Subscribe: Books news, reviews and author interviews | guardian.co.uk
http://www.guardian.co.uk/rssfeed/0,15065,10,00.xml
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Tags:
author  book  books  continue reading  continue  life  new  reading  review –  review  story  world  years     
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Books news, reviews and author interviews | guardian.co.uk

Books | The Guardian



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



Published: Mon, 21 Aug 2017 17:52:09 GMT2017-08-21T17:52:09Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017
 



Corbyn the barbarian! Labour leader revealed as comic-book hero

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:20:59 GMT2017-08-21T15:20:59Z

Roaming the streets armed with jam, fighting the Maydusa and Daily Mail drones ... after sifting through more than 100 submissions, an anthology is set to shine a new light on Jeremy Corbyn

In one incarnation, he is Corbyn the Barbarian, facing off against the Maydusa. In another, Corbynman leaves his “mild mannered allotment of solitude” to take on the “inter-dimensional invasion fleet of Daily Mail death drones blasting everything with their Tory food bank rays” with a rallying battle cry of “jam on!”. Just in time for the Labour party conference, an unlikely superhero is preparing to take his place alongside the likes of Spider-Man and Wonder Woman: Jeremy Corbyn.

Independent graphic novel publisher SelfMadeHero says it has received a “tsunami” of submissions since it opened its doors to comic-book creators a month ago, asking for comics on the subject of the Labour leader. Contributors to The Corbyn Comic Book, which will be launched at the Labour party conference in Brighton in September, include Guardian cartoonists Steve Bell, Martin Rowson and Stephen Collins, and comics artists Karrie Fransman and Steven Appleby, along with a host of strips from new writers and illustrators received during the open submission period.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d1dc716fc72408802ebf40bc709de33023a7a550/104_105_1089_653/master/1089.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=0821f0d42d2e227168560b65a98b7fc5




Science fiction author Brian Aldiss dies aged 92

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 14:23:59 GMT2017-08-21T14:23:59Z

The prolific writer behind more than 80 books and editor of 40 anthologies died at his Oxford home after celebrating his birthday

Brian Aldiss, the “grand old man” of science fiction whose writing has shaped the genre since he was first published in the 1950s, has died at the age of 92.

Aldiss’s agent, Curtis Brown, and his son, Tim Aldiss, have announced that the author, artist, poet and memoirist died at home in Oxford in the early hours of 19 August. “Brian had celebrated his birthday with close friends and family and spoken to many close to him,” wrote Tim on Twitter as he announced the death of “our beloved father and grandfather”.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/c01cae550809db61657e39f9ebf9a2baf783a61d/240_304_6779_4067/master/6779.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=a78f04143a33c58d40518d669beef766




Gordon Williams obituary

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 14:42:43 GMT2017-08-21T14:42:43Z

Booker-shortlisted writer whose novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm was adapted into the controversial Sam Peckinpah film Straw Dogs

In 2003, when the Guardian ran my admiring profile of the writer Gordon Williams, the piece was headed simply Gordon Who? It was a good question, for by the tail-end of his career Williams, who has died aged 83, was an elusive figure, wary of the publicity customarily associated with the literary life.

In his day, on the other hand, he was a versatile and prolific performer in a variety of high-profile genres. Not many Grub Street irregulars can boast, as he was able to do in the half-decade between 1966 and 1971, of having had one novel shortlisted for the Booker prize and another filmed by the Hollywood director Sam Peckinpah while carrying out ghostwriting assignments for an England football captain.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/16326e7fc5ecd5039cfc9f1ac9e8c29771aa2a5e/0_0_6614_3968/master/6614.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=908d132402c4111e68a3dd32e8d18de2




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

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 14:00:03 GMT2017-08-21T14:00:03Z

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

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

Most of us here would agree that books bring a great pleasure. But enjoyment doesn’t always come easily, as nina1414’s reading of Flaubert shows:

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/4a450fbf87e9b8a52321ff0bf6a637ca762459dd/0_88_900_540/master/900.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=e3235fdbddf73b55b658a6d1ec0b11ad




Not Thomas by Sara Gethin review – hate child narrators? This book isn't for you

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 11:58:36 GMT2017-08-21T11:58:36Z

An unconvincing five-year-old narrator results in a clumsy, but empathetic novel, in the first of this year’s Not the Booker shortlist

Tomos is five. If you’re at all cynical about child narrators, you might not need much more information to decide if you’ll like Not Thomas. Because although Tomos (not, as the title tells us, Thomas) is just five years old, he can tell a coherent story in chronological order, all the while slotting carefully crafted adult dialogue, devoid of ums, ahhs, or any natural digressions and hesitations of speech. He even censors it for us, explaining that characters call each other “rude names”, rather than dare dirtying the page with actual swears.

He also moves through the tenses with practised ease:

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/b2a9fdb495ba0bf051fedcc1757a36b80f2617d5/0_139_4256_2554/master/4256.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=2e72a9b453c434aa55ca8c56c2d13e05




Poem of the week: One day he came back with news … by Kenneth Steven

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 10:13:48 GMT2017-08-21T10:13:48Z

This poem, taken from the Scottish poet’s reimagining of the tale of Naoise and Deirdre, sees the doomed lovers enjoy a timeless day at an Argyll beach

One day he came back with news
of a white strand that ran for miles.

They sped there and broke out into the sea:
the delicious cool of it, the blue-green deep.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/9a319f6bbf533ad0c84bb4b790e6c3285b716e12/0_182_5414_3250/master/5414.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=84822861d82535fa5101a1aae6e054a3




Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard – review

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 06:30:04 GMT2017-08-21T06:30:04Z

In his first of four seasonal reflections, Karl Ove Knausgaard drifts through autumn, still treading a fine line between the banal and the beautifully unpredictable

At the beginning of A Death in the Family – the first volume in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s internationally lauded My Struggle series – a young Karl Ove watches a news report on the mysterious sinking of a fishing smack. “I stare at the surface of the sea without listening to what the reporter says, and suddenly the outline of a face emerges.” It is a momentary vision, one of profound effect; and one to which his first response is to run off to tell somebody about it. It is, perhaps, a microcosm of the project – the vital need to confess his own unique experience and share it, in all its immediacy, with others.

Autumn’s cover, one of several artworks by Vanessa Baird that illustrate its text, seems to echo that incident – her painting of the sea is almost exactly as described by Knausgaard – while also introducing the underlying theme of these 63 short pieces: that of the wonder and impossibility of the natural world.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/5d1e07b5ff6ef17f9814ee0edda11195d898aaf9/0_118_7304_4382/master/7304.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=f0fcd55d34e11c51d9e9e77a97f81492




Lovers and Strangers by Clair Wills review – the making of modern Britain

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 08:00:06 GMT2017-08-21T08:00:06Z

Personal stories from the first generation of Britain’s postwar immigrants have much to teach us as we seek to close our doors to the EU

“One of the great temptations for an Irishman, and for an Irish girl away from home, is that of drink.” So warns A Catholic Handbook for Irish Men and Women Going to England. The 1953 handbook warns new arrivals that the pub and dancehall are dens of iniquity. “The homesickness you will feel at times can make your lodgings seem very lonely indeed and, if you do not know a good Catholic family on whom you can call, you will be tempted to spend your leisure time in public houses.”

Using source material that both endears and disturbs, this is the story of the first two decades of postwar immigrants to the UK or, rather, a collection of stories, vividly told, of West Indians, Poles, Latvians, Ukrainians, Italians, Maltese, Cypriots, Indians, Pakistanis and Irish arriving on these shores after the war. Most were seeking to make some money and send their remittances home and never thought they would stay.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/06bd18d5a990bd91b2c70a7c6c735539b15511ef/0_83_3005_1803/master/3005.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=1c23bae15d62f57a9bcc379c6719103b




The 100 best nonfiction books: No 81 - The Federalist Papers by ‘Publius’ (1788)

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 04:45:02 GMT2017-08-21T04:45:02Z

These wise essays clarified the aims of the American republic and rank alongside the Declaration of Independence as a cornerstone of US democracy

When the president of the United States is a corrupt and lazy, narcissistic clown and Alexander Hamilton has become the subject of a smash-hit hip-hop musical, you might think the game would be up for the rhetoric and idealism surrounding the birth of the American republic. In such circumstances, The Federalist Papers, which are so often described as “a classic in political science” unrivalled by any subsequent American writer, might seem utterly redundant, even irrelevant.

Nothing could be further from the truth. America is a society constructed of words and The Federalist Papers stand alongside the Declaration of Independence and the US constitution as the most sustained and deeply serious attempt to clarify what it was that the Founding Fathers had set in motion on 4 July 1776.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/84a2e93c1f7fc544a6f618701fe85b72143a1366/0_177_4986_2992/master/4986.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=4d322243a46397ae4af83259dcb79121




Robert Webb: ‘I was never very good at being a boy’

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:37 GMT2017-08-20T08:00:37Z

In this extract from his new memoir, the comedian and actor revisits a village childhood overshadowed by the violent temper of his father and the premature death of his mother. Below, he talks to Alex Clark

My first home was a house called Slieve Moyne in the village of Woodhall Spa, in Lincolnshire. In later years I would think of the place as Tatooine, the planet Luke Skywalker imagines to be furthest from the bright centre of the universe. But for now, it was the universe and one with which I was perfectly content. There was just one problem. When we first meet Luke on Tatooine, he has an issue with his mysteriously absent father. My father, on the other hand, was all too present. And his name might as well have been Darth Vader. Actually it was Paul. It’s a silly comparison of course. Dark Lords of the Sith aren’t constantly wasted.

It’s the mid-1970s and I live with Mum, Darth Vader and my two older brothers, Mark and Andrew.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e90f12ebba4f5ad013084c142b2113281707af33/0_1975_5298_3177/master/5298.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=7fb29ad89d3be409e45a35712147eb5c




Nicole Krauss: ‘The self is more or less an invention from beginning to end’

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 09:00:38 GMT2017-08-20T09:00:38Z

The American author talks about setting her new novel in Tel Aviv – and why she brought Kafka into it

Nicole Krauss is an internationally bestselling author. Her novel, The History of Love, (2005) was shortlisted for the Orange, Médicis and Femina prizes and won France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger. In 2007, she was selected as one of Granta’s best young American novelists, and in 2010 appeared on the New Yorker’s “Twenty Under Forty” list. Forest Dark, her new novel, consists of two parallel narratives. Jules Epstein is a wealthy man, divorced after 35 years of marriage, who sets off for the Tel Aviv Hilton in search of transformation. Nicole is a novelist, struggling with her new book; she leaves her husband and children behind in Brooklyn and heads for the same hotel. The book is a meditation on loss and transformation and an investigation of the mysteries of art and literature and family.

