the Cafebreria El Pendulo, in Mexico City, Mexico, with its stacks of books, greenery and a winding staircase. I can only hope I get to see a few of them in the flesh one day, if not all of them.

Following on from this, Sarah Crown in The Guardian took the Flavorwire piece as a starting point for a post about her own favourite bookshops while encouraging readers to nominate theirs. The Guardian has since set up a Flickr group so people can share photos of those shops most dearest to them.

As for me, a beautiful bookshop I've visited recently is The Whitby Bookshop with its great selection of books, audiobooks, cards and gifts.

It's a fairly small shop over two floors - with a lovely, creaky, wooden staircase up to the next level - but I still managed to spend a good hour or so in there browsing. And there were plenty of bargains to be had among the more expensive books. I think I spent just over £10 and came away with a couple of books (one of which was a hardback) as well as two audiobooks. So if you're in Whitby it's well worth going in for a visit on your way to the Abbey. (Pop into Sherlocks for tea and cake while you're there too.)

One of my favourite bookshops is from the world of film. It's the Pageant Book & Print Shop which makes an appearance in Woody Allen's film 'Hannah and her Sisters'. Have a look at it here in this key scene (and keep watching to hear Barbara Hershey's wonderful reading of an ee cummings poem). It was a real shop at the time of filming but sadly it appears to be just a virtual one now.

But what's causing the buzz? Are we suddenly realising how precious such places are to us and how easily they could disappear if we don't visit them? Are we addicted to the thrill of discovery, which only really comes when running your eyes along rows and rows of book spines? Are we just desperate for the physical experience of picking up one book after another and flicking through them before deciding whether we want to buy or not? Have we already grown tired of online bookshops because they can only offer us products and not an experience? I'd love to hear what you think.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Interview and competition

I was interviewed over on Jen Campbell's blog this week so if you fancy a read click here. Jen's also running a competition and the winner will receive a copy of my collection. To be in with a chance of winning all you have to do is leave a comment below the interview.