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Thomas Bloor

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Book Log. What exactly is it?....


I was in Norwich recently, for an author event at the Waterstones in Castle Street. This is an excellent shop if you’re looking for children’s fiction, with lots going on and the stock very well displayed. And as the name of the road suggests, the back of the shop (or is it the front?) is overlooked by the ramparts of a hilltop castle. Many thanks to the students and staff I met there for making me so welcome.

THE DRAGON AND THE WARLORD is published next month, the second of my two Barrington Stoke books to come out this year. I must get this website updated soon. I’ll include a new page for my Barrington Stoke publications and, I think, a new home page (there isn’t really a home page at present). And I think I’ll rename this Book Log. Not sure what to call it yet however.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

By THEIF I, of course, mean THIEF. Annoying how spell-check doesn't work with capital letters.

Welcome to the book log. It contains various things.

Well, I haven’t read much in the way of children’s fiction lately. But I’ve read a lot of other books that I felt were very good for one reason or another. These include DRESDEN by Frederick Taylor, a pice of non-fiction about the terrible firestorm created there by allied bombers in February 1945, ANANSI BOYS, a hugely enjoyable fantasy with deep mythic roots by Neil Gaiman, and two Tim O’Brien books, his auto-biographical first book, IF I DIE IN A COMBAT ZONE, about his time as a conscript in Vietnam in 1969, and the surreal war story GOING AFTER CACCIATO, one of a number of his books that grew from his war experience. O’Brien is that rare sort of writer – and the concentration camp survivor and chemist Primo Levi is another good example - who can take a terrible personal experience and somehow use it to reflect on the nature of humanity, as opposed to inhumanity. The results are therefore ultimately life affirming, somehow, rather than simply depressing.

I also read THE BOOK THEIF by Markus Zusak, which I note is now being marketed as cross-over fiction, with an edition published for young people. As these editions tend to, it has a different front cover (not as good, I think). A sticker warns that the book is unsuitable for younger readers. This is probably true, in most cases. Perhaps not all, though. How can you generalise? The age-ranging of books has become something of an issue recently. Some publishers have decided to introduce an age suitability guide on the back of all children’s books. These publishers have put forward many arguments in favour of this move, backed up by market research aimed at parents and other adults who buy books for children. I don’t like the idea though. There’s something disappointing about saying that this book is for certain people only, those of this age or that, even if it’s only meant as a guide. It seems to deflate the idea of a book, by emphasising the fact that it’s a commodity to be codified and marketed. Some might say, yes, Tom, don’t be so soft, that’s all published books are. Book selling is a business and stories are just units to be shifted from a shelf. But somehow I can’t quite believe that. They seem to be more than that. There’s a website about this issue if you’re interested.
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By the way - Thanks to the commentator who wrote a note on my Cormack McCarthy review. I quite agree with you.


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