Saturday, August 13, 2011

What to Read When You're Not on the Beach

Summer reads dominate the newspapers. Usually at this time of year they're short of news, not this year of course. But there's something a little annoying about the sense of entitlement that sees August as a month to pack bags for two to three weeks and find a beach to read on, or whatever. Not all of us are following the political classes to Tuscany. Sunshine's in shorter supply than news this August.

But even in the summer, there's still a residual amount of literary activity. It could take most of the summer to read through the massive programme of this year's Manchester Literature Festival. There will be a few gems, I'm sure, and having the Anthony Burgess Foundation as this year's hub will cement its role as Manchester's new literary centre. Very much looking forward to a celebration of B.S. Johnson for instance. The Anthony Burgess Foundation has a brand new website just in time, not just for the festival, but for next year's anniversary of "A Clockwork Orange." This weeks Manchester riots give a contemporary and sociological subtext to the work. As a few commentators have pointed out, Alex and the Droogs are younger in the book than we see in Kubrik's film version.

If poverty and lack of opportunity create riots, they don't necessarily lead to criminality. An admirable art project from Arthur + Martha, with some text help from various writers, wonders what the equivalent of Engels' 19th century poor would be - and focusses on the cities homeless. Tweet From Engels (@tweetfromengels) gives voice to the homeless, funnelling their words through Twitter and is well worth following.

Admirably, at a time of year when most literary events shut up shop, The Other Room stays open for business. The week after next, the 27th event in this always fascinating series, takes place at the Old Abbey Inn on Wednesday 24th August.

I've been trying to organise myself a bit more in order to enter a few of the plethora of competitions that seem to exist these days. There's been an extension to the Didsbury Arts Festival short story and poetry competitions (Theme: Maps, Deadline: 26th August) and there's also an intrigueing new opportunity from Art group Blank Media Collective. Slightly more in the distance - the chance to have a poetry collection published should never be ignored, if only because it forces you to organise and arrange your work. The Anthony Hecht prize offers not just publication but money. What more could a poet ask for?

Coming up soon, as well, I'm one of a series of writers giving workshops at part of the Calderdale Writers Roadshow. I'm running a workshop on Creative Non Fiction on September 10th - but there's plenty of other opportunities, and a good enough reason to pop out of Manchester to nearby Calderdale.

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