Daunt Books Festival 2014

The end of March saw the inaugural Daunt Books Festival in Marylebone which featured some exciting events and authors. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Daunt Books, but the flagship store on Marylebone High Street is a wondrous cavern of delights filled with natural light and an incredible selection of books divided by country. I’m off to Spain and Portugal in June and had a good look around for books to read and came away with a couple – Journey to Portugal by José Saramago and Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi.

When I tweeted about visiting Daunt Books and getting a copy of Comyns’ Sisters By a River, they contacted me to say there was a Virago Modern Classics event where four panelists will be discussing Comyns, amongst others, and would I like a ticket. It’s the first time I’ve seen an event featuring Comyns and jumped at the chance as Comyns’ Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead is one of my favourite books. I got myself another ticket to see four up and coming authors too and took a half day off work.

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The first event of the morning, Celebrating Virago Modern Classics, featured Susie Boyt, Maggie O’Farrell, Deborah Levy and was chaired by Virago publisher, Lennie Goodings. Virago was set up almost forty years ago to champion the importance of women’s literature and experiences, from forgotten classics to new writing.

Levy spoke of her love of Muriel Spark’s spare and precise prose to Angela Carter’s luscious, subversive novels. O’Farrell spoke of how it was impossible to see Comyns’ literary heritage as her novels are so unique. She used to buy any Virago Modern Classic she came across, no questions asked, because of their quality and feminist slant, especially Molly Keane’s Good Behaviour about the Anglo-Irish in the dying days of the Empire and its keen calibration of society and family and Rosamund Lehman’s The Weather in the Streets, sequel to Invitation to the Waltz. And finally Boyt discussed Elizabeth Taylor’s Complete Short Stories, a novelist whom she describes as a writer’s writer who can achieve in one sentence, everything that needs to be said, and one with startlingly original ideas and who doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

The session was packed and it was incredible to see how popular the Virago Modern Classics are even today.

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The second session, Bright Young Novelists, featured Adam Foulds, Rebecca Hunt and Evie Wyld and was chaired by literary critic Edmund Gordon. I had heard Hunt read a few weeks earlier from her new novel but it was interesting to see the discussion with her fellow writers. All three novelists have published their second and third novels: Hunt has just published Everland, Foulds, In the Wolf’s Mouth and Wyld, All the Birds, Singing.

Asked why none of them wrote zeitgeisty books, they agreed that they needed to be interested in what they were tackling as it needed to sustain them for a very long period and writing something too close to home, in time and place, would place a greater pressure to get things right. Also on the process of writing their second and third novels, Hunt said she felt as though she was learning all over again, Foulds that each book is different and difficult in new ways and Wyld that with each novel, you think you are going to write what you really want but it doesn’t quite happen and that is what keeps you going. What an interesting discussion which provided an insight into the working life of young writers.

Both sessions came with perks, the first was a cup of fresh juice from The Natural Kitchen and the second was a delicious sausage roll from Ginger Pig.

I’d like to thank Daunt Books and Emily who kindly invited me to Celebrating Virago Modern Classics and for organising such a lovely, vibrant festival. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

Umami Mart

It’s been a while, right? It doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating. At the end of last year, I did a runner for my birthday and flew to Perth with my friends and stopped in Hong Kong on the way back. It was 3 days of eating and sightseeing and boy did we manage to eat lots and lots of incredible Chinese food. And we insisted on only Chinese food. And we started with Tim Ho Wan, the Michelin-starred dim sum joint where you have to queue with the locals and there is no special treatment. But it is SO worth it. Check me out at Umami Mart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I finally finished parts 1 & 2 of Haruki Murakami’s chunkster, 1Q84. I’ll review it once I finish part 3 which I am dying to read. It’s proving to be one of my favourite Murakami novels at the moment. I’m currently trying to finish Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, my pick for this month’s book group which I can only describe as different.

Upcoming is a brand new literary festival hosted by Daunt Books, details here, on March 27th and 28th. Some quality sessions including one to celebrate Virago Modern Classics. Deborah Levy will be there and they will be discussing Barbara Comyns, one of my favourite authors! So do put it in your diaries. I recently swung by Daunt Books in Marylebone and got myself one of their canvas bags in navy and a copy of Sisters By A River.

