“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Blurbs for the Mental Health Reading Challenge

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Leeds Book Club will be participating in the Arts and Minds Network's new project on raising awareness of mental health issues.    

The Project
The Arts and Minds Network in Leeds is determined to use 2013 to raise awareness and promote positive mental health via the arts. (Tweet them @ArtsMindsLeeds)

They have compiled a reading list with Leeds LibrariesNHS Leeds and Leeds Waterstones. The plan is to read and review one book a month creating a conversation on and about the realities of mental health issues versus the depictions in the books and therefore the stereotypes that ‘regular’ people buy into. 

Each month, a variety of book clubbers will be providing a review of the book, paying special attention to descriptions, characters and plot that include those facing mental health issues. Hopefully, we will then take part in a vibrant discussion online, on social media and IRL at book clubs.

We'd be delighted to invite you to join us - if you'd like to offer a review of one (or more) of the books on the list, please drop me a line at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or via twitter (@leedsbookclub).

All blurbs are from Amazon. 

The List

Feb: The Silver Linings Play Book - Matthew Quick 

A heartwarming debut novel.
“Aawww shucks!” NPR's Nancy Pearl said. “I know that’s hardly a usual way to begin a book review, but it was my immediate response to finishing Matthew Quick’s heartwarming, humorous and soul-satisfying first novel . . . This book makes me smile.”
Meet Pat Peoples. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure him a happy ending—the return of his estranged wife, Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being haunted by Kenny G!

Mar: The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson 
They say one out of every hundred people is a psychopath. You probably passed one on the street today. These are people who have no empathy, who are manipulative, deceitful, charming, seductive, and delusional. The Psychopath Test is the New York Times bestselling exploration of their world and the madness industry.
When Jon Ronson is drawn into an elaborate hoax played on some of the world’s top scientists, his investigation leads him, unexpectedly, to psychopaths. He meets an influential psychologist who is convinced that many important business leaders and politicians are in fact high-flying, high-functioning psychopaths, and teaches Ronson how to spot them. Armed with these new abilities, Ronson meets a patient inside an asylum for the criminally insane who insists that he’s sane, a mere run-of-the-mill troubled youth, not a psychopath—a claim that might be only manipulation, and a sign of his psychopathy. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud, and with a legendary CEO who took joy in shutting down factories and firing people. He delves into the fascinating history of psychopathy diagnosis and treatments, from LSD-fueled days-long naked therapy sessions in prisons to attempts to understand serial killers.
Along the way, Ronson discovers that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their most insane edges. The Psychopath Test is a fascinating adventure through the minds of madness.

Apr: I had a black dog - Matthew Johnstone 
There are many different breeds of Black Dog affecting millions of people from all walks of life. The Black Dog is an equal opportunity mongrel. It was Winston Churchill who popularized the phrase Black Dog to describe the bouts of depression he experienced for much of his life. Matthew Johnstone, a sufferer himself, has written and illustrated this moving and uplifting insight into what it is like to have a Black Dog as a companion and how he learned to tame it and bring it to heel.

May: Why be happy when you can be normal? - Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It's a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the Universe as Cosmic Dustbin.
It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she'd written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother.
Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother.

Jun: Poppy Shakespeare - Clare Allan
Highly original and darkly funny, Clare Allan's debut novel explores the relationship between N., a patient in a mental institution, and Poppy Shakespeare, a new and disturbingly Â'sane' arrival who finds herself having to feign mental illness in order to be released.
There are 25 residents at the Dorothy Fish, one for each letter of the alphabet - the Â'X' chair is vacant. The day hospital sits on the bottom floor of an impossibly tall tower, stretching so high into the sky that its uppermost residents can see right round the world and back in through the window behind them. The system is simple: the crazier you are, the higher up the tower they put you. 
When Poppy Shakespeare arrives, N. has already been at Dorothy Fish for thirteen years, and spends her days quietly, smoking in the common room and swapping medication with her fellow patients. But what happens in the next six months will change both of their lives forever.
In this inventive and brutally comic novel, Clare Allan captures the familiar and sometimes terrifying idiosyncrasies of a modern institution, asking the question: who is mad and who is sane? And who gets to decide? By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Poppy Shakespeare is a significant achievement of voice and insight.

