Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday Salon: Ox-Tales

Yesterday was the official publication date of Ox-Tales: four beautifully produced books of short stories or extracts from unpublished novels. The royalties from the sale of the books will go straight to Oxfam. The launch is to coincide with Oxfam Bookfest. From July 4th - July 18th Oxfam's 139 bookshops will have unique events with three major events in London, Oxford and Edinburgh.

Each book has a theme: Earth (Livelihoods), Air (Climate Change), Fire (Conflict) and Water. I think part of the fun of reading the books will be to see how the stories reflect the theme.

I am starting with Volume 1: Earth. Oxfam helps thousands of small-scale farmers and producers to improve their lives through increased production and marketing - from cotton in India, vegetables in Honduras and rice in Tanzania - so I expect the stories to have something to do with this. The poem by Vikram Seth (each volume starts with a poem by Vikram Seth) is pretty wonderful. He describes a pot. In the first stanza it is filled with soil, in the second with clay, in the third with ash. Each time he turns it around and makes it the source of something new. It's a really optimistic poem, I thought, quite joyful.

The first story is by Rose Tremain, 'The Jester of Astapovo'. It is about the death of Leo Tolstoy and the effect it has on the life of the stationmaster of an isolated station called Astapovo. It makes the astute observation that a sense of humour can irritate and actually drive people apart: 'A joke is a contract with another human being.'

The idea of the earth comes in very subtly: Tolstoy is a man of the people, and the people are of the earth; the stationmaster is of the earth too. He has found his destination and it is to provide gladness to the people that pass by. It's a really good story - gripping and provocative.


Blogger kimbofo said...

I saw these in Foyles on SouthBank last week and was intrigued but didn't buy them. I then came home to look them up online and do you think I could remember what they were called or even what the charity was!! So thanks for reminding me. I will order them now!

Sun Jul 05, 12:17:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I think they're worth getting Kim. They're a little like Roast Books - quite wonderfully presented - a little treasure.

Sun Jul 05, 12:28:00 pm  
Blogger jem said...

These look so good Clare. Lots of names of people whose writing I like. So good in fact, that I just popped over to a popular online supplier of books and such and bagged the whole bunch of them. I think they will be great dip-into-able reading. Thanks for bring them to my attention!

Fri Jul 24, 03:41:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, they are good - the ones I've read so far. I think they give you a good taster of an author too! Hope you enjoy them.

Fri Jul 24, 03:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Graham Land said...

Hello I just posted a review of Ox-Tales: Water on as part of Eco-Libris' Green Books Campaign. I forgot to use a lead image and at the last minute used one of your photos. I hope that is OK!

Wed Nov 10, 06:19:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

That's fine by me, Graham - thanks for asking.

Wed Nov 10, 07:09:00 pm  

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