I’m so glad that Virago is bringing Comyns back into print. I wouldn’t have discovered her if not for Simon T kindly sending me an out of print copy of Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead which was magnificent. More people need to read her!

Sisters By A River

So, once again I hauled myself to sunnier climes just so I could get a taste of sun, sand and curries. And literature, of course!

This time round, the 6th Galle Literary Festival was held a week earlier than usual and was, to my mind, a little smaller and leaner. The clash with the Jaipur Literary Festival meant that some authors were unable to travel the extra mile to Sri lanka. Boo.

So although I missed the likes of Katie Kitamura, who I was dying to meet, there were still some golden nuggets waiting to be discovered.

For me, one of the highlights of the festival this year was having the privilege of listening to John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, who was a charming speaker and extremely witty. He apparently wrote the first draft of the novel in 2 weeks (and then spent the next 8 months rewriting like a normal human being). What was interesting was that he said the story just came to him and he knew that if he didn’t write it down, he would lose it. Split second decisions, eh? Although I haven’t read the book yet, I watched the film last year and was utterly awed and heartbroken by the tale. When questioned about the film, Boyne said that although there were some minor changes when translating the tale onto screen, he was very happy with the way the film was made. It’s a beautiful film and made me want to read the book. He talked about the reception of the book and the criticisms which naturally came due to the subject matter. The most vociferous critics were not the actual Holocaust survivors, who embraced his work, but third parties just like himself who had no connection to the Holocaust. In one event in New York, someone in the audience actually came up and punched him! But Boyne related all this with humour and I think everyone in the audience in Galle fell in love with him then. But did you know that he has also written seven other books? Neither did I, but I’m planning to check them out. It’s interesting that after finishing a book, Boyne prefers to write something completely different and in a completely different voice.

If you visit Sri Lanka and like browsing in bookshops, you will often come across reference to Robert Knox, castaway, survivor and friend of Daniel Defoe. Knox spent 19 years from 1660 in Sri Lanka as a prisoner/guest of the last Kandyan King, Rajasinghe II. Katherine Frank spoke about her new book Crusoe, laying arguments to support her case that Robinson Crusoe was based on Knox and that Daniel Defoe mercilessly plagiarised Knox’s own account of his imprisonment, An Historical Relation of the island Ceylon, which recounts his 19 years in minute detail. What an extraordinary man and an extraordinary story. I’d been meaning to read Knox’s memoir for ages and Frank’s talk has finally made me go out and buy the two volumes. Alas, they were too heavy to carry back so I left them at home to read when I next visit. Although there are some that dispute Frank’s theory, her talk was compelling enough for me to want to read her book and make up my own mind.

I also went to see a talk given by Juliet Nicolson at the beautiful Amangalla Hotel about Sissinghurst, the home in which she grew up which was owned by her grandparents, Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson. Vita Sackville-West is, of course, notorious for her affair with Virginia Woolf and Violet Trefusis (I think I first read about her in a compilation of wicked women!) Nicolson’s descriptions of her beloved childhood home and her colourful family was entertaining and lovely and I have a mind to visit the beautiful garden at Sissinghurst now.

I was also lucky enough to meet and participate in a workshop with Roshi Fernando, a Sri Lankan British author who is passionate and witty and gave useful tips about the architecture of the novel. I got a copy of her book Homesick , about the British Sri Lankan experience, signed and ready to read. And I was tickled to learn she has read my blog:)

Roshi Fernando also participated in a talk with Randy Boyagoda whose new book, Beggar’s Feast, about a self-made Sri Lankan man who lived until 100 and had 3 wives, 2 of whom he killed, has just been published too. Curated by Manju Kapoor, the two authors discussed identity and literature and the expatriate experience which also led to a heated discussion about accents and acceptance. Very thought-provoking indeed.

And finally, I did have a ticket to see Richard Dawkins who had apparently packed out the hall, but I gave it to my dad who misplaced his ticket as he’s become interested in religion (even though he is an atheist). Apparently the talk was brilliant, but hey, I can always catch him on tv here.