Jul: 01 - Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes
Formerly Poet Laureate to Queen Elizabeth II, the late Ted Hughes (1930-98) is recognized as one of the few contemporary poets whose work has mythic scope and power. And few episodes in postwar literature have the legendary stature of Hughes's romance with, and marriage to, the great American poet Sylvia Plath.
The poems in Birthday Letters are addressed (with just two exceptions) to Plath, and were written over a period of more than twenty-five years, the first a few years after her suicide in 1963. Some are love letters, others haunted recollections and ruminations. In them, Hughes recalls his and Plath's time together, drawing on the powerful imagery of his work--animal, vegetable, mythological--as well as on Plath's famous verse.
Countless books have discussed the subject of this intense relationship from a necessary distance, but this volume--at last--offers us Hughes's own account. Moreover, it is a truly remarkable collection of pems in its own right.

Jul: 02 - Ariel - Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath's famous collection, as she intended it.
When Sylvia Plath died, she not only left behind a prolific life but also her unpublished literary masterpiece, Ariel. When her husband, Ted Hughes, first brought this collection to life, it garnered worldwide acclaim, though it wasn't the draft Sylvia had wanted her readers to see. This facsimile edition restores, for the first time, Plath's original manuscript -- including handwritten notes -- and her own selection and arrangement of poems. This edition also includes in facsimile the complete working drafts of her poem "Ariel," which provide a rare glimpse into the creative process of a beloved writer. This publication introduces a truer version of Plath's works, and will no doubt alter her legacy forever.

Aug: Tender is the night - F Scott Fitzgerald 
In "Tender is the Night", Fitzgerald distilled much of his tempestuous life with his wife Zelda, and the knowledge of the wrecked, fabulous Fitzgeralds adds poignancy and regret to this tender, supple and poetic portrait. 
To the just-fashionable French Riviera come Dick and Nicole Diver - handsome, rich, glamorous and enormous fun. Their dinners are legend, their atmosphere magnetic, their intelligence fine. But something is wrong. Nicole has a secret and Dick a weakness. Together they head towards the rocks on which their lives crash - and only one of them really survives.

Sep: Day - A L Kennedy
Alfie Day, RAF airman and former World War II POW, never expected to survive the war. Now, five years later and more alone than ever, Alfie finds himself drawn to unearth those strange, passionate days by working as an extra on a POW film. What he will discover on the set about himself, his loves and the world around him will make the war itself look simple. 
Funny and moving, wise and sad, Day is a truly original look at the intensity and courage to be found in the closeness of death, from one of Britain's most iconoclastic and highly acclaimed young writers.

Oct: Notes from an exhibition - Patrick Gale
When troubled artist Rachel Kelly dies painting obsessively in her attic studio in Penzance, her saintly husband and adult children are left to unravel a legacy of secrets and emotional damage.

Nov: A life too short - Ronald Reng
Why does an international footballer with the World at his feet decide to take his own life?
On November 10, 2009 the German national goalkeeper, Robert Enke, stepped in front of a passing train. He was thirty two years old.
Viewed from the outside, Enke had it all. Here was a professional goalkeeper who had played for a string of Europe's top clubs including Jose Mourinho's Benfica and Louis Van Gaal's Barcelona. Enke was destined to be his country's first choice for years to come. But beneath the bright veneer of success lay a darker story. 
In A Life Too Short, award-winning writer Ronald Reng pieces together the puzzle of his lost friend's life. Reng brings into sharp relief the specific demands and fears faced by those who play top-level sport. Heartfelt, but never sentimental he tells the universal tragedy of a talented man's struggles against his own demons. 

Dec: Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.
She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.
However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors. Ultimately the grand passion of Jane and Rochester is called upon to survive cruel revelation, loss and reunion, only to be confronted with tragedy.
* * * * *

Write Up's
Dec - Jane Eyre - GUEST
Nov - A life too short - GUEST
Oct - Notes from an exhibition - GUEST
Sep - Day - GUEST
Aug - Tender is the Night - GUEST
Jul - Ariel - GUEST
Jul - Birthday Letters - GUEST
Jun - Poppy Shakespeare - GUEST
Apr - I had a black dog - GUEST
Mar - The Psychopath Test - GUEST

* * * * *
Table of Contents - Guest Stars

* * * * *

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Tan Twan Eng Q&A

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Tan Twan Eng was my 'discovery of the year' for 2012, after reading both his first novel, The Gift of Rain, longlisted for the Booker in 2007 and his second The Garden of Evening Mists, shortlisted last year, in December. Both long, but worth while reads I love his lyrical writing and tightly woven plots. I was so please to be given the opportunity to ask Tan a few questions about his work-so thanks to him.

