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Books | The Guardian

Latest books news, comment, reviews and analysis from the Guardian

Published: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 14:07:53 GMT2018-04-26T14:07:53Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2018

George RR Martin: a new Game of Thrones book is coming …

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:55:58 GMT2018-04-26T09:55:58Z

But it won’t be The Winds of Winter, the planned sixth volume of the series. Instead author has revealed a history of the Targaryen dynasty, due in November

George RR Martin told fans today that the long-awaited sixth volume in his Game of Thrones fantasy series, The Winds of Winter, would not be published this year – but softened the blow by revealing that his “imaginary history” of the Targaryen family in Westeros would be released on 20 November.

Fire and Blood is set 300 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and, said its publishers Bantam and Voyager, will chronicle “the Targaryen civil war that nearly ended their dynasty forever”. In a post on his blog, Martin described the book as his “the GRRMarillion (or the first half of it, at least); that is to say, my version of Tolkien’s mammoth history of Middle Earth”, and revealed it ran to almost 1000 manuscript pages. He first mentioned the volume, the first of a planned two histories of Westeros, last summer, saying at the time that he was not sure if it, or The Winds of Winter, would be released first in 2018.

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A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Philipps review – the Enigma of Donald Maclean

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 10:00:14 GMT2018-04-26T10:00:14Z

An effective counter to ‘He-Man’ espionage history, this humane study emphasises the Cambridge spy’s strength of political feeling

For generations the history of espionage has been dominated by He-Men. Wrapping themselves in the union flag, trampling down subtleties, recycling one another’s hoary old half-truths, mixing wrathful indignation with false bonhomie à la Farage, they churned out their crude and misleading potboilers. It was a heavily gendered approach, with good blokes and bad, black and white, straight and bent.

Improvements began in this century with Miranda Carter’s superb life of Anthony Blunt, and then Gill Bennett’s biography of Desmond Morton. Now a new generation of male authors is learning from their example. Andrew Lownie’s study of the “Cambridge” spy Guy Burgess, and now Roland Philipps’s biography of Burgess’s fellow agent Donald Maclean, show that it is possible for men to write espionage history without patriotic bluster or imperialist nostalgia.

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Waterstones bookshops bought by hedge fund Elliott Advisors

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:12:38 GMT2018-04-26T09:12:38Z

Chief executive James Daunt, who has guided the retailer back to profit and will remain in post, hails the deal as testament to ‘old-fashioned bookselling’

Britain’s largest book chain, Waterstones, has been acquired for an undisclosed sum by the hedge fund Elliott Advisors.

James Daunt, who has been chief executive of Waterstones since 2011 and who presided over an 80% jump in annual profits in the year to April 2017, will remain in his position following the sale, along with his “key leadership team”.

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The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson review – what it means to be a nurse

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 06:29:09 GMT2018-04-26T06:29:09Z

Nurses are often underappreciated. There are laughter and tears in this remarkable account that immerses the reader in their world

Since my own medical memoir was published last September, I have received – at the time of writing – 57 other medical memoirs by post and email. From publishers requesting cover quotes, newspapers requesting reviews and self-published authors requesting advice. I’ve done my best to read as many as I can, as they flood unbidden into my house. They range from terrible to fine, occasionally tipping into good. (Who knew that so many people with fascinating lives would be able to make them come across as so boring on paper?)

The Language of Kindness, however, has thoroughly resuscitated my faith in the genre. Christie Watson spent 20 years working as a nurse, before pivoting to a career in writing – she is a former winner of the Costa first novel award and now teaches creative writing. The book darts around, chapter to chapter, from her first days as a student nurse to her final day as a very senior one – flitting backwards and forwards in time and through specialties, immersing us in her world.

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Don't call me baby: the birth of the gender-neutral ‘theyby’

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 05:00:11 GMT2018-04-26T05:00:11Z

Theybe is the hip new thing for parents who want to bring up their offspring in gender-neutral fashion. Bring on the theycare

Babies are so passe, even royal ones. The hip new thing to have is a “theyby”, according to a trend spotted by New York magazine that sees parents bringing up their offspring in a gender-neutral fashion.

There was of course nothing gender-specific about the “ba-“ part of “baby”, which is already a diminutive form of the original English word “babe”. The Oxford English Dictionary says that its origin is probably onomatopoeic – two syllables of “ba”, which is a typical “early infantile vocalisation”. So while a baby can call itself a baba, even if by accident, it will take much longer to pronounce itself a “theyby”.

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Arkady by Patrick Langley review – a bleak, oblique dystopia

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 07:59:11 GMT2018-04-26T07:59:11Z

This stylish debut following two brothers through a version of London in the grip of a sinister regime is a distinctly post-Brexit novel

A few years ago, marking essays for a class I taught on the city in literature, I was struck by the fact that most students wrote their final papers on post-apocalyptic cityscapes. I took to Facebook to vent my surprise: “What is going on with the youth?” I asked. A friend replied: “Dystopia is realism these days?”

Patrick Langley’s debut is this kind of book. A distinctly post-Brexit novel, it is set in an unnamed city that both is and isn’t London, thick with the atmosphere of the riots of 2011, and the stricken, devastated aura of the days after the Grenfell fire. It is oblique, and bleak: it is never quite clear what has happened or is happening, what is it about our world that has finally broken or overflowed. There is an army, people are being arrested, council blocks have fallen into disrepair. But why, and how? All we learn is this:

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Colin Grant: five books about the Windrush generation

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 14:37:46 GMT2018-04-25T14:37:46Z

Sam Selvon’s daring use of dialect, VS Naipaul’s ‘shipwrecked men’, and the imagined voices of passengers aboard boats bound for England

Caribbean writing took a giant leap forward in 1948. The passengers disembarking from the Empire Windrush that year, recorded by British Pathé newsreel, signalled their metropolitan ambitions in stylish zoot suits with double-breasted jackets and fedora hats, rarely worn in Jamaica or Trinidad. Some of those pioneering émigrés found their way to the BBC World Service. There were few outlets for creative writing in the colonial West Indies; and the far-sighted BBC radio programme Caribbean Voices provided a platform, financial reward and critical appraisal for poems and short stories set in the region, boosting the fledgling careers of writers including George Lamming, VS Naipaul and Sam Selvon.

In between “swabbing out the shithouse” of various private clubs, Selvon penned The Lonely Londoners, a gold standard of wry, empathetic writing. His characters navigate the forbidding landscape of penury, piecemeal work and estrangement with mordant wit and comic pragmatism. The Lonely Londoners is one of the first Caribbean novels to consistently use dialect. Selvon’s daring is evident throughout, but never more so than when an impoverished migrant kidnaps a gull from Trafalgar Square and prepares it for his cooking pot.

