Short Cuts

Thomas Jones

Last month the British Library launched their Adopt-a-Book scheme, which is, they say, doing very well, with hundreds of people responding. Prices start at £15, for which you get your name on a communal bookplate; for £150 you get a book to yourself; and for donations of £1000 or more you can choose which book you get (comedian, football fan and former English teacher Frank Skinner has apparently made an early bid for Johnson’s Dictionary). You also get a certificate and the chance to attend an annual ‘meet your book’ event. Thousands of books are slowly turning to dust, and current funding for conservation is so low that more books join the endangered list each year than are rescued. The target of the new scheme is to save 250 volumes more than would otherwise have been possible. The infamous £29 million of public money pumped into the Dome would no doubt have come in useful – might not the New Millennium Experience Company hand that princely sum over to the British Library and set up an adoption scheme to raise funds for itself? There could even be a monthly ‘meet your zone’ event to boost attendance figures; although, despite appearances, the body zone may be less susceptible to anthropomorphism than a crumbly old codex. To adopt a book, call the British Library Development Office on 020 7412 7047, fax 020 7412 7168, e-mail adopt-a-book@bl.uk or visit their website at http://support.bl.uk/Page/Adopt-a-book.

Corporate sponsorship of literature is thriving: Linda Grant’s future is £30,000 brighter after she won the Orange Prize for Fiction with When I Lived in Modern Times (Granta, 272 pp., £9.99, 11 June, 0 86207 410 1) earlier this month, and Booker plc (in the same week that the Orange Prize was announced) sent out a glossy pamphlet as a reminder that their munificence is due in the autumn. Attention is drawn to the 183 Booker Cash and Carry outlets across the country. (And why not? One of the earliest things I remember reading as a child is their name emblazoned in large, friendly letters on the wall of their imposing warehouse which looms over the Basingstoke ring road.) And as part of a more recently established alliance between literature and big business, Jackie Wills has been appointed poet in residence at the fabric conditioner innovation department of Lever Brothers. Wills is expected to ‘encourage the team to approach product development from a new angle’ to help them ‘bring out their ideas brighter and fresher than ever’. Sounds like they need it.

On 26 June there is to be a public discussion at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of the science fiction writer Olaf Stapledon, whose classic Last and First Men (1930) will be reissued later this year. The discussion will round off a three-day symposium called ‘Science and Theological Imagination in Science Fiction’, sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation. (The event is not to be confused with Battlefield Earth, scientologist John Travolta’s sprawling film version of a story by high priest L. Ron Hubbard.) Tickets cost £3.