Giving a classic new life

Keeping teenagers reading books for fun has long been a challenge for parents and the publishing industry alike – although the young adult market has exploded over recent years with authors like Stephanie Meyer and Suzanne Collins hitting the big time when they successfully made the crossover from the shelves to the big screen. But while the YA market is booming for paranormal, dystopian and coming of age novels, encouraging a new generation of readers to embrace classic novels is an entirely different challenge.

Wuthering HeightsI recently went to an exhibition at the British Library that looked at the history of the gothic theme in literature, and one thing I found really interesting was an example of a 2009 reprint of Wuthering Heights. The cover had been completely redesigned in the style of the hugely popular Twilight books to try and win over the notoriously difficult teenage market by enticing avid Stephanie Meyer fans would relate to the colour and style of the new cover.

It might sound strange, but the two books both have gothic themes in common and there are apparently repeated references to Wuthering Heights throughout the Twilight series. The new cover actually proved remarkably effective. In fact, it was so successful that sales of Wuthering Heights, originally published in 1847, increased fourfold between 2005, when the first Twilight book was published, and 2010. Continue reading

Terror and Wonder at the British Library

If you’re interested in gothic literature, the British Library is currently running an exhibition called Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination.

From the birth of the vampire to Frankenstein’s monster, from creepy houses to cobwebs and capes and from driving rain to flashes of lightening and roaring thunder, it has it all. The setting and the lighting, combined with the natural hush of a library, all contributed to a brilliantly creepy atmosphere and there was an amazing selection of rare and old books and notes on display.

The first part of the exhibition focused on how the ‘gothic’ theme really came into being, with a focus on the first gothic texts. While this gave me some good ideas for potential reading material, I really enjoyed the second part of the exhibition, which looked at gothic in the Victorian times all the way through to the impact of gothic style on modern clothing, film and culture. Particular highlights for me were the handwritten draft of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the vampire slaying kit and an original newspaper with illustrations and speculation on Jack the Ripper.

I also really liked seeing how the gothic theme is still being given a new lease of life today for children and teenagers, both in literature and in popular culture. The ever popular Twilight series made an appearance, alongside Coraline or even Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events.

The inclusion of Victorian mourning dress next to what we now think of as ‘goth’ clothing was really interesting and there were some great photographs that also helped to give the exhibition a more modern element.

If you’re interested in going, ‘Terror and Wonder’ is on until 20 January, so you still have a few days left to catch it!

London’s top literary locations

London is jam-packed with inspiration for literature lovers. If you’re in need of inspiration, here’s my top five literary locations worth a visit in the city…

IMG_14981. If you want to combine some literary attractions with socialising with your not-so-book-geeky friends, Fitzrovia’s pubs are overflowing with literary history. The historically bohemian area has been home to many literary greats – from Virginia Woolf to George Bernard Shaw. The Fitzroy Tavern and the nearby The Wheatsheaf were both frequented by some of the UK’s literary stalwarts in their day. The Fitzroy Tavern in particular is full of photographs and steeped in history and tradition – George Orwell and Dylan Thomas were regular drinkers here.

2. The British Library often hosts literary events and talks. They currently have an exhibition on called ‘Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination’, which looks the impact of the gothic theme has had on our culture, featuring iconic works like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula and going all the way through to Twilight! I haven’t been yet, but it’s on my to do list! If you explore the events page on the library’s website, there’s usually something on to suit all ages and interests.

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3. For second hand book-lovers, the book market under Waterloo Bridge is a must see. It’s open every day and usually offers a huge selection of pre-owned or antique books for great prices. It’s just outside the Southbank Centre and the river bank itself often plays host to events and food festivals, meaning there’s always plenty more to do and see in the surrounding area.

4. Southwark’s Shakespeare’s Globe theatre is another one that has to feature on this list. Today’s theatre is a reconstruction of the famous Elizabethan playhouse. Performances of Shakespeare’s works are as authentic as possible – there are no spotlights or microphones and all music is performed life – and all of the materials used in the building mirror the original, right down to the fact that the theatre has the only thatched roof allowed in the city since the Great Fire of London in 1666. Although plays are only performed during the summer months, thanks to the open-air nature of the building, educational tours are available all year round.

5. Finally, Bunfields Burial Ground is the resting place of some of the UK’s literary greats, including William Blake and Joseph Defoe, and is always worth a visit. It may seem macabre, but it’s just a short walk from Old Street tube and the park attached to the cemetery is a beautiful spot to enjoy on a sunny day.

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