This is a book of metamorphoses. Both Epstein and Nicole go through radical changes in the course of this book. Their stories are separate, but then come together in a place of transformation...
I knew from very early on that they belonged together, though I’m not sure I understood why at the start. I suppose in some ways the characters that fascinate readers and writers both are the ones that are teetering on the edge of some sort of change: they’re malleable, they’re being altered. For Nicole, the struggle to find a new form for her writing was echoed in her need to find new forms for her life and I saw the reflection of that in Epstein, who comes to change much later in life, but with no less desire.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/15ee7cc6fb5a1118f546d7e2aa644b387885c808/456_548_6673_4005/master/6673.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=42e08aefa5e622465533aa135fcaf40b




How we feel about Freud: Susie Orbach and Frederick Crews debate his legacy

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 06:30:35 GMT2017-08-20T06:30:35Z

Crews, an academic, thinks psychoanalysis is an unscientific jumble of ideas, while psychoanalyst Orbach would prefer not to throw the baby out with the patriarchal bias

For a century or more, Sigmund Freud has cast a long shadow not just over the field of psychoanalysis but over the entire way we think of ourselves as human beings. His theory of the unconscious and his work on dreams, in particular, retain a firm grip on the western imagination, shaping the realms of literature and art, politics and everyday conversation, as well as the way patients are analysed in the consulting room. Since Freud’s death in 1939, however, a growing number of dissenting voices have questioned his legacy and distanced themselves from his ideas. Now Freud is viewed less as a great medical scientist than as a powerful storyteller of the human mind whose texts, though lacking in empirical evidence, should be celebrated for their literary value.

The following debate, conducted through emails, was prompted by the forthcoming publication of Frederick Crews’s book Freud: The Making of an Illusion, which draws on new research materials to raise fresh questions about Freud’s competence and integrity.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/6851d09ec265d6a1349acd78c4ff47f37582d586/0_0_2560_1536/master/2560.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=2d492b334f7c49eb44342be069dad473




The Songs of Trees by David George Haskell, The Man Who Climbs Trees by James Aldred, and Oak and Ash and Thorn by Peter Fiennes, review – fascinating insights from the forest

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 08:00:37 GMT2017-08-20T08:00:37Z

Three books celebrating the complex life of trees highlight why we should learn to love them before it’s too late

According to Herodotus, Xerxes, king of Persia, was marching through Asia Minor on his way to invade Greece when he came upon a plane tree by the banks of the river Maeander. So beautiful was the tree that Xerxes adorned it with gold and jewels and stationed a soldier beneath to protect it. While we might not all make such lavish gestures, we can surely recognise the instinct – to celebrate the beauty of trees, to acknowledge their place in our lives. It feels as if the crop of tree books currently jostling each other on our bookshop shelves have been driven by the same impulse: a wish to honour, to understand these silent sharers of our world, “imperfect friends”, as Edward Thomas calls them, with whom “still we breed a mystery”.

Peter Wohlleben’s 2016 bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees, translated from the German by Jane Billinghurst, is a remarkable book not only in terms of what it recounts – although the author’s record of his life as a forester in Rhineland Germany is fascinating enough – but in the language the author employs to describe his encounters with trees. He uses the model of a social network to explain the complex interconnectedness of trees, the way they “communicate” and “listen” to one another through their roots and vast mycorrhizal fungal networks, even how supportive “friendships” develop between stronger and weaker trees. It’s a book full of revelatory demystification, so that we end up with a picture of trees as beings of extraordinary complexity, of near-human responsiveness.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/37b6aa6adb179d1b5f885b7394c09dfd5b9997f8/102_258_5757_3454/master/5757.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=478ecf6564cc629aebb0f58f55351bcc




I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell – review

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 06:30:35 GMT2017-08-20T06:30:35Z

The author’s life story is one of close calls, but her sharp skills as a novelist have not served her well in telling it

On the evidence of this extraordinary memoir, Maggie O’Farrell has more lives than a cat (though the 17th brush with death involved her daughter). This is a sequence of near and not-so-near misses. If there is a message in its reckless, unlucky-then-lucky pages, it is that we should understand that to be alive is to walk a cliff’s edge. It is not exactly a warning but a bid to be undeceived.

As I read, I kept thinking of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s lines: “Flesh falls within sight of us, we, though our flower the same, / Wave with the meadow, forget that there must / the sour scythe cringe, and the blear share come.”

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8e15afa2ef9a464c775bc8883395ece7bb78cbfd/0_1139_5458_3275/master/5458.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=6d1b322c93ea722a24e09ab123bcd710




Karl Ove Knausgaard: what makes life worth living?

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 07:00:07 GMT2017-08-19T07:00:07Z

Apples, plastic bags, teeth – the bestselling Norwegian author brings his forensic attention to everyday objects to explain the world in a letter to his unborn baby

August 28. Now, as I write this, you know nothing about anything, about what awaits you, the kind of world you will be born into. And I know nothing about you. I have seen an ultrasound image and have laid my hand on the belly in which you are lying, that is all. Six months remain until you will be born, and anything at all can happen during that time, but I believe that life is strong and indomitable, I think you will be fine, and that you will be born sound and healthy and strong. See the light of day, the expression goes. It was night outside when your eldest sister, Vanja, was born, the darkness filled with swirling snow. Just before she came out, one of the midwives tugged at me, You catch, she said, and so I did, a tiny child slipped out into my hands, slippery as a seal. I was so happy I cried. When Heidi was born one and a half years later, it was autumn and overcast, cold and damp as October can be, she came out during the morning, labour was rapid, and when her head had emerged but not yet the rest of her body, she made a little sound with her lips, it was such a joyous moment. John, as your big brother is called, came out in a cascade of water and blood, the room had no windows, it felt like we were inside a bunker, and when I went out afterwards to call his two grandparents, I was surprised to see the light outside, and that life flowed on as if nothing in particular had happened. It was 15 August 2007, it may have been five or six o’clock in the afternoon, in Malmö, where we had moved the previous summer. Later that evening we drove to a patient hotel, and the day after I went to pick up your sisters, who amused themselves greatly by placing a green rubber lizard on top of John’s head. They were three and a half and nearly two years old at the time. I took photos, one day I’ll show them to you.

That’s how they saw the light of day. Now they are big, now they are used to the world, and the strange thing is that they are so unalike, each of them has a personality entirely their own, and they always did, right from the start. I assume that’s how it will be with you too, that you already are the person you will become.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d8c476985b1f292906a24685f54a9922e4016673/0_299_5616_3370/master/5616.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=482d7bf91dd4d6f7f3f2d5626ab43fad




Sex, tattle and soul: how Kathy Acker shocked and seduced the literary world

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 11:00:12 GMT2017-08-19T11:00:12Z

She performed with Genesis P-Orridge and played chess with Salman Rushdie. Twenty years after her death, Acker is remembered by her biographer, the I Love Dick author Chris Kraus

Although we shared some of the same casual boyfriends, lovers and friends, I didn’t know Kathy Acker during her lifetime. Our two brief social meetings were tinged with antipathy. Still, her work and example were important to me. Arriving in the East Village from New Zealand in the late 1970s, I read Acker’s books as if a bolder and more intelligent part of myself had written them: a broke straight girl alone in New York, confused by the mores of “the great sexual revolution” and trying to find a language that would contain all of life’s contradictions. Or, as William Burroughs put it more elegantly: “Acker gives her work the power to mirror the reader’s soul.” How does she do this? Like so many others at that place and time, I observed Acker’s ascendance to notoriety during the 1980s with a mixture of admiration, distaste and envy. She’d become famous by projecting the highly sexualised image craved by male readers; she’d fought for the right to speak to the culture by any means necessary.

I observed Acker’s ascendance to notoriety during the 1980s with a mixture of admiration, distaste and envy

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/5ce6a7707a19b4cec28f85a7c9ab01cfcdfd0a82/0_28_1968_1181/master/1968.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=67a9ce459694008037793d31e10f8c96




Val McDermid: 'Even on a romantic holiday my thoughts turn to murrrder'

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 09:59:11 GMT2017-08-19T09:59:11Z

The queen of crime on the new generation of writers, how the genre has changed in 30 years – and how she’s promised not to kill off Tony Hill and Carol Jordan

“My readers are probably going to kill me,” Val McDermid announces cheerfully when we discuss the ending of her latest novel. Her new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan book, Insidious Intent, is published on Thursday, and the reaction of fans to how she has chosen to end it will be interesting. “There’s a certain fear of being stoned in the street,” she chuckles.

We meet at the Theakston Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate, where McDermid is practically royalty, and she has murder on her mind. This is not unusual, she says; quite frequently a pleasant weekend away will turn her thoughts to homicide. There was the time when she spotted a wedding party during a crime and mystery conference at her old college, St Hilda’s, Oxford, “and by the end of the afternoon it seemed to me that the logical thing that was going to have to happen was that the bridegroom would be dead by bedtime. And by the end of the weekend I had the basic shape of the story in my head.” That flight of fancy turned into the 2010 novel, Trick of the Dark. And then, more recently, she and her partner went on a boating holiday. “In France you can moor up anywhere, and in order to facilitate this they give you five sharpened steel stakes, about two foot long, and a big hammer. And I’m looking at this and thinking, isn’t that a great murder weapon? And we’re cruising through wooded banks with no access from the road. And I’m saying to my partner, ‘This is a perfect murder here …’ By this time my partner is inching away from me. So, we were on this lovely romantic holiday, and my thoughts turned to murrrder.” She pronounces the word with obvious relish.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/3a5f983fd618ef9efd0ed49ecfcf2685c39000d3/0_281_5760_3456/master/5760.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=7a3c6303dc40e935fca9f9f01194a6ec




Odafe Atogun: ‘I write at night when the world is asleep’

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 09:00:09 GMT2017-08-19T09:00:09Z

The Nigerian writer on a tidy desk, a lucky laptop and matching David Beckham for sartorial style

For me, writing is a journey, and the start of that journey is a well-worn ritual that I must observe for several days before I can even begin. In that time I allow myself to embrace a certain idleness, engaging in small, menial chores that drain my energy. Purposefully. I clean, I scrub, I rearrange my study and shred useless documents I have amassed over the years. I adjust and readjust my chair and desk, sitting down to make sure that the view from my window is just right – tall trees in the distance, and beyond them a blue sky. The conditions are so important; I prepare my work space for days. Finally I take to the gym. Only then am I ready to start putting pen to paper – fingertips to keyboard – for the weeks and months that lie before me.

