Sunday 11 October
Palace Green Library
Review by Gabriel Brown
There are several words which describe this event, and all are good: enjoyable, hilarious and, as Andy Miller and the crowd at the event will remember, amazing.
Andy Miler’s Read Y’self Fitter is a ten-step flip chart plan, teaching us how to cope with our struggles with reading. These lessons include everything from advice onm how to actually finish a book, to reminding us all that- no matter what we think- we are not as clever as Dan Brown (!!) It is hard to pick a favorite moment from this extremely entertaining event, but perhaps one of the best sections was how Andy showed the (unlikely) fact that Moby Dick and The Da Vinci code are more alike than we may think. Audience participation added to the lightheartedness of the occasion, especially when a woman stated she has always wanted to read a book which Andy had spoken about in great detail- to tell us all how rubbish it is!
Fellow Reviewer in Residence, Chloe Allan, and I had a chance to speak to Andy before his event. I was interested to see how ‘dangerous’ reading all the books featured in ‘The Year Of Reading Dangerously’ actually was: “ Well its not like standing-on-the-wing-of-a-biplane- kin-of-dangerous ”, Andy began, instantly crushing my hopes of amazing reading stunts, “but the serious point is when you get into middle age, the feeling you had about books as a teenager is difficult to recreate. There are lots of responsibilities- “life stuff’ ”- which gets in the way”. The danger, or the challenge, in that context, “is trying to connect with books, to feel the sense of enthusiasm and excitement as you did when you were younger”.
Chloe asks “ Now I know you’ve edited lots of books, do you it’s made you a more critical person?” “Being an editor has made me critical of my own writing,” he explains, “I don’t like writing, I love ‘having written’, because when I get to the “having written” part, I’ve accumulated enough words that I can start cutting stuff out and making it better-into a book. ”
In addition to this, he told us in the past 10 years he had only told one lie about reading a book when he hadn’t. Before that, however, (and I quote) he had lied: “thousands of times. ” At least Andy Miller can now at least honestly state he’s read fifty (two) books.
His book ‘The Year Of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (And two not so great ones) Saved My Life’, is out now, and I can safely say I will be picking up a copy.
Gabriel Brown is a Reviewer in Residence at Durham Book Festival.
Reviewers in Residence is a Cuckoo Young Writers programme ,which allows young critics to develop an in-depth relationship with a venue or art form, and take part in exclusively tailored writing masterclasses.