Staying in with Lev Parikian

Earlier this year I was delighted to review Into The Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian in a post you can read here. Given how entertaining a read that was, I simply had to invite Lev onto Linda’s Book Bag to tell me all about his latest book and I’m thrilled that he agreed to stay in with me today.

Staying in with Lev Parikian

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Lev. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me. I’m very excited that you’re here. Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I’ve brought Music To Eat Cake By, a collection of forty essays on subjects given to me by readers. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I think it’s a completely original idea, taking my publisher Unbound’s crowdfunding model to its logical conclusion – as well as going to the people for support to get the book published, I went to them for ideas for the book. And I’ve chosen it because… well, it’s published on 12th November for one thing, but also I reckon it’s a light-hearted bit of relief from, you know, All The Everything.

Oo. Happy publication day for tomorrow Lev. Given what I know of your writing, and with a copy of Music To Eat Cake By on my TBR, I have a feeling we’re in for considerable entertainment, so tell me, what can we expect from an evening in with Music To Eat Cake By?

I hesitate to use the word pot-pourri, but it’s out there now, so it’s too late. To give you an idea, here are the titles of some of the essays: The Language of Swallows, Melancholy, The Art of the Sandwich, Growing Old, Pedants and Pedantry, Elephants, Second Chances, The Bassoons in my Life, and of course the book’s title, Music to Eat Cake By.

Er – not the usual range of subjects there Lev!

The variety of subjects given to me means it’s suited to dipping in and out as well as to a more concerted approach. And I like to think there’s something in it for everyone.

You’re absolutely right. There is. And, having been doing a bit of that dipping in to Music To Eat Cake By already, to mis-quote one of your sections I would say I do know why I love your writing – it’s so filled to the brim with warmth humanity and humour. I know I’m going to love reading it all. How on Earth did you come up with response to the subjects you were given?

Part of the fun of the challenge was seeing the subjects people chose for me. Some asked me to write about things they knew I liked (music, birds, cricket); others were more sadistic (‘1+1=Bullfinch’ caused me a few headaches); and one (‘The Intrinsic Link Between Chocolate, The Wombles and Musical Theatre in Post-millennial Britain’) was just plain weird.

Ha! I was glad that topic caused you to elucubrate (even if I wouldn’t have known what that was if you hadn’t given the footnote)!

The result was described by the lovely Lissa Evans (Old Baggage, Crooked Heart, ‘V’ for Victory), as ‘delightfully eccentric’.

Lissa has described it perfectly. Given the underpinning humour and not a little mischievousness with which you write Lev, I’m slightly anxious about asking this question, but what else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I have brought a bowl of borscht (as featured in the essay Soup), a cold roast lamb and redcurrant jelly sandwich (from The Art of the Sandwich), and a moist slice of chocolate cake (from the book’s title essay Music To Eat Cake By).

I love all those foods Lev. You can come back again if you’re going to bring food I like!

We’ll be eating it to the strains of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony (Sibelius’ and ‘The Bassoons in my Life) while trying not to spill our glass of wine (Red-wine Stains) or succumb to hiccups (How Not To Cure Hiccups at Midnight on Ryde Esplanade).

I think you get the idea…

I think we do! I love what I’ve read so far of Music to Eat Cake By and I’d like to thank you so much for being here today to give us a glimpse into what we can expect!

Music to Eat Cake By

Today’s reader has choices: books about love, about life, about death – and everything in between. The variety is overwhelming, bewildering.

But what if the reader could play a part in producing something different, something about everything, about nothing, about everything and nothing at the same time? What if the reader could tell the writer what to write about?

Lev Parikian asked his readers those very questions, gathered their responses and then set out to write that book. Music to Eat Cake By is the result, a collection of essays exploring everything from the art of the sandwich and space travel to how not to cure hiccups and, of course, his beloved birdsong. Lev considers each subject with his signature wit and warmth, inviting the reader to wonder: what might we ask him to write about next?

Published by Unbound, tomorrow 12th November 2020, Music to Eat Cake By is available for purchase through the links here.

About Lev Parikian


Lev Parikian is a writer, birdwatcher and conductor. His book Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? was published by Unbound in 2018. He lives in West London with his family, who are getting used to his increasing enthusiasm for nature. As a birdwatcher, his most prized sightings are a golden oriole in the Alpujarras and a black redstart at Dungeness Power Station.

For more information, follow Lev on Twitter @LevParikian or visit his website. You’ll also find him on Facebook and Instagram.

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