Event Recap: Penguin 2016 Showcase
28 July, 2015
A few weeks ago I was invited to the Penguin 2016 showcase at Waterstone’s Piccadilly. I had no idea of the line-up except that you know you’ll get to hear some very special writers. And I wasn’t wrong. As soon as I arrived, I headed to the bar to get myself a glass of wine and nibbles since it was a scorching day and picked up the order of readings to find some interesting names including Zadie Smith! I’ve never had the opportunity of seeing her read so I was really excited about this.
Each reading was about 10 minutes, just enough to whet your appetite.
The session kicked off with Alain de Botton reading from The Course of Love, the sequel to his first novel. de Botton was a brilliant speaker, engaging and warm and leaving his audience in stitches. My sister loved Essays in Love and his new novel explores what happens after you meet ‘the one’. Although optimistic, this is a critique of romantic love, and de Botton discusses how reading the wrong novels growing up often gives the wrong idea of love, that novels are pieces of moral eduction which may lead to trouble. Like many, he sees reading as a means to learn lessons in love. He touches on topics which are probably familiar to many readers; the reasons why we read and what we take from our reading and apply to our lives. Intriguing, no?
This was followed by Naomi Alderman reading a chilling excerpt from her new novel, The Power, where she wonders what would happen if all the women in the world suddenly develops the power to electrocute at will. Whenever she announces this, she notices the women in the audience get a glint in their eyes. Alderman’s novel promises to be quite gritty, exploring many relevant issues that affect women in modern life. She gave a brilliant reading and this sounded very interesting.
Zadie Smith then read an essay from her new collection, Feel Free. Titled Flaming June, she recalls how she chose her first art poster to put on her wall as a first year undergrad. Wanting to be different from her fellow students who all chose between a set number of prints to impress the opposite sex, somehow she ended up with Frederick Leighton’s Flaming June. I’m such a huge fan of Smith’s writing and it was really lovely to talk about her work with other avid fans there.
I have never read anything by Marina Lewycka but I know my father loved A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian and couldn’t stop laughing when he was reading it. Her new novel, The Lubetkin Legacy, is about a man living with his mother. When she dies, he is afraid he’ll lose her council flat and so gets another old lady to take her place and live with him. But she also has an agenda of her own. You can just imagine all the things that could go wrong.
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal puts the spotlight on two brothers who are up for adoption, especially when one is white and the other is mixed race. An interesting looking into identity and race in modern Britain.
And the evening closed with Ruby Wax bringing a lot of laughs while talking about a very serious subject: how to manage and self-regulate depression. Having completed a Masters in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at Oxford two years ago, Wax new book Wake the F*** Up! discusses some of the issues she deals with in managing her depression.
As well as the readings, the Penguin team highlighted a number of new titles, especially The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle, about a man on his last con. This is a book full of twists and layers and the word on the street is that this is going to be BIG next year. You heard it here first! Javier Marias, one of Spain’s most celebrated authors and one I’ve had my eye on the last couple of years, also has a new novel novel out, Thus Bad Begins, about a man looking back to 1980s Madrid and his best friend with a chilling past. As well as fiction, Penguin is also publishing The Path by Michael Prett and Christine Gross-Loh on the application of Chinese philosophy to live a good and fulfilling life and Chronicles by Thomas Piketty, the best-selling and controversial economist, a relevant source in understanding how we have found ourselves in such a global financial mess.
It was a lovely event with lots of laughter. And to top if off, the canapés by Felicity Cloake were, and I don’t say this lightly, really delicious. It’s so rare to get quality, tasty canapés at events. There were aloo tiki scotch eggs, whoopie pies to die for and marshmallow and caramel crispy bites with a chilli kick. So moreish I had to go back for seconds. I’m definitely going to get her new book The A-Z of Eating: A Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks out in April next year.
And we all left with these. Can’t wait to read them. Thank you very much Penguin!