Friday, August 16, 2013


Why is it that writers are asked to read their own work? Writers, with some exceptions, are not good readers, they lack the dulcet tones and vocal control of professional actors so their finely-wrought words emerge inelegantly, instead of being smoothly pronounced with the grace and passion they deserve. 

No extra insight into the book can be gained by clumsy, stumbling readings and it’s embarrassing for the writers. I think readers just want to see the author rather than hear them blundering inexpertly through their text. A bit like staring at movie stars in the dark.

Fortunately, there are groups of professional actors who will read a writer’s text for her and this is a fabulous idea. Everybody’s happy: the writer hears her work read with polish, the appropriate emotional emphasis, even accents and the actor gets to strut his stuff and get noticed by someone who may be a producer and the audience gets to watch the writer, hear her words delivered properly and get her autograph.

LIARS’ LEAGUE - London, NY, Hong Kong, Leeds.

Unfortunately, these groups are not yet more widely available and we'd love it if they could spread faster to Paris, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Melbourne, Madrid, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Vancouver and elsewhere. There are actors in all these places who’d be glad of the chance to show off their talent and grateful writers who be equally happy to hear their work read well.             
             Photo of Charles Laughton by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Friday, August 2, 2013


It seems literature has swept grandly through the ages, illuminating, educating, saving lives with flair and panache only to stumble over digitization and fall into desperate commercialism in the 21st century.
    But, what the hell, we’re constantly being assailed by yelling, flashing pop-up promotions anyway, so why not embrace commercialised literature as well? Publishers and authors are following Hollywood’s example and producing sequels and "prequels" like Joseph Heller’s “CLOSING TIME” and John David California’s “60 YEARS LATER: COMING THROUGH THE RYE”.  They’re making book trailers with music, action sequences and special effects that make you want to see a movie, not read a book. There’s even a writers’ wreality show called WRITERS’ ROOM where actual writers chat about how they wrote famous TV series. 

    So why should literature not go the whole hog? Why not make  movies about editors and publishing houses as well as writers? The process of getting a book from idea to print can surely make a good movie. Book editors are interesting people who do all sorts of things besides read manuscripts.
    There are plenty of movies about writers even though the less the writer writes in them, the more successful the films:
    Michael Chabon’s WONDER BOYS
    Stephen King’s MISERY
    Nabokov’s LOLITA
    Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
    Michael Tolkin’s THE PLAYER 

    Joel and Ethan Coen’s BARTON FINK
    Michael Cunningham's THE HOURS  
Publishers try hard to promote young, good-looking writers to stardom by having them do lots of TV interviews, writerly blogs, Twitter accounts and pose for stunning photos but is that enough?
    Why not  have a heavily promoted awards show (The WRITIES, the LITTIES, the AUTHIES?) where nominated writer stars could swan down a red carpet in extravagant tweed and corduroy outfits, with sparkly scarves and toothy interviewers could ask: “What on earth are you wearing?” and “Is that Windsor and Newton ink on your fingers?” and “That bishop’s mitre looks marvelous with your leather elbow-patches, Dan.”
    Inside the theater there’d be witty presenters, a live orchestra and  lavish dance numbers based on scenes from best-sellers. The prizes could be a gold book, a silver quill, a bronze computer keyboard, something that could be brandished for the TV cameras in a dignified, writerly way. Prizes would, of course, presented by Adam Johnson, Annie Proulx, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez.
The speeches would be fabulous - I’d watch it, wouldn't you?