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Sightlines - P.D. James

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Author: P.D. James / Genre: Fiction

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      08.10.2001 23:21
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      In a move unprecedented in both the literary and charity communities, the Royal National Institute for the Blind have produced an anthology of new, previously unreleased writing by 50 contemporary authors including Sue Townsend, Louis de Bernieres, A.S. Byatt, Tibor Fischer, Frederick Forsyth, Joanna Trollope and Fay Weldon. Most of the items in the book, which include short stories, essays and poetry, have been commissioned (without a fee) especially for the book entitled ‘Sightlines’. And jolly good it is too! I really think that this anthology contains something for everybody. Usually I will read an anthology or collection of short stories which are all based on a similar subject, such as Sci-fi or horror, but this time there is such a diverse range of styles, topics and texts that anyone who picks it up will find something that appeals. The only link in all of the contributions is that they are based upon blindness or sight loss, but each author has interpreted this differently and approached it in a different manner. Sightlines has been edited by P.D. James and Harriet Harvey Wood, and it has been described by Jeremy Paxman as ‘As witty and stimulating as the conversation at a really good party’. He obviously hasn’t been to any of my parties, where the most witty conversation goes along the lines of ...’Braaargh...I luv you...yer me best mate...etc, etc. The invite is in the post, Jeremy. The loose interpretation of the subject has made the topics of each piece quite different, sometimes surprisingly so. Douglas Dunn’s poem (‘The House of the Blind’) tells that ‘when you lose an eye … you lose a dimension’. On the other hand, Brian Aldiss (‘Solitude so far’) discusses the connections between aliens and religion. William Trevor (‘The Mourning’) tells a story of a young Irishman who experiences hostility when he moves to Lon
      don during an IRA bombing campaign. Rose Tremain (‘Moth’) spins a story about a baby in an American trailer park that sprouts wings…. For some other writers the subject of blindness is a more personal issue. Adam Thorpe’s mother lost her sight as a result of dysentry, contracted in India, so his poem ‘Look’ is more directly related to blindness. Indeed the foreword is written by Sue Townsend, who describes her own experience of sight loss – she has recently lost her sight (but does not seem to let it get to her!) This book is special in that many of the writers have chosen to write in styles that are quite different to what may be expected, so, for example, Ruth Rendell has written a poem. Antonia Fraser, who would usually be writing a historical biography, has provided a modern look at the Cinderella tale. I’m not going to go into more of the pieces in detail – there are so many wonderful items that it’s almost impossible to choose one from the other. Suffice to say that there is something here that will appeal to even the most choosy or eclectic of readers, and in many cases the writings will provide an interesting insight into the author. For example I’ve never been particularly into the work of Frederick Forsyth, but his ‘The passing of Humpy’ provides wonderful insight into the man behind the pen. I’d also recommend the ‘Eyes in the dark’ by Fay Weldon - having read it I felt that I knew her that much better. (And incidentally Fay Weldon has told me that I have ‘perfect, beautiful ears’. Wonderful taste, that lady) A percentage of all takings go to the RNIB Talking Books Campaign, which raises funds to provide an audio library service to over 50,000 blind and partially sighted people nationwide. The money raised from the sale of the book will specifically go towards bringing the Talking Books into the
      CD digital age, and will enable the preservation of the existing library for generations to come. It is worth buying the book just to make a contribution to such a worthy cause – with the bonus that you will be getting your hands on a massive collection of talent, the likes of which will possibly never be seen again. *’Her voice delighting me. She’s never seen A poem, but she reads and hears. I write To be read by eyes, and mind, and fingers’ (Douglas Dunn, ‘The house of the blind, Part III’)* -Compy spot!- I have a copy of the book to give away (maybe two), so if you can answer the following question, then send your answer to me at cblair@rnib.org.uk (entitled OI! Sightlines compy!!). The nearest answer to the correct date wins a copy. (Closing date is ... umm ... when I get bored and need the desk space) What year was the RNIB Talking Book service started? .

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      Published to promote and support the work of the RNIB's Talking Books, Sightlines includes pieces from many of Britain's foremost writers, all of whom have contributed their work without fee.