Garden of mist

Both your books deal with the relationships between students and teachers. Have you had an inspirational teacher and what was the greatest lesson they taught you?

My teachers are all the writers I’ve ever read and still read: Vladimir Nabokov, Kazuo Ishiguro, Rushdie, Julian Barnes, Somerset Maugham, and many, many others. They taught me the different ways one can view and describe the world.

I felt when reading your books very ignorant about the part of the world you come from; do you feel that your books are helping to educate people around the world about the history of Malaysia? What sort of responses have you had from Western readers and how do they compare with readers in your country?

They seem to be helping to educate people around the world, although that isn’t my main purpose or intention when I write. Western readers have more questions about all aspects of my novels, from the setting and factual background to the characters. Readers in Malaysia are more interested in the characters than anything else, because they’re already familiar with the setting of my novels.

Your writing is so full of lovely metaphors and descriptions, are you a notebook-on-you-at-all-times kind of writer or do they just come to you as you’re writing?

Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, a part of me is always noting down whatever I find interesting, describing them in my mind. It’s the writer’s mind-set, to filter everything I observe, experience and hear through this sieve, hoping to catch something that can be used later. I do it almost without being aware of it.

In the past I didn’t take notes but remembered the descriptions I’ve come up with. These days I tend to jot them down in my phone.

One thing I loved about The Gift of Rain was how multicultural it was-do you find the blending different cultures and attitudes easy within your writing? How much does this reflect your life?

I grew up in a multicultural country, and the world has also become very multicultural too, so my life is reflected in my writing. It’s something I don’t even really think about. It’s made me adaptable and to be able to respect the different cultures I’ve experienced around the world.

You now live in South Africa, how did you find yourself there? Would you write a book set in that part of the world? How does it differ from Malaysia (I know that might be quite a lot of things!).

I obtained my Masters in Law in Cape Town. I liked the place so much I decided to live there for part of the year. It’s a beautiful city, and the people are very welcoming, very friendly. It reminds me of Malaysia in many ways. I’ve thought of setting a book there, but it’s a complex, complicated society, and I’m not sure I can be objective about it at this stage of my life.

Your writing deals with occupations, colonialism and other global migrations both aggressive and economic. Do you find yourself bitter after researching these events?

Sometimes I get enraged by what I find out in my research, but I tell myself it’s in the past. We tend to evaluate the past through the filters of present day ethics, knowledge and morality, and that skews our judgment.

There were a lot of unfairness and oppression and exploitation in colonialism. But, like so many of my generation, I’ve only reaped the benefits of colonialism, so to get angry about it seems hypocritical to me.

The 2012 Booker prize shortlist was notable for its inclusion of titles several independent publishers, including your own Myrmidon Books, what were your feelings about this? Are you purposefully with an independent publisher and how important are the standards of your publisher to you?

I’m very glad for my publisher, and for the other independent publishers, that they received this extensive, worldwide recognition and exposure. There was an article in a British newspaper praising the courage of these small publishers, for the way they took risks in signing on unknown authors. The article noted that ‘It’s only these independent publishers who can afford to run these risks.’ I feel it’s not true – in fact it’s completely wrong – these independent publishers cannot afford to run these risks, yet they still do it, because they’re passionate about the books they want to publish.

Being with an independent publisher, I can communicate directly and immediately with the primary decision makers if I have any problems. We usually solve our issues very quickly and pragmatically. We discuss everything, from the book cover to the blurb, to marketing and promotional plans.

The standards of my publisher are very, very important to me. It has to have highly experienced and discerning editors and designers - I want my books to read well and to look elegant. The content and form of my books have to be produced to the highest standards possible – I don’t want to be ashamed of them when I walk into any bookshop anywhere in the world. My publisher has recently issued a limited hardback edition of The Garden of Evening Mists to celebrate the Man Booker shortlisting, and I must say my publisher has done an extraordinary job on it. Extraordinary. People who’ve seen it agree completely.

