Two books that have been inspired by online things here, with “The International Bank of Bob” being based on the author’s experiences with Kiva, and “Moonlight Blogger” being based on a blog by someone who works for the Chicago Manual of Style. I read Bob in a lovely new hardback and “Moonlight Blogger” on my Kindle while on my trip to Kingston and London for the Iris Murdoch Society Conference. More on the Conference below, as I got a bit over-tempted by the book table and second-hand book table. Let’s just say that the TBR is NOT less than a shelf now. But it’s not doing too badly, and I managed to read three books I’ve had on my Kindle for ages – watch this space for the next two, coming soon …
Bob Harris – “The International Bank of Bob”
(22 January 2014, birthday present from Linda)
A great choice of present from Linda. Bob Harris, a freelance journalist, was on a jolly assignment to review luxury hotels around the world for a website, but started to find an uncomfortable distance between the pampered life of the guests he was mingling with and the often visible poverty and distress of the locals and immigrant workers. Casting around for something to do to redress this imbalance, he comes across Kiva, the microlending site which helps people to make loans to entrepreneurs who are trying to make it at often a very basic level (e.g. borrowing money to buy a cow – just a cow, not a herd). I’m a big fan of Kiva and have made enough loans that I get enough repayments most months to fund a new $25 loan – this guy committed the whole of his $20,000 journalism fee to the project, and then decided to go and visit some of the projects he’s funded.
Harris has already travelled extensively, and he treads lightly, also not mentioning to the individuals he meets that he is their funder, although the fund administrating organisations do know. He goes through some of the Kiva field workers’ training process and explains a lot about how the organisation works and has grown, as well as going into thoughtful detail about how people choose who to loan to, which is quite surprising sometimes. I’ll certainly pick more people who say they want to use their profit to put their children through school, as this is a good way to relieve family poverty and raise the quality of life of a whole family.
Everything is explained and expressed clearly, honestly and respectfully. Names are changed where they need to be, and photographs are careful and often beautiful. There’s even an update at the end about how some of the people he’s met are doing.
This book explained a lot of the details of Kiva to me, and was also amusing where it needed to be, definitely not a worthy book, although hugely worthwhile reading.
Carol Fisher Saller – “Moonlight Blogger”
Saller is the author of “The Subversive Copyeditor”, which I reviewed back in December 2012. She works at the Chicago Manual of Style, which produces THE text by which American copyeditors work (OK, one of them, but it’s the one I go by, along with the AP Stylebook for journalism). This is made up of posts from her blog (this doesn’t seem to have been updated that recently although it’s worth checking), and very clearly so, using the format and dividing longer posts into two – I think it might have been nice to have some editorial input into this so as to make it a bit more of a smooth reading experience, but it did give a nice flavour of everyday posts dealing with all sorts of things. Plus I know how hard and time-consuming it is to turn blog stuff into a book, and I’d rather this was out there educating and entertaining people!
It’s full of good stuff about questions people have, the problems raised by the English language not having as many strict rules as people think it should have, and mistakes that editors as well as writers make. I enjoyed the pieces on writing the new version of CMOS, was pleased to see a mention of my editor friend, Kathy O’Moore Klopf, and I picked up some very useful hints about colouring the text of particular things you search for to help the editing process. So there wasn’t enough of it, and it wasn’t as shaped as I would have liked, but it was still good, entertaining and inspiring reading.
The Iris Murdoch Conference – “Archives and Afterlife”
I’m not going to do a full conference report here, but this was a great conference, from dinner with a few IM chums on the Thursday night to a packed programme on the Friday with a double book launch AND a concert AND a dinner on the Friday, the excitement of presenting my paper and attending lots of fascinating talks including one from Brigid Brophy’s daughter, Kate Levey, about BB’s letters and relationship with IM, and Janet Stone’s son-in-law, Ian Beck, with some previously unseen photographs of Iris and John, time with bestie Em and her daughters on the Saturday night and a fabulous walk around Kensington with a select band of Murdoch-aholics, to a trip to the National Portrait Gallery with three of them … Phew. But it was great. There was both a new books stall with some offerings I didn’t yet have and a selection of books discarded by eminent professor and writer on IM, Peter Conradi, so I couldn’t resist coming home with this little lot (the Iser is actually on the bibliography for my own research!)