Category Archives: Books

Places you need to try: Persephone Bookshop

Our intrepid correspondent seeks out the best places to eat, drink, read and relax within walking distance of the main campus. Avoid lousy lattes, escape the buzzing phones of the library, find somewhere inspiring!

This quaint little spot can be found just off Great Ormond Street on Lamb’s Conduit Street, where I once drank one of the best coffees in London (on the street, not in the hospital – but that’s another story). Walking in, one is transported by just how unlike any high street bookshop Persephone is. After trapezing through half of London on the prowl for textbooks (along with a thousand other equally-desperate people) this comes as a welcome distraction.

I’m struck by how almost everything has the same greyish-blue cover, recalling frosty winter mornings. Books without matching covers are placed on a table in the corner, which satisfies my slightly manic organisational tendencies. Persephone reprints every title in their 117-strong catalogue (hence the uniform style), selecting fiction and non-fiction from neglected mid-twentieth-century women writers.

Behind the identical bindings, each book reveals a new world to step into, from just a couple hours to a few days. Whilst I’ve not yet bought out the whole shop, I will promise, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, that any volume you step out with will not leave you dissatisfied.

In case you’re wondering, I am in a fulfilling relationship, but he’ll never be able to penetrate my lifelong affair with books. Don’t ask, it’s complicated.

Apart from the obvious benefit that you can read snippets of books before you buy (it’s not the best place to try and read an entire book for free, as I have actually once done, albeit in a Waterstones), the staff are always helpful and willing to find something that suits you, as well as pointing out the shop’s most prized titles. And the best thing is, every one is by a woman. Literally women everywhere. All the books, most of them barely-known, are written only by women.



Image courtesy of flickr user Derya

The 13 questions : Tod Davies (Writer)

Tod Davies might be not be a familiar name to many of you reading this piece, but she is better known than you may think. Have you seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? She wrote the script with Alex Cox (and they had to fight for their work to be recognised). Have you heard of the Arcadia series of books? Snotty Saves the Day and Lily the Silent? She wrote both, and they have made marks. Then of course you may have heard of the cooking memoir Jam Today? After being a fan for quite some time, I decided to launch my new series of artist profiles with the amazing Tod Davies…

What inspires you?
People telling new stories, ones I haven’t heard yet—or even thought of.

What informs you?
Oh, books, books, books. Which are the vehicles of story. But stories of all kinds, really. Fiction and nonfiction…news. Mostly though, Fairy tales. Legends. Myths. Fantasy that is content rich really informs me. I get more information about human desires, potential pitfalls and goals, from rereading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy than I do from any collection of magazines and bestselling nonfiction. Although it would have been helpful if he’d included more women’s desires, potential pitfalls etc. Thank the goddess for Ursula K. Le Guin and Madeleine L’Engle.

Where is your favourite place?
My home in the mountain forests of Oregon.

Where do you go to write?
In the winter; the comfy chair by the woodstove. In the summer; a chair by the stream under the old trees in the National Forest behind my house. Otherwise, my study. I really have to write longhand for first drafts. And my handwriting is appalling, even without my balancing the clipboard on my knees.

When do you write?
All the time, actually. But my scheduled time is from about 2 pm to about 4 or 5 pm. That’s when all the machines are shut down. Unless I’m putting stuff into the computer, anyway.

When do you dream?
All the time. Awake. Asleep. Half awake. Half asleep. I do sometimes think I actually exist in some kind of borderland. It always astonishes me to find when other people don’t. Or they seem to say they don’t, anyway. I’d love to hear from others about this.

Who is your biggest critic?
My dear husband. Also my not so dear superego.

Who makes you angry?
People who use others to make themselves feel powerful, superior. As my hero/heroine says in Snotty Saves the Day, the strong need the weak to make themselves feel strong. But the weak don’t need the strong. So, really, who is the weaker?

Why are libraries important?
You want to talk about a softball question! My goodness: they are the repository of story, of course. The place you can go to read (and tell) stories of all kinds. They are the creative motor of culture. No lie.

Why must we talk about art?
Why must we talk about life? Art, truly engaged with, is about the questions that matter to us as humans: “Who am I?” “Who are we?” “Why are we here?” “What is it good for us to do?”

Do you feel that story telling is natural to human beings?
Not only is it natural, it can practically be said to be our actual biological function. As bees make honey, so do we make stories. Our entire world is a story that we have built over the aeons. It’s made up of the symbols coming from the within that we have applied to the without. There is no human path without the story. The story IS the path. And art of all kinds add to the story.

Can we discover and rediscover a story via its retelling?
Anyone who has reread a beloved book after a time away from it knows that you have a new experience…the older and more experience, the more one sees in beloved things (and people, one hopes). Any real work of art has so many facets that can’t be grasped in one reading, one seeing. It’s a living thing. Living things can be endlessly rediscovered. If we’re willing to open ourselves to them, anyway. Which is always a question.

Do we understand ourselves and our world via the stories we tell?
Yes. Yes. Yes. And we need to go on understanding it and interacting with the stories and with our world. It’s a dance. We ARE the stories, the world is the stories. Or, as Yeats says, “How can we tell the dancer from the dance?”