Thursday, 30 July 2009

Summer with the Dead

Another insane Amazon recommendation!

Greetings from Amazon.co.uk,

As someone who has purchased or rated Dubliners by James Joyce, you might like to know that Summer with Horses (White Cloud Station) is now available. You can order yours for just £4.99 by following the link below.

Summer with Horses (White Cloud Station)Summer with Horses (White Cloud Station)
Trudy Nicholson
Price:£4.99
Pre-order now!

Product Description
Suzy, Lucy and Alexa are spending their summer holidays at the beach, enjoying the freedom of time alone with their horses. But a near tragedy involving Suzy’s beloved horse Ripple introduces a new friend into their lives and gives Suzy the opportunity to revisit White Cloud Station.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Hooked

A short but enthusiastic review of Little Monsters has just popped up on Book Addicts Anonymous. You can read it, should you so wish, here.

Spam alert

Sorry, but I've had to put moderation back on the comments after a new wave of ideograms from someone called sexy. Oh dear.

Celebrity

I've been thinking about celebrity these past few days. Not the kind that 'iconises' and manipulates and destroys, Michael Jackson style; something much smaller, even laughably so, and closer to home. You may have noticed a few posts down that a local paper decided I was worth a page of its time. Latina Oggi sells around 9,000 copies a day, so it's hardly life-changing to be interviewed by it, even if you do make the second page of the home-town edition. As I said before, I knew nothing about the article until I was stopped by my local newsagent, who thanked me. What for? I asked. For the interview? What interview? And so on. I bought a couple of copies and came home to read it. It was based on a piece I wrote about Fondi last year for the Sunday Telegraph and whatever information the journalist had managed to glean from the net. There were some pretty dreadful translations in it, the kind people produce when they concentrate so much on understanding the other language they forget their own: 'orange-coloured trees' for 'orange trees'; 'fruit shops' for 'local fruit'. There were one or two moments of pure invention, such as that I've written for TV (I wish) or that I was spotted in the main street by a group of young people who recognised me as 'their favourite author' - unlikely at the best of times, and particularly so in Italy, where nothing of mine, apart from two poems over twenty years ago, has ever been published. Still, on the whole, I was pleased with and amused by the attention and thought the whole idea of an 'interview' conducted without my knowedge or agreement a bit of harmless fun. This continued over the following days, when people I knew stopped me in the street to thank me, as the newsagent had done, for having spoken well of Fondi at a time when most references to the town link it, with some justice, to the Mafia. And, really, that was it. Until I had dinner with some friends last Saturday.

There were four guests, two Italian, two English. The English friends, like me, have both lived here in Italy for several decades, and the language of the table was Italian. We'd all had a fair bit to drink by the time the article was mentioned. One of our English friends - Jane - hadn't seen it, so it was duly produced and read out, to general hilarity. At the end, though, Roberto - a film and TV director - asked me what I was going to do about the mistakes in it. Initially, I thought he was joking. But he was quite serious. It had never occurred to me that the article had any weight beyond the ephemeral fact of its local publication. He was startled. You work in communication, he said. You know full well that sooner or later someone will google you and find this article and assume that everything in it is true. They'll do that anyway, I said. But I also said that no serious journalist would regard as authoritative an article that talked about orange-coloured trees. Don't be naive, he said. Besides, this article has appeared in a paper with a specific readership (local, right of centre) and purpose (to make Fondi look good as it's battered by accusations of Mafia infiltration), neither of which you'd normally consider sympathetic. People will assume you've given this piece the thumbs-up knowing its context, he said, and Renata, who also writes for TV, agreed. Suddenly, my harmless bit of fun began to look less harmless. But I don't care one jot about local opinion, I protested. Besides, I added, adopting the classic Billie Bunter line of defence, everyone likes it. But you're public now, Roberto said, whether you like it or not. You need to be able to control what's said about you. But it's only a local paper, I insisted. Everyone will have forgotten about it in a week's time. Not if they google your name and Fondi, Roberto and Renata said. My English friends disagreed, taking my line that it didn't matter. And of course they were wrong and Roberto and Renata were right. Type in Charles Lambert and Fondi and the article is the first thing to appear, in Italian, and the fifth overall. It exists. It claims to be an interview, or to be based on an interview, with me. It represents me in a way over which I have no control. It's canonical.

