If there's one book I shall be giving to all and sundry this year, it's the remarkable Best European Fiction 2010 edited by Aleksandar Hemon, introduced by Zadie Smith, below, and published by Dalkey Archive. In what promises to be the first of an annual series it includes new work by writers from every single country in Europe. Given how blinkered and parochial English language publishing tends to be, this volume is a godsend. I know next to nothing about Lithuanian literature, but was
Book Club clobbered
With a warm glow of Schadenfreude, I read the vociferous and negative online comments on Amanda Ross's new TV Book Club, which, in the absence of Richard and Judy, features the likes of noted milliner Gok Wan dispensing pearls of literary wisdom. Ross admits they "got things wrong" and reveals the sole criterion for being a judge on her show was "we didn't want known critics". With such a crass approach, it's no wonder the book-lovers who tuned in were disappointed. Were Ms Ross to have her way across the schedules, expect Cheryl Cole to present Moneybox Live and Ozzy Osbourne fronting Songs Of Praise.
Like every other Borderer, I was dismayed to learn of the death of Bill McLaren, the "voice of rugby". If BBC Scotland wants to commemorate him, there's a wonderfully charming story by Jules Horne, called Bill McLaren Was My PE Teacher – which includes the almost mythic line "they'll be dancing in the streets of Hawick tonight". A broadcast version would be an eminently suitable tribute, and proof that the worlds of rugby and avant-garde fiction needn't be mutually exclusive.
• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday on 24 January, 2010