Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Crusaders at the Living Room Book Group

I had some very good fortune last month in having the opportunity to discuss Crusaders with the members of a book group who had been hacking their way through it together over recent weeks. That's me in the photo - I'm on the red rather than the white, but a large one, de rigueur - and it's not posed, I really was using both hands to make a point, as is my wont. The session took place in the Living Room bar on Newcastle's elegantly restored Grey Street, in the district of the city that my mother is surprised to hear they now call 'Grainger Town'. My luck in getting this engagement was in the sense that readers' group meetings are, of course, an emergent force in our society, but their members (naturally) tend to value their recreational reading time highly, and I sense they prefer to assign each other books with widely-vouched-for qualities (i.e. prizewinners, or acclaimed bestsellers) rather than Very Long Debut Novels by Unknowns. Clearly I had in my favour that Crusaders is very much a novel of Newcastle and the North East, but the fact that a book treats aspects of one's locality is not a cast-iron reason to want to spend time with it. At any rate, I had a truly interesting time at the Living Room, and found it rather a privilege to get the unmediated responses of real readers, whatever was their reckoning of the novel's accomplishment. I wonder if I'll get another chance?

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