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The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli review – a worthy heir to Stephen Hawking

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 06:00:13 GMT2018-04-24T06:00:13Z

Is time real or simply a useful measurement of change? The author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics takes us to the limits of our understanding with clarity and style

In Hitler’s Germany, a handful of physicists bristled at the mere mention of quantum theory. The troubling uncertainties of Einsteinian relativity and other physical exotica were viewed as “Jewish science” inimical to German nationhood and the Newtonian mechanics of Deutsche Physik. “German physics” (sometimes called “Aryan physics”) failed to make inroads in 1930s Germany because its champions were so plainly deluded. To forward-looking German physicists such as Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg, the idea that relativity was a “Jewish fraud” was manifest nonsense. Albert Einstein was indeed Jewish, but had he masterminded a “world crisis” in physics, as the anti-relativity lobby insisted? Hardly.

Nobody said that relativity theory was easy. Einstein’s notion that time and space are essentially one (the concept of curved “spacetime”) is the stuff of abstract poetry. Fortunately, the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli writes of “warped time” and other tentative physics with incisive clarity. Known for his work on loop quantum gravity theory and the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaximander, Rovelli is one of our great scientific explicators. His poetic essay collection Seven Brief Lessons on Physics sold more than a million copies in English translation in 2017 and remains one of the fastest-selling science books ever.

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A Higher Loyalty by James Comey – review

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 06:00:15 GMT2018-04-22T06:00:15Z

While spilling the beans on Trump, the ex-FBI director portrays himself as both high-minded and willing to share his own pratfalls

Standing 6ft 8in tall, James Comey – “the FBI giraffe” as he calls himself – has made a career out of seeing over the heads of lesser men, his eyes fixed on glimmering legal ideals of probity and propriety. In this book, before his ejection from the FBI, he occasionally looks out of his office window on Pennsylvania Avenue, bypasses the luxury hotel that Trump has opened blocks from the White House, and ponders the distant Washington monument, a pristine marble shaft that points at the sky. Comey, I suspect, feels an affinity with that aspirational obelisk.

His height makes him an awkward fit for the smaller-scaled world the rest of us occupy, and his memoir abounds in clumsy physical upsets. Wearing resoled shoes that boost him by half an inch, he miscalculates how far he needs to duck and bangs his head on the lintel of a door as he enters a solemn White House conclave, which leaves him trying to finesse a trickle of blood from his skull during a meeting with George W Bush. Embraced by the diminutive Loretta Lynch, Obama’s attorney general, he feels her head nudging his navel. Trump, grandly enthroned behind “a large wooden obstacle”, humbles Comey by assigning him to a child-sized chair, from which his bony knees protrude to prod the presidential desk.

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Alt-Right: From 4chan to the White House review – in search of a rightwing rabble

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 07:00:06 GMT2018-04-23T07:00:06Z

Mike Wendling’s history of the political group provides plenty of information, but doesn’t get to the root of its hatred

The best thing about Mike Wendling’s new book is the cover. It is extremely clever – a digitised, mashed-up, almost-but-not-quite swastika, which is both artistically striking and a reflection of the book’s central argument: that the “alt-right” represents a novel form of extreme rightwing thinking that is at once familiar and confusing.

Most people first heard of the “alt-right” around mid-2016, as the internet-savvy rabble that got behind Trump hammered out frog memes, worshipped Milo Yiannopoulos and loitered around the Breitbart website. No one was entirely sure whether this was a new combination of internet libertarians and youthful nationalists or simply old-fashioned racism repackaged. According to Alt-Right: From 4chan to the White House, it’s a bit of both and very hard to pin down: “an incredibly loose set of ideologies held together by what they oppose: feminism, Islam, the Black Lives Matter movement, political correctness, a fuzzy idea they call ‘globalism’ and establishment politics of both left and right”. Unsurprisingly, then, writes Wendling, “it’s a movement with several factions which shrink or swell according to the political breeze and the task at hand”.

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Rosie by Rose Tremain review – a tale of two unloved daughters

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 09:00:09 GMT2018-04-21T09:00:09Z

The novelist refuses to give her mother a free pass, yet isn’t sorry for herself, in this memoir jangling with grievance

This is the tale of two unloved daughters. One is the author. The other is her mother, who was so painfully rejected as a child that she had no love to pass on. It is framed as Tremain’s own coming of age story. Running alongside that narrative though, and often eclipsing it, is the mother’s tale. The outcome is a memoir jangling with grievance and stiff with hurt. It concludes, not with any kind of reconciliation, but when, at the age of 18, “I at last discovered in myself … deep anger with my mother.” That anger emboldened Tremain to cast off the persona of “Rosie” – the little girl repeatedly told she was clumsy, dull, an “idiot child” – and become “Rose”, the writer to be.

Her mother, Jane, was sent away to boarding school at the age of six by parents heartbroken, or heart-deadened, by the loss of her two brothers, one to appendicitis, the other to war. Later Jane told Rose that she clung to the thought that her mother had bought her an expensive coat to take away with her, silk-lined, with a cape. Surely, she reasoned, that must mean her mother cared for her “just a little bit”. Perhaps – but Tremain doubts it.

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A Higher Loyalty by James Comey review – Hillary’s emails, the election and a loathing for Trump

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 12:50:35 GMT2018-04-17T12:50:35Z

The FBI director sacked by Trump a year ago attempts to justify his pre-election decisions and paints a portrait of the president that could not be uglier

In the copious literature of the US capital, there is a sub-genre we might call “the saint in the swamp”. It focuses on the travails of an honest man sent to wade through the muck and slime of America’s political Babylon. The exemplar is, of course, the 1939 classic film Mr Smith Goes to Washington, with Jimmy Stewart as the lone man of integrity on the Potomac. But the archetype recurs at intervals in the culture, with the West Wing’s Jed Bartlet a more recent incarnation. And now we can add a new, non-fiction addition: the memoir of James Comey, the FBI director fired a year ago by Donald Trump.

Perennially cast as a boy scout – and in Washington that’s usually an insult – Comey establishes his goody-goody credentials early and often. We learn that, when he was in his 20s, people would clap eyes on the 6ft8in lawyer and instantly offer smalltalk about his presumed past as a player of college basketball. As it happens Comey hadn’t played, but in his youth he would let people think he had. “This was a seemingly small and inconsequential lie told by a stupid kid, but it was a lie nonetheless. And it ate at me. So after law school I wrote to the friends I’d lied to and told them the truth,” he writes. Later he gives the director of national intelligence a necktie. Or rather, “I regifted to him a tie my brother-in-law had given me … Because we considered ourselves people of integrity, I disclosed it was a regift.”