So although I felt this year wasn’t as flashy and razzmatazzy as last year, I had a fun-filled 4 days in Galle, eating, reading and discovering new sights. Since last year, there’s been an awful amount of work being done on restoring the historic fort, all the roads have been repaved, buildings restored, new cafes and restaurants and LOTS and LOTS of tourists. It was packed and although it’s harder to get rooms, it made me happy to see the place so bustling. Apparently next year’s GLF will be moved to March to avoid overcrowding and give people a chance to book rooms (we booked ours a year in advance).

With the new highway from Colombo just opened, it now takes only an hour to drive to Galle and many of our friends have apparently been down just for dinner. Usually it takes about 3 hours and you wouldn’t think of visiting Galle without staying overnight. Apart from one unlucky, flat, kabaragoya, we didn’t see many animals on the highway either.

Hello there. How are you?

I seem to have missed chatting with you all as the end of 2011 gathered speed and bulldozed all my me-time in a swirl of get-togethers, cocktails and lots and lots of comestibles. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t say no.

I’ll soon be off on my yearly trip to Sri Lanka and will be checking out the Galle Literary Festival again. This time, I have done NO preparation for the festival and will be going with the flow. I think this may be how 2012 will be for me. More chillin’, less frettin’.

I am, however, looking forward to seeing Katie Kitamura talk about her novel The Longshot. I got a copy for my brother-in-law who has given it a big thumbs up as an avid fan and practitioner of MMA himself. I will, of course, be borrowing the book from him once he’s finished, hehe. Juliet Nicholson will also be there to talk about The Great Silence: 1918-1920 Living in the Shadow of the Great War – a favourite historical period of mine. Richard Dawkins, John Boyne and D.J. Taylor will also be there. And I’m excited to seek more new Sri Lankan authors such as Randy Boyagoda and Roshi Fernando who will be talking about Sri Lankan writing in the diaspora. And this time, I’ll hopefully find out more about Sri Lankans writing in Sri Lanka. As usual, there will be panel discussions on literature, politics and war (as Sri Lanka recovers from its 30 year internal conflict) and documentaries about life in the north and the history of Dutch burghers. Lots of interesting stuff to look forward to.

I’ve got myself a brand new spanking phone and hopefully will be able to twitter about the GLF if I can find free wi-fi.

And that’s not all. I’ll be taking a short trip to Bangkok where I’ll be stuffing my face with all sorts of Thai delights! That’s what my family do, you see. We travel to eat. Sticky rice and mango, here I come! And of course, pop into Kinokuniya to stock up on some Japanese books.

So I will leave you with a tentative list of books I’m planning to bung into my suitcase:

Dust of Dreams (Malazan 8) by Steven Erikson
Clash of Kings (Song of Ice and Fire 2) by George R.R. Martin
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – as I doubt I’ll finish it before I go
Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka – What? I still haven’t read this?
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – if it doesn’t push my suitcase over the weight limit
And a couple of mysteries I haven’t decided upon yet.

So what are you all up to? Any plans for the new year? Or is there a book I absolutely must take with me on holiday? Come on, spill!

I’ve been a huge fan of Virginia Nicholson’s since reading Singled Out a few years ago and have been meaning to finish reading Among the Bohemians which I was enjoying too until I got side-tracked. However, I was lucky enough to bag a proof of Millions Like Us: Women’s Lives in the Second World War, Nicholson’s newest book and social history of women at the homefront during WWII, and I began reading it in preparation for her talk at the Soho Literary Festival a few weekends ago. And what a wonderful talk it was, interspersed with music from that period, and the wonderful Carmen Callil, founder of Virago Press, asking some pretty forthright questions. I was expecting a cosy chat but the discussion delved into some rather dark places, unsurprising when you consider the topic was war and its consequences. Yet somehow you think that it’ll be softer because it’s about women. I never seem to learn because I should really know by now that it’s never soft and easy when the subject is about women and their place in society.

