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    Herons Go Birding – 5 May 2024

    Single word titles are currently dominating: Beastly; Elderflora; Wavewalker; Rosewater; Enlightenment; Kairos; Bellies… Out with pronouncements plus explanatory subtitles; down with novels that jolt one’s vaguest memories of GCSE physics; curtail those lines of poetry; no more titles that require but lack punctuation, please (it’s OK – her next one is called Intermezzo). The minimalists are here. It’s a busy world out there. I don’t make the rules.*   At an event on Tuesday evening – Jackie Kay’s warm, generous poetry and insights enveloping a packed room for a marvellous hour – I found myself next to a customer whom I knew to be a Paul Auster fan. We discussed…

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    And Other Stories – 28 April 2024

    I am going to write about short fiction without (only) mentioning Claire Keegan, brevity without pulling out that Mark Twain/Pascal/Cicero-attributed quotation about how if he’d had more time he would have written a shorter letter, concision whilst questioning my own abilities in that regard. I have been reading Ghost Pains by Jessi Jezewska Stevens. This short story collection opens with the morning after a party, a party the narrator tried to cancel which went ahead anyway until it was cut short. The rhythm of the writing swept me up so that I was at times amused, at times nervous, at times fearful about the coming disaster. The narrator offers a few details about…

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    And Other Heron Stories

    Heron Books partners with publisher And Other Stories for Independent Bookshop Week – 15-22 June We are delighted to be working with And Other Stories for Independent Bookshop Week. And Other Stories is an independent not-for-profit publisher, whose books are among the most innovative and boundary-pushing works we have read. We herons have always been particularly drawn to their short fiction, their poetry and their many translated works. And, when they launched their new series design, we may have melted a little at its sleek simplicity, centring the author’s words. Join us for some or all of our plans throughout Independent Bookshop Week. Celebrating short fiction, enter our flash fiction…

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    Enthralled Herons – 21 April 2024

    Awestruck and enthralled, I know where to start but not how to. For this week was packed with poetry: a stunning performance from Rachael Clyne at monthly poetry night Under the Red Guitar; a screening of the 1986 BBC film Caribbean Nights: Poetry in which Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Fred D’Aguiar had an argument about tone, voice and class, a very polite argument which made their disagreement all the more stark and enjoyable; a discussion of their discussion with poets Helen Thomas, Anthony Joseph and Rishi Dastidar; but then, Alice Oswald. Alice Oswald holding out the scissory voice of a blackbird. Alice Oswald offering the chatter of the…

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    Poised For The Next Catch – 14 April 2024

    If you are the hardy customer to whom I this week promised that I would finally read Far From the Madding Crowd, I apologise. I will. But not today. To the impeccably dressed Mathias Enard fan, I offer similar regrets. And to the outraged child who discovered that I haven’t read all the books in the Pages and Co. series, you are right: what have I been doing with my time? My reading lists are pulling me into all sorts of contortions. On Monday, I went to see Percival Everett speak about his new book, James, a reimagining of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from Jim’s point of view. I will read James next, I thought. Except I ought to…

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    Rural Herons – 6 April 2024

    At the Clifton Literary Festival last year, I sat alongside two fellow booksellers and announced my Desert Island Books. The impossibility of the task – choosing six books above all others – was clear from the moment it was set and weighed on me more seriously than it ought. For several weeks I tweaked my longlist, removing a title here and adding one there until I had a selection wholly different from the one with which I had started. Then I changed it all back again. How I ended up defending a list which included no George Eliot I hardly know. My choice of Mrs Dalloway over To the Lighthouse…

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    Sunny Herons – 31 March 2024

    Have you already consumed too much chocolate? Did you perhaps take a ‘one for me, one for the hunters’ approach when hiding sugary eggs in the daffodil trumpets? Are you appalled at the violent clash of what ought to remain mutually exclusive worlds in the form of the Terry’s chocolate orange mini egg bar? In search of book content, have you opened Instagram only to be shown endless videos of people air frying a creme egg inside a croissant? To what is the world coming? I cry out as my hot chocolate is rendered undrinkable, presented as it is beneath a fortress of marshmallows, wafers, oreos and three colours of…

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    An Opinionated Heron – 23 March 2024

    A box arrived on Tuesday. This is not unusual; it happens two or three times a day. On opening the box, a heavenly scent emerged. This is not unusual; the number of people who comment on the aroma of new books has led us to discuss developing a perfume. The box was full of coral pink copies of An Opinionated Guide to Bristol from the tasteful Hoxton Mini Press. This is new. ‘I wonder if we feature in this,’ I joked to Harry, flicking through the luxurious pages. Well, it turns out we do. Heron Books is in a book. Surrounded by great company too. (The Garden of Easton, Swoon, Temple Cycles,…

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    Why Look at Herons? – 16 March 2024

    I offer a short newsletter this weekend with two imperatives: You may do these in varying orders. You could read Berger, then come to poetry. You could come to poetry, then read Berger. You could make an inverted Berger burger, if you like: Berger-poetry-Berger. Poetry is tonight at 5pm and we are hearing from three Bristol poets. (I am calling them that even if one has a distinctly American accent and says “moss” with a minimum of two syllables.) Lisa Lopresti and Maisie Franklin are writers whose tone and insight I always admire and find moving. I am so looking forward to the chance to hear more from them. Tony D’Arpino’s…

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    Featuring Rabbits – 10 March 2024

    Last week, I had Maeve Brennan, The Long-Winded Lady, on the brain. This week, it’s short fiction. Not that the contrast is as stark as that would suggest: Brennan’s columns in The New Yorker were concise where most New Yorker articles make The Domesday Book look like a raffle ticket.* The real contrast has been in moving from the observation of diners in New York to depictions of picnics and cricket in the English countryside. For I found myself indulging in The Rabbits, a collection of sketches by A. A. Milne, originally published in Punch, of an utterly silly group of friends. The narrator, instigator of ill-planned sailing trips and…