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Circe by Madeline Miller review – myth, magic and single motherhood

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 06:29:06 GMT2018-04-21T06:29:06Z

A nymph faces the joys and lonelinesses of independence in this feminist reworking of Greek myth from an Orange winner

In her first novel, The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller retold the siege of Troy from the point of view of Patroclus, whose death Achilles avenged by unleashing outsize destruction on Troy and especially on Hector, whose body he tied to his chariot and dragged around the city walls. Homer did not spell out the exact nature of a relationship that might trigger such a reaction; Miller made it a love story, tender and loyal, and by clearly showing what Achilles’ hubris would cost him gave it not only intimacy but the arc of true tragedy. The Song of Achilles now exists in 23 languages and despite disapproving mutterings in some quarters – it had “the head of a young adult novel, the body of The Iliad and the hindquarters of Barbara Cartland”, according to the New York Times – won what was then still called the Orange prize.

A striking aspect of The Song of Achilles was the degree to which Miller was alive to gendered inequalities of power, describing how fighting men gathered when a well-born woman (Helen) came to puberty, and how Greek wars were fought: arrive, kill the men, take the women, parcel them out, tumble them on marsh-reed beds then require them to serve and feed the now entrenched army. This could be seen especially in her characterisation of Thetis, a young nymph given by the gods to the mortal Peleus. A kind man who would become a well-loved king, Peleus was nevertheless required, by those same gods, to overpower her; the rape resulted in Achilles, “best of the Greeks” – and made the nymph as chilly and harsh toward humans as the depths of the sea in which she lived.

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The Leavers by Lisa Ko review – quietly sensational story of migrants’ plight

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 07:00:18 GMT2018-04-22T07:00:18Z

Ko’s wrenching debut novel about an immigrant Chinese mother and her son has profound resonances that reach far beyond its setting

The Leavers, Lisa Ko’s quietly sensational debut novel about migration, deportation and contested citizenship, is the story of a boy abandoned in the US by his Chinese mother, and the dark, devastating truth behind it.

The novel is told in four parts, the first from the viewpoint of 11-year-old Deming, who is given up for adoption after his mother, Polly, goes to work at a nail bar in the Bronx and never comes back. Deming both blames himself for his mother’s disappearance and builds a case against her in his mind through his teen years, until, at the age of 21, he sets off to look for her. She always wanted a better life elsewhere, he remembers.

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Gun Love review – trigger-happy in Trump’s America

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 09:00:18 GMT2018-04-22T09:00:18Z

Jennifer Clement’s novel about a trailer-park teen on a surreal journey across a gun-crazed land is superbly told

Chekhov’s dramatic principle about guns – that if you have one hanging on the wall in the first act, it needs to go off at some point – is followed to the letter in Jennifer Clement’s superb new novel. There are a great number of guns in this book, all of which are described with clinical efficiency, and whenever they are fired, something bad happens. Yet there’s also a great deal of love here; amid the violence and hopelessness of gun-crazed contemporary America, humanity breaks through.

In the otherworldly Florida milieu that Clement depicts, half hell and half purgatory, nondescript characters flit about, scraping by with dead-end jobs and no prospects. Margot France is no exception, a young woman living in a broken-down car with her 14-year-old daughter, Pearl. At first glance, she is no less of a wreck than her neighbours. A teenager when she got pregnant, she left her well-to-do family in disgrace, fleeing to this place in the middle of nowhere. She brings a sensibility at odds with received notions of trailer park America: Margot and Pearl dine off Limoges china, a family possession, and, in one striking set piece, Margot revives a long-submerged talent on the piano to play Rachmaninov in her local church.

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Property by Lionel Shriver review – assured and entertaining

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 08:00:16 GMT2018-04-22T08:00:16Z

Shriver brings her deadpan skills to a brilliant collection of stories about owning – and being owned

Lionel Shriver is a virtuoso at describing what it is to be uncomfortable in one’s own skin. It is only the young, in this phenomenal collection of short stories, who are thoughtlessly content. But their self-involvement (in Domestic Terrorism and Kilifi Creek) is shown to be outrageous, and entertaining too – up to a point. Liana is a vivacious, free-loading young woman who never asks herself whether she is taking liberties when she invites herself to stay with an elderly couple in Kenya. “Although Liana imagined herself undemanding, even the easy to please required fresh sheets, which would have to be laundered after her departure.” Liana persists in feeling that her vitality is doing her hosts a favour, unaware how tired the obligation to socialise makes them.

Liam is a maddening young man (in a story that will alarm and amuse every parent saddled with grownup children at home) whose girlfriend defends his slothful existence to his mother: “This whole idea of ‘doing something’ with your life, it’s wrong-headed. Ask Liam – you maybe don’t realise, but your son, he’s into some profound shit. You are your life. It’s not outside you. You can’t ‘do something with it’ like a toaster on a table.” While Liam pursues the sensation of being himself, his parents do stuff – they put the toast on the table: he brings in no bread at all. And then they decide they’ve had enough. Shriver does not crack a smile – her deadpan quality is her forte – but she makes sure you do.

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The best recent crime novels – review roundup

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:00:21 GMT2018-04-20T11:00:21Z

The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly; The Hunger by Alma Katsu; Paper Ghosts by Julia Haeberlin; American by Day by Derek B Miller; Body & Soul by John Harvey

A supernatural element has long been present in John Connolly’s excellent Charlie Parker series. The 16th title, The Woman in the Woods (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99), is no exception: evil takes many forms here, from the depressingly familiar – men who abuse and kill women – to a demonic figure brought into being for the sole purpose of finding the Fractured Atlas, a book that will change the world by replacing the Old God with the Not Gods. When a woman’s body is discovered in a forest in Maine, private eye Parker is tasked with finding the child she gave birth to shortly before her death. Meanwhile, in Cadillac, Indiana, malevolent Quayle and his aptly named and memorably revolting sidekick, Pallida Mors, with her mortuary-white skin and lifeless eyes, are on the trail of pregnant young Karis Lamb, who came to the town to find sanctuary “from the devil himself”. And in an isolated cabin, a small boy is receiving calls from a dead woman on his toy phone. Beautifully written, with a complex plot and a large cast of richly drawn characters, this is Connolly at his sinister best.

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Trick by Domenico Starnone review – a compelling tale of calamity

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 08:00:01 GMT2018-04-19T08:00:01Z

One of Italy’s most accomplished novelists spins a wonderful story about an elderly illustrator and his four-year-old grandson

Domenico Starnone is one of those novelists who from page one invite us to expect catastrophe. The main character is vulnerable, physically and mentally; a situation develops that can only expose that vulnerability. We hope our hero will come through, consoling ourselves in the meantime with a story well told.

