A weekly round up of miscellaneous bookish news you may have missed (and often I missed them too)
The BBC is trying to demonstrate it isn’t downgrading its focus on the arts with the announcement of a new book portal on its website. The number of arts programmes has been decreasing in recent years and the announcement in March that its flagship programme The Review Show was being axed after 20 years was greeted with criticism all round.
In response, the Beeb has launched Books at the BBC, which brings together all its radio and tv coverage under one virtual roof – until now, they were listed only on the web pages for each individual station and program. Books at the BBC is going to be in test mode throughout the summer and finalised this autumn. The current pages have some really good programmes and resources. Apart from quick links to the Book of the Week episodes and the latest episodes of The World Book Club and Open Book, there is a collection of material about the work of Laurie Lee who would have been 100 last month, including his last recorded interview. I was fascinated by an interview with Jung Chang (author of the award-winning Wild Swans) talks about her latest book Empress Dowager Cixi and was just getting ready to listen to the serialisation when the server crashed. I think they’re having some technical issues. But when they get fixed this is going to be a site I’m sure I’ll be coming back to often.
Around the world the short way
You all know how much I love reading fiction from different parts of the world. This week I came across an app that takes me on a world literary odyssey in small steps and without having to pack a bag. I’d been reading the Book of Gaza short stories published by Comma Press and went to their website to find out what else they had to offer. And thats where I came upon LitNav. It’s an app you can download from ITunes (free of charge) that gives you access to dozens of short stories set in different parts of the world, all written by authors from those locations.
There was no question which I would read first. Here in the UK we’ve been getting warnings of an imminent megastorm so it seemed entirely fortuitous to find a story called Waiting for the Rain which is set in Barcelona which turned out to be a nicely observed story about an encounter on a tram between age and youth. Then it was off to Asia for a story with the odd title Squatting set in somewhere called Shenyang that turned out to be a funny tale off a bunch of intellectuals with ideas on how to solve their city’s crime problem.
The most inventive aspect of this site however is that if you download the audio version, it opens a map of the streets and districts featured in the story, with info about the location itself. So you can follow your characters around their city. I haven’t seen any of the big publishers do this (if I’m wrong do let me know) but I thought it was remarkable that this had been created by a small, not for profit group. Kudos to Comma Press for bringing this new platform to life.
Now I just have to decide which collection of stories in book form I want next. Tokyo is favourite at the moment….