2007 Longlist, 2012 Shortlist…you must be feeling so much pressure for your next novel! How do you relax? Does your first two books gaining so much acclaim change the way you approach your writing?

I relax by reading and exercising, by meeting friends for drinks or a meal. Or by going out into nature: to a park or the beach or the mountains. I walk a lot too, on my own.

I push myself to constantly improve as a writer, so my first two books receiving so much acclaim hasn’t really changed the way I write. Every book that I write has to be much better than the previous one. And to my horror I realised that the writing isn’t going to get easier with time.
  The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng is published in hardback and trade paperback by Myrmidon Books.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Leeds Inspired choice - Morning Song by Sylvia Plath

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Poetry Challenge 2013

Here at Leeds Book Club, we're always looking for new poems and poets...well I say we...me mostly. 

This year, we've invited our friends from the blog and tweet sphere to share their favourite poems. 

Hope that you enjoy these!

* * * * *

Leeds Inspired has chosen the following poem to get our year started on the right foot. As tomorrow is the third Monday in January and widely believed (on the internet anyway - see HERE)to be the most depressing day of the year, this seems the perfect antidote!


Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's.  The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

* * * * *

Leeds Inspired have become friends with us via Twitter and never fail to keep us appraised of whats happening on the Leeds scene. 

Feel free to swap howdys with Abby and Jane at @LeedsInspired - they're very friendly and upbeat!!

You can find out more about Leeds Inspired by clicking HERE

* * * * *

If you's like to see your choice posted as part of this series, have a read of THIS then please contact me either at 
or via twitter (@leedsbookclub
or via our facebook page. 

* * * * *
Table of Contents - A Poetry Moment
* * * * *
Table of Contents - Full
* * * * * 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Giraffe LBC - The Iron Heel Write Up - Guest

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#Giraffe LBC

Date:  Tuesday 16th of October 2012
Time:  6pm - 8pm
Address: 6 Greek Street, Leeds, LS1 5RW
Tel: (0113) 244 1500



* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *

Novel by Jack London, published in 1908, describing the fall of the United States to the cruel fascist dictatorship of the Iron Heel, a group of monopoly capitalists. Fearing the popularity of socialism, the plutocrats of the Iron Heel conspire to eliminate democracy and, with their secret police and military, terrorize the citizenry. They instigate a German attack on Hawaii on Dec. 4, 1912; as socialist revolutions topple capitalist governments around the world, the Iron Heel has 52 socialist members of the U.S. Congress imprisoned for treason. Elements of London's vision of fascism, civil war, and governmental oppression proved to be prophetic in the first half of the 20th century. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --


Sadly there is no write up.

 @Monkeyson had promised to polish his notes up. We met for  a quiet pint. He revealed his plans for me to start a new book club and immediately afterwords mysteriously disappeared. 
Never to be heard of since. 

It's all very sad. 

However, the following document has become available and may answer some of your questions about the book club that night. Not about the disappearance. 

All very sad.  

The Monkeyson Manuscript

Introduction by unknown scholar from the future.

# The Iron Heel by Jack London. 

## Foreword 

It cannot be said that the "Monkeyson Manuscript", a write-up of October's dystopian Leeds Book Club meeting, is an important historical document. Looking back across the months that have lapsed since the group met, it is clear that many points of discussion regarding characters and plot development that were confused and veiled to the manuscript author are now clear to us. He lacked perspective. He was too close to the club meeting he writes about. Nay, he was merged in the events he has described.

Nevertheless, as a personal document, the Monkeyson Manuscript is of inestimable value. Especially valuable is it in communicating to us the FEEL of that meeting. Nowhere do we find more vividly portrayed the psychology of the persons that attended that club between 1800 and 2130 - their insight and analysis, their jokes and humour, their inconceivable delusions of convincing their benevolent dictator to set up another book club. These are the things that are so hard for us of this enlightened age to understand.

It is apparent that @monkeyson began the Manuscript during the last days of the Leeds International Film Festival. It is quite clear that he intended the Manuscript for immediate publication, as soon as the book club was over. Then came the frightful watching of the 31 films, then Christmas, and it is probable that in the subsequent and dispiriting moment of a Saturday night in with no Doctor Who to watch that he dashed off the entire Manuscript and emailed it to the Leeds Book Club blog. 

