A Book in Time

Reader Logo by Michael J. Kannengieser

Everyone can relate to a particular piece of music in their life. There are wedding songs, tunes a band played for slow dancing at the prom, and millions of love ballads for broken hearts and the lovesick. Each of these may point to a specific moment, event, or meaningful portion of a person’s years and serve as a page-holder in time. For me, there is a particular book I relate to in the same way.

From my childhood, I recalled a volume my father kept on his bookshelf. This one stood out from the rest; bible-black, and roughly the size of an encyclopedia, the cover told only part of the tale. This was a bound collection of news articles which chronicled the exploits of the “Texas” 36th Division in World War II. The light blue “T” patch of the unit was emblazoned on the front.

At the age of eighteen, he was assigned to the division and served in Italy.

The View From Here welcomes Dana Nialis

It's with great pleasure that The View From Here welcomes Dana Nialis as a member of the crew.  Dana joins us from California, USA, and  will be interning at the magazine across the next few months, with her primary focus being the Opportunities page.  Studying both English and Marketing at Santa Clara University, Dana also brings with her the experience of working with two other magazines.

Welcome, Dana.  We're delighted to have you with us.

see Dana's profile here.

Secret Son by Laila Lalami

Secret Son
by Laila Lalami
Publisher : Vicking, Penguin
Review : Grace

Secret Son is a beautifully told tale of a teenage boy growing up in Morocco. Simple, you might think, but Secret Son is far from simple. Lalami writes about big issues with delicate clarity and addresses these issues on an individual, familial and socio-political level. Issues of identity, belonging, secrecy, morality and ideology are all covered on different levels, and pleasing subtle parallels can be drawn between them. The most obvious parallel is between the protagonist’s personal confusion over his identity and the clash of traditional vs modern culture in Casablanca. But there are many more echoes and resonances to be discovered.

Gary Albyn - Poet and Conservationist - Manzovo, the Place of the Elephants

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by Jen

I heard Gary Albyn recite his poem Manzovo at the South African Pavilion at the London Book Fair. I estimate it took about twenty minutes, and I can only estimate because I was so caught up in the unfolding story and rhymes that I forgot to check my watch. Gary's lilting accent brought sounds together with a depth of musicality beyond the average British English tone (respite and desperate - become 'respit' and 'desprit'). His words evoke both the size and magnificence of the elephants and the landscape which they journey across, meeting predators and gangs, flora and fauna. We are invited in to experience the wildness of Africa through the imagery and rhythms of his poetry, you can smell blood and feel the heat of the sun. So much so, that an expat in the row in front of me was in tears, and said afterwards that the poem had "taken her home". That feeling, the depth of reaction of an audience is what Gary hopes will raise awareness and bring about action, in support of his deepest passion, conservation.

The future ain't what it used to be.

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by Stella

Having submerged myself a few months ago in real life, I’ve briefly resurfaced to discover (cue the ominous music) the release of the all-powerful iPad. Since this officially heralds the end of printed books (yea, hear the trumpets’ sounding and see the clouds gathering, verily), I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate the beginning of the last act by sharing a few of my book-related habits – some more peculiar than others – and contemplating whether or not they’ll still apply. Before proceeding to (mentally) smack me over the head for overreacting, please note:

Author Advice from the London Book Fair 2010 - Hilary Mantel, Richard Ford and Matthew Clarke

Hilary Mantel, CBE and winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2009 for her novel Wolf Hall, was the Author of the Day at the London Book Fair on Monday. She talked to Kate Adie. Here are selected highlights in which she offers her advice to writers on tools, characterisation and working as an historical author. She said of the Man Booker, "it has to be seen as an event in your career rather than an event in your writing, your writing life goes on."

On Digital - Notes from the London Book Fair 2010

Reader LogoBy Jen

Interviews with Dan Franklin, Digital Editor at publisher Canongate Books and Peter Collingridge of Enhanced Editions* plus an Apple iPad /iBooks demo courtesy of Jill Tinsley at Pindar plc.

The disruption to travel after the volcanic ash cloud threatened to turn the London Book Fair 2010 into a disaster. In the words of one agent, "The people I came here to meet just aren't here. It's not a write off yet, but it's headed that way." Yet the halls were still full of the Spring buzz surrounding the books that agents and publishers championed enthusiastically.Words like, 'fresh, exciting, unpredicted, ambitious, joy, challenge, phenomenal and serendipitous' were spoken with a passion which other people might reserve for talking about a new lover.

