Monthly Archives: November 2011

What do Pippa Middleton and Mr Teasy-Weasy have in common?

Pippa Middleton is in the news again.

This time it is not concerning her derrière, acknowledged by most connoisseurs in this particular field to be her most pronounced asset, but her ability to command an advance of £400,000 from Penguin to write a book about how to throw a great party.

One could say that publishing has always had a penchant for minor celebrities going back even to the days of Mr Teasy-Weasy, whose publisher was rumoured to have suffered financial turmoil as a result of the large advance they coughed up.

I hope that Penguin will take heed and think again in these difficult times before embarking on this perilous adventure, when most people can ill afford the luxury of throwing sumptuous parties and are instead going on a general strike to highlight their struggle in surviving this monstrous recession.

But then again publishers are usually the last people to learn from the mistakes of others.

Alba Arikha

Read about the delectable Alba Arikha in today’s Standard. Her interview with David Sexton is riveting.

And to learn more about her, buy a copy of Major/Minor, a memoir published by Quartet Books.

You will be enthralled. She is certainly a woman for all seasons.

Turkish Delight

I’ve just been to a sumptuous reception for the opening of Lokum Istanbul at 95 Walton Street, Chelsea.

A shop, elegantly decorated by Anouska Hempel, whom I once interviewed many years ago for my first book Women.

The distinguished guests milled around an Aladdin’s cave full of Turkish delights, bespoke stationery, scented candles and silverware.

But, my Turkish delight of the evening was the irrepressible Rosalind Milani Gallieni, whose charm and energy would invariably send able-bodied young men to utter distraction.

May she always remain a public relations icon.

Made in Britain

Following glowing reviews in the Observer, Guardian, GQ and Huffington PostMade in Britain is in today’s Independent.

‘Gavin James Bower’s second novel is a timely portrayal of this country’s disaffected youth, an uncompromising portrait of a community that offers no options, where the only “happy ending” is the kind you pay for…this is an uncomfortably bleak, but ultimately necessary, read.’

Read the review in full here.

Alba Arikha

Here is my speech from last night’s launch party, at Daunt Marylebone, for Alba Arikha’s Major/Minor.

The idea of delivering an impromptu speech these days would certainly make me anxious. Age brings embarrassments of memory, and the more anxious I get the more likely I am to get things mixed up or forget something I meant to say.

So please forgive me for deciding to write it down, but here we go…

To start with, Alba Arikha is a very attractive lady who oozes buckets of charm to seduce the un-seduceable. Not only that, but she is multi-talented and has a strong musical sense and a singing voice to enchant us.

This, of course, is leaving on one side her writing skills, which have already produced a novel and a collection of short stories, and have now brought into being her memoir, Major/Minor, which I am delighted to say is being published by Quartet.

It tells her story of growing up in the Paris and Jerusalem of the 1980s and unfolds against the background of her family’s dramatic history.

Here is what she says about it herself:

‘I am aware of the disparity between my father’s memory and my reality. About adapting history to actuality. About keeping one’s balance without falling back into the trap of pain. Because that is, ultimately, what it’s about. The ability to let pain ease into endurance.’

These are moving words, and philosophically they are spot on.

There were various angles of creativity at her cradle. Alba’s father was the artist Avigdor Arikha, her mother the poet Anne Atik, and her godfather none other than Samuel Beckett.

Who in the world could wish to have a better cultural environment in which to battle through adolescence to maturity, spending time in discourse involving family memories of war, exile and the ever-present echoes of the events of the European holocaust in the years before she was born?

Major/Minor is a coming of age account that is vivid, unique and haunting. I read her manuscript over one weekend and immediately decided that Quartet would be the right home for its publication.

And when, later on, I met her for the first time, I was more convinced than ever that she would definitely complement the stable of authors who Quartet have nurtured and promoted as they go on to make their mark in the literary world.

As an independent publisher, we are proud to be publishing Alba’s book, which will be a gem for her friends to treasure and a discovery for others who do not yet know her work. I am confident it will be a great success. Within days of this year’s Frankfurt book fair ending, German and Italian rights were snapped up, with other foreign rights under negotiation.

Referring to our own edition, here is what distinguished American novelist Paul Auster has to say about it:

‘An unusually affecting book about the rage and rebellion of a stormy adolescence. Written in terse, pointillistic sentences – as if each sentence were a dab of paint – the accumulation of these tiny strokes creates a rich, fully realised portrait of a young woman’s inner life. I read it straight through at a single sitting – unable to stop.’

So you have it, not just from me, that it is an excellent, memorable read.

However, to be on the safe side and as a prelude to the book’s triumph, I urge you all to buy copies, not only in single denominations but in quantities, so as to be able to give them to relations and friends over the Christmas festivities, confident that it will make a gift of lasting quality.

Being such a nice and engaging audience, I certainly don’t expect you to let me down!

Glowing Reviews for Quartet Titles

Two new Quartet titles have received glowing reviews in the last few days.

Homeless Rats, by Ahmed Fagih – ‘Libya’s greatest living writer’, according to the Guardian – featured on the Arabic blog Mashallah News.

‘The beauty with Homeless Rats is how it connects the past to the present. Fagih’s saga of life in the Libyan desert does what good reads do: it touches upon the essence of a place. And the place, Jandouba, is not only the scene of a fictitious dispute over barley, but also of a battle in 1913 between colonising Italians and thousands of locals without any modern military hardware. This Jandouba tale of bedouins and jerboas struggling for survival comes at a perfect occasion. What better time to speak about courage and bravery in Libya?’

You can read the full review by clicking here.

While Made in Britain, the second novel from Gavin James Bower, was reviewed in the Huffington Post.

‘A subtle yet powerful insight into the type of youngsters society normally marginalises … there is an Orwellian anger about this book that makes it hard to put down.’

The review in its entirety is here.