Recent Events

BOOKS & POETRY:  PERFORMANCE, EXPERIENCE AND STORYTELLING ( 13th September 2018 )

“What is poetry?” asked Richard Jones, publisher of Tangent Books and Small Press Books. Is it about a sense of identity? Does it tell a story or is it more abstract? Should it be written, spoken, experienced – or all three? These were just some of the questions explored by the panel as they discussed ‘Books and Poetry’ at our recent Desert Island Books event.

Joining Richard on the panel were Clive Birnie, publisher of Burning Eye Books; Vanessa Kisuule, Bristol City Poet 2018-2020 and Rebecca Kosick, co-director of the Bristol Poetry Institute at the University of Bristol.

L-R : Clive Birnie, Richard Jones, Dr Rebecca Kosick, Vanessa Kisuule

We asked the panel to recommend a poetry collection or a book about poetry, as well as a ‘wild card’ – a favourite book in any genre that they would want to read and re-read on a desert island.

Fascinated by the question of who we think we are, Clive chose Nigh-No-Place by Jen Hadfield. As he explained, Clive is descended from Peterhead fishermen and this collection, which is rooted in the ever-changing Shetland landscape, reflects his own deep-seated connection to Scotland.

From a sense of identity to poetry as storytelling, Richard’s recommendation was High on Rust by Bristol poet, Ray Webber. The collection, which tells the story of Webber’s life, was published in 2016 when Ray was 93. Influenced mainly by TS Eliot and the Beat Generation poets, Webber’s work has, as one critic said “a fierce sense of energy, vitriol and devilish laughter.”

Rebecca’s pick was An Ordinary Man by Ferreira Gullar and translated by Leland Guyer. Born in Brazil, Gullar was part of the inter-disciplinary neo-concrete movement. He believed that poetry should be part of everyday lived experience and as Rebecca explained, that the reader’s participation makes the work complete.

An increasingly popular way of experiencing poetry is the spoken word and Vanessa, who has herself won many poetry slam titles, chose Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith. Vanessa described Smith as a poet “of both the page and the stage,” who writes about being a black man in America in a collection illuminated by “moments of joy”.

Vanessa’s ‘wild card’ was equally challenging. She recommended Fishnet by Kirsten Innes, a meticulously researched novel about the sex industry and Coming Out Like a Porn Star, a book of essays by Jiz Lee, both of which she said, made her “look at sex work in a much more nuanced way.”

Rebecca’s oldest child has just started school and her ‘wild card’ was a book about learning to read, Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha, translated by Lyn Miller Lachmann. Richard’s pick was Dylan Thomas Selected Works because, as he said “his prose is often more poetic than his poetry.”

Bringing the event to a close, Clive returned to Scotland with his ‘wild card’, Cancer Party by Andrew Raymond Drennan. A bleak, gritty novel set in Glasgow, this book shares the colloquial immediacy of the spoken word poetry that first inspired Clive to set up Burning Eye Books.

You can order some of the books discussed on the Libraries West website at: www.librarieswest.org.uk

 

Summary of Book Choices

  • Clive Birnie: (1) Nigh-No-Place by Jen Hadfield (2) Cancer Party by Andrew Raymond Drennan
  • Richard Jones: (1) High on Rust by Ray Webber (2) Dylan Thomas Selected Works
  • Dr Rebecca Kosick: (1) An Ordinary Man by Ferreira Gullar and translated by Leland Guyer (2) Lines, Squiggles, Letters, Words by Ruth Rocha, translated by Lyn Miller Lachmann
  • Vanessa Kisuule: (1) Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith (2a) Fishnet by Kirsten Innes and (2b) Coming Out Like a Porn Star by Jiz Lee

BOOKS, RELIGION & ETHICS ( 14th August 2018 )

“It’s the journey not the destination that’s going to count,” said Kieran Flanagan at the start of our Desert Island Books event on ‘Books, Religion and Ethics’. Although Kieran’s comment referred to his own choice of books, it soon became clear that he had identified the main theme of the evening; the value of the journey and its potential for change.

Along with Dr Kieran Flanagan, Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol, the panel included: George Ferzoco, Research Fellow, University of Bristol; Reverend Dr Tim Gibson, an Anglican priest and Senior Lecturer, University of the West of England; Reverend Rachel Haig, Community Minister, Tyndale Baptist Church, Bristol and Rabbi Monique Mayer, The Bristol & West Progressive Jewish Congregation.

L-R (Seated) : George Ferzoco, Rabbi Monique Mayer, Rev’d Dr Tim Hutton, Rev’d Rachel Haig, Dr Kieran Flanagan

We asked the panel to recommend a book on religion and ethics, together with a ‘wild card’ – a book in any genre that they would like to take with them to a desert island.

Kieran began the discussion by recommending Crossways by Guy Stagg, a book that charts the author’s pilgrimage from Canterbury to Jerusalem and his struggle to recover from years of mental illness. Along the way, Stagg becomes fascinated by Christianity and although he does not find faith, he does find healing.

