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What are we reading? World book day at Concept

Sean Ho

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Today is world book day and we at Concept couldn’t be happier! A few of us in the marketing team are avid readers so we’ve decided to fill you in on what we’ve been reading. 

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Lee is tearing through Be the Worst You Can Be, by Charles Saatchi. The former head of Saatchi and Saatchi is infamous for a few things: his patronage of artists like Damien Hurst and Tracy Emin, being grumpy and being opinionated. However, perhaps Saatchi is most infamous for his secrecy. Well, in this book, he speaks. Be the Worst You Can Be is a book of responses to questions posed by the public and by critics – nearly 300 of them. Printed on stunning paper, with colour pictures, the book is a marvel to look at and to hold.

Saatchi answers all of the questions with the same tone: a frenetic, dry and arrogant sarcasm. If you don’t take him too seriously, it’s an engaging read. However, there aren’t too many observations on the nature of marketing or how to build a good art collection – that would give the game away. A lovely little read for anyone interested in curiosities. For example, Mona Lisa used to shave her eyebrows because it was the fashion of Renaissance Florence.

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The fantastic, eclectic world of Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors has grabbed Shehla’s attention. A series of short fiction and poetry couched in the imagination, Gaiman’s prose sparkles as ever. This is a world where the angel Raguel bums cigarettes from kids in LA then tells them the truth about Satan’s fall from heaven, where demons take over London because of a social media campaign in Hell and a technical fault in Heaven.

All told with a quiet, reserved sense of unreality, this is a fantastic read. The trick behind Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors is quite simple really: nothing is overstated. None of the character’s here view the unreal as anything out of the ordinary. When Galahad turns up to a woman’s house to take back the Holy Grail on her mantelpiece, it isn’t a shock. No, she simply asks him to trade her for something that will look just as good in its place. This simplicity, with a host of well-crafted characters, is what makes Gaiman’s stories eerie. 

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Dark, sombre and terrifying – James has his head in some Hubert Selby Jr. The Room is a stark, unrelenting narrative which, according to one reviewer, takes its readers on ‘a terrifying journey into the darkest corners of the psyche’. The plot is simple: an unnamed man is in jail, in solitary confinement. The novel details his thoughts. As he rages against his prison guards, dogs, the police officers that arrested him, his mother, a woman he has fictionalised entirely, the prose dances to the rhythm of his self-absorbed mind as it plummets deeper and deeper into darkness. Some paragraphs span pages, others dissolve into staccato one-liners – a mind falling apart on paper.

Selby couldn’t read The Room for years after it was published. It made him feel sick. This is no small thing: his first novel, Last Exit to Brooklyn, was banned under obscenity laws in the UK when it was first published. The man behind these books (and Requiem for a Dream to boot) is just as fascinating his works. After dropping out of school at the age of 15, Selby joined the merchant navy. In 1947, whilst at sea, he was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis and given a year to live. Back in the US and bedridden, he came to his calling in perhaps the most matter-of-fact manner he could: ‘I know the alphabet. Maybe I could be a writer.’ In the end, he did survive. But after trial runs of experimental drugs to treat his illness, Selby later became hooked on opiates. The Room, like its author, is not for the faint of heart.

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We’ve covered everything our marketing team are reading, but we didn’t stop there! No, we asked the Concept group’s practice manager – Cynthia – about her latest read. Heads up: Cynth’s a history buff! Her area of expertise? The Tudors of course.

The Other Boleyn Girl is an historical novel by Philippa Gregory. Set in the dark corridors of Tudor palace life, the story focus on Mary Boleyn – Anne Boleyn’s sister. Very little is known about Mary, but the novel details her life from the age of 14 up until Anne’s execution. It depicts Mary having an affair with Henry VIII (before her sister’s engagement to him), the wedding of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and the hurried, restless search for a male heir to the throne.

Despite a little concern over historical accuracy, The Other Boleyn Girl has only grown in populartity. It was adapted into a 90 minute TV drama by the BBC in 2003 and a film in 2008. There are a host of sequels: The Queen’s Fool, The Virgin’s Lover and The Constant Princess to name but three. A stunning read, really demonstrating the claustrophobia of court life, The Other Boleyn Girl is perfect for anyone who likes their fiction with a little historical flair.

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Happy world book day!

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