Jamie Byng - Canongate Books, at the London Book Fair

Reader LogoInterview with Jamie Byng, Publisher Canongate Books
by Jen

What is publisher Jamie Byng of Canongate Books looking for in the market right now? What was he hoping to get from the London Book Fair this week? You can feel the old maxim 'work hard play hard' physically and passionately embodied in Jamie Byng. He's looking for books which are 'a joy to publish, and a challenge to publish', and he says, 'if you're not revelling in that as a publisher, then you shouldn't be in it.' With bestselling authors Yann Martel and Philip Pullman on his 'pretty exciting list' it's understandable that he says 2010 is off to a phenomenal start.

Single Ticket - Rosemary J. Collins

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by Rosemary J. Collins

“First-class return to Liverpool, please.”

“Hundred and twenty pounds.”

“Thank you.”

“Two adult returns and three children, second class, Bristol, please.”

“Fifty seven pounds.”

“Thank you.”

“Two returns, second class, Plymouth, please.”

“Twenty nine pounds.”

“Thank you.”

“Single to Dover, second class.”

“Twelve pounds.”

The crumpled note and clinking coins are pushed under the little semi-circle hole in the thick glass – or is it see-through plastic? Penny has always wondered. She supposes she'll find out if it ever breaks. That might prove painful, since she would, as usual, be sitting behind it.

One Hundred Years of Solitude – A Bluffers Guide

by M.G. Harris

You’re a well-read person, interested in literature: all your friends know this about you. Yet somehow you haven’t gotten around to reading a book that critics and readers and academics reckon may be one of the best novels of the 20th century: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, known to friends and fans as Gabo. These things happen. I haven’t read anything by James Joyce or Proust. I made the mistake of saving lots of heavy reads for my retirement. But seems that as I age I don’t read with the same intensity of focus as in my twenties… However, who wants to admit they haven’t read such a book? So here’s enough to get you through a dinner party:

Sandbox - Jessica Patient

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by Jessica Patient

Sand collapses under each step, trying to capture and pull me under. It’s becoming harder to escape its grainy clutches. I clamber my way through the meshed branches. This used to be woodlands but now it’s another desert with only treetops sticking out of the ground. Sand starts trickling from the bulging golden-tinted clouds. There isn’t even time to moisten my cracked lips with a sip from my last water bottle. Grains jab my skin.

Some say it was China who first fired cloud-seeding pellets into the sky. Everyone rejoiced when they cured the droughts. But then deserts started shrinking. Rain turned to sand. Great drifts swept through cities. One-storey homes were buried, lost in orange hazes. Panic spread like bacteria. People claimed skyscrapers, stockpiled food and nested in boardrooms. It became a scramble to reach the highest point. Water became the new currency.

Realistic Magic

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by Kathleen

Not a book reviewer, I was so moved by one of Keith Lee Morris’s stories a few years ago that I spontaneously wrote a review on an open book forum. His new short story collection, “Call It What You Want” (Tin House Publishing) demands a finer appraisal than my unpracticed attempt, but I can’t keep quiet about it either. “Call It What You Want” should secure Keith Lee Morris’s standing among the best U.S. fiction writers today.

Morris, the author of two novels and another short story collection, writes about ordinary men (and only rarely from a woman’s point of view, but when he does, he gets it right). The stories mostly take place in small towns without obvious heroes. Yet, his characters persevere with urgency and decency. Morris elicits the magic inherent in everyday life.

Issue 22 of The View From Here on sale now


We've dropped the price of our subscriptions so you can now save up to a massive 25% off the individual cover price1. Click here for details.

Gorgeous, Eye Catching, Coffee Table Worthy! The View From Here - The Best of the Best in the new and emerging literary scene!

Issue 22 on sale with our interview with Anthony Cartwright only available in the printed edition. Anthony's book Heartland was a BBC Radio 4 book at bedtime and his previous book, the Afterglow, won a Betty trask award in 2004. Read our interview where we ask him about his book, writing and England's chances in the World Cup.

