Between the Covers 16/06/2013

Your weekly guide to what's really going on in the world of books
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The Independent Culture

Those who are still reeling from the news that Baileys is to take over sponsorship of the Women's Prize for Fiction should be grateful that they are not writers living in Italy. Its literary titans must suffer the indignity of being submitted for the Strega Prize – a prestigious award doled out annually since 1947 and sponsored by the sweet, slightly viscous, yellow, herbal liqueur Strega. Previous winners such as Primo Levi, Umberto Eco, Natalia Ginzburg, and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa don't seem to have minded the association, and nor has the 400-strong prize jury, drawn from Italy's cultural elite. Incidentally, Strega is Italian for "witch", which seems to be the view taken by many of Britain's cultural elite of the organisers of the Women's Prize. What a shame that it was already bagsied as a sponsor.


More literary witches appear in a green-fingered context at the Royal Horticultural Society's Hampton Court Flower Show from 9 to 14 July. "The Witches of Macbeth" garden, designed by Jenna Stuart, includes a dilapidated house, an overgrown garden, a spontaneously bubbling spilt cauldron, and lots of medicinal and poisonous plants. The show also has a garden inspired by Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea. At the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park, from 25 to 28 July, there are gardens inspired by Beatrix Potter and fairytales. A word to the wise: you might get away with nibbling on a few carrots but if you see a cottage made out of gingerbread, steer clear.


The IoS's books department has received a number of messages from publishers recently, pleading that we should take a look at novels that they have just published "in spite of" their misleadingly "commercial" covers. As this week's interviewee Polly Courtney knows, it is unhelpful to readers to squeeze an interesting, literary novel into covers that make it look like generic, lazy chick-lit. Between the Covers would also like to point out that The IoS books department is unlikely to pay close attention to a novel that looks like generic, lazy chick-lit. So here's an idea: let's stop making all the books look rubbish, let designers do their jobs and literary editors and readers make up their own minds.


The Battersea Arts Centre in south London is attempting to achieve the almost impossible: getting Londoners to talk to each other. Organisers of a festival running at the BAC from 16 to 28 September are appealing to the public to come and read their own true stories live at the festival, to an "intimate" audience of two people at a time. "Living in London, we spend day after day close to millions of people – eating, sleeping, thinking and feeling," they point out. "We're surrounded by strangers – brushing up against them on the street or on the underground or bus. But we rarely say 'hello' to our fellow citizens and, even more rarely, find out about the extraordinary lives that lie behind the faces in the crowd." Readers of any age and background are sought to read a true story of their own, of no more than eight minutes' duration, for a small fee. Apply via the centre's website ( by Tuesday 2 July.