Friday, March 17, 2006

Yesterday was a good day.

First off, I got an email from Michael Allen, a.k.a. The Grumpy Old Bookman, warning me that he had posted a review of Taking Comfort. I’ll admit, the anticipation of this particular review had been causing me a certain amount of anxiety. In fact, I’d worked myself up into a right state about it.

I had become convinced that Grumpy would hate the book, and so I was bracing myself for a savaging. Well, I was right about one thing: the book is not entirely to his taste. He is very open in declaring this. But that said, he is good enough to put aside any issues of personal taste, and review the book on its merits. Fair play, Grumpy.

The second good thing was that I attended a conference at the London College of Communication on The Right To Publish. I was there for the last two panels, the first of which dealt with publishing new writers, and the second with the thorny issue of religious censorship.

Mike Barnard of Macmillan New Writing was on the first panel, and it was very interesting to hear what he had to say. It was also interesting to hear Maggie Hamand of Maia Press, a small independent press that has a very strong reputation. According to the Guardian, Maia aims to give “a home to excellent books that larger rivals might ignore”. A novelist herself, Maia was passionate and eloquent on the need not to be driven by the commercial imperative, but solely by the quality of the books.

The second panel was, to be honest, slightly one-sided. Perhaps not surprisingly, given that this was a conference of publishers, writers, publishing students, and general media types, everyone seemed to be in favour of freedom of expression and against religious bigotry and censorship. One of the panellists had been Salman Rushdie’s editor for Satanic Verses, so it was especially interesting to hear his contribution. But I felt that the panel would have been more representative if there had been at least one Muslim intellectual present who would have been able to contextualise the violent response those cartoons produced.

Quite a few of the panellists presumed to speak on behalf of moderate Muslims; I would have liked to have heard a moderate Muslim speak up for her or himself.

Anyhow, the main pleasure of the event was catching up with Mike, Sophie and Will from Macmillan New Writing, at the same time as meeting some of my fellow MNW authors, Peter Bourne, Lucy McCarrahar, Michael Fuchs and Brian Martin.

Finally, when I got home, I found an email from some friends with a photo of their new baby daughter attached. Congratulations Ed and Liz!


Debra Broughton said...

Just read the GOB's review, a bit worried in case he'd give something away about the plot, as I've only just started.

It's a good review Roger. Congratulations.

roger said...

Thanks Debra. Hope it didn't spoil things for you.