The BBC Book Review Show

The BBC has a regular programme called The Review Show. Recently they have decided that once a month they will devote it entirely to books, and the first such episode was aired on Saturday. At the recommendation of Alex Preston I’ve just watched it on iPlayer, and it is well worth a look, especially as the main topic of the program is women’s literature.

The first segment was probably the least successful in that they were trying to have a serious discussion of the Orange Prize nominees in far too little time. On the other hand, whoever was in charge of the show managed to prevent Germaine Greer from saying anything about Annabel, and prevent John Mullan from saying anything about The Tiger’s Wife, and for such small mercies we should all be immensely grateful. The temptation to go for controversy must have been considerable, but the BBC resisted it.

Next up was an interview with Lionel Shriver who sounded very smart and had a very appropriate anecdote from Cannes. You are so right, Lionel dear, but at least you now have a McQueen dress, which is not to be sniffed at.

The bit of the show I liked best was the round table discussion between Fay Weldon, Joanne Harris, Lesley Pearse and Ruth Rendell on the subject of sexism in the publishing industry. Of course I liked it because they said exactly the same things that I (and many other people) have been saying for some time, but it is good to hear those things said on TV. When they came back to the studio, Denise Mina totally nailed the problem, and John Mullan tried to laugh the whole thing off on the grounds that the ladies were exaggerating everything. I guess it must have been their hormones…

Finally there was news of posthumous book releases from Beryl Bainbridge and Daphne Du Maurier. Bainbridge, I’m afraid, is not really my cup of tea, though I do now want to study her sentences. The Du Maurier, however, sounded fascinating. It is a collection of early short stories, five of which have only recently been discovered and are therefore new publications [Update: Sadly not – see Ellen Datlow’s comment below]. They are also horror. I hope that the Shirley Jackson and World Fantasy juries have their eye on the ball here.

The title story of the collection, “The Doll”, tells the tale of a young man who discovers that the girl he loves keeps a life-size male doll as a companion. They read a short section out on the programme and another writer leapt immediately to mind. Here’s a bit I found on the Amazon web site:

I want to know if men realise when they are insane. Sometimes I think that my brain cannot hold together, it is filled with too much horror – too much despair …I cannot sleep, I cannot close my eyes without seeing his damned face. If only it had been a dream.

That’s right, it sounds very much like Lovecraft.

9 thoughts on “The BBC Book Review Show

    1. I confess to an extreme degree of bias where Ms. Greer is concerned, but given that she thinks I am a fraud the least I can do is return the favor.

  1. From the Guardian –they-re not new stories.

    “The other stories that Willmore unearthed include two which vanished after appearing in short story collections in the US, “East Wind” and “The Limpit”. Another two – “And His Letters Grew Colder” and “The Happy Valley” – appeared in magazines published in 1932. The latter, which Willmore said is her favourite of the rediscovered stories, contains elements of a plot which later grew into Rebecca. “These stories are often overlooked,” said Willmore, “but they show how she learned her craft, and tried out different mechanisms for telling the stories”.”

    1. Ah, thank you!

      Though having looked up that article I am amused to see that “The Doll” was published in “a 1937 collection of stories rejected by magazines and publishers called The Editor Regrets.”

      1. I’m currently reading du Maurier’s collection. It’s very good.
        The person who put it together credits the earlier publications. Her premise is that they had disappeared from view after their early publication. It appears to be due to her efforts in searching through magazines from the 20s and 30s that they were found again.

        It has rekindled my interest in du Maurier’s work and I will be re-reading the novels I read years ago and seeking out the works I haven’t read yet.

  2. I WISH they were all new–what a coup it would be to get permission to put in best Horror (ha!)

  3. The BBC in their wisdom won’t let me view the programme from the US. Anyone out there prepared to download it, upload it to Dropbox, and share with me? Pretty please? Even an audio-only file would be cool.

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