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Culture vulture

Documentary photography and her children keep Jo Klaces enlivened

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As a judge for the Booktrust Teenage Prize last year, I developed a special relationship with our winner, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon. My MA thesis in literary linguistics looked at how Haddon created the mindset of a child with Asperger syndrome. The way he developed the child's voice with such consistency is wonderful. I am also a great admirer of Philip Roth, particularly The Human Stain, as he has so much to say about the human condition and especially the American condition, which he describes as "an ecstasy of sanctimony".


I am drawn to documentary photography and I love the Earth from the Air outdoors exhibition in Birmingham (until November 8). I still remember an exhibition in 1980, Handsworth Self Portraits (by photographers Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon), which invited people to take pictures of themselves as they wanted to be seen, against a white backcloth. Some are now in Face the Camera, vibrant pictures from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery collections (until November 10). I saw Antony Gormley's Field for the British Isles (pictured)at the Ikon in Birmingham almost 10 years ago. That great show of humanity gave me such a happy feeling. When I made a friend's wedding cake I asked guests to bring Gormley figures made from icing for the top.

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My children (son 21, daughters 22 and 11) always give a fresh perspective and are so enlivening.

Looking forward to

Going to Amsterdam just before Christmas. It's beautiful and alive and full of bikes. I also look forward to being a couch potato every Friday night, with a bottle of wine and the remote control.

Jo Klaces, 53, taught English at St Philip's sixth-form centre in Birmingham until 2003. She recently became director of the National Literacy Association,, which supports children who need extra literacy help (around 20 per cent in the UK) and runs projects for vulnerable groups such as children in public care. She was talking to Elaine Williams

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