My copy of ‘newbooks’ magazine arrived the other day. This is perhaps the one magazine that I always read from cover to cover. The editorial highlights the changes in publishing in the last decades with
… the conglomeration first of publishing houses and then bookselling, and the negative contribution made by literary agents pedalling a ‘stifling excess of lucrative junk’, hand-in-hand with Google and Amazon’s rapid growth in influence. … ‘No one can predict how books and readers will survive.
The trend seems to be away from books in print, with not only independent bookshops dwindling but also the high street bookshops in decline, towards the on-line digital era. Whilst this is something that has been debated extensively online before, it did strike me that this could mean that in future magazines like ‘newbooks’ would not be issued physically but only available on line and how would I like that?
Well, I wouldn’t – I like it dropping through the letterbox onto the doormat and then flicking through its pages before settling down to read it. Maybe there won’t be any letterboxes in future – everything will be done online? I have no problem with reading somethings online – after all I write this blog and read lots of other blogs quite happily. But I’m not up to reading whole books on screen, nor do I want to print them off and read them that way and the same goes for magazines – I want the physical object – books in print please. Although I do buy some books from online boksellers I prefer to go to a bookshop and browse the books. So I hope the complete change doesn’t come soon.
In the meantime I’m happy reading and choosing which book to pick as my free book from ‘newbooks’. Will it be An Equal Stillness by Francesca Kay, The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday, Antigona and Me by Kate Clanchy, The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark, or The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery?
Mog commented on my previous post that she has chosen The Book of Unholy Mischief and I’m very tempted by that one too. It’s set in Venice in 1498, where an ancient book, rumoured to contain heresies and secrets of immeasurable power, is hidden. Luciano, a chef’s apprentice in the doge’s palace is drawn into the search leading him into a perilous maze to the centre of an intrigue concerning some of the most powerful and dangerous men in Venice.
I’m also drawn to The Girl on the Landing, which is about Michael and his wife Elizabeth. Michael spots a painting whilst staying at a friend’s country house in Ireland. In the background of the painting he see a woman clad in a dark green dress, except his hosts say there is no woman in the picture and indeed when he looks again she is not there.
There is also an interview with Paul Torday in the magazine in which Zoe Fairbairns reveals that its the nature of Britishness and Englishness that is debated furiously in this book as Michael, on medication which he then refuses to take, plummets towards breakdown. She writes:
If identity and personality are so fragile, how can anyone said to be ‘truly’ British, ‘truly’ anything? It’s disturbing stuff, but compulsively readable, which is what Torday wants: ‘My perfect reader is someone who picks the book up and goes on reading it until it’s late at night.’
That could be me!