An Independent Book Shop, A Radical Book Fair and A Brave Opening Speaker


Word Power books in Edinburgh’s West Nicolson Street is a leading, quality, independent bookshop.

On their website they say:

The world of books is a precious resource: books are not commodities to be marketed on the shelves alongside baked beans. The range of books we offer gives you fast track entrance to a world of publishing outwith the mainstream, a world where independent publishers, small presses, new writers with no prior sales history, individuals producing their own zines all have an equal voice and sit happily alongside Stupid White Men or No Logo on the shelves.’

Don’t worry if you don’t live in Edinburgh, you can access their stock online at the above link. Why bother? Well, as they say themselves:

‘Our world-wide online service is an alternative to corporate bookshops that refuse to allow their workers to join trade unions. Unlike Amazon, recipient of £1.6 million taxpayers’ money from the Scottish Executive (The Bookseller, 28 May 2004), we receive no state funding.

 While our site offers you access to all books in print in the UK we remain committed to promoting literature outwith the mainstream thereby making it more accessible and helping to support small presses and new writers. We also provide Platform, a regular column for groups, campaigns or individuals to post articles and foster debate, and a Noticeboard where you can post information and details of events.’

 If you can get to Edinburgh, then the following event, organised by Word Power books may well be of interest:


Taking place from Wednesday 27th to Sunday 31st October 2010 in Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 30-38 Dalmeny Street, Edinburgh, EH6 8RG, Scotland, UK.

 There you can also see Still Life: An Exhibition. This exhibition will be on throughout the 14th Edinburgh Independent Radical Book Fair. Still Life is an initiative by the inspirational Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (Red Ribbon Organisation) of Namibia, a youth arts organisation which seeks to use the performing and visual arts as a means to engage, inform and empower young people about HIV/AIDS and related social issues. Namibia has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the world and OYO’s work with children and young people has received international acclaim. The exhibition has travelled throughout Namibia and been presented in schools, school hostels and community venues reaching over 35,000 people.


 And here I must declare a personal interest in the book fair because a very dear friend of mine, Ilan Pappe, opens the Book Fair at 7.00pm on the 27th. He’ll discuss his new book Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel and Gaza  which is co -written with Noam Chomsky. Plus there will be an illustrated talk with William Parry on his book against the Wall: the Art of Resistance in Palestine.

 Ilan is a Jewish Israeli and is one of the world’s leading historians of the Middle East, with a distinctive view of Arab-Israeli relations. He is a Professor in the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, the Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies in Exeter and the Co-Director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. He was the academic head and founder of the Institute for Peace Studies in Givat Haviva, Israel (1992-2000) and the Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa (2000-2008).

 I was at school with Ilan’s wife, also an Israeli, and have visited them both in Israel. Taking the political stance that they do – i.e. pro-Palestinian – is not without risk and I so admire their courage. Ilan can no longer work freely in Israel and so took the chair at Exeter. I have learned a lot about the politics of the Middle East from these two wonderful people – and their message, and that of other brave people like them, needs to be heard.

If you are unsure about the ins and outs of the modern state of Israel, and you would like to learn more about the situation there, then consider reading Ilan’s book,  A History of Modern Palestine

 Ilan’s opener event will be followed at 8.30pm by a short illustrated talk by William Parry  who recently published Against the Wall: The Art of Resistance in Palestine  which captures the graffiti and art that has transformed Israel’s wall into a living canvas of resistance and solidarity. It features the work of artists including Banksy as well as Palestinian artists and activists.

Whatever your views on the politics of the Middle East – do, please, at least, visit Word Power’s website and consider buying, at least some, of your books from them in future.

MUT@TUS – sexy, funny,thoughtful read…

I’ve blogged about the Eight Cuts site before   and it’s best described in the words of its creator, Dan Holloway, as ‘a space to bring writers to readers and readers to writers in the most exciting way possible’.

‘MUT @ TUS’  by Joan Barbara Simon is one of the nominees for the 2010 Eight Cuts Gallery literary prize. I’ve just finished reading it. And – Wow!

The title suggested that the book would explore mutability and mutuality. The cover impressed and the unusual layout grabbed the attention. The content lived up both to the promise of the title and to the book’s good looks.

