A while ago I read and reviewed a debut novel by Ciaran Collins. That novel was called The Gamal. Five months after closing the book I still can’t get it out of my mind. I’m still unsure if I drew the right conclusion at the end, and I’m still astounded by the power, originality, and inventiveness that I met in those pages. But I still haven’t met anyone else who’s read it. You know the feeling everyone got when Breaking Bad was ending, when they just had to find somebody who’d seen the latest episode so they could try and figure it out between them? Well that’s how I’ve felt about The Gamal for five months. Other people need to read this book. For my sake and theirs.
Randomly, I recently struck up a conversation with Ciaran’s agent on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, he shares my belief that The Gamal deserves a wider audience. We batted around a few ideas and, once we’d decided that standing in city centres waving copies of the book above my head and shouting wouldn’t work, we came up with The Gamal’s Pop-up Library.
Intriguing, yes? But how would it work? Basically, there’s going to be three copies of Ciaran’s outstanding debut circulating around London (sorry Manchester friends, maybe in the future.) (I hate brackets, but do need to tell you that one copy is now circulating Manchester!) You can get hold of one of these books by simply finding me on Twitter (@Fran_Slater), following me, and sending me a Direct Message. The only condition is that once you’ve read the book, you need to provide a review. This can be on your blog, on Amazon, or on Goodreads. When you’ve finished, let me know, and Ciaran’s agent will get on his pushbike to collect the book from your very hands. Try not to keep it for too long – this will only work if we can circulate the books quickly.
The Gamal is a very experimental piece of literature. In the pages you’ll find pictures and song lyrics alongside the prose. In some instances, the protagonist Charlie has left space for you to fill in these lyrics yourself. This is something we encourage you to do. We want to use these three copies to not only spread the word about The Gamal, but to also let readers converse through the pages. So fill in the lyrics, write a message to the next reader on the inside cover, or stick a post-it note on your favourite parts. Reading can sometimes be an isolating hobby, but stories were invented to bring people together. This experiment gives us the opportunity to do just that. And please, if you’re discussing The Gamal Pop-up Library on Twitter, use the hashtag #gampoplib.
I can’t explain how much I think you should all read this book. It’s been called a Catcher in the Rye for the modern age. For me, it’s better than that. You have an opportunity to read it for free – all you have to do is get in touch with me on Twitter.
(Now available in Manchester – follow up post coming soon.)