## Chapter One. The Challenge. 

It was lunchtime when Leeds Book Club DMed me* to ask if I could host the dystopian book club that evening. Due to foreseen circumstances she could not make it, and due to unforeseen circumstances neither could her backup. I was only about two thirds of the way through the book, but I accepted the offer and started reading furiously. I hoped to finish it before the meeting took place.

_* Direct message. A means of communicating in private on an otherwise public social network._

The book was _The Iron Heel_, a novel by American author Jack London. It was based on the "Everhard Manuscript", a woman's account of life during the rise of the Oligarchy (or "Iron Heel") in the United States from 1912 to 1932.

The book begins with a fictional introduction written from the perspective of a scholar from 2600 and is interspersed with a series of (often lengthy) footnotes also from the scholar.*

_* Most of the group read the free e-book edition which suffered from some confusing formatting. The footnotes were often interleaved with the main text and it was hard to tell where the footnote ended and the manuscript continued. One member's version used a different font for the footnotes which helped to some extent._

The book was thus written on several levels, with the scholar correcting the author's errors, and elaborating upon the author's incomplete understanding of the situation.*

_* For modern day readers there is an additional layer to enjoy. The novel was written in the early 1900s - before the First World War and during the birth of the communist/leftist movement. At times London's vision is surprisingly accurate._

At 5 o'clock I raced home, reading the final chapters on my phone, dodging recklessly from side to side to avoid cars and pedestrians. I finished the book with moments to spare.

## Chapter Two. The Meeting.

The group met upstairs at the Giraffe Bar and Grill*. Drinks were taken. Food was ordered. The guests were a select group; few in number but with plenty to say.

_* A friendly restaurant on Greek Street that offers good food and drink at reasonable prices._

We started by discussing the lead characters Ernest and Avis. Ernest Everhard was a socialist revolutionary and his wife Avis was the author of the manuscript. Avis was the daughter of an accomplished scientist who was later silenced by the Oligarchy.

Earnest was not a popular man. "Why was Ernest seen as such a perfect husband?" asked one guest. "He was always right. Patronising. Imagine if he came to your dinner party!"

"You'd need a lot of wine," somebody exclaimed. "All he talked about was his ideology and how wonderful he was."

Ernest's behaviour in the early sections of the book was criticised for affecting the pace. It meant there was a very slow start with whole chapters devoted to Ernest's dogma. "It dragged." complained one person. "There were too many speeches" said another.

We liked Avis. She was brave and showed diligence and kindness when investigating the accidents in the factories. "But was she doing it to impress Earnest?" asked one member, "she was a bit of a fan girl... hey, don't write that down!"*

_* Too late. It was written down._

And it was nice to have a female voice in a dystopian novel, even though some felt that the narrative did not project a particularly female (nor male) viewpoint. 

It was hard to get attached to many people in the book but we felt sad for minor characters such as the bishop and Avis's father: the people who bought into the ideas the most also suffered the most.

We picked up on some flaws in the plot. Ernest and Avis "were masters of disguise", able to completely change their appearance (and faces!) to remain undercover. We couldn't quite work out how the lead characters became counter agents, nor understand how the oligarchy controlled the flow of information.

"The book fell down here. How did the socialist network function?" asked a book clubber. Despite printing and publishing being very locked down, conveniently the network was still somehow able to distribute information and organise a rebellion.

After a slow start the plot picked up pace but we felt it moved too quickly by the end. The final chapters were very violent and brutal. Although there was little in a way of a happy ending for the characters we had been following, there was a happy end in the long term.*

_* Through the footnotes it is mentioned that the oligarchy was overthrown, though not how this happened._

The manuscript, by its nature, was very one sided - much was described on the revolutionary side, but very little information was given on the oligarchy. We felt the footnotes could have provided more detail about The Heel and its downfall.

But in a sense the enemy (the oligarchy) was faceless and grew naturally. There was no big bad, no evil mastermind plotting the events. This felt similar to Fahrenheit 451*. Everyone in the world clung to what they knew, and in doing so couldn't see the wider problem or help themselves. 