Order here  for $6.89 inc P&P for USA & Canada.

and £4.99 inc P&P for UK delivery directly on site here ...
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Interviews with ...
Anthony Cartwright
Raphael Selbourne
Catherine Banner

Original Fiction at thefrontview by:
Laura Solomon
Jennifer Dworschack-Kinter
Brendan Moore

Original Poetry at therearview by:
Dorothy Burris
Ellen Orner
Christine Delea
John Grey
Joshua Jones

Guest Writer:
Assaf Gavron

Original Short Fiction by Kathleen Maher

Book Review of:
The Blasphemer by Nigel Farndale

with original art by Fossfor

ISSN 1758-2903

Buy an annual or 6 month subscription today for yourself and save up to 25% off the cover price1. Just click here !

1 Based on UK pricing

Stopping Short of an Obituary Notice

by Gary William Murning
Photo created by Julian Povey

The Irish writer Brendan Behan once said that “all publicity is good, except an obituary notice”. Now, whilst I’m not in any way wishing an obituary notice on myself, or any other writers out there, I tend to disagree with this. In the past few months, since the publication of my first novel, my motto has very much become All Publicity Is Good! (Which can sometimes be translated As Any Publicity You Manage to Get Is Good!) Granted, it’s far more satisfying if you’re still around to benefit from it, but make no mistake about it; in the difficult world of book promotion and marketing, just about everything counts.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to know a number of writers who’ve offered me advice and guidance along the way, and the one thing all of them have pretty much agreed upon is how important it is for a writer to have a very proactive approach to the promotion of his/her work. Unless you’re a big-name author with a major publisher, the chances are that the marketing budget is going to be fairly small, if not non-existent.

So this was something that was at the forefront of my mind when my first novel was published. And, yes, it was daunting. There are now so many possibilities—so many ways of interacting with people and disseminating information that it is easy to be overwhelmed.

My approach, however, has been a fairly simple one. I talked to people I know—other writers, initially—and did what I could to get some coverage in writers’ magazines. I contacted regional newspapers and, in one case, actually interviewed myself for the local free paper. Lucy at Legend was also really helpful, getting me in The View from Here and Able Magazine.

But, of course, I was very aware that there was so much more I could be doing. Pretty familiar with the Internet and very comfortable with blogging communities, social networks and so on and so forth, I saw that to ignore such media would be silly.

Twitter—the much maligned micro-blogging platform—has been at the forefront of my “promotional campaign”. When If I Never was accepted, I’d already been using this service for six months or so. Keeping up with my blog on a regular basis was starting to become difficult and I liked the idea of having to restrict myself to 140 characters. Through it, I’d already established some good writing contacts, made some great friends and had some fun along the way—and when I heard that Legend was interested in publishing my novel I immediately started tweeting about it. The enthusiastic support and encouragement I received from my friends and followers made me see immediately just how powerful a tool Twitter could be for me. So I built on this, keeping the updates going, chatting, occasionally saying something that some considered “witty” and steadily grew my following.

What became apparent very quickly, though, was that such platforms can’t be used in a simple broadcast sense. It isn’t enough to simply send out promotional bytes. I watched others doing this and saw right away that the vast majority of people would react to this approach in exactly the same way as me; i.e.—they’d stop paying attention. That’s not to say that book details etc should not be mentioned at all. It’s more a case of providing balance. People need a reason to keep following, and simple, repetitive publishing information probably isn’t going to be enough.

Of course, not everyone on the Internet uses Twitter. But you can bet your life that they use something. Whether it be Facebook or MySpace, I knew they were out there, waiting, and so I built my presence on these platforms, too. I didn’t envisage that they would be too useful when it came to getting people I didn’t know interested in my novel, but I did see that they could be used as a handy way of keeping those who already liked my work up to date on new projects/publications. Their impact so far has been fairly small but I have a sneaking suspicion that they’ll come into their own in a year or two’s time. Hopefully!

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned over recent months, I suppose, is the importance of blogs, reader forums, websites such as GoodReads and fReado—and how happy people are, generally speaking, to give you a little free exposure. Bloggers in particular have been incredibly generous. I’m not shy, and I’m more than comfortable with e-mailing blog-owners to ask them if they’d be willing to interview me, and the results have nearly always been positive. Individual blogs may not necessarily have huge readerships, but if you’re featured on enough of them, they really start to have a noticeable effect on sales.