Only two characters matter in Trick, a grandfather and grandchild. Artist Daniele Mallarico is in his 70s, like Starnone. Widowed and apparently friendless, recovering too slowly from painful surgery, he is asked to travel from Milan to his childhood home in Naples to look after grandson Mario while the boy’s parents are away at a conference. Telling his tale in the first person, Daniele knows he is not up to it. He rarely sees his daughter, dislikes her husband, scarcely knows the four-year-old Mario and has no desire to return to an apartment that can only remind him of his troubled adolescence. Worse, he is behind with an urgent commission to illustrate a book. His talent has deserted him. No sooner has he arrived in Naples than his editor is phoning to say the drawings he has sent so far are no good. He will have to do the work again, under pressure, while looking after the child.

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Murmur by Will Eaves review – inside the mind of Alan Turing

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 06:30:17 GMT2018-04-18T06:30:17Z

First love and the nature of consciousness are examined in this extraordinary journey into the cryptanalyst’s dreamworld

The premise is startlingly ambitious: what if we could think our way into Alan Turing’s dreams? It’s the sort of thing Turing himself might have attempted as he tried to move between minds, questing for the limits of shared comprehension. But a novelist imagining the unconscious of a genius and finding words for his visions – can that be wise? Yes, if the writer is Will Eaves. Scrupulous, humane, sad and strange, this fifth novel by the author of The Oversight and The Absent Therapist is as bracingly intelligent as it is brave.

Murmur is based on Turing’s experience during the period of his punishment for gross indecency, when he went to hospital weekly and quietly submitted himself to the injection of hormones that effected chemical castration. As his body and mind underwent disturbing changes, he talked to the Jungian therapist Franz Greenbaum. In the sessions of analysis and outside them, in sleep and waking, Turing pressed towards an understanding of singular and multiple identity, memory and desire. The cryptanalyst who, at Bletchley, had programmed machines to break the German naval code now applied himself to the cipher of his own trance-like visions.

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Fiction for older children reviews – adventure seen with fresh eyes

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 07:00:21 GMT2018-04-10T07:00:21Z

With psychic wolves and ghostly narrators, the latest children’s novels – including one by Dave Eggers – put a new spin on familiar themes

Breathtaking originality is rare in most genres. The bulk of mainstream culture workers are just rearranging familiar tropes with reinvigorating flair. Every boarding school caper bears the mark of JK Rowling; sparky heroines channel their more famous fore-sisters, and so on.

First appearances suggest that Brightstorm, a debut by Vashti Hardy (Scholastic £6.99), is a solid orphan adventure narrative. Siblings Arthur and Maudie are sold into a slum, then flung into a perilous scheme after their explorer father fails to return from a mission to South Polaris, disgraced and presumed dead.

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Dare YOU face the orcs? 80s game books Fighting Fantasy return

Wed, 04 Apr 2018 11:21:28 GMT2018-04-04T11:21:28Z

The role-playing adventure books sold 20m copies in the 80s, before being eclipsed by video games. Now they’re back with a new story by Charlie Higson, can they captivate the web generation?

Ian Livingstone calls it the “five-fingered bookmark”: that grip known to children of the 80s and 90s. You’d insert a finger into various sections of your Fighting Fantasy adventure game book in order to be able to return if, say, your choice to drink the “sparkling red liquid” and turn to section 98 turned out to be a bad one, or if attacking the Mirror Demon “from another dimensional plane” proved fatal.

“You used to see it on public transport everywhere,” says Livingstone, who with Steve Jackson dreamed up Fighting Fantasy back in the early 80s. “It’s like peeking around the corner. You can’t call it cheating – it’s taking a sneak peek.”

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Juno Dawson: ‘Teenagers have seen things that would make milk curdle’

Sun, 01 Apr 2018 08:00:13 GMT2018-04-01T08:00:13Z

The YA novelist on researching addiction, dealing with transphobes and why she loves writing for teens

Award-winning “Queen of Teen” Juno Dawson was born James Dawson and raised in West Yorkshire. She worked as a teacher and journalist before becoming a full-time author. In 2015, she announced her intention to undergo gender transition and live as a woman. Her 14th book is the young adult novel Clean, the story of a teenage girl’s battle with heroin addiction and stint in rehab.

Drugs, sex and swearing feature highly in Clean, so what makes it a young adult novel?
The publishing world tends to focus more on the “young”, less on the “adult”. But I spend lots of time with teenagers and they’re truly the broadband generation. They’ve been online all their lives and seen things that would make milk curdle: beheadings, graphic violence, hardcore porn. Shielding them is never going to work. What makes this book YA is that it tackles issues in a non-judgmental way. We know these things exist, so let’s talk about them. I don’t think people will have a problem with how I’ve handled addiction. What might cause a fuss is [protagonist] Lexi’s positive attitude to sex. She clearly enjoys it. We never teach girls that sex should be enjoyable for them. That’s one thing porn absolutely doesn’t do. Pornography is not sex education.

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Hanya Yanagihara: influential magazine editor by day, best-selling author by night

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 07:00:18 GMT2018-04-22T07:00:18Z

It’s enough to make your head spin, but the New York Times journalist and novelist wouldn’t have it any other way. Emma Brockes meets her in New York

When Hanya Yanagihara was 10 years old, her father let her visit a pathologist’s lab. He was a doctor and an artist, twin interests his young daughter shared so that when the pathologist opened the cadaver, she whipped out a sketch pad and started to draw. “I was always interested in the disease, not the human,” she says of that early fascination with medicine, a forensic interest that foreshadowed the themes of her fiction and, 30 years later, found Yanagihara in an unusual life: writing acclaimed novels at night, with a day job as a senior editor at the New York Times. Fiction, says the 43-year-old, “is a completely other realm that’s untouchable and unknown”. Editing a magazine – in this case, T magazine, the New York Times style supplement – is not. She smiles. “I’ve never done it any other way.”

We are in Yanagihara’s office at the New York Times, where the wall is adorned with page proofs for forthcoming issues of T and a blown-up cover of A Little Life, her second novel, a 700-page weepy about a group of male friends in New York that was a big hit in 2015. (The cover features the now-familiar image of a man who appears to be in agony, but is actually drawn from a series of photos taken by Peter Hujar of men in the throes of orgasm.) There are plenty of precedents for best-selling novelists who also held down a day job: Arthur Conan Doyle was a surgeon; Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22 in the evenings while working as a copywriter during the day; Anthony Trollope did three hours on his novel before going to work at the post office, and Toni Morrison raised two sons on her own while writing novels at night and working every day as an editor at Random House. Where Yanagihara is unusual, perhaps, is in the fact that the demands of her day job require an enormous amount of nervous, creative and managerial energy, which the casual observer might imagine she’d prefer to invest in her fiction.