Singled Out
was about WWI and surplus women, many unhappy that their lives would never follow the paths they had envisaged before the Great War but also an opportunity for others who were able to shake off the shackles of traditional marriage and society and embark upon a life far from conformity. Millions Like Us is about the women left behind during WWII who not only had to hold their families together, but also take up the jobs traditionally done by men as the armies gobbled them up. It’s also a chronicle of the sudden loosening of class structure and ambition as young women signed up to do something for their country as normal life ceased. Although money, food and material things became scarce, other freedoms emerged, as young women left home to take up jobs, earn money they were never able to before and embark upon relationships and discover sex. Six years of war, hardship, loss, love and experience and finally, when they thought that peace had been won and all was over, that they could return to normal life again, things were no longer the same. Even though many returned to being mothers, wives and dutiful daughters, something had irrevocably changed within many of the women.

The most profound thing I came away with after finishing Millions Like Us was the sense of dissatisfaction many women felt after the war ended. Their sense of self worth and resilience was brushed aside as the returning husbands, fathers and boyfriends resumed their control over their womenfolk. It hit hard how controlled women’s lives were and actually how difficult it was mentally to break the chains that bound them to their social station. The women had learnt that they were capable of working as hard as men and that they were good at their jobs. But what was lauded during war-time was no longer the case afterwards. It was rather sad to read about this. But you could also see how exhausted these women were, how they wanted life to return to normal and how they couldn’t fight against the established social hierarchy. And how could you with babies and domestic chores and your jobs being given back to the men?

Nicholson weaves the stories of about 50 women including that of her mother throughout her book. The stories are funny, sweet, sad and bitter and cover a spectrum of social strata. The little feuds between the different social classes, the love affairs, the tough jobs and the snatches of fun. If it were only these stories during the war, the book may have quickly lost its appeal, but Nicholson cleverly discusses what happened after the war, especially for those women who went on to work in Germany, helping with the rebuilding and organising including the liberation of Bergen-Belsen. One of the more heartrending stories is of the plight of the women in Berlin, the rapes of thousands of German women by the Red Army and how many of the British women working in this climate never recovered from what they witnessed. It’s heartbreaking and, although this is a topic that could not be addressed in depth here, it’s a starting point for those who may be interested to know more about this dark period in history and I believe it is something that needs to be known rather than swept under the carpet as discussions of rape often are. I have to confess I knew almost nothing about this dark episode even though I did study WWII history at school but I recently found a copy of A Woman in Berlin published anonymously, but widely believed to be by journalist Marta Hiller about her experience in this particular period, which I will be reading shortly.

Millions Like Us is not the definitive book on the subject, but it’s a good start as it’s certainly a topic that is complex, multi-faceted and needs to be discussed. And it reaches deep into the differences between men and women and why there seems to be a necessity for keeping women under control. In some ways it is frightening to read about the hostility with which women are regarded if they step outside what is considered acceptable. I’m lucky to be able to live my life in the way I want without anyone controlling me. It just hits home how privileged I am.

And do check out Nymeth’s wonderful post as well.

A big thank you to Penguin Books for kindly sending me a copy of this book to review.

Slightly Peckish Tuesday

27 September, 2011

I have been BUSY this summer playing with my friends and we celebrated the end of the sunless season in London with my very first visit to Oktoberfest in Munich. For those of you who don’t drink beer (and I’m normally one of them) it’s the largest beer festival in the world and has just celebrated 200 years of fine beer brewing and drinking last year. So don your dirndls and lederhosen and have a peek at what I got up to at Umamimart: Slightly Peckish!

In bookish news, I popped down to the inaugural Soho Literary Festival last weekend and caught two events: Virginia Nicholson (author of Among the Bohemians and Singled Out and Virginia Woolf’s grandniece!) talking about her book Millions Like Us about women on the homefront in WW2, and a conversation between PD James and Ruth Rendell, two of crime fiction’s finest. Both events were fantastic and I came away with even more respect and awe for all three writers, especially PD James who is witty, feisty and adorable. Total girl crush. And did you know she is 91?? An unbelievable lady.

