“An hour and forty-five minutes before Nazneen’s life began . . .” No, let’s start that again. Or – better – let’s not start that at all. Monica Ali’s Brick Lane may have been hailed by the critics as “the sort of book you race through greedily, dreading the last page”, but it was hailed by someone more important than the critics as “the kind of book that makes you want to give up after 40 pages”. Who was that more important person? Amanda Ross, a working-class girl from Essex who wears designer clothes, has blonde hair and works not in publishing but in daytime TV.Read the whole article here.
Irony is a time-honoured literary device, any writer can tell you that. And it’s ironic that publishers – traditionally fussy Oxbridge types with English degrees – are having to suck up to someone who studied drama at Birmingham University and who cheerily admits that “I don’t really know anything about books at all”. When 44-year-old Ross, a powerful TV producer, founded the Richard & Judy Book Club three years ago, publishers barely deigned to look up from their proofs. Daytime TV, they assumed, was the domain of council-house illiterates and Daz adverts. Another nail in the coffin of Britain’s literary culture, they lamented.
But Ross had a hawk’s eye for storytelling.
Of the 100 bestselling titles last year, 21 were by authors discussed on the Richard & Judy Book Club – all chosen personally by Ross. Publishers couldn’t console themselves with the thought that she had dumbed down Britain’s bookshops because in fact she had done the opposite. “I don’t know what a literary book is. As long as it has a good story, who cares?” she has said.
Book Club Blonde
From the Times: