The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
If you haven't yet read this modern classic, perhaps now's the time, recommends our team member Cui:“
Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house… must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.”
A heartrending novel about life, love, and loss in the lives of fraternal twins Estha and Rahel, who grew up in a little town in Kerala, India. As children, they saw firsthand how life and society punished the people they loved for breaking the Love Laws, the ones that lay down “who must be loved, and how, and how much”.
Roy is a masterful storyteller, weaving layers and layers of poignant narratives in which her characters are inextricably bound, then irrevocably broken, by the Great Stories, Love Laws and the Small Things that are the bleached bones of life. A well-deserved Booker Prize winner, this book will indubitably change your life as it did mine. - CuiFor more recommended reads, click here.
Little Alex came for a stay over at grandma's, and so he was hanging out at W&T yesterday. I asked him if he wanted a hot choc, he said, 'Yes.' As he was sipping it, Shivaun asked, 'How's your hot chocolate?' And he looked up, smiled, and said, 'That's just perfect.' We thought it was so cool we asked Alex to repeat this for our phone camera. The priceless moment captured on film - LOL! :) If that's not a 'perfect' endorsement from a satisfied 'customer,' I don't know what is!
It was lovely to have Jen Campbell in the store on Wednesday 10 June 2013 to share more funny stories from her latest book 'More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.' Jen's prequel 'Weird Things Customers Say...' is a bestseller and we were really chuffed to hear that it's been translated to several languages, including Swedish and Chinese (if I remember correctly). Congrats again, Jen!
Jen works at Ripping Yarns
, an antiquarian bookshop located at Highgate, so if you're around the area, do drop in. A passionate advocate for independent bookshops, Jen's been doing the rounds to share more funny stories collected from bookshops around the world, from as far afield as Hong Kong to South Africa. Signed copies in store :) To read Jen's blog and more about her adventures in bookshops (and other stuff too), visit her blog here
Louisa B. Waugh spent a considerable amount of time in Gaza, where she absorbed the culture and came to love and admire its people's resilience, dark humour and drive to make a better world for themselves. She was at W&T last night to share her insight into the Gaza strip, including sides not often seen or heard in news reports. She shared vignettes of life in the Gaza strip -- stories about Christian celebrations during Ramadan, Gazans love for the sea, and the challenges faced by this indomitable people amidst the continued conflict between the Israel-Palestinian states. It was a moving event, and there was even a touching moment between Palestinian author Rabai al-Madhoun and Louisa. Thank you to Louisa, Rabai, and Saqi Books, and all who joined us for a memorable evening.
W&T hosted a Platform65
open mic poetry and music session on 1 June 2013, with special guest, the Paris-based zheng
harpist, writer and literary translator, Fiona Sze-Lorrain
. It was an intimate afternoon with wondeful poetry, beautiful music and awesome talent. Thank you to all who joined in. Watch this space for more acoustic sessions and literary events - coming soon! You can register for events updates here
, so you don't miss out! http://www.woolfsonandtay.com/register-for-updates.html
I really shouldn't be doing this. I really should be doing something more productive. Like, sort out month-end bills. Or continue writing my PhD chapter that's due for submission next week. But I felt sufficiently incensed to consider making an effort -- for the purpose of fulfilling my civic responsibilities, no less.
Okay, when you start a new business or relocate your business -- and this is advice that so far I haven't ever received from anyone -- what you need to know is that direct marketing companies, spammers and scammers will crawl out of the woodwork like leeches and come after you.
In the UK in particular, I have come to realise that direct marketing is a free-for-all, no-holds-barred exercise. The all-seeing eye of Big Brother is all too palpable here. It's like, sign a lease for a new home, and by the time you step over the threshold with your first carton box, there's mail from TV Licensing to real estate agents, to utility companies, to cleaning agencies, etc etc etc, on the little mat behind the door -- all wanting your business! Seriously, what omnipotent power is this? What gigantic mainframe somewhere has all our details and is spewing them out in wanton abandonment?