I write mostly at night when the world is asleep, and when the world stirs I allow myself a couple of hours’ sleep. By 10am I’m up, though. I start my day with two bottles of water, sometimes three, and a cup of black tea. No sugar. I potter around for half an hour and then eat. Then I take a shower and here I find I can begin to work again, developing my story in my mind. I could stay under the shower for an eternity. Maybe in my next life I will come back as a fish.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0f54edf7113712be4263016c656882b7c3f0f323/23_12_2511_1506/master/2511.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=20515114e16f3b9cb320ff6cb443ea4a




To the Back of Beyond by Peter Stamm review – psychology of a marriage

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 06:29:06 GMT2017-08-19T06:29:06Z

To stay or to go? This inscrutable novel is a haunting love story of subtlety and pathos

To leave or not to leave, that is the question. Excitement and adventure, or the warm bath of blissful routine. Characters in Swiss writer Peter Stamm’s remarkable novels – On a Day Like This, Seven Years – seem equally attracted to both, afraid of missing out on the action, but afraid too of being unprotected and disoriented in a hostile world. In love with life, frightened of life – perhaps the two are not so different.

“Andreas loved the empty mornings,” begins On a Day Like This, “when he would stand by the window with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other.” Only the threat of a cancer diagnosis will force Andreas out of a habit of balancing sexual excitement with zero commitment, and into a journey that is at once geographical, emotional and, more curiously, a form of time travel – back into the past, forward into whatever future awaits him, each personified in a woman.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d1fabf42db1cacabb4d75907c85e7e44b58f4cc9/0_166_5760_3456/master/5760.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=19135823817b51a6e7d09190b91492e9




Five books to shed light on America's problem with white supremacy

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:20:16 GMT2017-08-18T16:20:16Z

As the events in Charlottesville serve as yet another bleak reminder of how racial divisions persist in the US, history professors and community leaders recommend vital texts

It took Donald Trump two days to condemn the white supremacists who held the recent alt-right rally in Charlottesville that resulted in the death of civil rights activist Heather Heyer.

The US president’s response? To sympathize that members of this group of white nationalists are “fine people”. But as Seth Myers noted, no one gets accidentally caught up in a white supremacist rally. Even though the march, as captured in photos, looks like a throwback to Ku Klux Klan rallies of the 1920s, hate groups are unfortunately not a thing of the past. Since 2014 their number across the country has risen 17% to a total of 917 groups in the US, according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/39471cfe6c73b19dafb2186b4506c0ccac427071/0_0_1667_1000/master/1667.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=dc52ee1050e2b1dd926e0b19a7e1c63e




When Milton met Galileo: the collision of cultures that helped shape Paradise Lost

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 23:05:27 GMT2017-08-19T23:05:27Z

A transformative visit to Catholic Florence inspired the Puritan poet to write his epic masterpiece, a BBC documentary reveals

It is an epic poem with a daunting reputation that has struck fear into the hearts of many a student of English literature. Recounting the fall of man, and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Paradise Lost cemented the reputation of its author, the staunchly Protestant poet, John Milton, as one of England’s literary giants.

The 10,000-line poem is regarded as one of the defining contributions to the English canon, a work to be mentioned in the same breath as those of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens. But 350 years after its publication, some rather surprising influences on the Puritan imagination of its author have emerged, the result of a little-known journey the poet undertook to the heart of Catholic Italy.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/5162f658230db733bb76d7a569a7f057786a127d/0_201_5138_3082/master/5138.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=a1dd6c02fb5eb82db9984cf8e876734f




Claire Zorn's grief-and-surfing story wins children's book of the year award

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 02:00:10 GMT2017-08-18T02:00:10Z

One Would Think the Deep triumphs in category for older readers, with Go Home, Cheeky Animals! winning early childhood prize in CBCA prizes

Stories about grief, animals and hiking through the Grampians have taken out the top gongs in this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia book of the year awards.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/32c97009c4771a8689466ba28ec8a430a34430b8/453_611_4747_2849/master/4747.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=78eddcab955886102ce5def8d14f9ad9




Collection of Yeats family treasures to go on display for first time

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 23:01:07 GMT2017-08-17T23:01:07Z

Letters from poet WB Yeats to his first love, and artwork by his brother, sisters and father will be auctioned at Sotheby’s

A treasure trove of Yeats family material, including hundreds of passionate, rueful and philosophical letters from the poet William Butler to the first of his many loves, and the desk at which he wrote them, will go on public display for the first time in Dublin and London in September, before being sold in a Sotheby’s auction in London.

The sale will include books, paintings, furniture and personal possessions relating to all the members of the extraordinarily artistic family, whose lives and work were also woven into the history of 20th century Ireland. The material includes not just the letters from the Nobel laureate poet WB Yeats but also his hair brushes, many works by his painter brother Jack B Yeats, an important group by their artist father, John B Yeats, including family portraits and his last self-portrait, and original artworks and embroidery designs for the Cuala Press founded by the poet’s sisters, Lolly and Lily, using skills they had learned at the Kelmscott Press founded by William Morris and from his textile artist daughter, May.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0f74b26003f10a72bf6cd2137da305a3e01a22f6/0_199_2262_1357/master/2262.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=0e50b3e9135550056e79e13b4d2325a8




'England hath need of thee': appeal to save Milton's Paradise Lost cottage

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 10:46:58 GMT2017-08-17T10:46:58Z

Charity seeks to build on lottery pledge to secure a lasting future for museum in home where writer completed his epic poem on the fall of man

Pointing to Wordsworth’s comment more than 200 years ago that “Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour. / England hath need of thee”, a charity has launched an “urgent” appeal to the public to help it preserve the 16th-century Buckinghamshire cottage where John Milton completed Paradise Lost, 350 years ago.

The radical poet lived in the Chalfont St Giles cottage after he fled London during the 1665 plague. Although he remained there for less than two years, it was where he completed his masterpiece, Paradise Lost. The cottage is the only surviving residence of the poet and is open to the public as a museum. It holds a leading collection of first editions, as well as a lock of the poet’s hair, and an original proclamation from King Charles II, banning his books. According to the charity, it is the second-oldest writer’s home museum in the world after Shakespeare’s birthplace. Without a much-needed injection of cash, however, the museum risks closure.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8f68aa5e317329b3e9669fa67ed53295772c289d/0_452_3264_1958/master/3264.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=ef076ada70d20db7017286a39fcc21e4




Authors voice fury at Russian publisher cutting gay scene from novel

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:15:58 GMT2017-08-16T14:15:58Z

Author VE Schwab ‘devastated’ after discovering a storyline was cut without her permission in Russia, where LGBT books are regularly shrinkwrapped

VE Schwab’s Shades of Magic series follows the story of the magician Kell, a “traveller” with the ability to move between four parallel versions of London. Acclaimed and bestselling – in the Guardian it was called “a compelling, swashbuckling read” – the fantasy trilogy features a diverse array of characters, from the gender-fluid pickpocket Lila to the bisexual prince Rhy. However, Schwab was horrified to learn last week that her books aren’t quite so diverse in Russian translations, where her publisher excised a scene about the romantic relationship between two male characters.

“The Russian edition of Shades of Magic has been my favourite. This week I learned that they redacted the entire queer plot w/out permission,” she wrote on Twitter to her more than 50,000 followers, describing herself as “positively devastated”.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0e72f307ec6c0c4354ca40049ceb0dd88851d6c4/321_56_4293_2576/master/4293.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=2b634c29c5982ab9907508b322359a6e




Nick Clegg book will reveal How to Stop Brexit

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 13:49:47 GMT2017-08-15T13:49:47Z

The ex-deputy prime minister’s ‘resistance handbook’, out in October, explains how the EU referendum decision can be reversed while reuniting the UK – and seems destined to fill many remoaners’ Christmas stockings

Alongside tips on household management from Mary Berry and help with home cooking from Nigella Lawson, a different kind of guide is also due to land on bookshop shelves this Christmas: How to Stop Brexit, by the former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

Publisher the Bodley Head has announced that Clegg’s manual about remaining in the EU would be published on 5 October. How to Stop Brexit (And Make Britain Great Again) will, said the publisher, see the former leader of the Liberal Democrats show that there is “nothing remotely inevitable” about Brexit – and lay out how readers can help to stop it.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8f5915f73608c8b304a68b9042ed6eac2cbdeb6e/0_141_3500_2100/master/3500.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=64202779abf5cbe87d60aa8e5ed2193f




Good Omens: David Tennant and Michael Sheen to save the world in TV adaptation

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 11:41:52 GMT2017-08-15T11:41:52Z

Terry Pratchett would be ‘over the moon’ at the casting according to his estate, while co-author Neil Gaiman reminds Hollywood to give both equal credit

The late Terry Pratchett would have been “over the moon” at the “dream” casting of David Tennant as the demon Crowley in the forthcoming adaptation of Good Omens, according to the Discworld author’s long-time assistant Rob Wilkins.

Amazon confirmed that Michael Sheen will play the angel Aziraphale, and Tennant will take on the role of Crowley, in Amazon Studios’ six-episode adaptation next year. Co-authored by Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, the 1990 fantasy bestseller Good Omens tells of Crowley and Aziraphale’s attempts to prevent the apocalypse, following the birth of the antichrist, Adam, in Lower Tadfield, Oxfordshire.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/7bea81dfd9fe8102f56ecef688cd398c98aeae3f/0_0_3500_2100/master/3500.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=a83ee1eb054c8574d22dbb4443c7b08e




Eimear McBride wins James Tait Black prize for The Lesser Bohemians

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 18:45:03 GMT2017-08-14T18:45:03Z

The Irish novelist’s ‘astonishing’ novel about the sexual awakening of a teenager with an older actor lands the UK’s oldest literary award

Eimear McBride, who won the Baileys prize in 2014 for a first novel which had struggled to find a publisher, has taken Britain’s oldest literary award, the James Tait Black prize, for her second, The Lesser Bohemians.

