Spring Events at Blackwell’s Bookshop, Oxford

Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford continues to bring you a magnificent selection of author events through the Spring. We look forward to seeing you at one – or more – of these very soon!

Tickets cost £2 for most events and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. Telephone 01865 333623, unless otherwise stated. Alternatively, please email: events.oxford@blackwell.co.uk

Jen Campbell

Tuesday 17th April at 7pm

Post-event wrap: We had a wonderful day with Jen – in the evening she spoke about her passion for books and bookselling, recited five stunning poems inspired by each floor of the shop and also played out some scenes from ‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ A snippet can be seen here


Jen Campbell is a writer and a passionate bookseller. She is the author of the just-published Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops. She is also a poet, a Twitter phenomenon and a book-blogger. Jen will be here in the bookshop undertaking a one day writer’s residency on Tuesday 17th April, culminating in an evening event where she will discuss her new book and recite poems inspired by her day at Blackwell’s.

The Current State of Chinese Fiction

Wednesday 18th April at 7pm

Post-event wrap: As expected, an intriguing and enlightening evening. Although Tash Aw and Bi Feiyu were unable to join us the panel of three authors, two translators and one chairperson were more than enough to give a superb flavour of the modern state of Chinese fiction. Thank you Rebecca for allowing us the chance to host such an eye-opening event. A review of the evening can be found here 

In 2011, two Chinese authors made the shortlist of the high profile Man Booker International Prize. Is Chinese fiction flourishing as China realises its new economic ascendancy? Or are there barriers to creativity? And what is the definition of a ‘Chinese’ writer?

We are bringing together five writers to take part in a very rare and special panel discussion about “The Current State of Chinese Fiction” – two acclaimed China-based novelists, Bi Feiyu and Li Er will be in conversation with renowned Chinese writers living in Europe, Ma Jian and Yan Geling, and Tash Aw, a Malaysian Taiwanese novelist who has been living in the UK since his teens.

Roman Krznaric: The Wonderbox

Thursday 19th April at 1pm

Post-event wrap: Really enjoyed a thought-provoking and charming presentation of how History can help us, on practical level, improve our lives day-to-day. The author focussed on Greek definitions of love and suggested 5 dead people to follow in 2012.

Drawing on his new book, The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live, cultural thinker and School of Life faculty member Roman Krznaric delves into the past to reveal the lessons that history offers for the art of living. What might we learn from the Ancient Greeks about the different varieties of love? What inspiration does the Renaissance offer for finding fulfilling work? How might a seventeenth-century Japanese Zen poet inspire us to live more deeply and creatively?

This is one of our lunchtime events which take place in the Norrington Room – there’s no cost and all are welcome.

Dennis O’Donnell: The Locked Ward

Thursday 3rd May at 7pm


 The Locked Ward is an extraordinary memoir that sets out to reveal the true story of life in a psychiatric ward – the fear, the violence and despair, and also the care and the compassion. Recounting the stories of the patients he worked with, and those of the friends he made on the ward, O’Donnell provides a detailed account of day-to-day life behind the doors of the most feared and stigmatised environment in healthcare. We are hosting this event is in association with Mind Your Head Oxford, the mental health awareness campaign by Oxford University Student Union – http://mindyourheadoxford.wordpress.com/

Marilynne Robinson

Tuesday 15th May at 7pm


 We are thrilled to announce a highlight of our Spring events calendar: Marilynne Robinson, one of our greatest living writers, will be in the shop at 7pm on Tuesday 15th May to talk about her new book, “When I Was a Child I Read Books”, a volume of essays about the big themes that permeate her writing – politics, religion, literature, human frailty. This is a rare opportunity to hear first-hand from the author of Houskeeping, Gilead, Home and Absence of Mind.

Tiokets cost £5. Please telephone our Customer Service Department on 01865 333623.

Diego Marani

Thursday 17th May at 7pm


 Diego Marani is a man of many talents – a senior translator in the EU, a weekly columnist for a Swiss paper and creator of Europanto, a mock language. He also happens to be the author of one of this bookshop’s favourite novels of 2011 – New Finnish Grammar. It is therefore with great excitement that we are able to announce that Diego Marani will be with us talking about two newly translated novels “The Last of the Vostyachs” and “Las Adventures des Inspector Cabillot”.

