I went to Stockport Library yesterday and borrowed a few books, including John Murray's Radio Activity, which I'm looking forward to reading. I read his Jazz Etc. some months back and very good it was too. But I bet nobody's heard of him out there in blogland. Which is a shame because he's very interesting indeed, very good comic novelist who comes from Cumbria.
Yep, you read right. Is there anything good that comes from Cumbria? Well, there's John Murray for starters. And the late Geoffery Holloway came from there too: a very good, plain-spoken but deceptively so poet from the Lake District. This one appears to be set in Workington - a place that from my one brief visit there as a child lives up to its drab name.
Which set me to thinking about reading outside of the box. How many people go into a library and pick out a book that nobody has reviewed, nobody has included in a list of the "100 best novels with cooking in them" or something equally inane, and nobody from a book club has recommended? How many people create their own taste in literature rather than have it created for them?
John Murray's novels are published by Flambard - a small publisher in the North East that's decided to start its own Northern Classics list; but how successful will that be when the London-based media dominate the reviews and never read anything set or published outside the South-East? Manchester's own Dewi Lewis Press produces a great fiction list, and Comma Press recently produced a great collection of David Constantine's short stories. There's all kinds of good things happening outside the metropolis. Find their websites, click on a book you like the look of and make small publishers happy.