_* Fahrenheit 451 was read by the book group in July 2012._

_The Iron Heel_ was a book filled with socialist propaganda. The author clearly supported it - but also showed it failing.

## Chapter Three. The End.

As the meeting reached its latter stages, we talked more about the meta elements of the book.

"I enjoyed the layered world. There was a lot of work involved in creating it. The author did a good job."

We would have liked to know more about the time the book was written. How well was Marx known? What story elements were coincidence, prediction or true?

"I struggled to know what was real - and I have a history degree!" said one person.*

_* The same person who said to not write down the fanboy comment._

The manuscript predicted many aspects of society that we have now (or have seen since it was written) - talk of super cities, cities for the sake of it. Dubai. Multinational corporations. War.

Final thoughts: "It was clever but not fun to read." "I feel different looking back on it than when I was reading it."

Finally we gave our votes for the book.* I abused my authority in the proceedings by giving an unbalanced half mark*\* - meaning the final score for _The Iron Heel_ was a slightly awkward 4.625 out of 10.

_* The convention at this club was to give marks out of 10: five for the story and five for the writing style._

_*\* The benevolent dictator of Leeds Book Club did not approve of half marks for arithmetical reasons._

With that we finished our drinks and made plans for the next meeting. I had been instructed to set the date in the new year, but rebellion was in the air. We could overthrow authority! If we wanted an extra meeting before New Year, by God we could have one! Names were placed in a hat. In hushed silence, the next book was drawn. _Brave New World._ Aldous Huxley. We decided on November. And while we were at it, we'd get that _Adults Reading Children's Books Book Club_ started too... The magnitude of the task may be understood when it is taken into*

_* This is the end of the Monkeyson Manuscript. It breaks off abruptly in the middle of a sentence. He must have received a DM from Leeds Book Club asking him to send it in whatever state it was in and get it published. It is to be regretted that he did not have time to compete his narrative, for then, undoubtably, we would have learned how wine he had drunk._



Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #GiraffeLBC.

Follow @GiraffeTweet for details on the deliciousables and their projects nationwide (which this month include an awesome #GiraffesCantDance giveaway!).

Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

* * * * * Giraffe LBC * * * * *

10 - FEB - Divergent - Veronica Roth 
09 - JAN - Children of Men - P.D. James GUEST

08 - OCT - High Rise - J.G. Ballard GUEST
07 - JUL - The Miracle Inspector - Helen Smith GUEST 
06 - APR - Logan's Run - Book and Film GUEST
05 - FEB - Watchmen - Comic and Film

04 - NOV - Brave New World - Aldous Huxley - GUEST
03 - OCT - The Iron Heel - Jack London - GUEST
02 - AUG - The Running Man - Stephen King
01 - JUL - Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury GUEST

How I learned to continue worrying and love the dystopian - GUEST

Details for our next #WTFBC!

I made this: Unknown at 4:11 pm 0 comments Links to this post

Venur:   Twitter

Date:    Sunday, 22nd of January 2013

Time:    7:30pm

Book:    The Complete Companion 


The book that bring together essays on various TV series and films that were created by Joss Whedon. 

During this discussion, we'll be chatting about Firefly and Angel. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #WTFBC.

Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com



* * * * *
Book Club - Table of Contents
* * * * *

Monday, 14 January 2013

Mental Health Reading Challenge 2013

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Leeds Book Club will be participating in the Arts and Minds Network's new project on raising awareness of mental health issues. 

The Why...
A few years ago, I inadvertently turned my mother off a whole swath of books with one flippant remark. 

Allow me to explain. 

I have someone in my life who lives with mental health issues. 
Most of the time, that's by the by.
They just get on with it but every now and again, they suffer with mental health issues, or they live in spite of mental health issues. 

And - as is always the case with a new friend - I began to learn a little bit more about living with a disorder and the way that mental health difficulties are portrayed, just by having this person in my life.

A few years later, I went book shopping with my mum. We picked up a very popular thriller - one of those books that has brought saturation marketing to its knees and, despite our having very different tastes in our literary choices, we had both read it.

My mum thought the story had been all right, but nothing to get too excited about. I concurred, following up that it only worked because of 'convenient crazy person' bigotry, or (my preferred term) mad-person-itis. 