OK, so I didn’t really go into the controversies and boycotts that plague the Galle Literary Festival each year after my rant last year. However, to me it seems that literary festivals always come with boycotts for the publicity they generate, and in a country recovering from war, it’s effect is even more devastating and emotional. I really doubt whether the government is even taking notice of the literary festival which isn’t state-funded considering it has so many other pressing matters to deal with such as the rehabilitation of its people and land as well as the floods that have plagued the north east of Sri Lanka these past few months. But GLF’s founder Geoffrey Dobbs’ heartfelt speech at the end of the festival touched a chord. It may be a small contribution and the festival may have seen its share of rich socialites from Colombo who aren’t interested in literature, yet it has brought much-needed income to the areas surrounding Galle, the shops, restaurants and tuk tuk drivers as well as people from around the world who care about what is happening in the world and have an opinion and who also happen to love literature.

I say literary festivals should generate discussion. So, here’s a round-up of some interesting articles that came my way:

My friend Fëanor who blogs at Jost A Mon sent me this article expressing disappointment that the GLF features literature only in English and not in Sinhala or Tamil.

Jack Point who blogs at Court Jester left a comment on my post about why the boycott is wrong.

Malinda Seneviratne is a Sri Lankan journalist whose newspaper article my father sent my way.

And finally one of my favourite writers, V.V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage, has written a piercing piece about what it means to participate in literary festivals, especially the GLF. Hear, hear!

So, how was it? I can almost hear you all cry. There were a few cancellations (Damon Galgut’s boycott was for Reporters Without Borders but both Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai couldn’t make it for visa reasons – apparently you can’t re-enter India or something like that although the Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka did their best to cooperate so I’m not sure what all that was about. Apparently there’s no official boycott story here according to Festival Curator Shyam Selvadurai although gossip was rife in the Sri Lankan papers) but frankly it didn’t bother me or anyone else at all once the festival started because this year’s Galle Literary Festival was the best one so far. Being the 5th anniversary, the organisers really did everyone proud in creating a wonderful programme. They even started charging for the festival programme which is a good thing as all the money will be going back into the year-round community projects they are running.

Last year I went to the GLF sans my parents (but with some family friends) because our dog Puccini was poorly. This year they came with me because sadly Puccini’s no longer with us. Of course, I went to as many literary sessions as I could but my mother spent the 4 days walking around Galle Fort sketching and my father went on a little trip to Hambantota to check the progress of the new highway, airport and cricket stadium. Go figure.

There were lots of interesting authors to choose from but this year the highlights for me were Tash Aw, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Lawrence Hill. I’d booked to see Tash Aw talk about his debut novel The Harmony Silk Factory which I adored especially since I hadn’t known anything about the importance of communism in Malaysia at the tail-end of British rule and just before WWII, and I was also intrigued by his treatment of one of his characters who is a member of the feared Japanese kempeitai (military police). It’s a wonderful book and Aw is an unassuming and very charming person and kindly signed his latest book Map of the Invisible World for me. I also attended one of his creative writing workshops which really made us all think carefully about how we craft stories and left us feeling very inspired.

Adichie’s eloquent and confident style belies her youth and it was a real pleasure to hear her talk. I had seen a tv programme about her a few years ago and her earnestness was catching. She spoke about the Biafran war and her book Half of a Yellow Sun which depicts the Biafran flag and the struggle for an independent state. One of the most interesting things she talked about was the inheritance of collective trauma and how even though her generation did not experience the Biafran war, there is still a collective and very real sadness about what had gone before. I, and I’m sure everyone else in the audience, was also pretty impressed with how she stood up for activist Sunila Abeysekara during a BBC Forum panel discussing the lingering effects of civil war when she was accosted by an angry journalist whose tirade turned personal.

