Thursday, 17 January 2013

Lausanne: City of Stories

Literary Event at the Bookshop

Lausanne has long been an inspiration for literature. Dickens, Byron and Shelley all wrote here and the city has provided the backdrop for numerous novels.

Two recently published books continue this tradtion and I am very pleased to invite the authors to the bookshop to dicuss how the city  inspired their work.

Laura Spinney will be speaking about her book Rue Centrale in which she presents a portrait of a European city, Lausanne, painted in the words of the people who live and work there. The book features interviews with 70 people encountered in the street, in their bedroom, on a barge or in the belfry of the cathedral. Laura is the author of two novels and as a journalist she writes for publications including National Geographic, Nature and The Economist.

Daniel Tschumy is the author of Place du Nord et autres lieux, a collection of short stories mainly inspired by locations around Lausanne. His other works include collections of poems, short texts and a travelogue about a trip in South America. He currently teaches English to high-school students in Lausanne.

The discussion will be moderated by Jo Ann Rasch, a poet, editor and author of Blowing Feathers and Transitions.

Lausanne: City of Stories will take place on Tuesday, 12th February at the Zinema. The event will start at 19.00. 

The discussion will be in English and French. Please sign up here if you are interested:

Monday, 7 January 2013

Mother, I think I might have a problem....

Top book picks for 2012

For ages now I have been meaning to write about the top books I read in 2012, but I've been dogged by two problems, my chronic laziness and my inability to remember even half the books I read. Then these two factors coincided to create an amazng outcome.

In a moment of folly I decided to tidy up all the books that I had left lying beside my bed, in the loo, on the sofa and random chairs and tables. I took a photo of the pile I made and it turned out to be an excellent cross-section of everything I have read in the last few months.

So here are my top picks for 2012, starting from the top.

White Noise by Don Delillo - top of the pile and top of the list. Genuis going full throttle. Read twice.

Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley - Funny in parts. Tongue-in-cheek book about the tabacco industry. Halfway through. Will finish but not reread.

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis - Everyone should read one book by this author. My suggestion would be this book or American Psycho. This is a story about vacuous celebrity. Finished but won't read again.

Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein - An American becomes a crime reporter for a leading Japanese newspaper. Read and reread and strongly recommend.

The Dudley Smith Trio by James Ellroy - Gritty noir detective fiction. I would suggest this book to hard core fans. The Black Dahlia is a better entry into his work.

Where The Hell Have You Been by Tom Carver - Monty's grandson describes his father's escape from an Italian POW camp and the effect Monty had on his family. Read but wouldn't reread. WWII buffs only!

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk - Moments of genius, moments of utter dross. Struggled to finish.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce - a retiree makes a pilgrimage across England to get to the bedside of a dying colleague. A good story book that looks at relationships between older people. Liked but wouldn't reread.

The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth - Found this on, not suprisingly, in the little room. A step-by-step look at the evolution of English words. Fun to flick through. Read and reread.

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland - I have been reading this author since I was a small boy in short trousers. Not as good as Generation X but have reread numerous times.

Place du Nord by Daniel Tschumy - Short stories in French set in Lausanne. Very interesting and am making my way through.

The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal - I am amazed that this guy still has things to say about English given all the books he has read. He still does and he is still interesting. Read and reread.

Classic Cocktails a Modern Shake - Sadly out of print, but my reference for literary cocktails.

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster - Auster's first book and still a classic. Veeery disappointed with his latest autobiography A Winter Journal. I found myself skipping pages!

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk - why do I have two copies of this book?

Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James - still in pristine condition if anyone wants it.

The Case for Working with Your Hands by Matthew Crawford - the author argues that skilled labour is more rewarding than office drudge. Who can disagree - but maybe labours the point a bit. Reread.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - I have very nice memories of reading this book by a canal in Amsterdam. Haven't managed the feat of reading it twice.

Winning! by Clive Woodward - England rugby fans only I suspect....

A Week at the Airport by Alain de Botton - short, sweet and immensely readable. The philospher spends a week at Terminal 5 in Heathrow and simply recounts his observations. Awesome book that I have reread many times.

This is How by Augusten Burroughs - having only recently come to this author I have read almost his entire ouevre in the last month. This is a self-help book laced with dark humour and ancedotes. Worth reading, but suggest Dry for people looking for an entry into his work.

All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufmann - A short but sweet romance and a tonic to read.

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz - An(other) American in Paris with recipes! Dipped in and out of but no read in its entirety.

Two more books which I loved in 2012 but weren't in the photo are The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich and Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. These books make my top 5 books of the year.

The Plague of Doves is essentially a number of short stories made into a novel. What sets this book apart is the masterly use of language amd the originality of the characters. A love story, a murder story, a story of generations of native Americans. Loved it.

The Three Day Road is about two First Nation friends who served as snipers in the Second World War. The story covers their time in France, as well as the experiences of one of their parents who remained in Canada. A deeply moving story that I thought about for many weeks afterwards.