The Guyanese-born writer Melville visits Birmingham on Tuesday, ploughing her stories for topsy-turvy tips for living. The former comic actress will be dipping into The Ventriloquist's Tale, which won last year's Whitbread First Novel Award, as well as her latest short-story collection, The Migration of Ghosts. A beguiling yarn-spinner, she'll have you believing that if you keep a pet too long it'll read your mind and become your enemy; that the dead rise at an eclipse, and that in the confusion animals and people, living and dead, are liable to get mixed up; and that a precocious interest in maths can make your legs disappear.
Don't say she didn't warn you: "We in this part of the world have a special veneration for the lie and all its consequences and ramifications. We treat the lie seriously, as a form of horticulture, to be tended and nurtured, all its little tendrils to be encouraged."
Grand-dame of Welsh poetry Gillian Clarke makes a rare trip to London to read from her new collection, Five Fields. Vibrant social history flows through a fecund but cruel rural landscape, which will find Clarke kneeling in straw reviving frozen newborn lambs with a hair-dryer; or listening to the "treacherous sweetness" of the April cuckoo call.
On Friday, the Apples & Snakes club delivers an evening of top-notch comic cabaret poetry in Laughter Lines. John Hegley obsesses about dogs, glasses and potatoes; Richard Allen speeds through numbers like "I was the Beatles' manager's brother's newspaper-delivery boy"; while Hawaiian performance artist Stacy Makishi reels off spirited monologues in which she is liable to fall in love with a cabbage before giving birth on stage to a Brussels sprout.
Pauline Melville: Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, 52 Pritchatts Road (0121-414 5128) Tue, 5.30pm, free
Gillian Clarke: Voice Box, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 (0171-960 4242), Tue, 7.30pm, pounds 4/pounds 2.50
Laughter Lines: Apples & Snakes, BAC, Lavender Hill, London SW11 (0171- 223 2223) Fri, 9pm, pounds 4
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