A Year Older… and Match-Making My Books

It’s my birthday this week and I have been so busy that I haven’t had time to fully prepare for it. I’ll be delivering two translation workshops in schools on my actual birthday, but also going to the hairdresser and having my older son come back home from university. No major treats planned for my birthday weekend (because we will be heading back to Durham on the 1st of July and will celebrate then), but I can tell you it has been a better year than the previous one.

There have been no spectacular changes outwardly, other than having my older son go off to university (and experiencing the bittersweet delight of having him home for the holidays and then saying farewell all over again) – but he seems happy, settled, and still eager to talk to me regularly, so it’s not been a horrible wrench. I have also finally been able to go and see my parents in March, after 2.5 years of enforced distancing. They are much frailer than I’d have liked, and I can foresee I will have to make more frequent trips over there over the next few years.

Other than that: I am still in the same day job, I have not moved house, I have not found a new partner, nor have I suddenly taken up a new sport and dramatically altered my body. I have not won any literary prizes (neither individually nor with my publishing venture Corylus Books). In fact, I’ve had a lot of rejections, both little and big.

What I have done is started proper (online) Italian lessons, in a very small group, and am progressing very well, even if I don’t do lots of homework every day. I did the BCLT Summer School for Multilingual Theatre Translation last July and discovered how much I enjoy translated theatre and that I really want to be involved in it. Best of all, I’ve rediscovered my passion for writing and the topics to match. The burbling fountain (or should that be ‘babbling’?) is back! After a discouraging few years of merely editing and resubmitting previously rejected stuff, it feels good to be writing new things, however raw and in need of revision. The poetry also feels lighter, more playful than before – I seem to be having fun with it. See what you think:

The search is not for love
but for a brief clasp of your fingers
and a jolt of electricity
on a late May evening
in a station where only the slow train stops,
the white lilac teases
with its heady scent above
the crumbling wall.

One thing I have become acutely aware of this year is that, if I am planning to move abroad permanently in about two years’ time, I need to get a handle on my completely out-of-control bookshelves. I am still buying books, but I should also learn to take them promptly off the shelves once I’ve read them, unless they are profoundly significant and will require rereading.

This got me wondering whether it might be a good idea to share some of my recent books which I’ve reviewed but no longer want to keep. I give a huge pile of books to charity shops ever so often, but they have started refusing them recently (they have too many, not enough place to store them). Moreover, these books I was thinking of are not underlined or based-looking second-hand copies. They are all in splendid condition, bought new, read once (with post-its rather than scribbles or turned corners).

Since I am not steeped in wealth (but also don’t want to be profiteering, as I recognise things are tough for everyone right now), I thought I might make a small amount from reselling them – enough to cover the cost of P&P and perhaps a coffee when I go to the post office. How does a flat fee of £5 per book sound? UK only, I’m afraid, as postage to other countries is prohibitively expensive, while custom forms are an additional obstacle.

I will suggest about five or so books every month. Let me know either on Twitter or in the comments below if you have your eye on any of them (you can have more than one, if you like) and we can arrange payment via Paypal or some other means. I am linking to the original reviews on my blog where they exist, but don’t be put off if I haven’t loved a book, as I tend to be horrendously critical and impatient (especially of late).

I feel like I’m doing a bit of a match-making service for these books, so that they find their perfect reader, so here are my first attempts at playing matchmaker.

  1. Alberto Prunetti: Down and Out in England and Italy – inspired by Orwell, an unashamedly frank look at contemporary life on minimum wage is searching for an equally no-holds-barred fan of poetic yet politically charged non-fiction
  2. Italo Svevo: A Perfect Hoax – short, humorous, yet packs a dark punch to the gut. Looking for understanding reader, with a satirical delight in tormented writerly types and their foibles.
  3. Amy Liptrot: The Instant – confused young woman searching for a good home and respite from heartbreak
  4. Oscar Coop-Phane: Tomorrow Berlin – self-absorbed and self-destructive but colourful, seeking a steady, understanding influence and/or lashings of hedonism.
  5. John Dickson Carr: Till Death Do Us Part – a British Library crime classic by one of the best Golden Age crime writers – you get very much what it says on the tin – a good solid few hours of fun and a near-impossible puzzle