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Lawrence Wright: ‘It’s difficult to escape the Texas stereotype’

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 12:00:03 GMT2018-04-21T12:00:03Z

The New Yorker staff writer who won a Pulitzer for his 9/11 masterpiece talks conspiracy theorists, his home state. and the importance of George Orwell

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of 11 books, the latest of which is God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Future of America (Allen Lane, £20), an episodic guide to the author’s home state. His book The Looming Tower, about the deep background of the 9/11 attacks, won the Pulitzer prize and was recently turned into a 10-part TV drama.

Do you think Texas suffers from an image unrepresentative of the reality?
It represents some part of the reality, but it’s certainly a stereotype so deeply ingrained throughout the world that it’s difficult to escape. It’s a kind of brand. It is an asset in many ways in that everyone knows or thinks they know something about Texas, so before they even meet you they already have an opinion based on where you’re from. Sometimes that’s an awful liability. Liberals tend to look at Texas with a kind of dread. They see it as the heartland of Daddy Warbucks capitalism. Conservatives view Texas as the promised land of small government and independent entrepreneurs. And both of those things are true in their way, but not so true that they encompass the real state of Texas.

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Olga Tokarczuk: ‘I was very naive. I thought Poland would be able to discuss the dark areas of our history’

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:00:20 GMT2018-04-20T11:00:20Z

A literary star in Poland, Olga Tokarczuk is hotly tipped to win the Man Booker international prize. She talks about facing controversy at home and the armed bodyguards hired to protect her

When Olga Tokarczuk’s sixth novel, Flights, was about to be published in the UK last year the Bookseller trilled that “she is probably one of the greatest living writers you have never heard of”. The trade weekly, speaking specifically to a UK readership, can be forgiven for making such a bald assertion – even though she has had two previous novels translated into English – since it is only now that Flights has been shortlisted for the Man Booker international prize that Tokarczuk has begun to command the sort of attention in the English-speaking world that her home fans would consider her due. She has long been one of Poland’s highest profile writers – a vegetarian feminist in an increasingly reactionary, patriarchal country, and a public intellectual whose every utterance can make news headlines.

Flights combines (among other things) the observations of a fretful modern traveller with the story of a wandering Slavic sect, a biography of a 17th-century Flemish anatomist and an account of the posthumous journey of Chopin’s heart from Paris, where the Polish composer died, to his desired resting place in Warsaw.

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Willy Vlautin: 'I think my mother was ashamed that I was a novelist'

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 09:00:08 GMT2018-04-23T09:00:08Z

His fans include Donna Tartt and Roddy Doyle; Andrew Haigh has adapted his third novel, Lean on Pete, into a film. So why does Vlautin still struggle with self-belief?

For Willy Vlautin, a book tour is not just about books. Yes, his fifth novel, Don’t Skip Out on Me, the melancholy tale of a young, half-Paiute wannabe prizefighter, was published recently. It’s written in the sort of scorched, bare-bones prose, stripped of metaphors and similes, that has won him fans such as Roddy Doyle, Donna Tartt and Colm Tóibín. But there are also gigs to play – Vlautin, who is 51, was the frontman of the twangy alt-country outfit Richmond Fontaine, which he founded in his mid-20s shortly after moving from Reno, Nevada, where he grew up, to Portland, Oregon.

He disbanded the group in 2014 after 20 years, keen to part on good terms rather than, as he puts it, waiting until the wheels came off. These days he plays with the Delines, who have a mellower feel, as well as a female singer, Amy Boone. He is happier listening to his own records now his voice isn’t on them. “I never had any confidence,” he admits. “I was always a meek dude. And I’ve never figured out how to make that go away.” He gives an apologetic smile.

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Curtis Sittenfeld: ‘I have declined to write fiction about Melania Trump double digits of times’

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 08:00:18 GMT2018-04-22T08:00:18Z

Best known for her fictionalised memoir of Laura Bush, the US author talks about inspiration, her debut short story collection, and Stormy Daniels

Curtis Sittenfeld is the bestselling author of five novels, including Prep, Sisterland and American Wife. The latter scandalised some US liberals with its sympathetic portrayal of first lady Laura Bush, to whom Sittenfeld, a Democrat, tweeted in sympathy last week after the death of her mother-in-law, Barbara. She went on to horrify Jane Austen purists with Eligible, a brilliant, modern-day reimagining of Pride and Prejudice. Her first short story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It (Doubleday, £16.99), which explores the questionable decisions, missed connections and extraordinary coincidences that make up a life, is published on 3 May.

Does the title You Think It, I’ll Say It sum up for you the role of the fiction writer?
The short answer is: yes, it does. But I might not have thought of using it if one of my friends [the writer Emily Jeanne Miller] hadn’t read a draft of the story the line comes from, The World Has Many Butterflies, and said: “This is what you do, Curtis, you say what the reader is thinking.” I thought: Oh my gosh, really? That’s perfect, you’ve given me my title. Sometimes, I struggle to find a title for my books, but this time it wasn’t painful at all.

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Leslie Jamison: ‘Why was life such a barren tundra if I wasn’t drinking?’

Sun, 22 Apr 2018 07:00:17 GMT2018-04-22T07:00:17Z

As her memoir about her years as a high-functioning alcoholic is published, the author talks about drinking, writing and why she finally chose sobriety

• Read an extract from Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering

The American writer Leslie Jamison is the bestselling author of the acclaimed essay collection The Empathy Exams (2014). She grew up in Los Angeles, read English at Harvard, studied for her MFA in creative writing at the Iowa Workshop, and has a PhD from Yale, where her thesis looked at addiction and sincerity in 20th-century American literature. She now lives in New York, where she teaches at Columbia University, with her husband, the writer Charles Bock, her stepdaughter, and their three-month-old baby daughter.

Her new book, The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath, describes her struggle with alcoholism, as well as that of key literary figures such as Elizabeth Bishop and John Cheever. But its main focus is on her subsequent sobriety, achieved with the help of the 12-step programme, better known as Alcoholics Anonymous; eventually, she turns her narrative over to the voices of some fellow addicts. She is interested in the connection between storytelling, and both alcoholism and sobriety. As she writes early on: “Yearning is our most powerful narrative engine, and addiction is one of its dialects.” She first felt the buzz of alcohol at 13. She first drank in secret at 15. At a Harvard student initiation ceremony, she drank so much that all she remembers is waking up in her dorm room where whoever had brought her home had left a note that read: “Hope you’re OK.” And on, and on. Booze made her feel, she writes, as if it had plunged her into “a darkness that seemed like honesty… as if the bright surfaces of the world were all false and the desperate drunk space underground was where the truth lived.”