“I can’t remember when I read a more extraordinary novel, or when I have been more tempted to use the word “genius” of its author” Nicholas Lezard on New Finnish Grammar


Terry Eagleton

Tuesday 22nd May at 7pm

Is Marxism dead? Should it finally be buried? In ‘Why Marx Was Right’, controversial critic Terry Eagleton argues that Marx’s imperfect yet serious critique of capitalism is newly relevant in this global post-crash moment.

Terry Eagleton is currently Bailrigg Professor of English Literature at the University of Lancaster and Professor of Cultural Theory at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Since the publication of ‘Marxism and Literary Criticism’ (1976) and ‘Literary Theory’ (1982) he has been recognised for producing highly informed, accessible works that explore the relationship between literature, history and society. Eagleton has also been praised for his humour, wit and graceful style. He was described byThe Independent as ‘the man who succeeded F. R. Leavis as Britain’s most influential academic critic.’

As he says in ‘Why Mark was Right’ “After all, if you do not resist the apparently inevitable, you will never know how inevitable the inevitable was.”

This promises to be a provocative and stimulating evening.

Tickets cost £4 and can be obtained by telephoning or visiting the Customer Service Department, Second Floor, Blackwell Bookshop, Oxford. 01865 333623

Wednesday 23rd May at 7pm

Tiffany Stern: ‘Such Place, such Men, such Language & such Ware’: The Theatre of London’s Fairs

It is often said that fairs presented cheap, secondary and ‘unliterary’ entertainment. Theatre, on the other hand, is said to be, though disliked by certain protestant factions, respectable, its high class literature ‘allowed’ by monarch and privy council. This talk will question both notions, reassessing fairground entertainments and showing how much they influenced drama – and vice versa. Looking at performing animals, puppets and magic tricks, it will show the role of popular culture in the works of Shakespeare and other playwrights. We are hosting this event is in association with OxBardFest 2012, the Oxford Shakespeare Festival, organised by the Oxford University Drama Society, which runs from 21st May-2nd June. http://facebook.com/oxfordshakespearefestival2012.

Liz Pichon: “Tom Gates”

Saturday 26th May at 10.30am

Pegasus Theatre, Oxford


 Liz Pichon is the author of The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, Tom Gates Excellent Excuses and Everything’s Amazing (sort of) and this special event is guaranteed to have you laughing. Liz Pichon will be talking about her award winning series and how she created such a wonderful character. Before Liz Pichon went freelance “to do more illustration and less straight lines”, she studied graphic design at Middlesex Polytechnic and Camberwell School of Art in London and went on to work as a designer and art director for Jive records. She started writing her own stories when “the books I was being asked to illustrate didn’t make me laugh”. Liz Pichon has won National parent book award in the USA, the Smarties Book Prize Silver Award, and the Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2011.

Tickets cost £5 and can be obtained by telephoning the Pegasus Theatre Box Office on 01865 812150. Family tickets (max 4) are £15.

London in Verse

Wednesday 30th May at 7pm

London A History in Verse is the first anthology about London to offer a cultural history of the city through poetry, from its beginnings to present day. Poet Mark Ford has assembled the most capacious and wide-ranging anthology of poems about London to date, from Chaucer to Wordsworth to the present day, providing a chronological tour of urban life and of English literature. Many of the poems respond to large events in the city’s history—the beheading of Charles I, the Great Fire, the Blitz—but the majority reflect the quieter routines and anxieties of everyday life through the centuries. The result is a volume as rich and vibrant and diverse as London itself. This evening will feature readings from some of the more contemporary contributors: John Fuller, Jamie McKendrick, Heather Phillipson, and, of course, Mark Ford himself.

Iain Sinclair / Ghost Milk

Thursday 7th June at 7pm


Following on from his extraordinary and bestselling documentary fiction, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire, Iain Sinclair sets out from the East London Olympic site – a ruin in the making – on the trail of other recent Grand Projects. The result is Ghost Milk. He presents a country-wide tour of grand projects, millennial follies and imposed-from-above schemes and presents portraits of visionary or subversive people clinging to the wreckage. Sinclair crosses territory and time like no other literary traveller, reporting back on the trouble to come and lamenting the ‘throwaway impermanence’ of our times. Iain Sinclair was born in Cardiff and studied in Dublin before moving to London. His early work was self-published, and he worked as a teacher and labourer while researching occult aspects of the city’s past. He is described on his website as “a British writer, documentarist, film maker, poet, flaneur, metropolitan prophet and urban shaman, keeper of lost cultures and futurologist.”

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