World Book Night

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World Book Night 2013

I applied to be a World Book Night giver this year, as my experience from 2012 was both exciting and shocking.

Last year I was giving away copies of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I chose it because it’s funny and it is one of those books that might make people fall in love with reading. At the time I lived in Paisley and decided to give books away in the town centre and on public transport. There was a mixture of reactions – the majority negative. Paisley is a lovely little town in Renfrewshire. It has many places where books can be bought, including an amazing second hand bookshop (Abbey Books on Well Street), lots of charity shops and a couple of mainstream bookshops. Also, there are lots of libraries which have a wide range of books. Despite all that, most of the people I spoke to on the day said that they didn’t read. There were different reasons why – most of them said that they either didn’t like books or couldn’t find the genre they would enjoy. People’s reaction to me giving books away and trying to pass my enthusiasm for reading was mostly filled with suspicion or they looked at me as if I had just run away from the local psychiatric hospital. Those who gave me a chance to explain were very nicely surprised and happy to get a book. One man on the bus told me he didn’t read, but would give it a go. A lady in the shopping centre said reading was a waste of time. I tried to convince her otherwise. She did let me say what I thought of reading, but said that she was a single mother with three children and two jobs. I gave her a list of shorter books which she could borrow from the local library. I met her months later and didn’t recognise her when she stopped me in the street. She told me that reading was her way of ‘going on holidays’ she didn’t have to pay for.

Those people I spoke to had never heard of World Book Night – a few of them said it was a great idea, but some of them maintained there was no point, as people either read or not. That same day I also organised a Book Swap, which people really liked. On leaflets I stressed that people could come in even if they didn’t own any books and they could pick books to take home. That gave me an opportunity to talk to people about reading. Some people were actually embarrassed how little they read, but looked forward to reading more.

WBN Good Omens

That night my head was buzzing with a variety of emotions and opinions. I tried to understand people who didn’t read and how I could change their mind. I never wrote about my experience from 2012 before, as I was lost for words. 23rd April 2012 changed my perception of people versus books. I knew there were people who didn’t read, but I was taken aback by the number of them. I decided that I could try to do something every day not only for World Book Night.

I used to work with people who loved reading but I changed my job and my new work place was my challenge to start with. Talking about books, giving them away and engaging in conversations with co-workers about reading was my new challenge. I succeeded with a few. I was mostly happy about helping a young girl, who didn’t read – there was no reason why, she just didn’t read. She was into vampires, so I gave her Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice. She loved it and kept asking for different books. I used to be a book hoarder. Ok, I still am, but it gave me an opportunity to pass on books which I decided I wouldn’t want to read again or keep for any other reason. That’s what I do, I read and pass books on. I love the feeling of giving someone the opportunity to escape to another world.

For World Book Night 2013 I applied to give away Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. It’s an amazing book. I chose it not only because I loved it, but also because it’s relatively short and engrossing from the very beginning. I gave a few copies walking in the streets of Glasgow and on the bus. This year, to make it look more like a gift I tied a ribbon on each copy of the book and wrote a little note attached to it. I had only three rejections this year, which was a huge improvement. I also organised a Treasure Hunt inspired by Girl with a Pearl Earring in Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. There are no paintings by Vermeer but they have a brilliant collection of Dutch paintings.

There are a lot of lonely people coming to Kelvingrove every day. I work there and see these people coming and going like shadows. Some of them will talk to members of staff as they have no one else to talk to, others just come in, walk around and leave to come next day and do the same. I managed to give books to some of them. I also tried to show them how books can be interesting regardless of the subject. A lot of people think that art is a pretentious hobby of the rich people. Glasgow Museums have free entry and try to reach a lot of people from different backgrounds. Girl with a Pearl Earring was a perfect choice. People who received the copy were delighted to hear that it was a story of a young girl who worked for Vermeer’s family as a maid – a story of someone they could relate to, as one of ladies said to me. People who attended really enjoyed the challenge, chat about books, art and cupcakes I made (my secret weapon).

