Under the skin by Michel Faber

Melanie Stacey of Thames and Hudson is the guest in the Bookseller’s "reading for pleasure" column for 15 June. She chooses Under the Skin by Michel Faber. She writes that the book is based around a woman called Isserley, who drives through the Scottish Highlands in search of male hitch hikers to pick up. "The atmosphere is strange from the outset, and the reader knows that something is not quite right, but the shock that Faber introduces around 20 pages in is completely unpredictable. This is a beautifully crafted and disturbing book………It’s not like anything else I have ever read……as a piece of truly imaginative fiction, it is a cumulatively stunning work. I’ve loaned or recommended this book to so many people now, who have all loved it."

I’m going to have to read this book. You can read an author profile and interview here, at BookReporter.com , and a review of the book here, at the same site. Here’s the Guardian review, from the year 2000 (how come I’ve never come across this book before? Or, rather I wonder why it has never stuck in my mind — as it is apparently on those "1000 books you must read before you die" lists, its title must have passed before my eyes a few times). One final alternative, the Powell’s review is here.  For fear of spoilers, I haven’t read any of these reviews, but shall enjoy doing so after I’ve read the book (one of my life’s little pleasures).

Short short stories at normblog

Do you remember last year’s normblog short short story competition, where the maximum number of words per story was 250 ? Well, now Norm (Norman Geras) is doing it again: see normblog: Short short story – second series. He writes:

"I must do what I can to encourage you all in the path of Jane Austen, George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Saul Bellow, Cormac McCarthy and… er, Salman Rushdie. It’s the same deal as last time. Your story must be…

… no more than 250 words, excluding your title – for which, however, you may not use more than 10 words. I will post a selection of the stories sent (and sending one will be taken as giving your permission to post it); and if there’s enough of an entry, I’ll put them before a panel of judges, not including myself and to be announced in due course, for selection of the best three. There will be prizes.

All I need add is that, whatever its quality, your story will be received at normblog as a vote in favour of the glory of literature."

So, do give it a go! Here is where to go to enter, and here are last year’s winners, with judges’ report and links to the stories. From there, you can also find all of last year’s entries. I can’t find the deadline, but the normblog’s email address is here for entries and competition-related enquiries.

The Book Depository on POD

Mark Thwaite of The Book Depository posts about the POD discussion we have been having on Petrona, and others have been having elsewhere. Mark writes:

"Print on Demand (POD) technology is getting better all the time. And it is going to keep getting better (smaller, faster, cheaper, as well as simply giving a look and feel that is as good as anything traditional printing can offer) in the coming years. Indeed, the time frame for when great (as opposed to adequate) POD books will be the norm for the majority of backlist titles is shrinking all  of the time………….

With POD an author need never fear that her book will be unavailable. With 10,000 books published every month, books are rarely given enough time to enter book-buyers’ awareness before they are taken off the bookshelves to be replaced, just a week or so later, by the next bunch of hopefuls. (The advantage of an internet bookshop like The Book Depository is, of course, that we can hold millions of books on our virtual shelves.) At least with POD, a book doesn’t have to have itself rushed quite so quickly through the bricks and mortar bookshop and onto the remainders pile."

If you don’t know it, do check out the Book Depository, "founded in 2004 with the aim of making "All books available to All" through pioneering supply-chain initiatives, republishing and digitizing of content. It is a continuing project, still in its infancy and one of the most ambitious ventures in the Book Industry." You can order books, read Mark’s "editor’s corner" blog, read publishing news, interviews and reviews, and so on.