Saturday, 16 June 2012

Courting controversy

Forgotten gems?

One of the things I love about my job is the variety of events that I can plan and hold. Recently we've held two connected talks about books rather than given by specific authors.

The first, at the start of May, was held in conjunction with UEA and Persephone Books. It was all about forgotten authors and forgotten books and how a book that was a bestseller in it's day can so quickly be forgotten. And then how it can be rediscovered and republished thanks to the multitude of specialist publishers, especially Persephone,  that now exist.

There was lots of talk and discussion around this topic from the audience and, not least in the semantics of calling a book forgotten. Most of the books picked by Persephone are 'gentle' in tone and whilst I love the books I can sometimes see that without a 'champion' they might never be rediscovered, and possibly may deserve to stay in obscurity.

The second event was held at the start of June, again in conjunction with UEA, and this one was the total antithesis to the first event. We spent the evening discussing Norman Mailer and Henry Miller, trying to decide if it was just their subject matter that kept them in the public eye and that without the shock factor would they too have become obscure authors rather than much studied, modern classics.

No area of these authors books or lives was shied away from and the discussion was full, frank and fascinating.  Personally I came away with the feeling that without the shock factor these authors would perhaps not have become so feted and also that I'd have hated to have been trapped in a lift with either of them!

We are hoping to continue this idea of talks about less well known areas of literature and also hope to start a 'forgotten gems' book group in the autumn.  Usually the words 'classic' and 'must read' send me running for the hills but now I'm not so sure...

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post - among many (I've so enjoyed my visit/browse). I think your point about so many of these 'lost' works being mild/gentle - at least on the surface! - is spot on. Suspect that the screens both big and small have fed us such a diet of increasingly graphic sensationalism that many of us have rather jaded palates. Still, as you perhaps suggest in another post (re Lee Child), it seems as if contemporary writers interpret this state of affairs as one meaning novelists should follow suit. The reading experience is such an intimate one that excess violence or mayhem seems, well, just that: excessive.
    Please give my regards to Norwich in general (and, of course, The Forum in particular); hoping to move there, Deo Volente.