News

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    Batten Down the Herons – 20/07/2024

    As I begin to write, the sun is glittering through the glass roof of The Clifton Arcade. Books with sunflower yellow covers must be moved inside for protection. By the time I send this, the forecast suggests we’ll be enjoying thundery showers. The national picture is warning of gales. Correction: warning of Gail’s. Gail’s Bakery can’t function thanks to the Microsoft/Crowdstrike kerfuffle. Remember where you were when Radio 4 accidentally failed to broadcast the Shipping Forecast? (30th May 2014, M’Lud.) Some think this is bigger. I suggest veering west: the independent bakeries and coffee shops of Clifton are operating at full force. Fortunately, reading is an all-weather activity. And physical…

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    Ravens and Starlings Too – 13/07/2024

    As Alice falls down the rabbit hole, she has time to look about her and wonder what will happen next. She falls past cupboards and shelves, looks at maps and picks up a jar labelled ‘Orange Marmalade.’ The jar is empty, otherwise one imagines that she would have tested the truth of the label and tried its contents. She wonders what will happen if she falls right through the earth and comes out the other side. In The Annotated Alice, Martin Gardner offered an answer to this question, though he is flummoxed, not unfairly, by trying to answer why a raven is like a writing desk. It was this scene…

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    In Green Water – 06/07/2024

    I have been reading Passiontide by Monique Roffey. What starts as a detective story following the death of a young woman at a carnival on a Caribbean island becomes a rage-filled uprising against violence, patriarchy, police, political strictures, sexist media… There’s a vast cast of characters, including the voice of the murdered woman, an inspiring energy and a Lysistrata-esque protest, both funny and poignant. I’ll write a newsletter where I recommend what to read based on your voting preferences, I thought. Passiontide is for supporters of the Women’s Equality Party. No, hang on: it is more importantly for everyone else, everyone yet to support their cause. I toyed with the…

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    Wise Owls – 29/06/2024

    When I was a child, before we went on holiday there were two things I loved doing. One was fetching items from my mother’s extensive packing list: we never travelled without at least two teapots. The other was the trip to the library to choose our books. A week’s holiday meant we each needed a sizeable stack. Packing the car was a challenge: it required diagrams. A small child could be left behind in favour of another Just William book. This early training has proven invaluable. I am very good at using all the nooks in a car boot, proficient when it comes to the selection of books for a…

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    Flash Fiction Competition Result

    As part of our Independent Bookshop Week partnership with And Other Stories, we held a flash fiction competition, in honour of their commitment to and our love of exceptional short fiction. Writers were invited to submit 400 words on the theme of ‘independence’. The submissions were brilliantly varied, from the realist to the surreal to the fantastical, with many interpretations of the theme. We are delighted to announce first and second place and to publish their stories below. First place: Sublimation by Adrian Bridget Second place: 11 Easy Steps to Stealing a Humbug by Lou Curran Sublimation When I was a schoolchild in Brazil, not long after they stopped asking…

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    On Planet Heron – 22/06/2024

    An eight-day week later, we have had a brilliant time partnering with publisher And Other Stories and championing their books. And Other Numbers:One poetry reading (two poets), two book groups, one flash fiction competition (lots of entries, five shortlisted).Five hundred temporary tattoos, some glasses of wine (accurate data not found), many towers of AOS books, (too?) many social media posts.One argument between booksellers about a tote bag, one argument between booksellers settled by publisher arriving with second tote bag.Three heavenly herons now adorn the shop’s windows, flanked by more AOS books.Zero accidents when putting up bunting (four close calls).Myriad lovely customers.I think Independent Bookshop Week has been rather wonderful. And…

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    This Must Be The Place – 15 June 2024

    Welcome to Independent Bookshop Week; the much-anticipated eight-day week is here and our partnership with publisher And Other Stories kicks off. Welcome to The Heronry; do come and admire our And Other Stories book displays and artwork and pick up a (temporary) And Other Herons tattoo, as well as lots of AOS books. Welcome to all the places books can take you: from new countries to home, from mines to woodland, from smoke-filled bars to glittering coast. Perhaps my favourite place to which a book has taken me is a destination never actually reached: Lublin by Manya Wilkinson is an absurd journey with three Jewish boys walking to Lublin to…

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    Waterlogged Herons – 9 June 2024

    Sometimes it is clear where I ought to begin with the newsletter. In recent weeks, having spent time in a walled garden in Suffolk with Olivia Laing, an Arcadian newsletter grew. Writing down passages from Richard Flanagan’s Question 7 offered abundant chain reactions. And a few trips across the Atlantic between Enniscorthy and Long Island with Colm Tóibín left me happily heartsick, which is always conducive to writing. Last night found me noting links between the books I wanted to write about. Purity and water; The Flood; tedium of a long apocalypse; what lies beneath; bodies; sigils; rites; flesh; wild cities; blood in a smile; margins of sleep… I appeared…

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    Question Heron – 2 June 2024

    Richard Flanagan’s latest book is breathtaking. I want to write that it is ‘electrifying’ but it is in part about nuclear fission so that may not be the correct term. Question 7 tells the story of Flanagan’s parents’ lives and deaths, including his father’s internment at Ohama Camp, Japan, during the second world war, of slavery and racism and genocide in Tasmania and of his own near-death experience and why he writes. All are described at different points along a thread which traces the development of the atomic bomb from H. G. Wells’s imagination to the physicist Leo Szilard’s reading of The World Set Free to the Manhattan Project to…

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    To Long Island – 26 May 2024

    Authors who know what to leave unwritten, narrators who place their confidence in implication and characters who leave truths unspoken are the order of the day. Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck, which this week won the International Booker Prize, is an exemplar. The story is of an affair between a young woman and a much older married man in 1980s East Berlin. In the first section, the couple never part without looking back at one another. In the second, he seeks to control which way she looks at all times. The grand scale of their love is offered in the subtle details, turning points in their relationship might be seen in…