Rachel’s pick was William Horwood’s Duncton Wood, the story of a mole empire and the struggle between good and evil, love and hate, traditional and modern values. Against these classic themes, the book also highlights the value of the simple things. “It’s life-changing,” said Rachel, “and that’s not something you can often say about moles.”

With a warning that his choice is a harrowing – but rewarding – read, Tim selected The Enduring Melody by Michael Mayne. While writing this meditation on a lifetime of faith, Mayne was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Looking back over his life, he traces and celebrates ‘the enduring melody’, which as Tim explained, is the rhythm that affirms our relationship with God.

Monique developed the theme of the spiritual journey with her pick, Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Morinis. Mussar is an ancient system of ethical ideas and practice that can guide us through life, helping us to change our behaviour not only for our own benefit, but also to improve the world.

Dante’s The Divine Comedy charts one of the great journeys in literature and this was George’s recommendation. George teaches Dante at the University of Bristol and talked about the poet’s life and work, giving the audience an insight into the beauty and complexity of his desert island choice.

Staying in Italy, George’s ‘wild card’ was The Story of a Humble Christian by Ignazio Silone, a book about an elderly hermit who briefly became Pope Celestine V in 1294, abdicating when he came into conflict with the realpolitik of Church bureaucracy. From the historical past to a dystopian future, Rachel chose The Power by Naomi Alderman, an easy read which she said, helps us to think through many of the difficult questions we face today. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was Monique’s ‘wild card’, a book she said, that raises powerful issues around truth and lies.

For his ‘wild card’, Kieran recommended The Samurai by Shusaku Endo, a pilgrimage into Christianity that gradually uncovers the differences between Eastern and Western psychology and faith. The evening’s final journey was across France’s Haute-Auvergne with Tim’s ‘wild card’ The Wisdom of Donkeys by Andy Merryfield, a very good book, he explained, “for cheering people up”.

Most of the books discussed are either on the shelves of Redland Library or you can order them through the Libraries West website www.librarieswest.org.uk

 

Summary of Book Choices

  • George Ferzoco: (1) The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri* (2) The Story of a Humble Christian by Ignazio Silone
    * Recommended translations by: Robert Hollander, Charles Singleton or Robert Durling
  • Rabbi Monique Mayer: (1) Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar by Alan Morinis (2) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Rev’d Dr Tim Hutton: (1) The Enduring Melody by Michael Mayne (2) The Wisdom of Donkeys by Andy Merryfield
  • Rev’d Rachel Haig: (1) Duncton Wood by William Horwood (2) The Power by Naomi Alderman
  • Dr Kieran Flanagan: (1) Crossways by Guy Stagg (2) The Samurai by Shusaku Endo

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: LIBRARY CONSULTATION ( 28 July 2018 )

If anyone doubts that Redland Library is one of the busiest in Bristol, it would be a good idea to drop in on a Saturday afternoon. That’s when we held an informal community consultation about the future of the library and – in between changing books, catching up with periodicals and using the public access computers – local people had lots to say.

Everyone was relieved that the Council has guaranteed funding until 2020 and looking ahead, they had some interesting suggestions about planning for the future. People were also enthusiastic about the Desert Island Books events and gave us some excellent ideas to investigate.

Thanks to the Co-op on Whiteladies Road, we were able offer tea, brownies and flapjack to all who had time for a chat. And, thanks to Councillor Clive Stevens – who lent us his flipchart and went to Sainsbury’s to buy us some coloured felt tip pens – we could record everyone’s thoughts.

Thank you to all who came along and if you weren’t able to join us, please send your thoughts and ideas to: FriendsOfRedlandLibrary@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

BOOKS, ENVIRONMENT & GLOBAL WARMING ( 17th July 2018 )

“What is the one action everyone could take to fight climate change?” asked a member of the audience at the recent Desert Island Books event at Redland Library. “Read some books, find out what’s going on and start some conversations,” said Ian Roderick, a member of the panel discussing ‘Books, Environment and Global Warming.’

Ian Roderick is Director at the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems and joining him on the panel were Darren Hall, Project Manager, Bristol Community Land Trust; Honor Eldridge, incoming Head of Policy, The Sustainable Food Trust; Chris Bennett, Head of Behaviour Change and Engagement, Sustrans and Jenny Briggs, Account Manager, Green House PR.

L-R: Darren Hall, Honor Eldridge, Chris Bennett, Ian Roderick, Jenny Briggs

We asked each member of the panel to recommend a book about the environment or global warming, together with a ‘wild card’ – a book in any genre that they would like to read on the desert island. From the Wild West to the perfect tomato – and practically everything in between – they gave us plenty to think about.

Darren started the discussion with his recommendation Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari. Tracing the evolution of our species from pre-history to the present day, the book looks at how humans became custodians of the natural world and examines our impact of on the planet.

In a more specific context, Honor chose Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America by Richard Slotkin. Showing why nature has only economic – rather than intrinsic – value in the United States, Slotkin offers a valuable insight into recent political decisions affecting the physical landscape of America.