As I was sorting my mail today -- as I was saying, it is coming to month end and the bills have to be paid -- I came across more post directed to Mrs Francis Katie, whoever she is. Now, I have been throwing out countless junk mail directed to Mrs Katie for weeks now. But today, just today, I decided to look at them closely.
Here are my observations (see images below):
1. Obviously, they are all addressed to Mrs Francis Katie
2. They all stem from the same postal address - 296 Farnborough Road
3. The letters don't look like proper pre-printed letterhead paper; the company logos appear to have been generated from a mass laser printer
Conclusion: They come from the same source - some company that is doing mass direct marketing and has sold our details (albeit inaccurate details) to other businesses under the guise of B2B marketing [Oooh, I too can use fancy business jargon!]
This makes me think the following:
1. Are these various businesses legit or scams? I could do company checks etc but that would frankly be wasting even more of my time
2. If these are legit businesses that are buying such services, do they realise that they are coming across as scammers?
Now, you may think: Just some harmless junk mail. Keeps Royal Mail in business, what's the harm? Well, I tell ya, unfortunately, the reason why I have such a disdainful response to these direct mail shots is because I have fallen prey to multiple mass marketing scams, as well as aimless drivel aimed at businesses for I don't know what reason -- ever since W&T opened in 2010. That's right -- obviously I haven't been the sharpest knife in the drawer and I'm willing to admit that for the public good.
I've paid for ads in non-existent charity magazines that supposedly was in aid of the fire brigade and the police...
I've been suckered by a business agency that tried to force me to pay for services the company hadn't yet rendered...
I've answered meaningless emails concerning book queries, asking for obscure medical and legal texts which required research but inevitably led nowhere...
I even replied to senseless, badly constructed comments in response to our blog entries once or twice -- until I realised there was a certain pattern to these randomly generated drivel...
I've also replied once to an email to tell the person who wrote us know that the tickets he/she booked on our website was for an event that had already taken place... and then I realised that we have quite a few of those in our inbox, and they inevitably have weird email addresses with lots of random numbers and funny names.
To counter these sorts of harassment -- yes, that's what they are, plain and simple, a form of abuse -- I've made complaints and lodged reports with various agencies, even registered our phone numbers so they are excluded from marketing databases. You know I know that all of these were exercises in futility of course. I still get regular calls on behalf of various banks about PPI, accident insurance, etc etc etc. Oh heck, I admit it, I just wanted some satisfaction, some way of protesting, some means of venting my frustration. (Plus nurse my wounded pride -- I mean, doh!)
In the last month, we (my team and I) have fielded more than 50 calls from marketers about the 'emergency rates' we are paying for electricity, which often turn threatening and very uncomfortable when the marketer on the other end of the line won't take 'no' for an answer. The sure-fire way we've discovered to ending the conversation quickly is to ask for their company name and phone number. They usually hang up when you ask for this.
So all by way of saying -- if you want to stay sane and avoid trouble, here are some suggestions based on our experience to date:
1. Any cold calls you get -- ask for their company name, company registration number, VAT number, BEFORE you agree to even answer any questions or continue the conversation. Then make that marketer wait while you 'google' them* (if he/she hasn't hung up already). *see point 5 below for relevance of Google ;P
2. Don't respond to mass/direct marketing letters issued from nameless PO Boxes or addresses -- if these companies (and I presume there are legit businesses among these clients) are willing to let some direct marketing agency send thousands upon thousands of generic letters out in the hopes that the usual 2% will stick, think -- what is their marketing strategy? I will tell you from bitter experience that it's all about volume and stats. Not customer service. As for the scammers among them who use such methods, they are only interested in extracting small amounts of dosh from as large a pool as possible.
