Today is World Book Day, a time for a celebration of literature and creativity and a time of reflection on the current state of the written word, writes After Nyne’s Dominic Stevenson.
To précis, the writing world is healthy and in many ways flourishing. Great art is the obvious reaction to austerity, and while it takes time, it is happening.
This is always what a Conservative Government does to the arts – it creates palatable approved mass fodder from those who toe the line, and forcing artists underground where they feed off darkness and depravity to become the debauched and gorgeous influences, and influencers, of the next generation.
While World Book Day is generally considered a youthful exploration of the written word, with Jacqueline Wilson, Laura Dockrill and more can enjoy a spotlight rightly shone on them – it should also be a time for the grownups amongst us to take a look at our own bookshelves.
Here are five books from the last year that I believe should make their way to your hand, and not just onto your book shelf to collect dust.
The Death of the Poet – N Quentin Woolf (Serpent’s Tail)
This book is literature in the most ancient sense of the word, in its purest form. It is a powerful and immaculately written gut-wrenching story, and it tore through me. It follows two stories, the first of a DJ who suffers domestic abuse at the hands of his partner, the second is of a literary editor who survived World War One.
Like life, a lot of the book seems incidental, but Woolf doesn’t leave a single bit of string untied by the end – it truly is a story of life, not a mere snapshot. It’s a fiction that is told so raw that it could be the recounting of a life on an early deathbed.
Any Other Mouth – Anneliese Mackintosh (Freight Books)
Any Other Mouth is the astonishing debut collection of short stories from Anneliese Mackintosh. From the off Mackintosh claws at you, asking for nothing except that you sit down and hear her. As you listen to her, you find yourself wanting to hug her, applaud her, laugh with her, cry with her and at times, cry for her.
Mackintosh is a compassionate, vibrant, melancholy, and excitable writer. She comes across as I imagine she does in real life – passionate, knowledgeable, caring and unflinchingly honest.
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere – Alice Furse (Burning Eye Books)
In her debut novel Furse stunningly, and with a grace that many more mature authors will never muster, depicts the slow descent of her protagonist into the kind of sadness that we all fear – the inevitable acceptance that this is it. Furse is Orwellian in her depiction of our contemporary landscape, capturing the mundane of the everyday and scrawling life all over it in luminous letters.
You’ll weep with Furse, laugh with her, and all while you read the mirror, that too often reveals what is uncomfortably close to home, that she has written on each page. And for those who believe that small town Britain too rarely makes it into a cultural landscape often focussed on the bigger cities, then you’ll delighted.
Fran Lock – The Mystic and the Pig Thief (Salt Publishing)
Fran electrifies in this book, her second full collection of poetry, cementing her position as the contemporary poets poet. She trawls the depths of her knowledge, heritage and imagination to bring us words that dance and fight and kiss you on the eyelids – rocking you gently into a better way of existence.
If you only buy one book of poetry this year, then you’re buying too few. However if you insist on only one then you won’t regret investing in a copy of The Mystic and the Pig Thief.
Timur Vermes (translated by Jamie Bulloch) (MacLehose Press) – Look Who’s Back
It’s essential that in times where the good face a real challenge from the bad – commonly in the form of fascism, racism, sexism and the like – that we do look back and start learning from history. This work of fiction explores an alternate reality where Hitler returns, and considers how potentially a society can easily be swung in certain ways when the media create celebrities from nothingness.
Vermes shows to us the importance of being on our guard and combating darkness when it threatens our horizon. If we don’t then the consequences are, well actually, very imaginable.