Author Neil Gaiman gave a lecture at the Reading Agency on 14th October. An edited version of that lecture has been made available on The Guardian's website.
It is essential reading: a passionate, poignant, rousing, intelligent plea for books, fiction, literacy, libraries and imagination. Everything is in there. Our uncultured and boorish politicians should be MADE to read it. Below, I have reproduced my favourite bits - although the whole thing is my favourite bit really...
Some of these quotes remind me of the child and teenager I was - an avid reader with a wild imagination, desperate to live somewhere else, to experience something else, knowing there was more to life than what I could see around me. Books and the ambition of becoming a writer have pushed me, have made me study hard and stay focused, curious, inquisitive, interested. They saved me in my (numerous) hours of need... Here's to books and fiction...
Neil Gaiman on The Guardian
Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end … that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading.
When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with (and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.
I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.
Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.
According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the "only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account".
We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.
Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all.
So this weekend is the big Alexandra Palace Antiques, Collectors, Art Deco and 20th Century fair (now with a vintage market as well!). The fair is on Sunday so come along to this truly unique venue!
We are setting up on Saturday and will make sure our double stall stands out. Fingers crossed we have enough space for the shelves! Here are some of the books we'll be selling (for more info about some of the books, go to THE ARCANE PUBLISHING BLOG):
Matt ArtPix will have some pretty special vintage-inspired art there too, and a few antiques!
Oh, and I will have copies of I Am a Muse and will be giving out flyers/bookmarks!
This morning, I thought I would be getting another few free days this week, during which I was hoping to get even closer to the end of The Book of Thoth. I had put myself in the mood, ready to type...
But NO! Something's come up and now I have to forget about the book and focus on something else...
I just hope it's only a month or two until the end of the first draft... Only a few (very important) scenes to write now, but as the pace is supposed to increase to bring the story to its climax, it will not be easy. I might even need to act some scenes out in my lounge!
I am really looking forward to typing "THE END" and then go back to the very beginning to work on the second draft.
I started The Book of Thoth in January 2011; it feels like a century ago...
I am only able to check the amount of "unique visitors" per day on this site, as I would need to upgrade yet again (i.e pay more money) to see precise stats and what people have been typing into search engines to end up on the Miss Gish website. It's been going quite well over the past few months, the numbers increasing steadily. But yesterday, it broke the record: 631 people seem to have visited the Miss Gish website. 631?? Really? Wow.
If every single one of those people bought one of my books, I'd be over the moon. Unfortunately, it's definitely not the case!
Anyway, I try and post regularly so for those people who read this: thank you for passing by and do come again!
Something else that's interesting... I have just typed in "I Am a Muse" in the Amazon search engine.
The only person who sells the book on there should be Bluetones, as the shop is owned by an acquaintance and he has agreed to sell the book in his online shop, but he sends the orders to me and I am the one who posts them to the customer.
Today, two more sellers seem to have the book in stock, and sell it at quite a high price; only they don't: I am the only one who has got copies - The British Library and five other deposit libraries have a copy each, but that's it. A few people have bought the book but they don't have online bookshops. So what I'd like to know is this: how is it possible that those people sell my book when all the copies that exist are here, patiently waiting in their boxes in my office to be sold?
Mystery! Maybe I should try and buy one of my own books to see what happens?
Catherine (Kat) Moorhouse is a quiet, mature fourteen year-old girl interested in history and nature. She was only a baby when her mother, a musicologist from New Zealand, died in a car crash on a research trip. She has lived with her widowed journalist father in New York, Edinburgh and London.
After a vicious bullying campaign that has left her seriously shaken and heart-broken, Kat is relieved when her father decides to move to Dorset for an indefinite period of time. The young girl soon feels at ease in her new environment and falls in love with the county’s ancestral landscape. She is particularly drawn to St Catherine’s chapel in Abbotsbury, with which she shares her name. One evening, on Chapel Hill, she meets a mysterious woman, also called Catherine, who works as a “life assistant” to a local elderly aristocrat, Ronald Sinclair. The origins of Lord Sinclair’s family are rather dubious and are the stuff of legend in the area.
As her relationship with Catherine develops, Kat finds herself at the same time fascinated and repulsed by her new friend and understands that nothing is what it seems in this idyllic part of England…
I have also copied the synopsis on The Right Place page.
There was a lovely review of I Am a Muse in the Village Green special edition of the culture magazine Level 4.
I will post proper scans of the review in the Reviews and press section of this website later this week.
Someone shared this image on Facebook and you have to admit, it's cute. Loads of other ones HERE. Lurvely if, like me, you're obsessed with books!
I have just printed off the Arts Council England application form guidelines...
I now have to decide whether or not to apply for funding for The Right Place... It would be for the £15,000 or under grant; I need to spend some time in Dorset to research and write the book, and I currently cannot afford to stay there more than two weeks...
It would potentially pay for the cover artwork: I would like local artist Sam Cannon to provide the illustration, as I think it would capture the feel of the area perfectly. It would also pay for the right to print the full lyrics of the PJ Harvey song The Wind at the beginning of the book - if permission is granted, of course!
So in the next few days, I will be reading the guidelines very carefully and decide if I feel confident enough to apply for funding... It is a lot of work and therefore I would need to be 100% confident that I can do it as best as I can and give myself a chance...
[Image at top of the blog is from HERE]
A French friend has an online bookshop and has kindly accepted to trial I Am a Muse there. Therefore, I am a Muse is available to purchase on Amazon via his shop and on Ebay. Amazon lists the book as being in French language - a bug in the system - but it is in English!
We've had to increase the price as it is sold across the world with free postage - so we had to take postage to the US etc. into account! Also, this bookshop is a proper business and the complex software used to put it all together is quite expensive...
We thought it would be good exposure though, and you never know...
I am not working on my books at the moment, and it looks like it won't be before late next week that I will open The Book of Thoth again. No time to blog a lot either, so in the meantime, here are a few very first ideas for The Book of Thoth cover by designer Matt ArtPix. The elements of the book we have here are: 1920s Art Deco, time travel, Ancient Egypt. We've got a few more ideas in store for the whole cover and we hope to have the almost finished artwork ready for the literary festival Shorelines in November.
I think therefore I write.
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