3. Never ever give your credit or debit card details over the phone
4. Never ever agree to anything on the phone -- ask for written correspondence of some kind
5. If engaging a person or company for some sort of service you've never used, if they ask for your credit or debit card details on the phone to 'make a booking' or 'secure an appointment' -- hang up
5. Google is a very useful tool -- when in doubt about a company, search in multiple combinations -- using words like 'scam' and 'complaints' -- along with the name of the company and see if any red flags are raised
Good luck! I hope sharing what we've experienced will help you avoid the pitfalls with direct marketers, cold callers, spammers and scammers. - Fran
John Dies at the End by David Wong
Think Stephen King meets Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers
and you'll understand why this work of fiction will soon hit the big screens. It's billed as a horror story - and there are enough creepy bits in it to warrant that - but on many levels it reads a bit like a satire of the blood-spattering, OTT B-grade horror flicks where the actors know they're in a horror film (think Scream
), know what I mean? Author David Wong is the protagonist in the book, which is why David Wong isn't really the author actually; it's Jason Pargin
writing as David Wong the protagonist in the book. David and best friend John (yes, the one that's supposed to die at the end) have a special gift for the undead and all things paranormal, on account of a substance (which they call 'soy sauce') they ingested, which was doled out by a Jamaican druggie aptly named Robert Marley, mon, ya feel me? This leads them on a very very strange journey which is told retrospectively, zipping between events that after a while, you feel as disoriented as the heroes themselves. All by way of saying, I couldn't put the book down because Pargon does a great job of keeping the reader guessing. He's got a wicked sense of humour and even grisly stuff feel tongue in cheek. Given, some scenes are a bit cliched, but then Pargon throws in a twist here and there that you didn't see coming. A great fun read, an enjoyable roller coaster ride. Welcome to the dark side hehehehehehehe (evil laugh) :) - FranFor more recommended reads, click here.
The Retrospective - A.B. Yehoshua
One of Israel's most prolific and successful writers and a committed advocate for peace in the region, A.B. Yehoshua manages to enter the inner worlds of his characters, both men and women, with intense honesty and compassion. The Retrospective, his tenth novel tells the story of an aging film director and his longtime muse/actress summoned to a Spanish pilgrimmage city for a retrospective of their earlier work. Their shared and complicated past, embodied in each of these films, as comes under scrutiny, highlighting the tensions and conflicts which existed between Yair Moses, the Ashkenazi director and Shaul Trigano, his one-time, now estranged Sephardic screenwriter.
What begins as a very personal deconstruction of artistic choices made decades ago, becomes, in the end, a meditation between two styles of art, two ways of being Jewish, two ways, in fact, of being human. Gripping from the first page, The Retrospective takes place as much in the surreal world of imagination and artistry as the real world of a man facing the indignities of physical decline, the unrelenting persistence of desire, and the need to make peace with the ghosts of the past. - ShivaunFor more recommended reads, click here.
The Book of My Lives – Aleksandar Hemon
In this moving memoir Aleksandar Hemon combines humour, compassion and a deeply felt humanity to create what is ultimately a lovesong to his native Sarajevo and equally to his adopted city of Chicago. It recaptures the exploits of a young boy growing up amid football, books, and an annoying younger sister. But this is no simple memoir. In the end, this book is a heart-breaking portrait of a city under siege and an entire world lost to one of history darkest and most bitter conflicts. For those who have enjoyed Hemon’s fiction, this offers a deeper insight into the man, the writer and the world from which he comes. For those yet to discover him, this is a timely, and intimate introduction. - ShivaunFor more recommended reads, click here.
If you could reimagine a future without the threat of climate change, what would it be like? If you could imagine a present where nothing changes, what would the future hold? A group of award-winning British authors were commissioned to devise original responses to one of the greatest challenges of our time - climate crisis. The result is Beacons: Stories for our Not too Distant Future. On hand to share what inspired them to contribute to this anthology were Gregory Norminton, Toby Litt and James Miller at W&T on the evening of 22 May 2013. This sparked a lively debate that ranged from environmental to socio-political issues, consumerism/capitalism to spirituality. Thank you to the fabulous authors for sharing their ideas and vision with us, and many thanks to those who joined us and contributed towards a thought-provoking evening.