But it doesn’t just happen. It’s true that using the Internet to promote your work requires a fairly significant time investment. You need to keep up with what’s going on, chat to people, help people where you can and be a member of the community rather than just someone who visits occasionally. It can be fairly demanding, yes, but it doesn’t have to impact on your work or life as much as you might think. I’ve now set myself very clear cut off points. I don’t work beyond a certain time. I don’t tweet every five minutes. And if I have nothing to say, I don’t risk making a fool of myself by trying to find something.

What I do, though, I do as regularly as possible. I keep as organised as I can, make a point of trying something new each week, and continually remind myself that this is a long-term effort. There are short-term gains but, as I see it, I’m still laying the foundation for future success.

Success that will not, hopefully, depend on an obituary notice.

Gary's debut book, If I Never, was published by Legend Press last year. Gary is a writer from the northeast of England who enjoys literature, current affairs, music, the arts and sceptical enquiry. 

To visit his site here.
& find Gary on Twitter here.

Rabbit Writer - Those aren't paw marks

Was this really a good idea?

Well, it might not be so bad. He could just rub his chin on everything.

Sorry for no comic last month. I feel like a total doofus for letting that slip.

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by Naomi 'Brigid' Gill

Stairways to Heaven: The Lovely Bones meets The Shack

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by Jane Turley

Have you ever wondered how you will die? I suspect the most satisfactory outcome for most of us would be to slip away peacefully in our sleep after a long and fruitful life. However, in my experience, that is unlikely to be the case. In fact, when I look back at the lives of people I’ve loved and lost death has either been a long and painful process or sudden and dramatic. Either way, there was no easy way to come to terms with their loss. It was only the passing of time, the knowledge that natural death comes to us all and my belief in another existence that helped to ease my sorrow.

But what if death is unnatural? What if death is caused by a bizarre misfortune, a car crash or negligence? How does one deal with such a loss? How does one deal with exacerbated feelings of guilt, rage and injustice? Does it make you embrace your beliefs or abandon them? And what if something worse were to happen? What about the ultimate sin?

What happens if your child is murdered?

Imagine all the feelings of loss you’ve ever had, multiply them tenfold, a thousand fold even, and maybe you’d still only be half way to experiencing the horror of being the parent of a murder victim. Fortunately, child murder is something only very few of us will experience but I’m sure most of us can empathize and understand how it might call into question fundamental beliefs.

So as a parent with a religious upbringing it was with trepidation that I approached two hugely popular books which featured themes of child abduction and murder and visions of heaven; The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and The Shack by W.M Paul Young.

by Alice Sebold
Publisher: Picador 2002

"As he kissed his wet lips down my face and neck and then began to shove his hands up my shirt, I wept. I began to leave my body; I began to inhabit the air and the silence."

The Lovely Bones is the story of 14 year old Susie Salmon who is raped, murdered and dismembered by her neighbour, Mr Harvey, a loner who builds dollhouses. On her death Susie is transported to heaven where she observes the destruction and unhappiness wrecked upon her family and friends in the wake of their grief and their struggle to rebuild their lives. In The Shack the story is narrated by Willy who recounts the story of Mack whose youngest daughter, Missy, is snatched and murdered by the notorious “Ladybird” killer. Unlike The Lovely Bones, which attempts to portray the effect of loss on numerous people, The Shack is primarily about Mack and how he confronts the annihilation of his beliefs and his subsequent reconciliation when God requests his return to the shack, the scene of Missy’s brutal murder.

by W.M Paul Young
Windblown Media/Hodder & Stroughton 2008

" I am good, and I desire what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt, condemnation or coercion, only through a relationship of love. And I do love you."

In The Lovely Bones and The Shack Alice Sebold and W.M Paul Young present, in parts, fascinating glimpses into the human psyche. The strengths of both novels lie in the areas where the authors have truly reflected upon their own experiences and beliefs. To this extent, I felt the earlier chapters of The Lovely Bones in which Sebold deals with the murder and the immediate aftermath of the Susie’s death were the most successful. Sebold’s own experience as an 18 year old rape victim, narrowly escaping death, has clearly impacted on the story which is heartfelt and poignant. However, in the latter half of the book, the timescales change, the plot begins to weaken, the events become more fanciful and it is evident that Sebold’s vision of heaven is really only a device used to explore what is happening back on the earth.

