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The only thing I enjoy more than reading books is talking about them. It’s fascinating to hear what other readers think, how our perceptions of the same narrative can vary and even lead to passionate disagreement – or its opposite. I also love conversations with the books’ authors, as a window into the sources of the stories they tell, and how they choose to do it.
Books have been at the core of my professional life in many different ways – as editor, literary scout, author – and in this podcast, I try to use this experience to produce a vibrant mix of conversations about books we are all excited to read today.
In this first episode, we feature bestselling novelist Salley Vickers and her new novel The Librarian (Viking). Set in the 1950s, it is the story of a young woman, Sylvia Blackwell, who takes up a post in a children’s library in a small English town and ends up dramatically influencing the lives of several children (as well as her own). As Salley Vickers says in our interview, ‘Lives are changed by the books people read’. Listen to her passionate take on the impact of children’s books on their imagination, and her memories of growing up in the 1950s, ‘a time of poverty, and hope’. The Librarian is a novel like a deceptively calm river: quiet on the surface, but with dangerous undercurrents. You can find this interview at 08:12 of the podcast.
I love short stories, so it was a special pleasure to report directly from the Sunday Times EFG Story Award ceremony (https://shortstoryaward.co.uk). We interviewed a few judges (Sunday Times Literary Editor Andrew Holgate, novelist Tessa Hadley), and the winner, American writer Courtney Zoffness (23:45 of the podcast). You can read her powerful winning story Peanuts Aren’t Nuts, about a young girl’s infatuation with her tutor who may not be the nice man he seems, here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/peanuts-arent-nuts-by-courtney-zoffness-the-2018-winner-of-the-30-000-sunday-times-efg-short-story-award-38n8b0m8k
Both judges agreed (with each other, and with us) that there should be more outlets in the UK for publishing short stories. And Tessa Hadley revealed an interesting secret about her first novel, Accidents in the Home: it was originally a short story. Listen to the podcast to hear about Courtney Zoffness’s plans to turn her own story into a novel!
Our podcast will feature beautiful readings by actors, and in this first one, Tim Dewberry (you may have seen him in the final episode of War and Peace on BBC One!) reads from a 1950s rediscovered classic novella My Face for the World to See by Alfred Hayes (37:46 in the LoveReading podcast). Originally published in 1958, it is now a Penguin Modern Classic, and was also published by New Review of Books Classics. This makes me very happy, because I have been in love with this little gem for decades. I hope many readers will now fall in love with it, too (again!). My Face for the World to See begins with a film-like scene: at a Hollywood party in a house by the beach, a cynical, jaded screenwriter, bored by the party, by Hollywood, and by his own life and marriage, watches a very young woman walk into the sea, cocktail glass in hand. He rescues her from drowning, and they continue to meet afterwards. A relationship develops between them, with a surprising psychological twist: despite her own fragile state of mind and cruel treatment by Hollywood, the young wannabe actress ends up rescuing the older man from his own despair. This beautifully written novel is full of gentle but unforgettable nuance, with a timelessness that is particularly interesting in our era of #metoo. I hope you fall in love with it, too.
I’m also thrilled to host conversations with literary journalists and publishing professionals on our podcast, to hear their own views on books they are reading, and to share their insights about how books are actually created. Literary agent Gaia Banks (Sheil, Land) is our guest on Where Books Come From. Listen to her wonderful top three tips on writing and getting published from 43:28 in the podcast! And Lucy Scholes, who writes about books, art and culture for a variety of publications, including Financial Times, the Observer, and others, talks to us about her Book Post - a lively preview of books she has received and looks forward to reading and reviewing. On her list this month are new titles by Sheila Heti (Motherhood, Harvill Secker), Rachel Cusk (Kudos, Faber), Jade Sharma (Problems, Tramp Press) and Margo Jefferson (On Michael Jackson, Granta). You can find our talk with Lucy at 00:31 of the Podcast.
We hope you’ll enjoy the new LoveReading Podcast. It is created with the help and suggestions from our staff and expert reviewers, as an essential part of our website. I am delighted to plan and present it, with creative input from Katherine Stroud and the expertise and musical talent from our producer Alex Rayment. Katherine, who has worked in publishing for many years, says: ‘Being involved in the LoveReading Podcast allows me to indulge in two of my biggest passions, words and people, to create a unique, lively and entertaining programme which I hope engaged readers will love!’
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This podcast is here to make your reading life even more fun.
Book Post with Lucy Scholes
Salley Vickers Interview
Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award: Andrew Holgate, Tessa Hadley, Courtney Zoffness
My Face For the World to See by Alfred Hayes, read by Tim Dewberry
Where Books Come From with literary agent Gaia Banks