Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Books and Authors on Television

Despite the phenomenal success of Richard and Judy’s Book Club, the myth persists that books and authors don’t play well on television. Never mind that virtually all the major drama series are adapted from books, (“The Slap” by Christos Tsiolkas being the latest one to be heavily trailered), and that virtually every major television personality writes books more often than cheques, (Jamie Oliver and Jeremy Clarkson must virtually support Penguin these days). In the last couple of days however I’ve seen two cheering little programmes.

First there was Diana Athill on Imagine. Ms Athill breaks virtually every rule of television; she is old, (women aren’t supposed to appear on the screen after their fortieth birthdays unless they are willing to don sequins and be mocked on the dance floor), she is unashamedly posh, (although she has a sexual history which would make an Essex reality girl blush), and she is mightily and unapologetically intelligent and literate. The reason she makes good television is because she is genuine and because she thinks and talks with an honesty and clarity which fairly takes your breath away.

The second programme was produced by The Culture Show and involved carting the Booker shortlist up to the village of Comrie and getting a variety of locals to read, comment and meet some of the authors. The result was a gentle half hour of interesting characters telling interesting stories. (The book which came off the worst was later announced to be the winner of the prize, which I guess goes to show just how far the literary world’s tastes sit from those of the majority of the reading public).

Surely there must be a wealth of this sort of unexploited television fodder gathering cobwebs in our remaining bookshops.

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