I’ve always wanted to go to Istanbul. I was planning to go there this autumn, in fact, and read a lovely little book to prepare myself: The Bridge by Geert Mak.
He’s a Dutch journalist who spent some time – weeks? months? – hanging around the Galata Bridge in Istanbul. If he’d been a clumsier writer, he could have turned the book into a heavy-handed discussion of the bridge’s symbolic position between West and East, Europe and Asia. Instead, he describes the scene and the locals with a wonderfully light touch. One day, I’m going to see it for myself. One day…
I remembered The Bridge this week, because I was sent a copy of one of my books in a language that I couldn’t recognise, let alone understand. I had to open the title page even to discover that it was a Turkish translation. The thought of Grk in Istanbul made me want to jump on a plane and go there myself.
Here are the Turkish editions of A Dog Called Grk…
In last Saturday’s Guardian, I reviewed Scat, Carl Hiaassen’s latest book for children.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal condemned Hiaasen for polluting young minds with ecological propaganda. In Scat, he even points his readers towards Edward Abbey’s classic novel of eco-terrorism, The Monkey Wrench Gang. (I’d be fascinated to know if any of them actually read it; Scat’s teenage protagonist does track down a copy, but falls asleep after a few pages.) Whatever your political alignment, you’ll find nothing dreary or didactic about Hiaasen’s writing; Scat is a funny and furiously fast-moving novel populated by engaging characters and fuelled by a strong sense of moral outrage.
You can read the full review here.
Publishing a book often feels like throwing a stone into a pond: there’s a little splash, a few ripples, and then it’s gone. If you’re lucky, the splash will be reviews and even a prize. Perhaps the ripples will include some letters from readers or visits to festivals. And then… nothing.
But books have a life of their own. Long after the book has been published – sunk to the bottom of a pond, languishing among the weeds, forgotten – someone will read it. They’ll find a lone copy languishing on a dusty shelf in a library. And, once again, your words will come alive.
I recently got an email from a friend, a composer. Many years ago, she asked me to write some words to accompany her music. Two actors recorded the words. The piece was performed. And that was that.
Now, she wrote to me to announce, it has been performed again at a festival in Toronto.
The fate of these words – written and recorded so long ago that I can hardly remember anything about them – made me feel enormously optimistic. It was as if this particular stone’s ripples had bounced back and forth across the pond, never fading, never disappearing, continuing for years.
If you’re interested, here is some information about Juliet, who wrote the music, and here’s an intriguing picture on a flickr page of someone who went to the festival.
…come to one of my events at the Central Library. Several writers are appearing – and all the events are free!
(Click the picture to make it bigger.)