Capitalism also plays a major role in Chris’ desert island pick, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein, which shows that society must fundamentally transform if we are to tackle climate change. A daunting prospect, but as he pointed out, it is a hopeful book.

Continuing the optimistic theme, Ian recommended, The Winning of the Carbon War by Jeremy Leggett. Written in the style of a diary from 2013 to 2015 in the lead up to COP21 in Paris, the book shows that although environmental change is super-tanker slow, it can – and does – happen.

Jenny recommended Roger Deakin’s nature writing classic, Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, which takes the reader across Europe to Central Asia and Australia to discover what lies behind our profound connection with wood and trees.

With her ‘wild card’, Jenny went for My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis, by Diana Darke. Ian chose Lila by Robert Persig, a book he has already read three times and would happily read again. The Snow Leopard by Robert Matthiessen, the story of a journey through the Himalayas, was Chris’ ‘wild card’, while Honor’s pick was Diana Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons: Enchanting Dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa, because, “It was one of the first cookery books to make me care about food.”

Closing the event with a call to action, Darren’s ‘wild card’ recommendation was Trying Hard is Not Good Enough by Mark Friedman, a reminder that if we are to fight climate change we must all play our part. Taking Ian’s advice, reading the panel’s recommendations is a good place to begin.

Most of the books discussed are either on the shelves of Redland Library or you can order them through the Libraries West website: www.librarieswest.org.uk

 

Summary of Book Choices

  • Ian Roderick:  (1) The Winning of the Carbon War by Jeremy Leggett  (2) Lila by Robert Persig
  • Darren Hall:  (1) Sapiens: A Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari  (2) Trying Hard is Not Good Enough by Mark Friedman
  • Honor Eldridge:  (1) Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America by Richard Slotki  (2) Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons: Enchanting Dishes from the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa by Diana Henry
  • Chris Bennett:  (1) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein  (2) The Snow Leopard by Robert Matthiessen
  • Jenny Briggs:  (1) Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin (2) My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Crisis by Diana Darke

BOOKS & THE WORLD OF CRIME ( 14th June 2018 )

Proving that crime is the most popular fiction genre in the UK, a capacity audience filled Redland Library for the Desert Island Books event, ‘Books and the World of Crime’.

Following our usual format, we asked an expert panel to recommend a book about crime. We then asked them to choose a ‘wild card’, a book in any genre that they would like to read – and possibly re-read – on the desert island.

The panel included Sue Mountstevens, Avon & Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner; Chief Inspector Leanne Pook, District Commander of North Somerset, Avon & Somerset Police; Marcus Keppel-Palmer, Associate Head of Bristol Law School, University of the West of England and Cally Taylor, who as C L Taylor, is the best-selling author of a series of psychological crime thrillers.

L-R: Sue Mountstevens, Chief Inspector Leanne Pook, Cally Taylor, Marcus Keppel-Palmer

Although she has little time for reading in her current role, Sue recommended Philosophical Investigations by Philip Kerr. A futuristic novel that blends police work and philosophy through the diaries of a detective and a serial killer, the book reveals a chilling – though thought-provoking – vision of criminal justice.

Back in the present day, Leanne chose Blue: A Memoir – Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces by John Sutherland. As she explained, most novels and television programmes do not reflect the reality of policing. But John Sutherland is a former Chief Inspector with the Metropolitan Police and as she said, “He tells the truth because he is one of us.”

As a writer of psychological crime fiction, Cally Taylor is interested in the impact of crime on its victims and the motivation of its perpetrators. Her pick was Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent, a complex ‘whydunit’, which maps the making of a sociopath.

For his desert island choice, Marcus focussed on the reporting aspect of the criminal justice process. He recommended Evidence of Blood by Thomas H Cook, an evocative thriller set in America’s Deep South, about a real-crime writer’s search for the truth behind a forty year old murder.

Marcus continued the reporting theme with his ‘wild card’, which was The Run of his Life: The People v. O J Simpson by Jeffery Toobin. With her ‘wild card’, Cally revealed her love of dystopian novels with The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, while Leanne talked about loneliness and the importance of kindness with her pick, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Sue’s ‘wild card’, which highlighted another aspect of kindness, was Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton. Women in public roles, she felt, are more open to criticism than men and we should give them more support.

Most of the books discussed are either on the shelves of Redland Library or you can order them through the Libraries West website www.librarieswest.org.uk

Two books, Unravelling Oliver and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine are also available as audio books.

 

Summary of Book Choices

  • Sue Mountstevens: (1) Philosophical Investigations by Philip Kerr (2) Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton
  • Ch.Insp. Leanne Pook: (1) Blue: A Memoir – Keeping the Peace and Falling to Pieces by John Sutherland (2) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  • Marcus Keppel-Palmer: (1) Evidence of Blood by Thomas H Cook (2) The Run of his Life: The People v. O J Simpson by Jeffery Toobin
  • Cally Taylor: (1) Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent (2) The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist