‘Tis the season…

… for gifting!

This year I took part in the Persephone Secret Santa, courtesy of Claire at http://www.paperback-reader.co.uk/

I love giving (and receiving!) gifts – especially books, and Persephone’s rare and beautiful classic novels are just the perfect gifting material. I fell in love with Persephone books recently (again courtesy of Claire) and up until last week the below three books were the only Persephones I owned (still – yes, you guessed it – courtesy of Claire). Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is still by far the best book I’ve read in years.

Now, thanks to co-organiser Verity of http://cardigangirlverity.blogspot.com/ I am the proud owner of Mariana by Monica Dickens and can’t wait to curl up in a corner, cosied-up beneath blankets and cardigans, and become lost in another world. Verity also sent me a gorgeous advent calendar (and mini jigsaw!) featuring book covers, and it has been the envy of all around me at work, hung beside my desk! Thank you, Verity!

And this may give away the “Secret” nature of the “Secret Santa” game entirely, but I must apologise (again) for the fact that my recipient is, in fact, not yet a recipient. Christmas is glorious, but also prone to be riddled with disasters – including locking oneself out of one’s house!

Merry Christmas to all (and Persephone book lovers in particular)


“If You Shall Chance, Camillo, to Visit Bohemia…”

“… you shall see… great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia.”

“Publicity? Oh.”
This probably wasn’t the response that the nice HR people were expecting when they rang to tell me about the placement they were offering me at Random House. Neither was it the response I intended to give, it was just that I’d never really considered that area of publishing before. But the next minute I was jumping at the opportunity, and I’m so glad that I did!

Many people think that publicity is super glamorous: hanging out with authors all day long, organising signings and tours and attending awards ceremonies. And of course, that is part of it, but what lies behind the glam, back in the office, is a lot of hard work, organising, correspondence, research, filing… No day has been the same these last three weeks. I’ve often begun my mornings by searching through all the various newspapers, hunting for reviews of books published by our various imprints (and becoming very well versed on current affairs at the same time). Then I might send uncorrected proof copies, or the finished article, in mailings to reviewers (trying to read the books as I go!), forward fan mail and general post to the relevant authors, or even design flyers for bookshop events. I was privileged enough to sit in on a marketing meeting and I haven’t looked at books in shops the same since I walked out the room. Discussions centred around books being published next year, the best marketing strategies, predicted sales, the best jacket design/ blurb terminology, and I now judge books by their covers more critically than I ever did before. I even catch myself watching people in bookshops: wondering what they’re picking up and why.

I haven’t met anyone famous (although I was, on separate occasions, rewarded by the site of Jonathan Powell and Sam Willetts across the office – check out their work if you’re unfamiliar), but I have read a fantastic novel that’s not due out until February next year. Beyond saying Half of the Human Race is brilliant I can say no more, but expect to have me bombarding everyone I know with recommendations for it come 2011. Neither have I been to any award ceremonies (although the Galaxy Book Awards were held last week, and Random House did very well – prizes for Terry Pratchett, Martin Amis, Edmund de Waal amongst others), but I have learnt heaps, had my knowledge of the whole publishing process widened, conquered my feeling of being like a country mouse in the big town, AND been surrounded by mountains of books all day long. It’s been something of a three-week dream for me. And I’m sure that if asked again then my answer would be, “Publicity? Yes please!


“I Learn in this Letter…”

Since university I have done very little reading. The weeks after my finals I think I did none at all. Then, over the lazy summer months I read nothing but trash- quick and easy, but highly enjoyable, fictional trash. Novels I didn’t have to analyse so could just guiltily inhale in the knowledge that the plots were predictable but fun, and that my professors would scorn me – but from a distance, as they had no power over me anymore. Georgette Heyer, Philippa Gregory, Sharon Penman, J K Rowling (again)… Once I’d recovered from the worry that my English Literature BA had killed my love of reading, my ability to endure it and stick with somewhat not always likeable characters for more than 300 pages, and the perseverance to resist the tempting face of other pastimes – such as rather interesting television, I began to rack up bills in bookshops, buying more varied modern classics, poetry, even non-fiction. Whilst I was reading Dickens, Gaskell, Hardy, Shakespeare, Tolstoy (ok, so maybe I didn’t actually ready Tolstoy), the Man Booker prize winners and nominees passed me by (until I bought Hilary Mantel for my mother for Christmas and she raved about it for weeks). I finally discovered Margaret Atwood and devoured The Handmaid’s Tale in 48 hours. It was completely not what I expected, but it gripped me and wouldn’t let go, which was exactly what I needed. I’ve since bought The Penelopiad and am hoping it will be just as rewarding. The Reluctant Fundamentalist followed suit, thought-provoking and fast-moving, its ending left me undecided and challenged, if not a little confused. But because I didn’t have to discuss it for hours in a seminar, I revelled in it and moved on. I’m a sucker for pretty hardbacks (I’m afraid I do quite often judge a book by its cover) so bought The Diary of a Provincial Lady for its gorgeous floral front, without knowing much more about it than the review in the shop, but read it travelling to and from London on the train whilst working for Dorling Kindersley, its epistolary, epilogue style being perfect for commuter journeys. Brideshead Revisited kept me in touch with more “classic” classics and made me nostalgic for university (and long gone eras) and I acquired The Misanthrope after seeing the recent stage production with Damian Lewis and Keira Knightley. Currently I’m buried deep within Angela Carter’s Fairy Tales, luxuriating in the fact that they echo a childlike feeling within me and yet they’re oh so grown up. And I am once again excited about the fact that I have lots of books to read…

(“Much Ado About Nothing”)