And it occurred to me later, as I thought about why, despite this, I still didn't want to write to Latina Oggi and complain about the inaccuracies and the downright lies, that my reluctance wasn't just to do with a feeling that I'd be letting down all those people who'd been so pleased to see someone say a few good things about their town, in which I happen to live and about which I happened to write an article, to raise my profile, a year ago. That feeling was certainly present, and it may have been what persuaded at least one of my two English friends, Sally, who also lives here in Fondi, to think it better not to react. It marked an acceptance that we, as foreigners in a small town, necessarily value, or should value. Because isn't that the charm of small foreign towns - that they eventually succumb to us? But my line of argument at dinner was that I didn't want to correct the article because I didn't care what people thought about me, because Fondi is not my town, and because I neither have nor want to have a town that's mine. And that's much closer to the truth.

The more I think about it the more I realise that what split the table into two along essentially nationalist lines is that for me, and for my English friends, what Italian journalists write in their papers isn't quite real, just as bad language in Italian isn't quite real - the weight of it eludes us. This is partly the result of the objective shoddiness of much Italian journalism, but it goes deeper than that. Italian papers are as unreal and inessential to us as they are real, and essential, and capable of bearing and creating value, to our Italian friends. I'm not sure what this says about celebrity, but it seems to have the same ironic relationship to the phenomenon as whoever it was called their band Big in Japan. As if it mattered.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Chillingly close

Want to read a highly skilled hatchet job of the first paragraph of the Da Vinci Code? Of course you do. Not because you're jealous of the book's success and the enormous earnings of Dan Brown, of course. Or the fact that two extremely successful films have been made from his dreadful books. Or the imminent arrival of a new one.

But because you love language.

Right. So here it is. Enjoy.

Cracking collection

I just want to direct your attention to a great new reader's review of The Scent of Cinnamon on Amazon UK. It's by Brummie Reader, and it's a beauty!

Now it's your turn.

Pester, pester, pester.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Drinking through nose

If you think human rights are an optional, you should sign up to New York University Law School and the courses of its new Professor of Human Rights, Dr. Li-ann Thio, scheduled for this autumn. Want to know why? Click here.

(Immediate update. So few people enrolled for her course that it's been dropped. Which apparently makes her a victim...)

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Music: MPHO sings Running up that Hill

I love this song, and I love this woman's voice, but I'm not sure about
the arrangement. What do you think?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Succour, always succour

No dears, he's broken his wrist.....

(My thanks for this wonderful image to Miss Magnolia Thunderpussy.)

big fish small pond

Well, I'm suddenly a big fish in a small pond, specifically the whole of the second page of the very local edition of the local newspaper, Latina Oggi. A journalist called Maria Sole Galeazzi claims - erroneously - to have interviewed me and has cobbled together an article from my Sunday Telegraph piece on Fondi last year and various other sources. It's not brilliantly done - the translation often makes no sense at all - but it's still very flattering. At one point she says that I'm not the 'usual VIP' but an 'important name in the current European literary scene', which is news to me. If only it were true.

If you read Italian and would like to enjoy the whole thing, click here.

One hand clapping

You've been waiting for me to post some nasty little comment about the Pope's fractured wrist, haven't you? Some spiked gratuitous remark about repetitive strain injury. A snide reference to the lovely Georg, at the holy one's side. The fact that it was the first story on the national TV news here in Italy. Maybe a jibe about the speeding nun, with the two in the back, rushing to succour his infallibility in what the Guardian bizarrely calls a 'mercy dash'. Well, I'm sorry, but I'm going to disappoint you. This post is merely to announce that I've finished a short story that's been on the boil for some time and that I'm very happy with it. Thank you.

His right wrist. Hmm. No more Roman salutes for a while then, Benny?

Friday, 10 July 2009

The face of factual

I'm not a Strictly Come Dancing fan - I prefer reality shows that incarcerate the contestants and reduce them to a state of ratlike desperation - but my heart bled a little for Arlene Phillips today when I saw that she'd been sacked from the jury. No, I didn't love Hot Gossip - on the contrary. And I didn't much enjoy her tritely alliterative, overworked comments on the odd occasions I did see the programme. But surely even she didn't deserve the comments made by the woman who gave her the boot. BBC1 controller (brr...) Jay Hunt defended the decision by saying the show needed a 'different flavour', presumably newspeak for 'younger woman', and then went on to say, in some appallingly misplaced attempt at reparation: "Of course Arlene is disappointed. But critically she is incredibly excited about moving to The One Show. She knows at some point she is going to need to do something different with her career and this gives her the opportunity to become a face of factual on the channel and to be absolutely at the heart of what BBC1 does". "Critically"? "Incredibly excited" to be moved from the most popular Saturday evening show to a programme I surely can't be the only person never to have heard of - where, "critically", she will be expected to comment on the show she's just been dumped by? But even these horrors pale beside "the face of factual". Can anything be done to help this woman? No, not Arlene Phillips (66). Jay Hunt.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Patriotism, or not

Feeling British? Try this UK citizenship test. I'm applying for an Italian passport before MI6 gets hold of my results.