In this novel, modern ‘lady of letters’, Gini Mendes, engages in an epic of self-exploration, with particular attention to her sexuality. Her twenty-first century epistles are emails – sent and received by her – and through them she comes (no pun intended – well, okay then, it was meant) to fully know and express her needs.

The correspondence begins when Gini emails Maurice, an artist, from whom she has bought a painting. She has never met him but she wants him to know how much she likes and appreciates the work. Something clicks (yes, more punning) between the pair and many more emails are exchanged. They embark on a virtual affair played out via their increasingly intimate and passionate exchanges.

Even after the affair ends, Gini continues to interact in a similar way with others that she encounters online.

Throughout, Gini speculates and theorises on life in general and on her own life in particular. She considers the nature of subjectivity versus objectivity. She looks at the effects of instinct, sensory perception and intuition on cognition and how all of these interact to give humans their sense of self. She also examines the confines and downsides of the concept of time.

Big themes, yes – BUT- the novel is no literary bore. It’s exuberant, raunchy, erotic, funny and wonderfully honest. Like the painting that sparks the whole thing off, the book is vivid and arresting – from the start to the stunning and joyful ending.

Approach with an open mind and be prepared to be entertained. This is that great thing – a life affirming book. click link to go to amazon and buy the book

Eight Cuts – a gallery but not as we know it…

The thinker...walking @ Vecāķi beach, Riga
Image by Grozz via Flickr

eight cuts ‘exists to champion extraordinary literature from people you may never have been given the chance to encounter, be it a single poem, a performance or a body of novels’.

Those of you who know me would probably describe me as fifty-something wife, mother, teacher and writer. I don’t suppose you’d see me as a radical thinker who pushes at convention but I hope you do see my subversive streak – at least occasionally.

 I fear complacency, believe passionately in freedom of speech, hate even a hint of being patronised and like being shocked by the new – heck I even like the Scottish parliament building. If you share these tendencies then I urge you to visit without delay – or rather –  immediately after you’ve read the remainder of this post.

If you care about reading, writing, access to the arts and freedom in all things creative then you must read the eight cuts blog – also hosted by the wonderful platform that is wordpress.

I was alerted to the existence of the amazingness that is eight cuts by Jane Dixon-Smith, my editor at Words with Jam – the bi-monthly FREE e-zine for writers, to which I contribute.

The eight cuts concept is radical, original and refreshing. It’s almost too big to describe and do it justice. In the words of its creator, Dan Holloway, ‘it’s a space to bring writers to readers and readers to writers in the most exciting way possible’. As to what it’s not – again in Holloway’s words –‘ it’s not a group, collective or publisher’.

Your best way in would be to read the manifesto on the eight cuts blog. BUT I must warn you to make sure you’re home alone when you do so as your shouts of Yes! Oh Yes!! Ohhh Yes !!! will otherwise get you some strange looks.

The space is a doorway to an artistic world that other gatekeepers such as commercial publishers don’t allow access to. Going through the doorway is to set off on a magical tour.

This is a gallery of wonderful works to explore. The latest venture is the gallery press which is about to release two first editions – ‘Charcoal’ by Oli Johns and ‘Deadbeat’ by Cody James. I plan to review at least one of them in a future post. I’ve already read the first chapter of the Johns book and I’m totally hooked by its originality of voice and content.

And most exciting and radical of all is the Christopher Al-Aswad prize – an award sponsored and organised by the site. See the details at This award is to honour ‘the person, organisation, website, community, whatever that has done most to promote brilliance, diversity, and the breaking down of barriers in literature over the preceding twelve months’. It is done ‘in the name of christopher al-aswad, one of the most brilliant, farsighted, innovative, generous, and supportive people in the arts. christopher, the genius behind escape into life, one of the most wonderful places in cyberspace, died in july 2010 at the age of just 31’.

I also plan to do  a piece on the recipient of the award after the announcement on October 1st. But I get the feeling that all the nominees will benefit just by being nominated.

And if you facebook, blog or tweet please consider publicising this wonderful, courageous and above all optimistic venture.