Posts Tagged Agatha Christie

World Book Night 2012 Part 2

I went to the local hospital today to distribute 24 World Book Night copies of Sophie Kinsella‘s book The Secret Dreamworld of a Good Hope HospitalShopaholic.

The aim of World Book Night is to encourage people who don’t usually read to pick up a book and get into the reading habit. As writers this is something that we should support – because if there are no readers what’s the point of writing?

I started in the A & E department of the hospital. I explained to the receptionist what I was doing and gave her a book. She was delighted and promised to pass it around her colleagues, adding that they often swapped books. So that was one book given away but unfortunately not to a non-reader. This was a trend that continued for the rest of my ‘giving’ session.

I only approached women (because Sophie Kinsella writes chick-lit) and I avoided people who were actually reading a book as they waited to see a doctor but it is very difficult to tell by a person’s appearance whether or not they are a reader. So inevitably I unknowingly spoke to keen readers and they almost bit my hand off at the offer of a free book. The non-readers I came across were simply not interested in giving the book a try – no matter how much I tried to sell it as a ‘light, easy read’. The exception to this was a lovely, chatty cleaner who was very grateful for the book and said she didn’t normally read but once bought a 48 hardback book set of Agatha Christie novels – they look lovely on her shelf but she’s never opened one of them!

One person turned down the book because she didn’t like Sophie Kinsella and another because she had already read the book. Three people knew about World Book Night and a paramedic told me she’d recently seen a book left on a park bench in a polythene bag, labelled ‘Read Me’.

I enjoyed being a ‘giver’ and intend to apply again next year but I’m not sure that World Book Night is achieving its aims. I’m sure that most of the books must end up with people who are already hooked on reading. It’s very difficult to persuade a complete stranger, who says they’re not interested in reading, to take a book. I got the feeling that some of them thought there was some ulterior motive or catch to it. Similarly, once you discover someone is a reader, it’s awkward to withdraw the offer of a book – plus if I’d restricted myself to non-readers I would have been at the hospital all day trying to find enough of them willing to give reading a try.

How did anyone else get on?

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Alzheimer’s Blogging Competition Entry

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease strikes fear into the heart of anyone. As a writer, it scares me to think that when IAlzheimer's Blogging Competition 2011 eventually retire from the day job to finally spend more time at my keyboard, this debilitating condition might rob me of the ability to string words together coherently.  

I wouldn’t be the first writer to suffer in this way. It is well-known that Terry Pratchett suffers from Alzheimer’s and he has spoken publicly about the disease many times, in some ways becoming the contemporary face of Alzheimer’s. He now dictates his work, either using voice recognition software or to his PA, Rob Wilkins.

In 2009 the Guardian published an article claiming that Agatha Christie may also have been suffering from the disease towards the end of her life.  Experts in Canada studied a selection of Christie’s novels written between the ages of 28 and 82 and counted the numbers of different words, indefinite nouns and phrases used in each. They discovered that Christie’s vocabulary size decreased noticeably (by between 15 to 30%) as she neared the end of her life and that her repetition of phrases and indefinite word usage (something, thing, anything) in her novels increased significantly. Agatha Christie, was never diagnosed with dementia but the authors of this study believe that the changes in her writing are consistent not with normal ageing, but with Alzheimer’s disease.

The results of the Christie study mirror those of a similar analysis of the early and late works of the novelist, Iris Murdoch. Her vocabulary had diminished in her final work and, on average, it contained fewer words and clauses per sentence. Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the year after her final novel was completed. 

If diagnosed early there are drugs that can help the sufferers of this terrible disease but up until now the problem has been in making that early diagnosis. However, a brain scan is now being trialled by the NHS that spots the early signs of Alzheimer’s and can diagnose the disease in less than 24 hours. This would replace the often inconclusive memory tests that are currently used by doctors to spot the disease. 

For those currently living with Alzheimer’s disease and those that care for them, there are aids available to make life a little bit easier, such as alarms to indicate when a sufferer has got out of bed or opened a door or window. These are available through The Disabled Shop.

 One in ten people over the age of 65 will develop Alzheimer’s and more than half of those over the age of 85 will succumb to the condition. But only £12 per patient is spent annually on research into Alzheimer’s, compared with £289 per patient spent on cancer – this is an imbalance that can’t be right.

This blog post has been written in response to the Alzheimer’s Disease Blogging Competition, which is aiming to increase awareness of the disease and raise money to fight it. There’s a great list of blogging related prizes plus the chance of paid blogging assignments – if you’ve got a blog then click on the link for details of how to enter. More entrants mean a higher profile for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alternatively, if you don’t blog, click here to make a donation.

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