Although I generally find it superbly difficult to drag myself away from the countryside any time I’m not supposed to be working, I do have (as I’m sure I’ve said a million times before!) rather a soft spot for our Northern capital, having spent my university years there and a fair amount of time hob-knobbing around afterwards.
Constantly competing with Birmingham for the crown of the UK’s ‘second city’, I still have a great deal of time for Manchester and think that she still holds her own on a larger stage as a vibrant, modern university city with plenty to see/do and inspire. Part of that inspiration comes in what the city provides for bookish folk. Despite cuts to public funding and the painful lack of a genuinely independent bookshop (although the Manchizzle tells us that this woeful state of affairs is apparently soon to change) there is still heaps to be getting along with. As well as my own book club, there are plenty still thriving around the city. We also have the yearly Manchester Literature Festival, which is always an absolute hoot and the glorious, newly renovated Manchester Central Library reassures us that there are still refuges for people in search of learning, peace and quiet in this country that don’t cost a bean (and they have seemingly – if my bookish eye is anything to go by- invested quite a lot on their collections. Gone are the days of not being able to get hold of what I want to read, yippee!)
One such advantage of these renovations is an impressive venue in which to stage plays, readings and miscellaneous bookish events. One of the most important perhaps being the ability to welcome some of the world’s most prominent authors with pride. A fellow book-clubber and I went along a few weeks ago to do just that – having the pleasure (along with a couple hundred other star-struck people) of an audience with Kazuo Ishiguro…
Starting with an excerpt from his brand new novel; The Buried Giant, followed by the standard format of interview and Q & A session afterwards, Ishiguro was as enigmatic and engaging as I’m sure everyone was hoping for. It was a pleasure hearing about his background, processes as a writer and his views on his previous success and how that impacts on his life and attitudes nowadays. Refreshingly honest, cool, collected and inspiring.
Having read and loved his work previously, the concept behind The Buried Giant is so exciting, particularly for a lover of obscure periods in history who is currently taking a tentative step into the realms of fantasy; a genre with which this book clearly toys. Ishiguro explores the ‘dark’ period in British history between the departure of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Anglo Saxons; a land of subterranean hovels for its people, where ogres and dragons reign supreme. True, early reviews seem a little mixed at the moment (are people expecting too much after waiting a decade for something from him?) but just check the first paragraph out:
You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated. There were instead miles of desolate, uncultivated land; here and there rough-hewn paths over craggy hills or bleak moorland. Most of the roads left by the Romans would by then have become broken or overgrown, often fading into wilderness. Icy fogs hung over rivers and marshes, serving all too well the ogres that were then still native to this land. The people who lived nearby – one wonders what desperation led them to settle in such gloomy spots – might have well feared these creatures, whose panting breaths could be heard long before their deformed figures emerged from the mist. But such monsters were not cause for astonishment. people then would have regarded them as everyday hazards, and in those days there was so much else to worry about…
Read that and TELL me you’re not excited.
Anyhoo. I’m so cool and collected and so completely unfazed by how famous/flabbergastingly amazing an author is that I am not at all embarrassing when meeting them. Wrong. To my shock and horror my voice was unusually screechy and my smile unusually creepy when thanking the great man for his autograph (see right). Unlike my companion who was the epitome of composure. Ah well. What’s a girl to do!?
Do you love Ishiguro too? Which is your favourite work of his and why? (I personally have a soft spot for Remains of the Day)