In contrast, in The Shack the murder and the prelude to Mack’s meeting with God have none of Sebold’s finesse and seem almost perfunctory. The language is prosaic and at times grates on the nerves whereas Sebold produces exquisite turns of phrase which draw the reader in. But where as Sebold uses heaven to explore earth, Young uses earth to explore heaven and as such I didn’t feel emotionally involved with the characters until Mack finally confronts God in the shack. At this point the story takes on a new and vibrant form. Young’s beliefs begin to shine through and his joy in heaven and God is uplifting and addictive. Like Sebold, Young’s early experiences have shaped his writing and his life; he was raised by missionary parents and until the age of 6 lived amongst a primitive tribe who assaulted him and practised cannibalism. He freely admits that those early days provided a sense of identity which grew alongside his more Christian upbringing. However, his identity and beliefs were all called into question when family tragedies and personal failings led him to a place of despair, a place he called The Shack. This period of his life, which he attempts to mirror using Missy’s death as a catalyst, is what led to the resurgence of his beliefs and his acceptance of God.

I am always intrigued by other people’s concept of heaven and, like many, I have my own, albeit incomplete, vision of heaven. Sebold’s heaven is also incomplete, in fact so much so, that it felt not so much like heaven but a form of purgatory. Indeed there is no mention of God and his presence is elusive. The heaven Susie inhabits is rather like the parallel universes of Dr Who where you can walk the same streets, live another life but with the addition of being able to watch and sometimes influence the other world. Personally, I’m not sure that when I die I would want that option so I was pleased there was the suggestion that, at some point, Susie could move on to another, perhaps more sympathetic and complete form of heaven. However, when the event that might trigger Susie’s onward journey finally occurs it is only for her to inhabit a friend’s body and make love to a teenage boy she once kissed. Although touchingly written, I was saddened that her reconciliation required her to take on human form again; it felt more of an exercise in sexual maturity rather than in spiritual growth. Disappointingly, Sebold’s heaven seemed to be one where both heaven and earth are inextricably and permanently entwined even after death. Personally, it’s not an image of heaven that appeals; I’d like to believe that heaven is a place of unremitting joy where entry isn’t won, earnt or gained through earthly associations but granted to all out of love and forgiveness.

Conversely, in The Shack it is Young’s vision of heaven and exploration of his beliefs which bring salvation to a book which struggles at times to portray the heartbreak and grief that Sebold captures so well. However, The Shack does offer a more complex and deeper insight into heaven than The Lovely Bones. Whilst the fundamental principles are Christian in concept, in particular the exposition of the Holy Trinity, The Shack is by no means a simple enforcement of Christian doctrine and there will be many who will take issue with how Young embraces all religions and portrays God as a black African American mama and the Holy Spirit as an ethereal Asian female. There were times when my imagination was stretched, in particular with an episode which was reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind but, nevertheless, it was impossible to read The Shack and not be infused by Mack’s joy in reconciliation and the love of God.

Of course, we won’t find any real answers to what lies in heaven in any work of fiction but both novels do provide interesting sounding boards for thought and discussion. As novels, neither is perfect and both suffer from weak endings. However, a novel doesn’t have to be perfect to be a worthwhile read and it is impossible to walk away from either book without feeling some degree of satisfaction. The Shack is perhaps more memorable because of the infectious happiness that that accompanies Mack’s redemption whereas The Lovely Bones leaves a feeling of melancholy as despite Susie’s apparent moment of reconciliation she continues to walk the earth, watching and waiting.

It would not surprise me if The Shack remains Young’s only mainstream novel. The story is really a testimony to Young’s own personal tragedies and his triumphant return to God and thus his deficiencies as a writer are overshadowed in what is a powerful and influential story. His words will, I’m sure, give hope and encouragement to all those who seek comfort, faith and salvation. As for Sebold, there is no doubt she has a greater gift of expression and a genuine talent for telling tales. Hopefully, The Lovely Bones will be the catharsis for the brutal attack that left her so deeply scarred. If The Lovely Bones acts as a means for Sebold’s own reconciliation then, like The Shack did for Young, it will be a means for her to move on with her life in a positive and joyous way.

As for the rest of us we can only be grateful when we read stories like The Shack and The Lovely Bones that portray in greater detail the horror of child murder that we never have to endure such agony. And for those few unfortunate parents who do, we can only pray that when they climb their own stairways to heaven it will bring them the peace that, no doubt, avoids them in this earthly life.