Won by names from EM Forster to DH Lawrence, the James Tait Black prizes for fiction and biography have a history that stretches back to 1919. More than 400 titles were submitted for this year’s prizes, with a shortlist chosen by University of Edinburgh academics and postgraduate students.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/1a6048bf1ecb0c57faf8aa2d60c78883e287f080/626_145_5104_3062/master/5104.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=e96a2192b34883f1d71287a6407aee5a




Hugo awards 2017: NK Jemisin wins best novel for second year in a row

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 19:45:24 GMT2017-08-11T19:45:24Z

The Obelisk is headline winner in a year marked by diminished presence of conservative Sad Puppy lobby and strong showing from women

A year after NK Jemisin became the first black person to win the Hugo award for best novel, the African American author has landed the prestigious science fiction prize for the second year running.

Jemisin was announced as the winner of the best novel Hugo at Worldcon in Helsinki on Friday. She took the prize, which is voted for by fans, for The Obelisk Gate, the follow-up to her Hugo award-winning novel The Fifth Season. The series is set in a world that is constantly threatened by seismic activity, and where the mutants who can control the environment are oppressed by humans. The New York Times called Jemisin’s writing in the series “intricate and extraordinary”.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/2937bc10c4b9cf226e0a7ecba828a8dcb3f95ae2/0_77_1024_614/master/1024.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=7fd98733ba3924107ec8bcbc091c6d61




Booksellers Association calls for end to Amazon's 'deeply unfair' tax advantages

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 15:11:06 GMT2017-08-11T15:11:06Z

After figures showed that the online giant pays proportionally far less UK tax than its bricks-and-mortar competitors, the trade body has demanded change

Bricks-and-mortar bookshops have launched a broadside against Britain’s “deeply unfair” tax system, which they say forces them to compete against the likes of Amazon “with one hand tied behind their backs”, after it was revealed that the online retailer’s corporation tax more than halved last year.

On Thursday, Amazon’s latest annual accounts for its European online retail business revealed that while turnover at Amazon UK Services – the company’s warehouse and logistics operation – rose to almost £1.5bn in 2016, its corporation tax payments fell from £15.8m to £7.4m year on year.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/68b277cf0dc370a055abc5845113f1a5513b778a/0_291_4368_2621/master/4368.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=3a428d10a88069a4174b7734b96e8ff0




Read like a girl: how children’s books of female stories are booming

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 11:26:22 GMT2017-08-11T11:26:22Z

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls and Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World are just two of a raft of inspirational titles changing bedtime reading

Studies in the past have found that children’s books are dominated by male characters, that history books are overrun by male authors writing about male figures, and that literary fiction is less likely to win a prize if it focuses on a female character.

A new wave of books aimed at children might just be doing its small bit to change that. Thousands of little girls – boys as well, but likely mainly girls – will be settling down for bed this evening with a new kind of bedtime story, one in which the heroines are not fictional, but real. From Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls to Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, sales of books about inspirational women have boomed this year – and look set to grow.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/a30fb7360f1ad1e27edc70fbaf6c3a28c3c1f596/0_3_2550_1530/master/2550.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=747f1560bd1a6f43bf5433e42df451be




A 'gurt' plan: National Poetry Day to celebrate England's local words

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 13:45:40 GMT2017-08-10T13:45:40Z

From the Bristol word for great, via Merseyside’s ‘geg in’ and London’s ‘fam’, 12 authors are writing poems celebrating language tied to English regions

From the Berkshire term for a woodlouse, “cheeselog”, to a Suffolk phrase for lopsided, “on the huh”, England’s poets are set to do their bit for preserving regional dialects, with a series of poems celebrating local words.

The initiative to “shine a light into a lexicon that’s too often overlooked”, as the lexicographer Susie Dent described it, stems from the #freetheword project, a partnership between BBC English Regions, National Poetry Day and the Oxford English Dictionary to find unrecorded words used in everyday speech all around the UK.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/58bb7a7aac06002cd03789765c57e5bd4a46c9fa/0_161_5760_3456/master/5760.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=bc9c04839e7edbe55422ce798f7e07c5




Eva Rausing's father condemns 'self–indulgent' memoir about her drug addiction

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 11:55:16 GMT2017-08-09T11:55:16Z

Mayhem, by sister-in-law of the wealthy socialite whose drug-related death in 2012 was a media sensation, is due to be published next month

The father of Eva Rausing, the wealthy American socialite whose death made headlines around the world, has accused her sister-in-law – the author of a forthcoming memoir about Eva’s drug addiction – of contributing to her decline, and questioned “the agenda and objectives” of her book.

Eva, the 48-year-old wife of the billionaire Tetra Pak heir Hans Kristian Rausing, was found dead in 2012, under piles of bedding and plastic in a squalid room in the couple’s London mansion. The body was only found two months after she died, during a police search of the property when Hans Kristian was arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs. He later pleaded guilty to preventing the lawful and decent burial of a body and was given a suspended sentence. An inquest found that his wife had died from the effects of cocaine on a damaged heart.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/86f198a1fda6a40f8b57b8391b5c47a6f91991b0/231_79_1548_928/master/1548.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=3883c2aec16babbf6b8b8648e3eef710




Shocking figures: US academics find 'dramatic' growth of swearing in books

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 16:14:59 GMT2017-08-08T16:14:59Z

Textual analysis of more than 1m books by scholars shows startling proliferation of swearwords since the mid-1950s

Mark Twain wrote: “There ought to be a room in every house to swear in,” because “it’s dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that”. Today, the great American novelist might have applauded the increase in cursing, with a new study identifying a “dramatic” increase in swear words in American literature over the last 60 years.

Sifting through text from almost 1m books, the study found that “motherfucker” was used 678 times more often in the mid-2000s than the early 1950s, occurrences of “shit” multiplied 69 times, and “fuck” was 168 times more frequent.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/ce024b26b879791c1ce04b7b25e11b09664d78c6/0_877_4079_2447/master/4079.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=e2d23320f945e1df9a3edd475f9ae736




Has Donald Trump ruined the dystopian novel? Let's hope not

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:10:03 GMT2017-08-18T15:10:03Z

Sci-fi author John Scalzi has despaired at the impact on fiction of the dramatic, lurid US presidency – but the best dystopias have emerged in the toughest times

First it was the literary authors, lambasted by Aleksandar Hemon in June 2016 for failing to take on the era of Trump in their fiction. Hemon had declined to sign a letter denouncing Trump that more than 400 of his fellow authors had put their names to, and wondered if their time might have been better spent tackling the approaching election on the page. “One has a hard time recalling a novel that has forcefully addressed the iniquities of the post-9/11 era,” he wrote last summer. “Perhaps there is an author among the open letter signatories eager to develop a narrative in which Trump … wouldn’t be the false cause of our discontent but a symbol of an America struggling to forestall its precipitous intellectual and political decline, to which the absence of its literature from its politics must have contributed.”

Related: How can fiction compete with the drama of Donald Trump’s presidency?

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/ae89e84a0bd2aeae8f7e5be4e2630045eb67e057/0_330_5260_3156/master/5260.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=5db9351861a54264b97a7e3502b9b8a2




'BAME writers must tell their own stories – and we have to be disruptive'

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 09:58:20 GMT2017-08-18T09:58:20Z

In a series to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, author Tanya Byrne says true diversity in books for young people is shamefully overdue

As a BAME author who writes BAME characters, I’m frequently asked to explain why my books are so unusual. They’re not unusual, at least I don’t think they are. My books are about teenagers doing what teenagers do, trying to find their place in the world and fucking it up along the way. The fact that some of my characters are Nigerian or Jamaican or, in the case of my story for the new anthology A Change is Gonna Come, Guyanese, doesn’t make them unusual. It just means that my books reflect the world in which we live, as all books should.

Related: Do black children's lives matter if nobody writes about them? | Daniel José Older

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/a92b0c9aa5f30d370e8d55121d85e6ccdeed805a/0_954_3744_2246/master/3744.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=9c010d2fb0ab6d40520cab101426d39d




‘Alt-right’, ‘alt-left’ – the rhetoric of hate after Charlottesville

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 07:00:16 GMT2017-08-18T07:00:16Z

What’s the difference between a Nazi and a white supremacist, antifa and alt-left? Steven Poole deconstructs the new political discourse

The left-right spectrum of political speech is getting increasingly crowded. The rise of Donald Trump has popularised the term “alt-right”, which sounds more indie and cool than “far right”. Meanwhile, those on the alt-right have recently begun to describe their opponents as the “alt-left” – a coinage that, asymmetrically, seems to be an attempt to rhetorically downgrade them to a fringe group of eccentrics, rather than a broad coalition of people who don’t like racism much. “What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at the, as you say, the ‘alt-right’?” Trump asked, Solomonically, after the clashes in Charlottesville. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

Some of the people who actually protest against alt-right protesters in the US are from a group called “Antifa”, short for anti-fascist. Their opponents happily adopt the term, aiming to paint any and all anti-racist liberals as a small militant conspiracy, but their acquiescence in such language seems a bit peculiar when you think about it. American shock-babbler Ann Coulter, for example, tweeted that she hoped Trump would denounce “the violent left-wing Antifa that shut down my Berkeley speech!” If Coulter agrees to call her opponents “Antifa”, does it logically follow that she is happy to identify as a fascist?

