Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Song of the Stork

Former Notts’ council estate lad Stephan Collishaw is now firmly back in Nottingham after living abroad spending some time in Lithuania. His first novel, The Last Girl, was about an elderly, impoverished poet in Vilnius, and he’s returned to the same part of the world for his latest book, this time set during the early ‘40s. The Nottingham school teacher’s new release is called The Song of the Stork. Here’s the NottsLit review:

The Song of the Stork tells the story of a teenage girl called Yael who’s on the run/hiding from Nazi Germans. After a companion falls to the harsh environment she’s forced to find shelter as winter kicks. She hides in a chicken coop on the grounds of an isolated farm. The coop belongs to a cottage that’s home to Aleksei, an outcast, thought of as an idiot by some on account of him being mute. It’s unclear if his lack of speech is physical or psychological but he soon becomes aware of the fifteen-year-old hiding nearby. Aleksei is, understandably, reluctant to help as harbouring anyone Jewish is punishable by death. He even leaves a Nazi pamphlet in sight of Yael to show her the law and its warning. Despite their fears, Aleksei and Yael grow close, and as their relationship blossoms his kindness and sensitivity become evident. Actions not words maketh the man. And yet, words are hugely important to our mute hero. They may not fall from his lips but the written word is his thing, a pastime he touchingly shares with Yael. The lack of two-way oral conversation may even have its advantages for her. Who better to help hide you than a man of solitary existence who can’t gossip or talk of your whereabouts? No loose lips here.
Yael is our protagonist, the story is told by her, the hope is hers. There’s an innocence to Yael that’s reflected in Collishaw’s accessible, spare prose, a normalcy too; in ways she’s a typical teenager but one put in an extreme position. Her own will to survive is tested and it’s only the drive to hear from her brother Josef that keeps her fighting. This hope is joined by the wish to be reunited with Aleksei as the second half of the book sees them parted. Yael is forced to join a group of partisans in the forest where she continues to come of age. They are fighting a war in which there seems no possible victory as defeating the Nazi threat will only bring conflict with Stalin and the Red Army. The only future seems to be, as the stork flies, the way of Palestine as the prospect of a new state suddenly looks appealing.
There is more action in the second half as the partisans live in the woods but Daniel Craig’s film Defiance this is not. A lack of set pieces however doesn’t slow the page turning. It’s an easy read of a hard history, in part due to the world being seen through Yael’s eyes. When the holocaust is told via a young individual’s experience the living in fear and the horror is telling. The persecution of any individual for no reason other than their religion or race is abhorrent and, incredibly, as relevant today. That it’s 2017 and people are still being killed because of labels attached to them is a strong reason to keep revisiting history. We may not be learning from the warnings of the past but we can’t be allowed to forget them.
The Song of the Stork is full of humanity, hope and smart metaphors. Many of the loose ends and plot threads are ultimately left untied in a way fitting of contemporary literary fiction, and of life itself. 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards

Captivate OUT NOW
Being the best you can be doesn’t require saying ‘yes’ to everything and you don’t have to ‘fake it to make it’. Instead, Captivate teaches you how to be authentic through seeking out situations that enable you to thrive simply by being you. Learn how to be a good listener, discover how dopamine can mark your conversations, and find out why pockets are the murderers of rapport. At times funny, often insightful and always accessible, Captivate is crammed with practical tips to improve your relationships. 

The science, such as how novelty stimulates the brain, is well explained and the personal stories draw you in. Never heard of the Franklin effect? this book is for you. There are tips on where to stand at a party, and why, as science and its practical implications are brought together by Vanessa Van Edwards, a superb communicator. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Nottingham Poetry Festival, April 21-29

There’s nothing normal about our Henry.

It starts out normal enough for Peter Carroll; born in St Anne’s, his old man and brother both work at Raleigh, he later works at a Slab Square bank. But, after Pete’s life follows a creative calling, a name change ensues. Henry Normal, perhaps best known for co-writing The Royle Family and The Mrs Merton Show, is a multi-talented fella. If working closely with comedy legends like Steve Coogan and Caroline Aherne wasn’t enough for this writer, comedian, and television/film producer, he now has a beer named after him. And this month, Henry is back in his beloved city helping to promote another of his loves, poetry.
Henry stated as a poetry performer and has gone on to produce collections that include The Dream Ticket, Is Love Science Fiction?, Map of Heaven and Nude Modelling for the Afterlife. In 2015 he founded the Nottingham Poetry Festival and on April 21st it’s back, bigger than ever, including appearances from Wendy Cope, Simon Armitage, Carol Ann Duffy and John Cooper Clarke, plus much of our top local talent. Henry wants to give something back and strongly believes in Nottingham’s ability to host year-round literary events, calling on other names to step up. NottsLit really appreciates his commitment and would like to point you the way of eight free gigs coming up at libraries in the city. These shows, called ‘Poetry Hour’, will feature Henry with a guest poet. They are happening thus:
Central Library - 21st, 6pm
Sherwood Library - 22nd, 2pm
Meadows Library - 24th, 6pm
Bulwell Riverside Library – 25th, 2pm
St Anne’s Valley Library – 26th, 1.30pm
Wollaton Library – 27th, 6pm
Hyson Green – 28th, 11am
Central Library – 29th, 11am
"A lot of places that have literary events are rural but much of what is being written is urban,” says Henry Normal.
The Nottingham Poetry Festival is home to over 50 urban events spanning 10 days. Please check out the impressive line-up, then pop your bum on a seat near you.