Brief and trivial

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Nobody gave me the correct answer to the question of which novel my fictional book group was discussing in A Spoke In The Wheel.

I can’t say that I’m surprised. It was in fact North Face, which is the last novel that Mary Renault wrote before giving up on writing about straight people and moving to South Africa. The rest of this post will contain spoilers, because I feel that I probably ought to explain a little.

The unpleasant hero is Neil Langton, who spends the whole book alternately mansplaining, manpaining, and trying to persuade the unfortunate Ellen that she ought to sleep with and/or marry him for her own good.

He achieves both.

The biscuits are metaphorical – well, a simile, really, and a very odd simile it is, too.

So far he had brought her; if it seemed well to him that she should part with her virginity as a casual epilogue, after an exhausting emotional crisis, in the abrupt and flickering desire of weariness – a satisfaction as brief and trivial as the biscuit which, wakeful, one reaches from the bedside tin – then this must be the perfect, the only possible thing, and she would embrace it gladly.

Sexy, no? No.

As for the incest, I still can’t work out whether we’re meant to think the reason that Ellen wasn’t attracted to her (now deceased) childhood friend Jock is because of the Westermarck effect, or because he literally was her brother. So it actually isn’t as incestuous as the book group made it sound. Or is it?

On a less baffling note, the winners of the giveaway, as determined by Random.org, are VivieH and joannechillhouse. I will be emailing you for your addresses.

The picture, by the way, shows the north face of the Eiger as seen from the train at Kleine Scheidegg, and rather appropriately obscured by the weather.

National Reading Group Day giveaway

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Apparently it’s National Reading Group Day. For the next three hours, anyway. I thought about celebrating by putting together a set of reading group questions for each of my books, but I’ve yet to come across a group that actually uses those. In my experience most people are quite capable of talking about what did and didn’t work for them.

One reading group I used to belong to didn’t always get around to talking about the book at all, but I think that was an extreme case.

Instead, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that there is a book group in my latest book, A Spoke In The Wheel. As the old meme (almost) says, I put a book in your book, so you can read while you read… The book group aside, A Spoke In The Wheel is the story of what happens when a disgraced professional cyclist meets a disabled cycling fan; a story of assumptions, of redemption, and of coming to terms with one’s own limitations. And to give you that opportunity to read it, I’m hosting a giveaway.

The book group scene is below. They’re talking about a real book. It isn’t by Ian McEwan, despite what Polly thinks. The first person to identify the book wins a copy. Anyone who comments here with a guess that turns out to be incorrect will be entered into a draw for a second copy.

In short:

  • leave a comment on this post with the title and author of the book that you think this reading group might be discussing
  • the first person to guess correctly wins a copy
  • people who guessed incorrectly are entered into a draw for a second copy
  • if no one guesses correctly then I’ll draw for both copies from the incorrect guesses
  • if you have no idea, take a wild guess. What’s the worst that could happen?
  • this draw will take place on Saturday 23 June
  • I am prepared to send the prizes anywhere in the world

Those present at the discussion that inspired this (they know who they are) will not be eligible. If they feel hard done by they should comment with an alternative book, and if I find their suggestion sufficiently amusing I might enter them into the draw anyway.

 

Vicky texted me later in the day to say that she’d been sent home ill by her boss (who clearly wasn’t such a sadist as she’d made out) and could I pick Polly up on my way home. It seemed that one of Polly’s church ladies was going to drop her off at the Three Bottles after some event, and Vicki was going to pick her up when she got home from work. Quite why the church lady couldn’t take her all the way home I couldn’t work out, but since it wasn’t really any of my business I didn’t ask, just texted back to say that would be no problem. And, because I had a headache, felt slightly virtuous about it.

The Three Bottles was quite lively for a week night. I eventually found Polly at a small table behind a very rowdy book group. The substitution of me for Vicki didn’t seem to be a particular disappointment, so she’d evidently been warned.

She motioned me to sit down, and murmured, ‘I’ve been eavesdropping for the last quarter of an hour. They’ve established that the biscuits were metaphorical, but they can’t work out whether or not the incest was literal.’

‘What on earth are they reading?’ I kept my voice down too, though it was hardly necessary.

‘I’m not sure. I haven’t been able to catch sight of the book. It sounds vaguely like Ian McEwan, but I don’t think it’s one I’ve read, if so. The biscuits don’t sound right. Though the whole group seems to want to stab the hero in the face, which does.’

‘Right,’ I said. I still hadn’t put anything on my new library card, and whatever this book was, it didn’t seem like a very good place to start. ‘What about a drink?’ I offered. Now that I was inside, in the warm, I was reluctant to go out into the rain. My headache was getting worse, though; I hoped I wasn’t coming down with Vicki’s cold. I told myself that it was probably just dehydration.

She smiled. ‘Yeah, why not?’

‘What’s yours?’

‘Orange juice, please.’

I went to the bar. My timing was bad: two of the women from the book club had got up just before me, and were putting in an order for their entire table. I thought I heard someone say my name, but when I looked around nobody seemed to be trying to get my attention. The place was crowded; I’d obviously been mistaken.

 

The first thing I saw was the wheelchair.

The first thing she saw was the doper.

Ben Goddard is an embarrassment – as a cyclist, as an athlete, as a human being. And he knows it.

Now that he’s been exposed by a positive drugs test, his race wins and his work with disabled children mean nothing. He quits professional cycling in a hurry, sticks a pin in a map, and sets out to build a new life in a town where nobody knows who he is or what he’s done.

But when the first person he meets turns out to be a cycling fan, he finds out that it’s not going to be quite as easy as that.

Besides, Polly’s not just a cycling fan, she’s a former medical student with a chronic illness and strong opinions. Particularly when it comes to Ben Goddard…

Celebratory giveaway

I am still celebrating Speak Its Name being shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize.

When I first heard the news, I got a glass of red wine for myself and a glass of Estrella Galicia for my brother.

When the news went public, a week later, we went out for dinner and I got a bottle of white Rioja. (This was a mistake. I’ve drunk and liked white Riojas in the past, but this one was disgustingly sweet. Perhaps the name – Diamante – should have been a clue.)

When I told my team at work I bought cake.

Now I’m celebrating with a giveaway at Goodreads. Wander over there if you’d like to be in with a shot at winning a copy of my book. Some people whose work I admire very much thought it was rather good…

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Speak Its Name by Kathleen Jowitt

Speak Its Name

by Kathleen Jowitt

Giveaway ends June 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Books! A giveaway! My youth!

I am giving away one of these books. Scroll to the bottom of the post for details!

I am giving away one of these books. Scroll to the bottom of the post for details of how to enter.

A novel about being queer and Christian at university – about faith, love, doubt and integrity. Read more here, or scroll to the bottom of the post for the giveaway.

Self-publishing in the nineties was grim. I know because both my parents did it. ‘Nobody’ wants to read about queer Christians now, and ‘nobody’ wanted to read about the physiological aspect of childbirth, or look at pictures of buses with passers-by getting in the way of the fleet number then. Doing It Yourself runs in the family. The kitchen table was perpetually shrouded in pencilled layouts for the next coffee table bus book, or hand-drawn diagrams of the hormone process in childbirth.

There was a corridor you couldn’t get through because of the huge bale of bubble wrap. There was a stack of corrugated cardboard that was taller than I was.

And there were books. There were books in the shed; there were books under the stairs. I’m pretty sure there were books in my brother’s bedroom.

There are still books. My parents have moved house four times between them since the last self-published book came out, and I have tripped over cardboard boxes of The Girl In The Street or shrink-wrapped bales of Childbirth Unmasked in every one of those houses.

The lovely thing about Lulu is not having to bother with all that. So far as I’m concerned, everything involved in the publishing process has happened within a square metre footprint. There’s me, and there’s my computer. If someone wants a book, they order it from Lulu (or, as of this lunchtime, Amazon) and someone who isn’t me gets it printed and posts it. It doesn’t go anywhere near me, and I have no boxes to deal with.

(The writing is a different matter, happening as it quite often does at seventy miles an hour, or in a park, or, for one blissful week, in a huge dormitory that I had all to myself. But the exercise books and the archaic Asus Eee on which I actually do the writing take up a lot less space.)

Having said all that, I discovered today that possessing a modest stack of books with my name on is a very good feeling. A lot of the books in the picture have been posted to the people named on the acknowledgements page, and the British Library, and other worthies. But not all of them. For a start, one of them is destined for one of you blog readers.

Leave a comment on this post to enter the giveaway. On 19 February I will use a random number generator to select one of the comments, and I will send a paperback copy of Speak Its Name to the person who left it. No matter where they are in the world.

And the winner is… madhat2014! Congratulations!