I hadn’t initially planned on going to Lawrence Hill’s session as it clashed with Orhan Pamuk’s. But I’m so glad I did because Hill is a brilliant speaker and I quickly ran out to get The Book of Negroes to read. I had read several positive reviews of this novel and remember being intrigued by it. I found his tale of his parents’ marriage and subsequent flight to Canada from the States to start a new life free of racial prejudice very touching. But Hill was very matter of fact about it and as he says in his book Black Berry Sweet Juice on growing up mixed race in Canada, he interviewed over 30 people who were just like him. Intriguing stuff. Unfortunately I had to leave The Book of Negroes in Sri Lanka because my father started reading it and seemed reluctant to give it back saying it is extremely well written. So I’ll save that for when I visit home next:)

This year the organisers of the GLF decided to focus on Malaysia and Malaysian literature. I wasn’t too sure about this at first, but it really was a brilliant idea. The Malaysian authors who attended were all charming, extremely bright (I think there was one young professor and two lawyers!) and incredibly funny. What I really liked was how they were all able to laugh at themselves and the world while tackling rather complex issues. How wonderful. I particularly liked Tan Twan Eng (author of The Gift of Rain)’s comment that he was tired of self-important stories about aging writers with writer’s block who just go on and on about themselves. I guess there are only so many books like that you can stomach. And Shamini Flint who writes the Inspector Singh mysteries was hilarious and didn’t stop making jokes even when she was discussing why she wrote crime novels to tackle the more serious side of humanity (something she’s always been interested in as a lawyer.)

I also attended a free session on The Other Malaysia by Prof. Farish A. Noor, a young and energetic historian who is trying to change the nature of discourse, especially with regard to history which is often politicised in Malaysia. It was extremely refreshing to see so much excitement in a subject such as history and how it is relevant to young Malaysians in establishing and understanding the racial, and hence political, diversity in their culture today.

It wasn’t all about books though as there were several BBC Forum sessions which discussed the aftermath of the internal conflict and rehabilitation which I, and many others, found emotional and which also provoked some heated comments. But then that’s what literary festivals should be about, right?

And finally I dragged my father to see Mohsin Hamid who spoke about his novels (Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and being Pakistani with a Western education and how to reconcile the two (he’s another lawyer) and June Chang and her husband John Halliday who spoke about Mao. Now that was one hell of a session, packed to the brim and also the final session of the festival. I haven’t read Chang’s books (both Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story) although my friends who have read them said they were amazing and affected them deeply. Chang is an incredibly magnetic person and when you hear her speak, you don’t doubt what a strong woman of conviction she is.

The only session that I left half-way through was the Sri Lankan writers’ session which was about Sri Lankan literature in English which dealt with the internal conflict. I was really interested in hearing what Ayathurai Santhan had to say as he had written The Whirlwind, a novel about the Indian Peace Keeping Force that had come to Jaffna to essentially help the civilian Tamil population in Sri Lanka but ended up imprisoning and treating them as suspects when they failed to root out the Tigers. It’s not a story that many have written about although everyone’s heard of similar stories so I wanted to know more. A serious author who has written 19 books in both Tamil and English, it was a mistake to put him together with two authors who were more interested in talking about themselves and their writing habits than about what was important when a writer sits down to leave behind a record of what happened even if it’s in fiction form. I was so irritated by the self-indulgent chatter in which Santhan was unable to participate that I just had to leave, even though this was one session I was really looking forward to. However, the excerpts they read from their work were really good so I hope that I can forget about this unfortunate episode and actually want to read their books. But this was a very small blip in what was a perfect literary festival.

I also want to mention two authors of Sri Lankan origin who have piqued my interest: British Roshi Fernando, author of Homesick a novel about Sri Lankans in London (who unfortunately couldn’t make it due to her daughter catching swine flu) and Canadian Randy Boyagoda, author of the forthcoming novel The Beggar’s Feast about his Sri Lankan relative, faux village life and murder. I’ll be sure to check out their work.

There were some other high profile authors such as Louis de Bernière, Candace Bushnell and Sarah Dunant whose sessions were apparently amazing but I couldn’t go to all of them. Anyway, I’m looking forward to attending again next year! Naturally there were a lot of articles in the press praising and bashing the GLF which seems to go hand-in-hand with such a high profile event but I noticed that there were a lot of journalists enjoying the festival.

