28 October 2010

Hanging with the literati

Wednesday evening, I eagerly take up my personal invitation to the relaunch, at Waterstone's Deansgate, of Elizabeth Baines' first novel, The Birth Machine. I've mentioned the Zedster (as Benjamin Judge deferentially nicknamed her during his Literary World Cup Final, which she won) on a few occasions over the last 12 months as she's pretty prolific on the reading scene round our way (Didsbury Arts Festival; Chorlton Arts Festival; Oxfam Bookfest Didsbury; Chorlton Book Festival). I've also just read her most recent novel, Too Many Magpies, so I was keen to hear extracts from this rerelease. (I'll admit it: I also wanted to try before I buy; the cover, although amazingly creative and rather different, is also quite shocking and a little offputting.)

I'm not disappointed. Elizabeth is incredibly warm and welcoming to everyone in the audience, many of whom she knows personally; many of whom form part of the Manchester literati. She begins by explaining the reasons behind the relaunch on 1 October - partly because the book, which was on a number of university reading lists at one point, went out of print; partly to reinstate its original, intended structure (feminist publishers The Women's Press moved chapter four to the start and changed its tense from past to present for "political" reasons). This time last year, Elizabeth (aka Helen; glad to see other people have schizophrenic names) was at the Northern Salt event held at the Whitworth as part of Manchester Literature Festival, when Jen from Salt (her new publisher) broached the subject of reissuing The Birth Machine. And to to cut a long story short - here we are!

Elizabeth presents three extracts, in the original storytelling order that builds up to the disorientating, slightly creepy fourth chapter. Similar to Magpies, TBM fuses reality with fairytale, and as Mrs Zelda Harris undergoes an induced labour and becomes confused, so her memories and myths become fused. The descriptive narrative and natural conversation I've come to anticipate with Elizabeth's work is all present and correct, and descriptions and images produce a couple of involuntary squeaks of laughter. (See, it's not all "literary misery"; a phrase coined the other day at MLF event Is There A Novelist In The House?.) You can read more from EB about the back story to the launch here and more about the the novel itself here. I'm really intrigued by the story, but we'll have to wait for payday before any more new books pass my way. Sigh.

EXTRA EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT! Check out EB's own blog for more from the event!

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