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Comment from the book world in November 2007

November 2007

'An emotional connection'

26 November 2007

'My feeling is that we know the benefits of literacy and the comforts of literacy - but we still don't know the benefits of reading the great works. I mean, there is no scientific proof that you will become a better, wiser person if you plough your way through Dostoevsky. Now, there are all sorts of reasons why I read the books that I read; but I think we've lost the sense of being able to tell people that what they should be looking for in a book is an emotional connection that makes you feel excited and alive, and you're as likely to find that it a 'literary' novel as in a popular novel.'

Nick Hornby in The Times

'Everything actually happened'

19 November 2007

A great irony of creative nonfiction is that one of its chief assets is also one of its chief liabilities. The fact is that in nonfiction, everything actually happened. It's all true. One of the reasons we eagerly turn to nonfiction is because we have it on reliable source - most often, in any case - that the events on the page actually took place, and the people who did them were, or are, real. A good part of our astonishment at reading Ernest Shackleton's account of his eight-hundred mile open boat voyage from Elephant Island across the terrible frigid sea to South Georgia Island, for example, is that real men went through this, with real fears and real hopes, who had real families at home, with real men left behind, cold and hungry, depending on their success. This happened...

But the cold clear fact is that no matter how astonishing the story, there is no guarantee that it will be interesting writing. Many writers of nonfiction, particularly in the ever-burgeoning category of memoir, seem to believe the strength of their subject is enough to keep the reader captivated...

Not so. Or, often enough, not so.'

Richard Goodman in The Writer's Chronicle, published by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in the US

Starting to write

5 November 2007

'I was a teacher at a primary school in Kent, reading a tedious story to my pupils, who were clearly bored. That night I complained to my wife, who said: 'You're quite good are telling stories - why don't you make one up?' So I screwed my courage to the sticking place. At the end of the session they all shouted: 'Oh, sir!' They wanted more. In one afternoon I understood what it is to be a storyteller. A colleague persuaded me to write it up and gave it to a friend at Macmillan. Luckily he liked it, and it quickly led to my first book, It Never Rained, a collection of stories about things that go wrong in children's lives.'

Michael Morpurgo in The Times