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Ayòbámi Adébáyò on how having the sickle cell trait inspired her bestselling debut

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 10:59:20 GMT2018-04-14T10:59:20Z

Stay With Me has put her on the pages of Vogue and now the Wellcome prize shortlist. She talks about dating and growing up in a turbulent Nigeria

It has been quite a year for Ayòbámi Adébáyò. She is in London for International Women’s Day, as she was last year, when it was announced that her first novel had been longlisted for the Baileys prize. Stay With Me went on to make the shortlist and is now up for the Wellcome prize, the winner of which will be announced later this month. The novel was glowingly reviewed, not least by the New York Times’s high priestess Michiko Kakutani (“stunning”, “powerfully magnetic and heartbreaking”); Sarah Jessica Parker chose it for the American Library’s book club; and the author, who has just turned 30, has been interviewed in both the Paris Review and Vogue. When we meet, she has come from the BBC, where she had been discussing the #MeToo movement in Nigeria. “It’s complex and very different across regions, across class, maybe even across religions,” Adébáyò says, describing what it means to be a young woman in her home country. “I think there is a dissonance between how much is expected of you as a young person, whether you are a man or a woman: you are supposed to go to university, you get a master’s degree, maybe two, particularly if you come from the middle class.

“And somehow, when it gets to a certain point, there’s a separation in how far you can go because a woman is to subsume all of her ambition to – some would say – the ultimate goal of marriage. To be fair, men are also pressured into getting married. But I don’t think men are expected to make the sacrifices that are routinely expected of a woman.”

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Action Comics #1000: the 10 most important issues from 80 years of Superman

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 11:34:34 GMT2018-04-18T11:34:34Z

From Superman’s first flight to the issue where he lost his job (and that time he made Santa buff), a look back at eight decades of Action Comics

Eighty years ago today, the first issue of Action Comics was released, with the now iconic cover showing Superman lifting a car over his head as hoodlums flee. It was comic book readers’ first introduction to the character, starring in the lead story by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Now, Action Comics has become the first monthly comic book to hit its 1,000th issue. In the manner of major book and film releases, #1000 got a midnight release, with studio DC Comics encouraging comic book lovers to mark the historic issue, which includes stories from artists and writers including Brian Michael Bendis, Scott Snyder, Louise Simonson, Jock, and Marv Wolfman. But what are the most important issues in Action Comics’ 80-year history? Try these for starters:

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Poem of the week: No Hands by Carol Muske-Dukes

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 10:24:39 GMT2018-04-23T10:24:39Z

Capturing the headlong descent of a cyclist – and his daughter – this anxious and moving poem almost gasps with fear

No Hands

He rode “no hands,” speeding
headlong down the hill near
our house, his arms extended,
held rigid away from his body,
our small daughter behind him
on the bike in her yellow sunsuit,
bareheaded. She held on to him
for her life. I watched them from
above – helpless: a failed brake.
Far below us, a stop-sign rose
like a child’s toy shield. He could
not stop, he would not. That hunger
for display overrode danger, illusions
of safety. Even death had less to do
with it than the will’s eventual triumph
over stasis: how he’d finally fly free
and how she might accompany him,
as an audience travels with a performer,
an object of regard. Downward, fast –
so what cannot stop holds on, holds on
to a mind flying away from itself, seeking
release from the soul speeding away, yet
staying close as breath, even at this distance.

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Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?

Mon, 23 Apr 2018 14:00:03 GMT2018-04-23T14:00:03Z

Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blog. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

Elizabeth Hay’s Late Nights on Air has transported PatLux:

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Return to Albany: was William Kennedy's Ironweed machine-tooled for the Oscars?

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 12:56:37 GMT2018-04-24T12:56:37Z

Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson gunned for gold statues in this widely panned adaptation of William Kennedy’s 1983 novel. But there’s plenty to tug at the heartstrings

As if winning a Pulitzer prize and getting a MacArthur fellowship following the publication of his novel Ironweed in 1983 weren’t enough, William Kennedy continued his lucky streak with a film deal. Brazilian director Héctor Babenco fell for Ironweed and told Kennedy: “This book is talking to me and saying, ‘I want to be a movie.’ I am going to make a movie of you.”

It was a hot-ticket team. Babenco’s previous film was Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson were persuaded to star, while Tom Waits agreed to make an extended cameo. Babenco, known for sensitively filming life on the streets, seemed like the ideal fit. Kennedy, also an excellent film critic, wrote the screenplay. The film studio dug deep into its coffers and spent $27m to ensure the setting looked authentic and impressive. What could possibly go wrong?

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What will you be reading next year? A roundup of London book fair

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 13:29:49 GMT2018-04-13T13:29:49Z

A new JRR Tolkien, four Naomi Alderman books and the memoirs of a mole-catcher – a collection of the biggest and most interesting books due to be published in 2019 and 2020

News: Feminist fiction drives big money at London book fair

Every year, after fierce fights between publishers over novels, celebrity memoirs and curveball meditations on nature and life, the dust settles on London book fair and we’re left with a list of titles to look forward to. Here are some of the biggest books coming later this year, and in 2019 and 2020.

The Fall of Gondolin by JRR Tolkien (August 2018)
A “new” novel from the Lord of the Rings author, which has been edited by his son Christopher. The Fall of Gondolin tells the story of Tuor, one of the Noldor elves, who returns to his people’s homeland to attempt to save it from the evil Morgoth.

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No mystery crime is the biggest-selling genre in books | Sophie Hannah

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 14:37:34 GMT2018-04-12T14:37:34Z

Sales of crime novels in the UK have soared, overtaking general fiction for the first time. But this thrilling genre can be a comfort, too, says the creator of detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse

It has happened at last! Finally, the literary world is a meritocracy! Crime fiction – which I first became aware of as the Best Genre Ever when I read my first Enid Blyton mystery at six years old – is now officially the UK’s bestselling genre. Nielsen Bookscan data at the London book fair has revealed that crime novels in 2017, for the first time since Nielsen’s records began, sold more than the category rather vaguely labelled “general and literary fiction”. Crime sales of have increased by 19% since 2015 to 18.7m, compared to the 18.1m fiction books sold in 2017.

This might be the first time that the genre I write, read and love has outsold any other, but it’s certainly not the first time I’ve been asked: “Why is there such an appetite for crime novels?” Crime fiction was extremely popular long before it was the most popular, and so we crime writers have to answer this question all the time. Sometimes it is presented in an evidently disapproving manner: “Can you account for the unstoppable popularity of crime fiction, Ms Hannah? And where were you at 9pm on Tuesday evening? Writing a crime novel, I bet.” (Prolific authors take note: the word “unstoppable” is never truly intended as a compliment, and you should be suspicious of anyone who uses it about you.)

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Gerald Murnane: one of Australia's greatest writers you may never have heard of

Thu, 05 Apr 2018 02:00:35 GMT2018-04-05T02:00:35Z

The New York Times calls him one of the best English-language writers alive. So why isn’t he a household name?