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/914a3bbf081d13cdd2cfad3738e797fb6530931a/0_118_2992_1796/master/2992.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=e90b3bdd5657e834b972413a04e36840




How well do you know literary friendships? – quiz

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 15:17:06 GMT2017-08-17T15:17:06Z

A century after Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen began an inspiring friendship, we’re testing you on book pals, from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett to Harper Lee and Truman CapoteBiographers agree that Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon first met between 15 and 19 August 1917. Their friendship would lead to Owen writing two of his most enduring poems, Dulce et Decorum Est and Anthem For Doomed Youth. But where did they meet?At Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh At Dover, as they prepared for dutyIn the trenches in FranceIn London at a literary partyWhich two authors referred to each other in letters as "Cherest Maitre" and "Princesse Rapprochee"? Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William WordsworthSusan Sontag and Norman MailerEnid Blyton and CS LewisHenry James and Edith WhartonWhere did the writers Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman first meet – a literary friendship which would result in the jointly authored fantasy novel, Good Omens?In a Chinese restaurant, where Gaiman was interviewing PratchettIn a Chinese restaurant, where Pratchett was interviewing GaimanIn Lower Tadfield, OxfordshireIn prisonWho hid behind the curtains in her friend Elizabeth Gaskell’s house because she didn’t want to meet other visitors?Charlotte BronteAnne BronteEmily BronteGeorge EliotName the novelist who was a great friend of DH Lawrence, even making her way into his novels?Virginia WoolfKatherine MansfieldE NesbitJean Rhys“A smooth, pale, fluent little chap … No harm in him: only needs a smack or two.” Which enduring literary friendship was marked by this less-than-glowing initial encounter?CS Lewis on JRR TolkienShelley on KeatsHarper Lee on Truman CapoteHerman Melville on Nathanial Hawthorne“You knew, didn't you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me? How strengthened I was by the certainty that came from knowing you would never hurt me? You knew, didn't you, how I loved your love? You knew. This then is no calamity. No. This is jubilee.” Who is Toni Morrison writing about?Alice WalkerSaul BellowJames BaldwinChinua Achebe Who was the poetic friend whose habit of regretting whichever path they took inspired Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken?TS EliotEdward ThomasWallace StevensEzra Pound“Tightly-folded bud, / I have wished you something / None of the others would…” Which author friend did Philip Larkin write this poem for, following the birth of his sister?Ted HughesIan McEwanChristopher HitchensMartin AmisWhich character in To Kill A Mockingbird did Harper Lee base on her childhood friend, Truman Capote?ScoutAtticusDillJem Continue reading...[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/4b3eacb9e6d35533cc2832ee103dc03b77c06432/0_41_1024_614/master/1024.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=82c98dccd732e23c48b52e62512704de




I didn't 'ban' Fanny Hill because of trigger warnings – I don't teach it at all | Judith Hawley

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 14:35:05 GMT2017-08-15T14:35:05Z

The media has falsely accused me of removing the erotic novel from a reading list – but it’s just an attempt to portray today’s students as sensitive snowflakes

I never thought that I would make it into Vogue, but on Monday I did. “Eyebrows were raised when the first erotic novel in the English language, Fanny Hill, was dropped from a 18th-century literature course ‘for fear of offending students’,” the magazine’s website proclaimed. In a chain of news-as-gossip – recognisable both from our internet age and the 18th-century coffee houses beloved of Fanny Hill’s readers – a comment I had made on the radio had been twisted into headlines. “Erotic novel first banned 270 years ago for describing a young girl’s sexual exploits is censored AGAIN – in case it upsets students” crowed the Mail on Sunday, as did a follow-up in the Times.

This was all prompted by a remark I made on the Radio 4 series The Invention of Free Speech; in it, I said: “In the 1980s I both protested against the opening of a sex shop in Cambridge and taught Fanny Hill. Nowadays I would be worried about causing offence to my students.” I didn’t, as I was accused in the papers, remove Fanny Hill from the university course reading list for The Age of Oppositions, 1660-1780 “following a consultation with students” as the Times reported. It was never on the course, therefore it could not have been withdrawn (or “banned”, as the Evening Standard put it).

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0208511227b0fb58eda755770db611bb41e6b7c6/278_76_1771_1062/master/1771.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=17c3e1e044881680d5fba2a844981330




The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: a charming novel about beautiful people bonking

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 15:33:26 GMT2017-08-15T15:33:26Z

Michael Chabon was heralded as a bright new voice in fiction in the late 1980s for his precocious debut. Does it still live up to the hype?

The economics of publishing have always been baffling, but never more so than in the late 1980s, when unknown writers frequently found themselves the recipients of stonking great advances. There are all sorts of reasons, most of twhich boil down to a heady combination of madness and hubris. But one explanation makes sense: huge advances got people talking. Spending $100,000 on an author was still cheaper than paying an equivalent amount for marketing, with the bonus of making people desperate to know what all the fuss was about.

Related: Fiction to look out for in 2017

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0f8b5ec39be1d1ebe2672a48f0e6b3ee5db61e92/0_212_3504_2103/master/3504.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=a8849f2bc813e976ce8d67db93c061ae




Not the Booker prize 2017: 'extraordinary' Elizabeth Strout joins final shortlist

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 12:35:39 GMT2017-08-14T12:35:39Z

The 2016 judges have picked Strout’s novel on small-town America as the sixth book on this year’s shortlist. Now, we are on the hunt for three new judges ...

The 2017 Not the Booker shortlist is now complete, with our three judges choosing Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout as the wildcard entry.

Tracey Hope, Dana LeMarr and Sara Richards, the judges from the final round of last year’s competition, have spent the past few weeks reading and discussing the novels on our very long list and emailed me on Friday to let me know their decision.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/5e6db4f64efc7544a350cc57fef59e64a67ac026/0_82_3000_1800/master/3000.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=e194bb7c0680bece066b1966630f638d




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

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 14:00:35 GMT2017-08-14T14:00:35Z

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

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

It’s been a week for discovering classic books. Some of them lost, some of them just, somehow, missed - as VelmaNebraska explains:

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/2b86b5811a92743005e93e01d260eebad081b79d/0_284_1080_648/master/1080.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=d5564f05bef1d6af40b02a574cf86c7d




Poem of the week: Helpline by Suzannah Evans

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:00:37 GMT2017-08-14T08:00:37Z

A dystopian narrative, this fragmentary story compellingly depicts a familiar world gone terribly wrong with mystery, horror and a few glints of lyric beauty

Helpline

In the call centre at the end of the world
everyone is wearing the rags
of the clothes they came to work in two weeks ago.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0821bae4e8ae37941e2547e958a9b3d8449bfbb8/1_5_1229_738/master/1229.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=c84184a8cea8061a1d086dbef3c1c2e5




When breaks go bad: why a holiday is the perfect setting for a fictional emotional crisis

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 11:59:44 GMT2017-08-12T11:59:44Z

The anxious mother, the doomed cruise, the angry swarm of jellyfish … all rich pickings for novelists and short story writers

Often, even now, with twenty-four days of the cruise behind her and only twenty more to be lived through, the fears she had experienced the first evening would recur: She was at sea, alone. There was no one around to tip stewards, order drinks, plan the nights, make love to her, pay the bills, tell her where she was and what it was all about. How had this happened?”

Even on terra firma, on a far shorter trip, or in the midst of a crowd of jolly steward-tippers, we’ve probably all experienced some of the feelings that strike Mrs Ellenger, one of the two central characters in Mavis Gallant’s 1954 story “Going Ashore”. Having a far worse time is the other, Mrs Ellenger’s daughter, Emma, who must cope with her mother’s anxiety, ennui and her persistent habit of telling everyone how well she treats her (she doesn’t).

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/6f01f2e645860c7d0beca74a0b440e4f33d9862c/0_471_3765_2258/master/3765.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=1a6ffe5330f3028c30dc03bb0c6db59f




Strange fascination: The best David Bowie books

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 07:00:38 GMT2017-08-12T07:00:38Z

There are surprisingly few good books about the late star – but, as a new collection of reminiscences by friends is published, we pick out the heroes of the Bowieography

Alongside the supremely well-read Bob Dylan, David Bowie was probably popular music’s most bookish star. Christopher Isherwood was an obvious influence on his so-called Berlin period; George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four inspired much of his classic album Diamond Dogs. Judging by a much-circulated list of his favourite 100 books released in 2013, he was also a fan of such literary touchstones as William Faulkner, Albert Camus and F Scott Fitzgerald, as well as a range of modern works, from Martin Amis’s Money to the ribald British comic-cum-institution Viz.

It’s a little strange, then, that whereas good books about Dylan and the Beatles extend into the distance, the range of decent texts about Bowie remains relatively small. Such coffee table works as Mick Rock’s The Rise of David Bowie, 1972-1973 (Taschen, 2016) handsomely showcase the visual aspects of his legend; if you want a forensic guide to his songs, dramatic roles, videos and more, you should start with the pretty authoritative A-Z dossier, The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg (Titan), first published in 2000 and most recently updated after its subject’s death. But when it comes to in-depth career histories, there are not many to choose from.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/b6876014f6fb86adb1c6316c8dd895ed57adaa30/0_181_2973_1783/master/2973.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=4ebea4583719e957635b772e28a654b5




Tainted love: why women still pay for adultery

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 08:58:54 GMT2017-08-11T08:58:54Z

Women might not be killed for their desires in novels any more, but infidelity remains a potent theme in fiction

It was only when someone who read a draft of my novel, about a woman who has an adulterous affair in the 1990s, remarked on my heroine’s “lack of shame” that I began to think more consciously about how other adulterous heroines had felt and fared. I thought: why would she be ashamed of desire? Bad behaviour, maybe, but desire?

I was well acquainted with the first (long) phase of female adultery in western literature: the phase in which this most private of acts was – particularly for women – utterly public, a threat to the social order that required a correspondingly communal punishment. I had on my shelf La Princesse de Clèves (1678) – the first novel of female adultery that had ever bewitched me – but I’d discovered it at a time in my life when I was both addled by hormones and in thrall to an ideal of asceticism, and it was the princess’s renunciation of all pleasure that fascinated me as much as it was her illicit love.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/454da0f556c3f3f0b00053ff9714b2e9dc282a49/0_0_1782_1069/master/1782.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=17d9bd0ce131ab9d23ff2377abb814d4




Christopher Kissane: ‘Historical myopia is to blame for the attacks on Mary Beard’

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 07:00:52 GMT2017-08-11T07:00:52Z

On the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the historian calls for an end to the trivialisation of the lessons of the past

Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther sparked a movement of Reformation that would leave indelible marks on European history. While some have used this anniversary as an opportunity for reflection, and others a chance to heal old wounds, 2017 finds us in an age of intense historical myopia. Breathless news cycles and furious outrage are shrinking our horizons just as they need to widen. Public debate barely remembers the world of last year, “old news”, let alone that of a decade or few ago.

History’s expertise, and most dangerously its perspective, are being lost in our inability to look beyond the here and now. We stumble into crises of finance and inequality with ignorance of economic history, and forget even the recent background to our current politics. We fail to think in the long term and miss a growing environmental catastrophe. We refuse help to millions of refugees by turning away from our own history. As technology and globalisation bring the world closer together, we have narrowed rather than broadened our perspective. With challenges on many fronts, history needs to be at the heart of how we think about our ever-changing world.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d18ece4c39ba20b24d733cd18d8acaeaa05272e0/0_380_5622_3375/master/5622.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=01bb8f35d87b28d77d8693ad7c0f9bc4




August's reading group: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 11:50:12 GMT2017-08-08T11:50:12Z

We have come to know him as one of the finest novelists of our era, but this neglected book began his career with a bang. So this month, we go back to his future

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon has emerged from the hat and will be this month’s reading group choice. It’s a fascinating pick. Even if it weren’t interesting for its own sake, it would be worth reading because it’s the first novel from one of the finest writers of our era. I’m keen to return to the first appearance from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and - doubters be damned – Telegraph Avenue. Was all that dazzling accomplishment on display in his debut, written when he was 23 and still a student at the University of California, Irvine?