Treasure Hunt

Cupcakes

Girl with a Pearl Earring

I think it’s very important to try to reach out to people who don’t read. It doesn’t matter why they don’t read – what’s important is helping them to fall in love with reading. World Book Night is a brilliant project which might help people not only to find pleasure in reading, but to help them find something that keeps them happy regardless of what they have to face in life. It might be a cliché, but each book is a chance of having a different life, a chance to be someone else, to be somewhere else and to understand life from a different perspective – though when the cover is closed after the last chapter some of the book’s magic stays – an experience that enriches one’s life.

 

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C. Robert Cargill Dreams and Shadows – Review

Dreams and Shadows

Dreams and Shadows tells the story of unconditional friendship and love. It’s not soppy but it will shatter your heart.

There are three boys in Austin, Texas.

Ewan, a boy who was too young to know what really happened to him. Knocks, a boy who wanted more than his life prepared for him. And Colby, a boy who only knew how to take care of himself. They didn’t know about the existence of one another, yet one day they meet in unusual circumstances which have an illimitable effect on them.

As his life is filled only with lonely games in the woods, Colby jumps at the opportunity of taking full control of his life when he meets an eccentric stranger Yashar. Meanwhile, in another part of Austin, fairies inhabiting the Limestone Kingdom need to make a sacrifice to the Devil himself every seven years. To protect their own kind, they steal children and leave changelings behind. Ewan and Knocks are very different but somewhat almost alike. They do not fully understand what is expected of them and, like children, get completely lost in their dreams and aspirations. A mixture of young ignorance and innocence can complicate the lives of two young boys. One of them is a human about to become a fairy and the other is an unfortunate changeling. The Tithe Child is oblivious to his destiny and doesn’t realise how little time he has left and why. The other one drives people to insanity and death. Not realising it’s his destiny to replace someone else, struggles to find a place he can belong to – conflicting emotions blind him and lead him to self-destruction.

When Colby barges through ‘the veil’ between ordinary and supernatural, the story suddenly turns upside-down and nothing from then on is as it was supposed to be. How can two boys from different worlds become friends and what does that friendship mean to them? Can their friendship endure the consequences of their actions they hardly understood at the time? There’s also love that complicates matters even further, but can bring up most beautiful out of most ordinary things. Dreams and Shadows is full of supernatural beings – both good and evil. C. Robert Cargill managed to write a truly imaginative world. His characters are very expressive – as if all those supernatural creatures shared our world with us in most natural way.

The book is written in two parts – a story of adolescent friendship and adult life. The chapters intertwine with extracts from essays on supernatural folklore. This allowed the author to explain certain aspects of the plot and characters in a very coherent and interesting way.

What I really love about Dreams and Shadows is that it’s not an ordinary urban fantasy book. It’s very dark, full of raw emotions of two opposing poles and heart wrenching. It broke my heart before I managed to get to chapter two. At that point I knew I would not be able to put it down – it completely enthralled me. The sheer human emotions described in the book are handled with utter honesty and effortlessly presented by all the characters – even the ones who played a tiny role in the whole story. Descriptions of places are also very vivid and haunting. The language is urgent and captivating. I couldn’t sleep for hours after I finished reading it. Not because of its dark sides but because I didn’t want it to end. I wanted more. I wasn’t ready for it to finish like that.

Dreams and Shadows is truly superb. I would recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy and to those who don’t. It’s one of those books you will want to keep.

Author: C. Robert Cargill

Title: Dreams and Shadows

Publisher: Gollancz

Format: Hardback, 416 pages

Published: 28/02/2013

ISBN: 9780575130098

There’s a painting in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow titled The Fairy Raid: Carrying off a changeling – Midsummer Eve, 1867, Joseph Noel Paton – it’s always been one of my favourites and I’ve been fascinated by its story but after reading Dreams and Shadows I cannot help but see it as much darker and more intriguing.

Copyright Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow

Copyright Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow