Vintage Classics Day

The BookDepository

Yesterday I went to Foyles bookshop in the centre of London to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the Vintage Classic. The day was packed with famous authors and wonderful bookish chat, so I thought I’d share the highlights with you.

Vintage Villians

Sadie Jones, Sebastian Peake (son of Gormenghast creator and illustrator Mervyn Peake) and Jake Arnott debated who was the greatest literary villain, with Sadie Jone’s, Dracula, beating Jake Arnott’s, Long John Silver, and Sebastian Peake’s, Steerpike, in the final vote. The chair, Viv Groskop, was very entertaining and held the debate together superbly.  

The Gormenghast Trilogy

I have always been a bit scared of the copy of The Gormenghast Trilogy that I have on my shelf, but this discussion persuaded me to give it a try. Have you read the Gormenghast Trilogy?

Rose Tremain

Eugenie Grandet (Orange Inheiritance)

Rose Tremain mainly discussed the new Orange Inheritance collection, in which authors were asked to select one book that they would like to pass onto the next generation. Rose Tremain chose Eugénie Grandet by Honoré de Balzac and she made it sound very appealing. Balzac is one of those authors I have always meant to try, but haven’t got around to yet. Have you read any Balzac?

Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver stole the show for me. She was articulate, funny and full of wisdom.

People who read Kevin more than once are insane.

She told us that she wasn’t allowed to talk about the We Need to Talk About Kevin film (released on 2nd September in the UK), but admitted that she saw it for the first time 10 days ago and loved it.  (click here to see the first still images that have been released).

She also had a great little disagreement with a woman who said she didn’t like the ending of We Need to Talk About Kevin:

Even after all these years, when someone tells me they’re disappointed with the ending of We Need to Talk About Kevin, I’m still enraged!

If you ever get the chance to hear Lionel Shriver talk I highly recommend that you make an effort to attend as she is very entertaining!

Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon explained why he wasn’t worried about the future of books:

Books are future-proof. They are the only medium that is already digital.

He also let us know that he loves re-reading books.

I love destroying a book with love.

All his favourite books will be falling apart because they have been read so much!

Sebastian Faulks

Sebastian Faulks talked about his recent TV series, Faulks on Fiction. He revealed that he hated the slow pace of programme making and said that it was far quicker to write a book than to make a TV series.

The BBC is like the old Soviet Union, but less humorous.

Unfortunately it doesn’t sound as though he is likely to be making another series in the future.

It was a fantastic day!

Thank you to Foyles and Vintage for organising such a wonderful event!


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  1. stujallen says:

    this looks like a great day I loved Peake trilogy he was such a visual writer ,suppose came from being an illustrator steer pike is a truly one off character ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, That is great to know – I do love visual writing. I think I’m going to have to abandon all plans and pick it up tonight, while I’m still excited about it.

  2. Verity says:

    I am very envious – that sounds like such a great outing and I know you got to meet up with other bloggers too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, The day was so packed that there wasn’t much chance for chatting with other bloggers, but it was nice to have lunch with everyone. I hope that you’ll be able to make the next event :-)

  3. Sandy says:

    OMG that sounds like so much fun! I’m having a hard time getting past the idea of hearing Lionel Shriver speak. You know I just love her to death. I imagine she was just as clever as her writing is. I had to laugh at the quotes from her. Would I ever re-read Kevin? I don’t know. I kept the book, versus giving it away. Does it mean I intend to re-read, or does it mean I intend to lend it? I couldn’t tell you. I’m also scratching my head on why anyone would dislike the ending. It is what it is, right? How else could it have ended that would have made any sense.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Lionel Shriver is just as clever as her writing. I have heard her talk on the radio a few times in the past and if you can’t get to physically see her then I recommend that you try to find a few of her talks on the Internet.

      I can imagine re-reading Kevin at some point in the future, but that would be in a few decades time, when I have forgotten some of the finer plot points (don’t think I’ll ever forget most of it though!) I don’t lend my copy out, but I think I have bought about 4 other copies to give to friends and recommended it many times over,. I wouldn’t change the ending, or anything else about it. I think it is bookish perfection!

      1. We have found a book we agree on, Jackie! Kevin is indeed bookish perfection!

  4. Laura says:

    Jackie, this sounds like such a wonderful event — I’m jealous!
    Coincidentally, I mentioned Kevin in a blog post today — it’s Mother’s Day in the US and Eva is definitely a memorable literary mother!

    1. Jackie says:

      Laura, Eva has to one of the most memorable mothers. I read it a while ago too and, like you, still remember so much about it. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

  5. Lionel Shriver was the highlight for me too, Jackie! I’ve heard some very memorable authors speak and she ranks highly among them; she definitely makes an impression! I think commenting about your dislike for a book’s ending to the author and a group of people who may or may not have read the book is disrepectful; there were a couple of comments (not questions) yesterday that were uncomfortable, ungrateful and did not contribute to the conversation. There seem to be several readers -bloggers among them- who seem to think that writers and publishers owe them something and that irks me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, Lionel Shriver ranks among my most memorable author events too. Kate Mosse comes close and so I was sad that she didn’t make it yesterday.

      I thought the comment about the ending of Kevin was a bit off, but I thought the way Shriver handled it was fantastic. Many bonus points to her :-)

  6. Wow, that sounds like a wonderful event. Not an event with one well-known author and a few that no-one’s heard of! :-)

    I’m a little bit jealous….

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, I know – I was very impressed with the author line-up. Not one filler, all people I wanted to see. I hope you get the chance to go to something similar one day.

  7. I love that Mark Haddon quote about re-reading – that’s great! I’m pleased to hear that Lionel Shriver is a great speaker – it seems like she would be. I have only read her book The Post-Birthday World but I loved it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christy, Kevin is in a league above Post-Birthday World. If you liked that then I’m sure you’ll love Kevin. I encourage you to give it a go sometime. :-)

  8. Sounds like a fabulous event! I wish I lived closer to London and could get to some of these places.

    Kevin is an amazing book and I like to think I will re-read it one day – I recommend it to everyone and in all the bookclubs I have been a member of this one got one of the best ever discussions.

    I have never read Balzac either but I have a copy of Cousin Bette at home and it keeps “almost” getting to the top of the pile but never quite making it.

    1. Jackie says:

      The Book Whisperer, I have never read Kevin as part of a book group, but have recommended it to so many friends that we have had several informal chats about it. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of talking about it :-)

      I wished that you were able to get to a few more of these events as it is always lovely to see you. They really should have a few events in other locations in the UK – it would give me a good excuse for a hoilday ;-)

  9. Great to meet you at last Jackie, wasn’t it a great day!

    1. Jackie says:

      dovegreyreader, It was lovely to finally put a face to the blog – hope we can see each other again some time. :-)

  10. Steph says:

    Oh what fun! I’m so jealous that you got to hear so many interesting authors speak! I haven’t read the Gormenghast Trilogy either due to intimidation, so I kind of hope you will read it soon so that I will know whether or not I should try it! :)

    And why does Shriver think people who re-read Kevin are insane? Because all of the surprises are already out in the open, or because she can’t understand why people would want to experience its horror more than once? Shriver seems like a really provocative woman in general, so I can only imagine how interesting she must have been to listen to.

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I’m not sure why Shriver thinks Kevin re-readers are insane, but I think it is because of the emotional turmoil the book produces. The one thing you can say about Shriver is that she is never dull :-) I hope you get the chance to listen to her sometime.

      I am very excited about Gormenghast at the moment. Hopefully that will last long enough for me to pick it up. Hopefully I’ll be able to let you know all about it soon.

  11. Simon T says:

    Great write up, Jackie!

  12. Brenna says:

    It sounds like a wonderful event! You are so lucky to have attended!

    1. Jackie says:

      Brenna, Yes, I don’t think literary events as good as that come along often. I hope that you find one :-)

  13. Looks like you had a fun day Jackie. I would love to meet Lionel Shriver especially after reading both her ‘Kevin’ book and the tennis one. Your recommendation makes me want to do that. I’ll look out for her when she makes her next trip up to Scotland.

    1. Jackie says:

      Leela, I haven’t read Double Fault yet as I have heard mixed reports about it. I’m sure I’ll get to it some day, but I am nervous. I hope that she makes it up to Scotland soon and that you enjoy listening to her as much as I did.

      Thanks for commenting on my blog for the first time :-)

  14. Annabel says:

    Sounds a brilliant do – maybe I’ll come next year.

    I’d urge you to give Gormenghast a go. I adored it, and always planned to re-read the trilogy one day (could be a good one for a readalong, once the fourth episode is published …. thinks!) Steerpike is one of the most vivid characters in literature.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, If I’m around and it is organised I’ll be going again next year – hope to see you there!

      I think a readalong for Gormenghast is a good idea, but think we’ll need to start soon in order to be ready for the 4th installment. I’ll have a think and perhaps organise one soon.

  15. kimbofo says:

    Great write-up, Jackie. It was a top day, wasn’t it? Although I must say those seats were more uncomfortable than a long-haul flight to Australia! ;-)

    And I agree. Lionel Shriver was very good. Her put down, which you quote here, was top-notch!

    1. Jackie says:

      kimbofo, I thought it was a fantastic day, but agree about those seats – it was the only improvement I mentioned on my feedback form :-)

  16. Dark Puss says:

    I fully support Annabel’s recommendation for Gormenghast; I think you might find it to be one of the most fantastic (in all senses) books you will ever read.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dark Puss, Thanks for the encouragement – I am excited to give it a try now :-)

  17. Amy says:

    Oh wow, what a wonderful day Jackie! I would have come away with an entirely new reading list!
    I haven’t read any Balzac although I’ve always meant to so I’ve jotted down Rose Tremain’s recommendation. And The Gormenghast Trilogy I’ve never attempted. It’s intimidating. I’m interested in what you think as you read it.

    Lionel Shriver sounds like a very interesting, entertaining woman. I have a few of her books but haven’t read them yet either.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, Luckily?! I didn’t come away with a massive reading list, just a few books that I am very keen to try. I’m hoping that The Gormenghast Trilogy turns out to be a lot less intimidating than I thought – I’ll try to let you know one way or the other soon.

  18. Jenners says:

    Oh how fun! I’m wildly curious about We Need To Talk About Kevin. Hard to imagine it as a film … but I tend not to think in “film” terms. Lionel Shriver sounds like a fun author to hear! I hope I get the chance someday.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I’m not very good about thinking how films might work either – those screen writers probably have lots of cunning tricks up their sleeves and I look forward to watching the final result.


  1. Gormenghast Readalong? – Farm Lane Books Blog

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