World Book night and letters

Tonight is World Book Night, an annual event at the Southbank Centre about which I always read with interest. Next year, I plan to go further and actually research possibilities of attending. I’m particularly sad not to be there at tonight’s event as I read an article on The Guardian online which said that the focus would be letters.

I have always been interested in letters in the literary context. Last Xmas, I received Letters of Note, a book which includes some of the greatest letters across the ages from Virginia Woolf’s last note to her husband to a letter from a young reader to Roald Dahl. The latter is a favourite of mine. Seven year old Amy, inspired by a description in The BFG, send Dahl one of her dreams in a bottle. He responded with the following:

Dear Amy,

I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in the bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works.

With love from,

Roald Dahl

Tonight, the Letters Live event will include a number of well-known authors, such as Philip Pullman reading extracts of famous letters. Pullman himself will read Kurt Vonnegut’s letter written in 1973 after 32 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five were burned by a head teacher in North Dakota because of the novel’s “obscene language.”

But arguably the best part of the night will be the book giveaway, which aims to spread the love of reading for pleasure – something which I have written about a fair amount in the past. 250,000 copies of 20 specially chosen books will be given away by volunteers and institutions to help spread the love of reading. The titles, which include a favourite of mine, John Boyne’s The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, have been chosen to appeal to the 35% of the population who don’t read for pleasure.

The event will be followed by 13 regional flagship events at public libraries countrywide. Check here to see if there will be one happening near to you!