Posted by: billpurdue | October 6, 2010

Regional news, water and the Man Booker

At the end of every main news bulletin on BBC1, the news reader says “and now for the news where you are”. This phrase has become the title of Catherine O’Flynn’s latest book The News where You are [ Viking £12.99 978-0670918553]. The central character is Frank, one of the presenters of a regional news TV programme based in Birmingham. Frank has a happy marriage, but his mother lives in a care home and seems permanently miserable. He becomes obsessed with the news stories about people who have died alone and forgotten and starts attending their funerals because he feels that someone should be there to see them off.

His former colleague Phil has recently died in a mysterious hit and run accident and Michael, his old army chum, was found dead sitting on a park bench. His father , now deceased, designed several of the modern buildings in the city centre, but their design features are now outdated and one by one are being pulled down.

The central themes of this book are, says the blurb, about loss and memory, but for me it’s at least partly about getting older and coming to terms with change. His mother forms a friendship with Walter, another care home resident, and they both move to a care home by the sea, so she has been able to move on. Phil on the other hand had become increasingly worried about getting old and was harbouring suicidal feelings. It’s an interesting book – one which some have raved about and some have criticised for being inconsequential. Read the Guardian review.

A little book about water

I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. We’re constantly being told these days that we should drink more water, but water is not water is not water…. Dr Masaru Emoto, the author of the book The Hidden Messages in Water [Pocket Books £7.99 978-1416522195] claims that crystals in frozen water are subject to change when exposed to music, visual images and even words written on paper. Pleasant music, words of love or kindness for example produce crystals pleasing to the eye, whilst raucous music or negative words produce incomplete crystals or no crystals at all. Since our bodies are made of approximately 70% water, this could have wider implications.

Now I can imagine that some of you will call this a load of bunkum, but it certainly makes you think.  The reviews on Amazon (UK) are range from “brilliant” and “amazing ideas” to “mumbo jumbo”. I’ll leave the opinions to you.

Man Booker shortlist

All this week, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme is broadcasting interviews with the authors of the shortlisted books for the Man Booker Prize. The first interviewee today was Emma Donoghue, author of Room[ Picador £12.99 978-0330519014], a novel inspired by the news story of Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter locked in a cellar for over 20 years. In Room a woman is abducted by a stranger and kept locked in a soundproof shed. Doesn’t sound like my kind of book, I have to say, but if you’re interested, you can listen to the interview on the Radio 4 Today programme website. There are more interviews with Man Booker shortlist authors this week.

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