If advances are anything to go by, Chabon was certainly a prodigy. He was given $155,000 (that’s circa 1987, so a meaningful sterling calculation would be hard – but it was definitely “a lot”) to publish The Mysteries of Pittsburgh after his professor, David Heiney, sent it to his own agent. This gamble on an unknown writer paid off when the book became a bestseller and Chabon, in turn, a reluctant celebrity — who even found himself turning down an offer to appear in People magazine’s list of 50 Most Beautiful People.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8c41046b8f34653ecdf1a32e0d15e834e05738ca/0_3087_3992_2395/master/3992.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=2f04fc188bb265eca2dd37c0010dbdd8




Save your local! Should volunteers help keep our public libraries open?

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 14:41:36 GMT2017-08-08T14:41:36Z

Hundreds of UK libraries are still open – but only because voluntary staff have stepped in. Campaigners and professionals explain why this is a mixed blessing

Readers checking a book out of the village library might not immediately notice much of a difference, but Congresbury is the latest public library to haven been handed over “to the community”. You may be used to libraries being run by volunteers – maybe your local is – but this structure is relatively new. Over the last decade, as many libraries began closing across the UK due to swingeing cuts to local authority funding by central government – 121 libraries closed last year alone – some have instead been handed over by councils to the community to run.

Since librarian Ian Anstice began charting the cuts to UK libraries on his campaigning website Public Libraries News in 2010, 500 of the UK’s 3,850 remaining libraries have now been taken over, at least in part, by volunteers. “I’ve been looking at the count going up steadily for the last few years,” says Anstice. “In 2010, there were a handful – perhaps 10 in the whole country. So this is quite a staggering change.”

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/37cd4756797f384d42a9465ceb8b8ee4a79d5f45/201_146_4167_2500/master/4167.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=21ffc88e85a257c31880b0ad8633a969




Best holiday reads 2017, picked by writers – part one

Sat, 08 Jul 2017 07:00:01 GMT2017-07-08T07:00:01Z

A plagiarist in a kitchen and a horse walking into a bar; Dublin crimes and Washington misdemeanours; relationships, revolutions and relaxations ... leading writers reveal their summer recommendations

A book I absolutely loved was Margo Jefferson’s Negroland (Granta), a memoir of her life as part of the African American economically privileged class. It is a sharply honest, biting, reflective look at America, and a useful guide on how race and class do not merely intersect, but race becomes class. I’m looking forward to reading Salt Houses (Hutchinson), a novel by Hala Alyan, which feels very promising. The Big Stick (Basic) by Eliot Cohen has been on my to-read pile for a while and I plan to get to it this summer. And House of Lords and Commons (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a new poetry collection, by Ishion Hutchinson.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/c554ca0271c17dda47124ab6c56965ed23902896/217_2555_2853_1712/master/2853.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=5dd100d229a187b76261a39564e34552




Living with Oliver Sacks and love in later life: Bill Hayes and Sylvia Brownrigg – podcast

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 15:06:44 GMT2017-08-15T15:06:44Z

Subscribe and review: iTunes, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud and Acast. Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

On this week’s show, we’re exploring love. When photographer Bill Hayes moved to New York in 2009, he wasn’t expecting to find love – but to his surprise, he found himself falling both for the city and for the neurologist Oliver Sacks, who died in 2015. Hayes explores both these passions in a collection of photographs and written vignettes, Insomniac City and spoke to Sian about his life with the famous and eccentric Sacks.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/1ce59ca9691042e25cc1e7faba51ece50d1bd981/0_72_1279_767/master/1279.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=54e4faedc947babbd5e8b34b3f222010




Novel recipes: ice-cream floats from Agatha Christie's Crooked House

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 05:01:14 GMT2017-08-18T05:01:14Z

A brief jaunt for a sweet treat in one of Christie’s detective mysteries sparks inspiration in the mind and kitchen of Kate Young

  • Scroll down for the recipe

As Josephine looked mutinous, Edith added: ‘We’ll go into Longbridge and have an ice cream soda.’

Josephine’s eyes brightened and she said: ‘Two.’

Crooked House, Agatha Christie

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/3edce0b20fbcb43cde658f7bd513fbcd550897ad/0_305_1080_648/master/1080.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=edc7bb6885c33d571d1c19cdbea7d304




'I already feel like I've won': Fiona Mozley, the new face on the Booker longlist

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 06:59:51 GMT2017-08-17T06:59:51Z

Catapulted from anonymity to literary stardom, the 29-year-old from York talks about her sylvan debut novel, Elmet, and how it was fuelled by her anger at inequality

Fiona Mozley was sitting in a cafe when she heard the news. She had been out walking her dog by the river, and had stopped for a coffee on the way home, when she got a call from her editor.

“I thought she’d managed to secure a good quote for the front cover,” says Mozley. “It was obviously good news. I could tell from the tone of her voice.” The rest is a bit of a blur, with her dog, Stringer, barking and jumping around as he caught on to her gradually increasing excitement. By the time she put down the phone, Mozley was reeling from the discovery she had been longlisted for the Man Booker prize with a book that wasn’t even due to be published until September.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d70aa80817b50f6c82a590ad4d7260dcf9c46510/0_0_3072_1843/master/3072.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=a3ca7ffeb8f9ad951e513e710c5cc9ff




Top 10 twists in fiction

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 11:41:31 GMT2017-08-16T11:41:31Z

Court dramas, classic mysteries and bloody crimes ... from Du Maurier to Lehane, Sophie Hannah chooses her favourite twists in novels (or does she?)

  • There are no spoilers in this article, but we can’t guarantee the comments

The word “twist” exerts a strange power over crime fiction addicts like me. Publishers know this all too well, which is why the promise of a twist is often used to advertise books that don’t have twists at all. “You’ll never see the breathtaking twist coming!” screams the press release. Well, no, you won’t, because it doesn’t exist. And so many people think a brilliant resolution is the same thing as a twist. It isn’t. Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express offers the most impressive puzzle solution in all of detective fiction. But, however ingenious and surprising, it’s not a twist ending.

So what is a bona fide twist? In my view, it has to be something that overturns or negates an already drawn conclusion or a firmly entrenched and reasonable assumption (Orient Express overturns an unreasonable assumption on the part of the reader, which is why I wouldn’t call it a twist).

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/3b27fa3ee1d336913b509050ce985dfb911fccfa/0_244_3266_1959/master/3266.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=d63890659c4542dc0f17fb982ccbe7db




Carlo Rovelli: 'I felt the beautiful adventure of physics was a story that had to be told'

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 08:25:39 GMT2017-07-25T08:25:39Z

How does a book about theoretical physics sell more than 1m copies? Rovelli explains how he set about sharing his wonder at quantum science

There are two kinds of popular science books. The first kind is for passionate readers. Say you are mad about butterflies. You want a book that gives you all the details about all varieties of butterflies, their lives, habits and colours. You are keen to know everything.

The other kind of popular science book is written for everybody else. Say you never cared much for butterflies, but one day you happened on a book filled with incredible images of their phantasmagorical wings and read an interesting fact, such as how many of them live only for a single day … even though you don’t want many details, you suddenly find yourself wanting to learn more.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e3ee3ba8f86703821c1d1615f20388f702a86a96/0_77_2018_1211/master/2018.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=f1ddca30dbad90a21d47c93a6368e910




Make Your Bed: Small Things That Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World by William H McRaven – digested read

Sun, 30 Jul 2017 16:00:23 GMT2017-07-30T16:00:23Z

‘Measure a person by the size of his heart – the guy with the biggest flippers is not always the man you want in a crisis’

On 17 May 2014, I was asked to give a speech at the graduation ceremony of my alma mater, the University of Texas. I chose to tell them the 10 lessons I had learned during my 34-year career as a navy SEAL. I hope you enjoy them rather more than they did.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/b279746ca9c4a10d55837d9df62edaf83841081f/1006_873_3038_1823/master/3038.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=f514cb1daa50667d5e28e5abc8709a68




Farewell to the Horse review – from Napoleon to Clint Eastwood

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 08:00:09 GMT2017-08-19T08:00:09Z

A wide-ranging and rewarding study by Ulrich Raulff of the long ‘pact’ between horses and humans features war, racing, farming, art and movies

JMW Turner’s celebrated painting of The Fighting Temeraire depicts the old warship being towed off to the breaker’s yard by a steam tug – the romantic past dispatched by the utilitarian present. Near the beginning of Ulrich Raulff’s remarkable book about the “Centaurian pact” between human and horse, there is an anecdote that neatly reverses this plot. Raulff describes how, as a child in Westphalia during the 1950s, he and his grandfather watched a heavy carthorse tow a stranded Mercedes out of the mud. But the moment of equine triumph was illusory. By then the horse was already disappearing from the countryside as well as city streets. It had become a “ghost of modernity”.

Raulff, a prize-winning historian, writes in his introduction about the “sense of digging in a bottomless pit” familiar to anyone who tries to write synthetic history. His book excavates and offers up an extraordinary amount of material on the horse in history, literature, art, cinema and philosophy. Farewell to the Horse consists of a series of linked essays loosely organised under the headings energy, knowledge and pathos. Raulff is concerned with the century and a half between Napoleon (Hegel’s “world-spirit on horseback”) and the years after the second world war. He reminds us that the horse had an essential role, although it is often lost to sight, in the familiar story of industrial and urban development. It was horses that worked in mines and serviced the railway, and it was horses that carried passengers and goods in the great modern metropolises. London was home to 300,000 horses in 1900, Manhattan to 130,000. Entire industries grew up to feed, water and house them. Even the raised pavement, or trottoir, was prompted by the need to separate horse-drawn vehicles from pedestrians.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8b3ffe2f8660a842a72eacbb3825b92cb7395356/0_140_2745_1647/master/2745.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=da41ffffac45f0aca4edd1c44de114c4




I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell review – 17 brushes with death

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 07:59:18 GMT2017-08-18T07:59:18Z

An encounter with a murderer, a plummeting plane and severe illness are among the episodes detailed in this elegant, thought-provoking memoir

We are all, in one way or another, just moments from death. Catastrophe lurks wherever we care to look. Most of us tend not to dwell on our mortality since that way madness lies, but many have stood on the precipice, often several times over, and stared it squarely in the face.