When Mark Binelli first arrived in the tiny, rural Victorian town of Goroke, to interview Gerald Murnane for the New York Times, Murnane produced a piece of paper with three of his own questions: “Are you at all interested in golf?”; “Are you at all interested in horse racing?”; and “What do you propose to do for lunch?”

“You might feel like you’re being overorganized,” the 79-year-old author told Binelli, “but this is how I do things.”

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Top 10 books about council housing

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:00:44 GMT2018-04-25T09:00:44Z

Public housing in the UK improved the lives of millions, but has left little trace in literature. John Boughton unlocks the door to the unsung history of council homes

Well over a third of Britons lived in council homes at their peak in the early 1980s, and yet the subject of public housing is hardly to be found on bookshelves. There is some good academic writing, and there are some decent local histories – though traditional works are more likely to be taken by a surviving Georgian townhouse than a neo-Georgian council estate – but you’ll struggle to find anything in the mainstream. And in literary fiction, authentic interest in or real knowledge of the lives of the millions who have lived in council homes over the years is almost nonexistent. Journalism has filled the gap – once celebratory, but latterly often demonising and sensationalist as one-time municipal dreams were designated nightmares.

Awareness has only revived more recently, as the renewed failure of the free market to provide the decent, affordable homes we need has become more stark, and – more darkly – in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire.

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The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list

Sun, 31 Dec 2017 08:30:25 GMT2017-12-31T08:30:25Z

After two years of careful reading, moving backwards through time, Robert McCrum has concluded his selection of the 100 greatest nonfiction books. Take a quick look at five centuries of great writing

1. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)
An engrossing account of the looming catastrophe caused by ecology’s “neighbours from hell” – mankind.

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
This steely and devastating examination of the author’s grief following the sudden death of her husband changed the nature of writing about bereavement.

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The 100 best novels written in English: the full list

Mon, 17 Aug 2015 09:11:54 GMT2015-08-17T09:11:54Z

After two years of careful consideration, Robert McCrum has reached a verdict on his selection of the 100 greatest novels written in English. Take a look at his list

1. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (1678)

A story of a man in search of truth told with the simple clarity and beauty of Bunyan’s prose make this the ultimate English classic.

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Fresh voices: 50 writers you should read now

Sat, 31 Mar 2018 07:00:06 GMT2018-03-31T07:00:06Z

Which debut novel should you reach for this spring? Who can map our digital future? Here’s our guide to the most exciting voices in fiction, politics, SF, graphic novels and more

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End of the American dream? The dark history of 'America first'

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 07:00:07 GMT2018-04-21T07:00:07Z

When he promised to put America first in his inaugural speech, Donald Trump drew on a slogan with a long and sinister history – a sign of what was to follow in his presidency

“Sadly, the American dream is dead,” Donald Trump proclaimed when he announced his candidacy for president of the United States. It seemed an astonishing thing for a candidate to say; people campaigning for president usually glorify the nation they hope to lead, flattering voters into choosing them. But this reversal was just a taste of what was to come, as he revealed an unnerving skill at twisting what would be negative for anyone else into a positive for himself.

By the time he won the election, Trump had flipped much of what many people thought they knew about the US on its head. In his acceptance speech he again pronounced the American dream dead, but promised to revive it. We were told that this dream of prosperity was under threat, so much so that a platform of “economic nationalism” carried the presidency.

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Middlemarch: Jennifer Egan on how George Eliot’s unorthodox love life shaped her masterpiece

Sat, 21 Apr 2018 10:00:01 GMT2018-04-21T10:00:01Z

Eliot found fulfilment in a relationship that society shunned – no wonder her study of marriage captures a climate of change

It is striking that the author of the most brilliant literary study of marriage in English was a woman whose unorthodox romantic partnership excluded her from polite society. Mary Ann Evans, who took the pseudonym of George Eliot when she began publishing fiction, lived for 24 years with George Henry Lewes, a philosopher, journalist and critic, whose open marriage to his wife had already resulted in her bearing another man’s child. Lewes’s agreement to his name being on the baby’s birth certificate deprived him later, through a quirk of law, of the right to divorce. Technically, the unmarried Evans was pilfering another woman’s husband by living with Lewes – never mind that Lewes’s legal wife went on to have three more children with her lover, all of whom Evans and Lewes supported (along with Lewes’s three sons) through their writing, editing and translating. Their urgent need for money was partly what prompted Lewes to encourage Evans to try her hand at writing fiction at the age of 37.

But fame had a softening effect then as now, and by the time Eliot published Middlemarch, her sixth novel, she had been a celebrity for years. Men and women who had spurned her company in her early years with Lewes now flocked to the couple’s Sunday at-homes. Dickens, Thackeray and Queen Victoria were fans. She received passionate queries from strangers seeking advice on how to live better lives. Although she still published as George Eliot, she had revealed her true identity shortly after the publication of Adam Bede, her second work of fiction, whose runaway success prompted intense speculation about who was behind the pseudonym – and the emergence of a pretender demanding royalties. Her reputation continued to wax even through a troubled middle period, when she struggled to write Romola and Felix Holt, the Radical, which were less successful than her early novels, though critically praised.

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Calling all BAME writers: entries open for the 2018 short story prize

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 12:49:29 GMT2018-04-17T12:49:29Z

The Guardian and 4th Estate BAME short story prize, tapping into the talents of black, Asian and minority ethnic writers, is now open for entries

The third Guardian and 4th Estate BAME short story prize opens for entries today, offering writers a chance to win £1,000, an exclusive one‑day publishing workshop and a taste of online publication.

“To get some recognition as a new writer has made an unbelievable difference to me,” says last year’s winner, Lisa Smith, whose story Auld Lang Syne was published on the Guardian website. “Writing is exposing, so to have people from the literary world praise my work and reward it was a tremendous boost to my confidence.”

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Lionel Shriver: ‘Few writers are willing to put themselves on the line for free speech’

Sat, 14 Apr 2018 15:00:26 GMT2018-04-14T15:00:26Z

The US novelist talks about her new property-themed collection of stories and the danger of bandwagons

Lionel Shriver is a US writer and journalist whose novels include So Much For That, The Post-Birthday World, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 and the bestselling We Need to Talk About Kevin, which won the 2005 Orange prize and was turned into a film by Lynne Ramsay, starring Tilda Swinton. In 2014, she won the BBC national short story award. She lives in London and Brooklyn. Her latest book is Property, a themed collection of stories and two novellas.

Were the stories in your new book written by design to be read alongside one another or did they just accrue over time?
I’d written the novella, The Subletter, and wanted to give it a home. So you could say they were accrued by design: every time I got a commission, I made sure the story had something to do with property. I’m interested in the way in which what we own becomes a projection of the self – and in territory, too, literally and metaphorically. I’m very territorial, particularly about my study. If my husband wants to park his drums in there, I’ll tolerate it in the short term, but I would never allow it in the long term.