The Definition Bit:
What I mean by this is that the plot, crime and resolution only worked as a coherent whole because - as an audience - we are inured to that most useful of devices - blaming the mad person. 
Sometimes this is a stranger that unexpectedly shows up. However, more often than not, it involves creating a hidden back-story for a character, giving them a form of mental health disorder (the more controversial the better) and blaming the whole of the crime on them.
As an added benefit, an author doesn't even have to provide a decent motive. After all, they are a crazy person. They don't need one to head off on a crime-spee. Right? 

Most of the time, this device allows the reader the fallacy that a criminal couldn't possibly be one of 'us' (one of the primary protagonists), it must be An Other. It must be someone who is fundamentally flawed, someone broken on the inside, someone...MENTAL. 

The truth of the matter is that when I was a kid, no one really talked about mental health problems, but it was recognised that you'd likely know someone with a few issues. 

Today, they estimate that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some form of mental health issue in the course of a year. 1 in 10 children will suffer from a mental health issue at any one time

Oh, and in a glorious acknowledgement of our tendency to vilify rather than treat appropriately, only 1 in 10 of those incarcerated in prisons will have NO mental disorder.   

The Project
The Arts and Minds Network in Leeds is determined to use 2013 to raise awareness and promote positive mental health via the arts. (Tweet them @ArtsMindsLeeds)

They have compiled a reading list with Leeds Libraries, NHS Leeds and Leeds Waterstones. The plan is to read and review one book a month creating a conversation on and about the realities of mental health issues versus the depictions in the books and therefore the stereotypes that ‘regular’ people buy into. 

Here at Leeds Book Club, we think that’s INSPIRED! After all, I acquired most of my social skills from books (explains a great deal!) and I’m not alone. So many of us use literature to inform our day to day lives. Where information is clearly out dated (racist passages for example), it’s interesting to see how much society has changed. However, where changes are taking place in the contemporary world, the facts can all become a little fuzzy. The only way to really change a situation like this is to increase dialogue about it.

Each month, a variety of book clubbers will be providing a review of the book, paying special attention to descriptions, characters and plot that include those facing mental health issues. Hopefully, we will then take part in a vibrant discussion online, on social media and IRL at book clubs.

The List
Feb: The Silver Linings Play Book - Matthew Quick 
Mar: The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson 
Apr: I had a black dog - Matthew Johnson 
May: Why be happy when you can be normal - Jeanette Winterson
Jun: Poppy Shakespeare - Clare Allan
Jul: 01 - Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes
Jul: 02 - Ariel - Sylvia Plath
Aug: Tender is the Night - F Scott Fitzgerald 
Sep: Day - A L Kennedy
Oct: Notes from an exhibition - Patrick Gale
Nov: A life too short - Ronald Reng 
Dec: Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte 

This is just the starting point. I’d like to invite anyone who is interested to submit their own thoughts, reviews, recommendations, playlists, videos - anything at all to enhance our conversation. Ideally I'd love to have more than one perspective on each piece selected - particularly the Ted Hughes/ Sylvia Plath choices!

Where indicated, I’ll happily post blog posts anonymously – I appreciate that not everyone will want to discuss their personal reflections on a sensitive topic on a public forum like this. Obviously, on the other hand, I'll also include links to twitter names, your blogs and so on.

Also, read any books that feature mental health? Then let us know - the good, the bad and the ugly!

*Update - like any other really annoying thing, my mother has subsequently informed me that since our conversation, she now notices mad-person-itis everywhere - in films, on TV and in books and it ruins her enjoyment of them. We both of us think its very lazy writing. 
She's thrilled with me for pointing it out.

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Chat with Peter Bullimore
Mental Health Reading Challenge
Blurbs for the books!

Podcast with Tom at Arts and Minds Leeds

Write Up's

Dec - Jane Eyre - GUEST
Nov - A life too short - GUEST
Oct - Notes from an exhibition - GUEST
Sep - Day - GUEST
Aug - Tender is the Night - GUEST
Jul - Ariel - GUEST
Jul - Birthday Letters - GUEST
Jun - Poppy Shakespeare - GUEST
May - Why be happy when you can be normal - GUEST
Apr - I had a black dog - GUEST
Mar - The Psychopath Test - GUEST
Feb - The Silver Linings Play Book - GUEST

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Table of Contents - Guest Stars

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