The writer Maggie O’Farrell has chronicled 17 of her own near misses in I Am, I Am, I Am (the title is taken from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar). These include a haemorrhage during childbirth, miscarriage, childhood encephalitis, amoebic dysentery and an ill-advised leap off a harbour wall into the sea as a teen. Written in self-contained essays, the events recalled here are blips, coincidences, flashes of folly or plain bad luck. Some are startling but later shrugged off; others are lingering and life-changing.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/045e8539d76e6835ef44bc8856bf494a3185ce47/0_0_5616_3370/master/5616.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=c7cef03c3823be64f274c38d5294e1ce




Gainsborough by James Hamilton review – the painter’s secret sauciness

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:00:03 GMT2017-08-17T08:00:03Z

An astute biography casts a new light on famous paintings and underlines the importance of the artist’s risque private lifeThomas Gainsborough’s early masterpiece, Mr and Mrs Andrews (c1750), has long been read as a celebration of that pivotal moment in mid-Georgian Britain when man managed to wrestle nature to its knees and tell it what to do. To one side of the painting are the recently married Robert and Frances Andrews, a lucky young couple handsomely dressed in a rustle of linen, satin and soft leather. Significantly, though, the pair are posing not in the library or hall of their manor house but out in the grounds, in the well-worked, wheat-covered bit of Suffolk’s loamy Stour valley that provides the capital on which their combined fortune depends. In the far distance you can just make out the tower of All Saints’ Church where this alliance between two local landowning families – one gentry, one trade – has recently been settled to everyone’s satisfaction.Gainsborough painted the happy couple, not to mention their happy acres, with such a zesty freshness that it’s a shock to learn that, until the picture was bought by the National Gallery in 1960, Mr and Mrs Andrews was kept hidden away by the family, like some mad aunt in the attic. James Hamilton, the author of this richly humane biography of the artist, thinks he knows why. Hamilton suggests that, far from being a servile recorder of other people’s good fortune, young Tom Gainsborough was never afraid to blurt out inconvenient truths, much in the manner of his great hero William Hogarth. Why else would he have introduced into his lyrical landscape a pair of plebeian donkeys, corralled in an enclosure? Hamilton believes this is a deliberate jibe about the matrimonial trap into which Robert Andrews, who was an old schoolmate from Sudbury Grammar, has blundered. Then there’s the billowy way in which Andrews’s gunpowder bag and gun have been rendered to make them look like a set of swollen genitalia, waiting to seed the fertile ground. Oddest of all, though, a space on Mrs Andrews’s lap has been left blank, with only the canvas peeping through. Art historians have long argued about whether Gainsborough was reserving room for a baby, a lapdog or a dead pheasant. But for Hamilton, who is as astute a reader of Gainsborough’s smuttiness as he is of his blazing talent, what matters is the faint scratch of a design that you can just make out in the empty space: “Frances Andrews ha[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/faaaff90d9c8549d60882e133de760a4e0f69d2d/19_11_1696_1017/master/1696.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=d24844076a4dbf8d3b07f7b509789df0




Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz review – what internet searches reveal

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 06:30:01 GMT2017-08-17T06:30:01Z

Do web porn clicks deliver data that ‘Freud and Foucault would have drooled over’, or are we not as weird as our online behaviour suggests?

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz wanted to call his new book How Big Is My Penis?, but his publishers demurred. He settled for Everybody Lies. The book is subtitled What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are and it’s a polished display of some of the early fruits of “big data” science. Its principal defect, perhaps, is that it doesn’t say enough about how many of these fruits are rotten.

Stephens-Davidowitz’s first source, when he set up as a data scientist, was Google Trends, which records the relative frequency of particular searches in different places at different times. He soon added Google Adwords, which registers the actual number of searches. Then he moved on to other vastnesses: Wikipedia, Facebook and then PornHub, one of the largest pornographic sites in the world. PornHub gave him its complete data set, duly anonymised: every single search and video view. He also “scraped” many other sites, including neo-Nazi sites such as Stormfront, which account for the internet’s resemblance to the box jellyfish, a highly poisonous predator with 60 anuses.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/c88235eccec7904941b408c462aec988fb2e8bd6/0_138_4287_2572/master/4287.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=96751af103adfe9d186d158dc47e165b




Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Postwar Britain by Clair Wills – review

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 06:30:32 GMT2017-08-16T06:30:32Z

Migrants not only from the empire but from Latvia, Malta and especially Ireland changed the face of the UK after the second world war

Going home can be disconcerting. Over the last few years, when-ever I have returned from New York, where I live, to Gloucester, where I grew up, what has struck me most – more than the rundown state of the local library, the decamping of the local newspaper to posher Cheltenham, the ailing, asthmatic feel of the town centre – are its ethnic transformations. Neighbourhoods that in the 1970s and 80s seemed like havens of timeless Englishness augmented by a few Asian convenience stores and smoky cafes vibrating to militant reggae are now full of Romanian grocers and Polish bakers. The shaven-headed guy trying to cadge a fag from me does so with a Spanish accent. A Commonwealth city has morphed into a European city.

Related: West Indians arrive in Britain on board the Windrush – archive, 23 June 1948

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/42762ad2489cb444707a08cda7b14acd9056ff76/130_202_5434_3261/master/5434.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=bb0f82a02b5ff2e8c27ed3ac72a13125




Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry review

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:34 GMT2017-08-16T08:00:34Z

A compassionate and piercing look at the communities ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011

Because of its harsh climate and remoteness from the centre, Tohoku, Japan’s north-eastern region, has long been regarded as the country’s backwater. Along with that reputation comes a set of unflattering stereotypes about its people – that they are taciturn, stubborn, somewhat enigmatic. Rather than speaking their minds, they grit their teeth, bottle up their feelings and go about their business in gloomy silence. But those very traits were seen as an admirable asset in the immediate aftermath of the 11 March 2011 disaster that hit Tohoku’s coastal communities, when a magnitude-9 earthquake was followed by a tsunami, then a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors.

Journalists reporting from the disaster zone commended the resilience of Tohoku people, marvelling at the restraint demonstrated by survivors, many of whom had lost everything. Uncomplaining, they organised themselves at makeshift evacuation centres, queued to receive rationed food and took care of the weak and wounded. Observers were made to feel that Tohoku was coping.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/7e83cb618b0b7ab0d10639ca670ab91766a03d8c/0_100_3000_1800/master/3000.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=127f0d4625ceb8d8b0bd8eebe8f40b64




So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley review – revelatory

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 06:00:34 GMT2017-08-14T06:00:34Z

Roger Steffens’s sprawling but compelling biography is a fitting tribute to Jamaica’s favourite son

Among biblical quotations favoured by Rastafarians comes psalm 118: “The stone that the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner”, a teaching put to song by Bob Marley on 1970’s Corner Stone, and one that neatly frames a life that began in poverty and ended in global superstardom, a rags to riches tale unparalleled in pop. Some 36 years after his death, Marley remains a planetary icon, his image as likely to turn up at a Native American protest as on a Camden Town T-shirt. For millions, he represents an irresistible mix of righteous rebellion, physical and spiritual joy (livity in Rasta speak) and, of course, musical genius.

Marley’s story has been told many times, most notably by the late Timothy White, whose Catch a Fire, as much imaginative construct as conventional biography, best captures the mystique that swirled round the singer. Marley’s mythos owed much to the fevered atmosphere of Jamaica in the late 1970s, when millenarian Rasta prophecy became entangled with a political feud that saw Kingston’s ghettos in near civil war amid allegations of CIA destabilisation. Marlon James’s Booker winner, A Brief History of Seven Killings, centred on the attempted assassination of Marley in 1976, crystallises the era masterfully.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/b6d43583338d0b9ee07391da2c50c4fb46d0b19a/0_246_3000_1800/master/3000.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=ab3c83f6082a464ca8dab414521a38a0




The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors by Dan Jones – review

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 10:00:10 GMT2017-08-13T10:00:10Z

Who were the Knights Templar? This rollicking history brings them out of the shadow cast by The Da Vinci Code

Anyone who has read The Da Vinci Code will have an idea of who the Knights Templar were, albeit perhaps not an accurate one. Their reputation has been that of a shadowy sect lurking on the fringes of early medieval Christianity, combining occult dealings with near-limitless power and influence. In this thrillingly lucid account, Dan Jones demystifies the Templars in a story spanning hundreds of years and countless rulers, knights and archbishops, a seemingly disproportionate number of whom ended up beheaded.

The Templar sect originally lived in Jerusalem, leading lives “with humble attire and spare diet”. They were a Catholic military order dedicated to the promotion of Christian aims and values, by aggressively direct means. By the 1140s, three decades after their foundation, they were famous all over the Christian world, both for their bravery in battle and for the vast wealth their order had amassed.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e00cd808e49b973f64ad4621bf12fdc704c1c121/409_0_2206_1324/master/2206.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=eb5acbb0061b12e3f23e2c13742fbc66




The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World by Lizzie Collingham - review

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:08 GMT2017-08-13T08:00:08Z

A colourful history of how Britain’s diet drove the rise of its empire sidesteps many unpalatable truths

Food history narratives sell only in the tiniest quantities in the UK, so any publisher contemplating such a proposal needs to find a marketing angle, one that resonates with contemporary issues perhaps, or addresses our national psyche.

In the cinema world, films such as Viceroy’s House, and Victoria & Abdul are testament to our enduring fascination with the British empire, the gift that keeps on giving. In the book world, empire nonfiction is another demonstrably commercial genre, and the latest title from distinguished historian Lizzie Collingham, The Hungry Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World – with its striking similarity to Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World – clearly aims for this market.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/7246165f40513884e0c7da6415684d89524ad6de/79_141_4196_2518/master/4196.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=8f497e8f280c123d21269c648e83e2ca




The Power and the Story: The Global Battle for News and Information – review

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 06:00:06 GMT2017-08-13T06:00:06Z

John Lloyd’s thorough survey of the state of the free press is a timely reminder of how vital it is to democracy

John Lloyd is one of Britain’s most perceptive journalists, as anyone who remembers his Moscow years for the FT can attest. He is also, these days, a senior researcher for the Reuters Institute at Oxford University. So when he sets out to write a magisterial account of “the global battle for news and information”, he’s ideally equipped for the task.