On a side note, what was really amazing about the trip this year was the number of tourists in Sri Lanka. I don’t remember seeing so many tourists in hotels and walking along Galle Road for the past twenty-odd years and it put a big smile on all our faces. Apparently all the hotels were fully booked. Good thing they are building two new 7 star hotels in Colombo overlooking Galle Face Green. Although my mind boggles at the idea of a 7 star hotel…

I wasn’t sure whether we would be going to the Galle Literary Festival on my annual trip home to Sri Lanka next week. But my father seems keen and we’ve bagged ourselves a lovely room in the middle of the Fort so it’ll be a nice little holiday away for the three of us.

And what a line-up there is! I cannot wait to see Orhan Pamuk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Jay McInerney even though I haven’t read anything by them yet. Plus a whole host of others including my favourite Shyam Selvadurai! I’ve also got books by Tash Aw and Tan Twan Eng on my shelves which I really must read before I head off on holiday. Plus I’ve been curious about Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh mysteries which I had no choice but to hunt down now:)

So, it’s time for another list of books I’m thinking of reading in preparation for the Galle Literary Festival 2011. Last year I think I only managed to read one book from my list. GAH. Not impressed. Maybe this year I’ll manage to read two, ha ha.

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw (I loved Aw’s The Harmony Silk Factory which I read a few years back. Beautiful writing.)
Bone China, Brixton Beach or The Swimmer by Roma Tearne
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
My Name is Red or The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk!

Last year I took my Sony e-reader which I didn’t open once. Ho hum, I’ll take it again but I’m going to resign myself to reading paperbacks. I’m contemplating taking at least one fantasy book, but which one? George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings or Steven Erikson’s The Deadhouse Gates. (I know, I know, I did that last year, but have you seen how many volumes there are in each series?!) Erikson is doing a signing at Forbidden Planet next month so I’m edging towards him at the moment. Plus I need to take at least one mystery. Decisions, decision.

I’ll also be hunting down lots of Sri Lankan fiction. Sadly as I don’t read any Sinhalese or Tamil, they’ll all be in English:( But I’ll be looking for local authors and who knows who I will discover at the festival? The best thing about literary festivals is that you have no idea who you might stumble across. And it’s always so exciting when you find an author who is completely new to you that charms the socks off you such as Tahmima Anam, V.V. Ganeshananthan and Pico Iyer.

So, is there anyone from the 2011 GLF participants you are particularly keen for me to look out for? I’m all ears!

Slightly Peckish Tuesday

19 October, 2010

Yup, hunger strikes once again. Well, it’s a perpetual thing at chasing bawa. So check what I’ve been eating for lunch at Umamimart: Slightly Peckish!

I’m still on a high after meeting China Miéville and can’t wait to read Kraken! I also went to Michael Wood’s talk, Journey to South India: A Window on the Last Classical Civilisation, for the DSC South Asian Literature Festival yesterday at the British Library. I wasn’t able to make it to most of their other talks as I’ve been busy, and frankly rather knackered (I think it’s the change in season, always knocks my energy levels). However, Michael Wood’s enthusiasm for India is really infectious and he was such a lovely speaker and I now want to read about the history of South India and the Tamils. I bought my parents Wood’s BBC documentary The Story of India which was beautiful and so interesting. He divided the series into thematic episodes which really worked. Have you seen it?

You can also find an interview with one of my favourite Sri Lankan authors, Romesh Gunasekara here. He’s doing a fiction writing workshop at the British Library on October 23rd as part of the DSC South Asian Literature Festival. I went to one of his workshops at the Galle Literary Festival a few years ago and it was brilliant.

I also went to the UFC expo (that’s Ultimate Fighting Champion expo for those who aren’t into all that kick-boxing) with my family (we do some cool stuff, dontcha think?) and was pretty impressed with how low-key and civilised all these muscly tattooed men were, queueing up for autographs, etc. Reminded me of book fairs (me) and bellydance haflas (my sis). I guess all geekiness is the same;) At least we got to meet B.J. Penn’s mum! Score! And we met a half-Sri Lankan fighter called Dean Amarsinger. Anyway, my two brothers-in-law and nephews were SO excited, it was unreal.