My thanks for this to Marie Phillips, aka The Woman who Talked too Much. (She didn't do that well either...)

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Salt news

Salt Publishing's campaign to stay in business by publishing great books moves into its second phase. The situation has improved dramatically thanks to the Just One Book campaign, but the war still hasn't been won and Salt continues to need all the support it can get. If you haven't bought a book yet, go to their site and find something that takes your fancy. You won't regret it. If you have bought something, here's what Chris, of Salt, has to say:

How You Can Help Us

We need to keep Salt in the public eye. Here's how you can help. If you've bought a book from Salt and you enjoyed it please continue to support us by doing two important things (they're both free):

1. Firstly, tell your friends about the Salt title you enjoyed. Recommend it to them. Tell your friends on Twitter what you thought about it. Blog about it, if you like. Pass it on in anyway you can. Spread the word.

2. Secondly, please post a brief review of the book on Amazon to help the author. Amazon reviews do work.

Thank you for all your support. It really does matter.

Very best from me and Jen
Chris

BTW, I would love to see more reviews of The Scent of Cinnamon on Amazon. Go on. Just a couple of lines and, er, five stars... For me.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Aaah, Amazon!

Another great recommendation from Amazon! Wide Sargasso Sea = Scent of a Killer? You couldn't make it up...

Greetings from Amazon.co.uk,

As someone who has purchased or rated Wide Sargasso Sea (Penguin Modern Classics) by Jean Rhys, you might like to know that Scent of a Killer is now available. You can order yours for just £4.99 (38% off the RRP) by following the link below.

Scent of a KillerScent of a Killer
Kevin Lewis
RRP:£7.99
Price:£4.99
You Save:£3.00 (38%)
Pre-order now!

Review
'Fans of Martina Cole will love this' - Heat on, Fallen Angel 'A gritty detective story with a real heart' - Woman on, Kaitlyn 'Gripping, harrowing. A true triumph over tragedy' - Mail on Sunday on, The Kid 'Incredible. A fantastic story' - Fern Britton on, The Kid 'Devastating. I can't think of a story that is more sad or a story that it feels more essential to go on reading' - Allison Pearson, Evening Standard on, The Kid

RIP Mollie Sugden (and Wendy Richards)

Thursday, 2 July 2009

All the news that's fit to print

The blonde in the green tee-shirt is Noemi Letizia. She's the eighteen-year-old who calls Silvio Berlusconi Papi and can't decide whether to cavort on a table in her underwear or represent Italy at the European parliament (and, let's face it girls, could you?). The man standing next to her, one hand adoringly encircling her neck, is her boyfriend. His name is Domenico Cozzolino. The older couple behind them, lips pressed together as the pressure within Vesuvius slowly builds to their rear, are the happily-married parents of Noemi, Signor and Signora Letizia, enjoying a moment's intimacy. The photograph comes from a popular Italian magazine called Chi (Who).

In the preceding paragraph the first and last sentences are true. The rest of it is nonsense. Domenico Cozzolino is not, and never was, Noemi's boyfriend. He's pimped himself on afternoon TV and is now a PR. He was asked by Noemi, who'd apparently been prompted by someone else, to pretend to be having an affair with her, indeed, to be engaged to be married. Naturally, no PR worth his salt would turn down the chance to be photographed with a household name for a mass circulation magazine, even if it does mean lying through his teeth. And talking of lying, the couple of canoodlers in the background may be Noemi's parents, but they aren't usually this affectionate with each other. They're separated and have been for some time. The photograph, like the article accompanying it, is a complete fabrication. It's a lie designed to legitimate the Letizia family and their squalid dealings with the Italian prime minister. Who also happens to be the owner of Mondadori. Which happens to publish Chi.

I don't know why I bother.

The poetry of the world

A great new review for The Scent of Cinnamon, from the Law Society Journal of Australia. You can read it here. Or, if the link doesn't work and you have a magnifying glass to hand, here:

Alternatively, you can click to embiggen, as Joe My God always says.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Happy with restraint

OK, you've crossed Iran and Jamaica (and Zimbabwe and Iraq and Nigeria and...) off your list of possible holiday venues. You'd better cross off Fort Worth, Texas, too... You don't see why? Read this.