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Passages from the Bible discovered behind Qur'an manuscript

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:30:44 GMT2018-04-25T09:30:44Z

The only recorded palimpsest in which a Christian text has been effaced to make way for the Islamic holy text is to go on sale at Christie’s

An “extraordinary” discovery by an eagle-eyed scholar has identified the shadowy outlines of passages from the Bible behind an eighth-century manuscript of the Qur’an – the only recorded palimpsest in which a Christian text has been effaced to make way for the Islamic holy text.

French scholar Dr Eléonore Cellard was looking for images of a palimpsest page sold a decade earlier by Christie’s when she came across the auction house’s latest catalogue, which included fragments from a manuscript of the Qur’an which Christie’s had dated to the eighth century AD, or the second century of Islam. Scrutinising the image, she noticed that, appearing faintly behind the Arabic script, were Coptic letters. She contacted Christie’s, and they managed to identify the Coptic text as coming from the Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy – part of the Torah and the Christian Old Testament.

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara review – in search of a serial killer

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 07:29:04 GMT2018-03-21T07:29:04Z

A fanatical quest to identify California’s 1970s Golden State Killer is told in gripping, grisly detail

For at least a decade between 1976 and 1986, a psychopath stalked California. He targeted bungalows in middle-class neighbourhoods stretching from Sacramento in the north to Dana Point, nearly 450 miles to the south. He wore a mask. He was white, probably in his late teens or 20s, wore size nine shoes and had type A blood. He sometimes stuttered, and sometimes cried after attacking his victims. He had a small penis.

This is almost all that is known about the prolific rapist and murderer who has been variously dubbed the Original Night Stalker, the East Area Rapist and, perhaps most evocatively, the Golden State Killer. This last epithet was coined by the late Michelle McNamara, whose posthumous book chronicles her decade-long quest to identify this mysterious bogeyman. Like the Zodiac Killer, who terrorised California in the late 60s, the Golden State Killer was never apprehended, and his case continues to intrigue amateur sleuths.

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Why are millennials still getting married? | Bridie Jabour

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 18:00:03 GMT2018-04-25T18:00:03Z

There are plenty of reasons not to get hitched – but for Bridie Jabour’s generation, the institution still holds sway. Even if they can’t articulate why

• Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

When I was a teenager I used to declare that “marriage is an empty constitution”. I had misheard someone say “institution” once and, thinking it sounded grand and clever, I repeated the phrase ad nauseam for years.

Then I hit my mid-20s and the wedding invites started flooding in, then as if on cue I sent out my own.

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James Comey's political memoir beats rivals at bookstores

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:04:47 GMT2018-04-25T13:04:47Z

The Trump-bashing FBI director’s memoir, A Higher Loyalty, has sold 600,000 in its first week at bookshops

First-week sales of the former FBI director James Comey’s memoir have topped 600,000 copies in the US, eclipsing the initial performances of recent political bestsellers by Michael Wolff and Hillary Clinton.

Comey’s A Higher Loyalty, which publisher Flatiron Books says explores “what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions”, and which a Guardian review said likens Donald Trump to “an ignorant thug whose tantrums and rants make up for gnawing personal insecurities”, was published on 17 April. Flatiron president Bob Miller and publisher Amy Einhorn report it has sold more than 600,000 copies so far, with more than 1m copies now in print, making it this week’s number one bestselling title in the US.

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About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny

Mon, 09 Apr 2018 02:15:04 GMT2018-04-09T02:15:04Z

In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight
• Winton on writing ‘with my heart in my mouth’ – podcast

I don’t have any grand theory about masculinity. But I know a bit about boys. Partly because I’m at the beach and in the water a lot.

As a surfer you spend a lot of time bobbing about, waiting for something to happen. So eventually, you get talking. Or you listen to others talking. And I spend my work days alone, in a room with people who don’t exist, so these maritime conversations make up the bulk of my social life. And most of the people in the water are younger than me, some by 50 years or more.

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The 100 greatest novels of all time: The list

Sun, 12 Oct 2003 14:27:00 GMT2003-10-12T14:27:00Z

From Don Quixote to American Pastoral, take a look at the 100 greatest novels of all time

The 100 greatest non-fiction books

The 2015 version of the 100 best novels

1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
The story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza has entranced readers for centuries.
• Harold Bloom on Don Quixote – the first modern novel

2. Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan
The one with the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair.
• Robert McCrum's 100 best novels: The Pilgrim's Progress

Continue reading...The greatest novel of all time? ... windmills in La Mancha feature in Miguel de Cervantes' novel Don Quixote. Photograph: Victor Fraile / ReutersThe greatest novel of all time? ... windmills in La Mancha feature in Miguel de Cervantes' novel Don Quixote. Photograph: Victor Fraile / Reuters

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Plogging: the fitness craze that's sweeping the streets

Sat, 31 Mar 2018 11:00:11 GMT2018-03-31T11:00:11Z

It’s time to embrace the Scandinavian trend for picking up litter while jogging – even if the word ‘plogging’ is a bit rubbish

Fitness crazes, like much else, are born of lexical innovation: “spinning” for riding stationary bicycles, or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) for running fast then slow. The latest happy innovation, from Scandinavia by way of France and Thailand, is “plogging”: jogging while picking up litter.

Until the 1960s, jogging meant walking or riding a horse at a slow, jerky pace

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The Good Friday agreement is a 'shibboleth'? What’s a shibboleth?

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 05:30:23 GMT2018-04-12T05:30:23Z

The shadow trade secretary has apologised for his misuse of the word. But what does it mean? An ear of corn? A stream in flood? A way of identifying enemies?

It was reported this week that the shadow trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, had called the Good Friday agreement a “shibboleth”. Critics pounced on social media, complaining that Gardiner didn’t know what the word meant. But did anyone?

Since the 1930s, 'shibboleth' has meant simply an outdated view

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Ibrahim Nasrallah wins Arabic fiction prize with novel of dystopian extremists

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:07:11 GMT2018-04-25T09:07:11Z

The Second War of the Dog wins Palestinian author $50,000 and an English translation of the book he calls ‘a warning of what we could become in the future’

Ibrahim Nasrallah has won the International prize for Arabic fiction with The Second War of the Dog, a novel hailed by the judges as “a masterful vision of a dystopian future in a nameless country”. Along with the $50,000 cheque – one of the richest prizes in fiction – Nasrallah has also been awarded funds for an English translation of the novel.

Announcing the winner, chair of judges Ibrahim Al Saafin praised The Second War of the Dog for its use of techniques drawn from fantasy and science fiction. “It exposes the tendency towards brutality inherent in society,” he said, “imagining a time where human and moral values have been discarded and anything is permissible, even the buying and selling of human souls.”

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