Born Yesterday, the news as a novel, Gordon Burn

It’s been a while since a book was this unpopular!  Out of the eight of us, two had just not been able to finish the book at all, and while one reader was neutral, overall the rest of us had disliked the book.  (And I know of at least 3 regulars who were absent and hadn’t been able to finish it either…)

At the heart of it seemed to be that the book simply didn’t live up to its promise.  Most people agreed that they were intrigued by the tagline “the news as a novel”, a curiosity which was further piqued by the excited blurb and quotes on both the front and back of the cover.  There was general agreement that it was a well-written piece, and even that it started well with the scenes of an aging Mrs Thatcher in the park.  However the rest of the book, whilst including some interesting details, simply didn’t work as a novel, having no narrative structure, or even just as a piece of writing again because of no over-riding structure or “point”.  Simply presenting the news events without any cohesion or analysis left us with the impression of a rather rambling over-long pointless essay.  Several readers were annoyed by the way the author brought in and described at some length one of his own novels. 

The book was written between Christmas 2007 and February 2008, and published that Spring, so some allowance was made for the fact that, in wishing to get the book out whilst the events were still relatively fresh in people’s mind, neither the author no perhpas the editor had spent as long as they might on the work.  Certainly towards the end it did feel that in places the author was literally repeating himself.  Overall we found it was a disappointment – repetitive, boring and interesting in places, but not the book we were hoping for!

Next month we’ll be talking about The Shadow of a Smile by Kachi Ozumba.  We will also be lucky enough to be joined by Liv from New Writing North, who’s going to give us a short talk on “the life of a book, from manuscript to published work”, looking at the steps a manuscript goes through once it’s been accepted for publication.  We’ll probably do this towards the end of the meeting, with a short Q&A too if there’s time.

In May, as well as talking about Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, we will also choose a book for us to talk about in July, and by popular consent we have decided to go for a classic (let’s say published before 1900).  So please bring along your favourite classic and once everyone’s given a short pitch on their chosen book we’ll vote on which one we’d like to do for July.

See you on 14th April!




Meetings take place on the second Wednesday of the month from 7.30pm until 9pm with reader in residence Cathy McCracken.

We meet in the Windsor Hotel on South Parade, Whitley Bay. Come into Reception and go through the double doors in front of you, then turn left and follow signs to the Conference Room.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit


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