Lloyd inevitably links freedom of the press to democracy itself. Without independent media doing a determined reporting job, there can be no true democracy. But see how creeping oppression – and the absence of any settled online funding model – silences or impoverishes newsrooms around the world.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e0fb72c7d03f52c43a43ee466c5e162f5f657c66/0_238_4923_2955/master/4923.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=b3679d7c4c1fc65a22d0d9e79755c5e5




We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled review – voices from Syria

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 06:30:37 GMT2017-08-12T06:30:37Z

Wendy Pearlman’s remarkable collection of testimonies from Syrian refugees offers a strong anti-Assad narrative

Everyone talks about Syrians, but very few actually talk to them. Perhaps that’s why Syria’s revolution and war have been so badly misunderstood in the west – variously as a US-led regime-change plot, an ancient Sunni-Shia conflict or a struggle between secularism and jihadism.

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled bucks the trend. Here the story is told entirely through the mouths of Wendy Pearlman’s Syrian interviewees, hundreds of them, from all social backgrounds, Christians and Muslims, Ismailis and Druze, rural and urban, middle class and poor. These best of all possible informants – the people who made the events, and who suffer the consequences – provide not only gripping eyewitness accounts but erudite analysis and sober reflection.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/c7ab5848a978a384791f1db895754b20ca96cbe9/0_74_3823_2294/master/3823.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=9b199685bd5d8f74d994e85c4914b5dd




Watling Street by John Higgs review – the myths and stories of Brexit Britain

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 11:00:43 GMT2017-08-12T11:00:43Z

An aficionado of the counterculture journeys along the ancient route from Dover to Anglesey in search of glimmers of utopia

You might know Watling Street as a shortcut in the heart of the City of London where crumpled-looking office workers dash on their way to somewhere else or linger after work for an expensive pint. But as John Higgs explains, the street is more than a quaint rat run with a Dick Whittington vibe. While its origins are “far older than recorded history”, it remains one of the great highways of modern Britain, running virtually unbroken from Dover to Anglesey. You probably don’t recognise it because it mostly goes by other names: the A2, the A5 and, when it’s feeling fancy, the M6 Toll. Sometimes, as it wiggles its way through the market towns of central England, it becomes simply “the high street”.

Around the time of last year’s referendum, Higgs set out to explore the people and places around Watling Street. The idea was to take a series of soundings about where modern Britain (or rather, England with a top slice of Wales) sees itself today. What stories did we tell about ourselves that resulted in the vote to leave the EU? What new versions might be needed now if we are to start to resolve the bitter disagreements that the referendum laid bare?

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/b71264c3f7769ca14f220adf825b007e1d5e9954/0_222_6000_3600/master/6000.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=2c606a9dd02b2bd7c7e4c8f3d5c1a6bd




St Petersburg by Jonathan Miles – ‘300 years of murderous desire’

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 08:00:53 GMT2017-08-11T08:00:53Z

A compelling history of Russia’s northern capital features the deaths of countless serfs, the Nazi siege, post-Soviet crime – and tourist glamour

In 1811 the French woman of letters Madame de Staël arrived in St Petersburg to find herself enchanted by a city in which “a wizard with a wand had conjured all the marvels of Europe and Asia in the middle of a wasteland”. From the windows of the house she rented on the edge of Senate Square, De Staël could look down on the wizard himself. Étienne Falconet’s statue of Peter the Great, commissioned by Catherine the Great as a homage to her predecessor (and as a means of cementing her own claims to legitimacy), is the very embodiment of autocratic resolve. Peter bestrides a horse that tramples the serpent of Sweden beneath its hooves as it rears up on its hind legs at the edge of its vast granite plinth, the “thunder rock”. With arm outstretched, the imperious horseman urges his steed into the void.

The sculpture remains to this day the preeminent symbol of the city that Peter founded in defiance of nature on the freezing marshes of the Neva delta in 1703. It was immortalised in Alexander Pushkin’s narrative poem “The Bronze Horseman”, which tells the story of the great flood of 1824 that engulfed entire neighbourhoods and washed away the lives and the homes of many of the city’s poor. Ever since, Falconet’s statue has represented one of the great fractures that runs through Russian history: the conflict between the ambitions of the rulers and the aspirations of the ruled. The bronze horseman emerges as the central motif, the “manifestation of the spirit of St Petersburg”, in Jonathan Miles’s cinematic telling of the 300-year history of Russia’s northern capital.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/39c694f1cd205cfe528547ab4a54a1df4a1898fa/0_156_4940_2965/master/4940.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=553ba8400270950e64dcb4863236b23e




Linescapes by Hugh Warwick review – a manifesto for reuniting with nature

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 09:00:54 GMT2017-08-11T09:00:54Z

A good-humoured, hedgehog’s-eye view of the country’s ditches, dykes and railwaysThere is a venerable tradition of literature about the lines humans have created in the British landscape. Alfred Watkins’s The Old Straight Track, Francis Hitching’s Earth Magic, Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways and a plethora of natural histories and hedgerow-seeking illuminations – recently John Wright’s The Natural History of the Hedgerow. All are fascinated with fragmentation and connection, and infused with the joys and conundrums we layer on our land with our human footfall. In Linescapes, Hugh Warwick provides a good-humoured, even visionary, perspective on the fragile ecology of our hedges, roads, power lines and railways. Often opting for the hedgehog’s-eye view (his first book, A Prickly Affair, declared his passion for this important indicator species), he reveals how the man-made lines in our landscape present a paradox. They were originally put there to fragment, assert ownership or to restrain livestock, yet over time their edges and intricacies have provided opportunities for adaptable wildlife to flourish. Walls sympathetic to wildlife can contribute to its recovery, sometimes “very slowly, as lichens inch to the corners of the compass. Sometimes with the sneaky speed of a stoat on a mission.”While we have lost 98% of our wildflower meadows and 50% of our ancient woodland in the last 100 years, Warwick asks us to shift our sightline away from ugliness and ruination towards the potential of new habitats. “Connection is what we need, and what nature needs if we are to tackle the global collapse of species,” he argues. Continue reading...[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/345fc6ea473ef13bbc1c0106c10a3d9ddba77da7/0_187_5616_3370/master/5616.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=95b5a3d6bda467f36145ab299c8466de




Henry David Thoreau by Laura Dassow Walls review – radical, unsettling, relevant

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 06:30:30 GMT2017-08-10T06:30:30Z

A superb new biography of the seer of Walden Pond reconsiders his reputation as tax-refuser, recluse, environmentalist and writer

In March 1845, Henry David Thoreau borrowed an axe and set off for Walden Pond, near his home in Concord, Massachusetts. He was going to build a hut, and he knew exactly where: on a spot near the water, backed by a pine grove and fronted by smaller pines and a chestnut tree. Before stopping for his first lunch break, Thoreau had cut and trimmed enough of these pines to make the house’s main timbers.

Then he paid $4.28 to buy a shanty from a railroad worker who was moving on – the line had just been built past Walden Pond. Thoreau dismantled it and dried its planks in the sun to become the hut’s roof and sides. He laid a chimney foundation using cobblestones from the pond. When he finished the house that autumn, it had weatherproof shingles on the outside, neat plastering inside and a few carefully counted possessions: three chairs, a desk, one cup, two forks. He planted rows of potatoes, corn and peas and miles of white beans – “making the earth say beans instead of grass”, as he put it. The project had begun: Thoreau would live there, dedicating himself to the principle of simplicity. He would observe nature and write.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d5c82e543934f0afb701ddc4b978792a64ace6bd/0_334_5200_3120/master/5200.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=ee82871873ac82926519016bab164ba4




Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World by Kumari Jayawardena – review

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 11:00:06 GMT2017-08-09T11:00:06Z

Stories leap from the page in this reissue of the Sri Lankan scholar’s classic study of women’s movements in Asia and the Middle East

In the early 1980s the Sri Lankan historian Kumari Jayawardena, travelling by train from Brussels to The Hague, wrote lecture notes for a course on the history of women’s movements. Many lecture notes crumble into dust – but not these. They were published in 1982, and later evolved into the influential work Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World. The book has been republished, as one of Verso’s feminist classics, with a foreword by Rafia Zakaria.

More than three decades after it first came out, the book remains the best introduction to the history of women’s movements in Turkey, Egypt, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. It takes us into the lives and ideas of a host of women and men who sought reform and revolutionary transformation.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e922bb92af63fced0448974c365a98d1822cffff/0_126_6000_3600/master/6000.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=497d6f59ac7e41137e9089a824d38277




Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 by Naoki Higashida review – why autism is misunderstood

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 07:59:02 GMT2017-08-09T07:59:02Z

The author of the bestselling The Reason I Jump movingly addresses a range of topics from the perspective of an outsider

Naoki Higashida is, by any measure, a phenomenally successful author. His first book, The Reason I Jump, written when he was just 13, entered the bestseller charts in Britain and the US. It has now been translated into 30 languages, making him, according to his co-translator, the novelist David Mitchell, the most widely translated living Japanese author after Haruki Murakami. He has published several other books in Japan, but Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8 is the second to make its way into English.

Higashida is profoundly autistic. In person he is largely non-verbal, apart from a few stock phrases (“I’m home!” “Welcome back!”). He has a number of typically autistic traits: he jumps, he has meltdowns when plans go awry, he cups his ears and finds it difficult to make eye contact. He appears to inhabit his own solitary world. Only when he and his family discovered that he could communicate using text, on an “alphabet grid” and, occasionally, a keyboard, did the richness of his inner life become apparent to others.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/f93bcd2936af65a92b3ae88730f975a232fb71ef/0_1306_3265_1959/master/3265.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=379ec7eef4a651191229ebdb85f63b5e




Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011 by Lizzy Goodman – review

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 05:59:31 GMT2017-08-08T05:59:31Z

This oral history of New York’s musical renaissance is vivid, informative and full of passion

Oral histories work brilliantly at encapsulating complex music scenes (for example: Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk), with one proviso – you’ve got to marshal a veritable army of interviewees who’re not only prepared to talk, but also to gossip, muse, digress, ramble, even bitch and fume, to build the most accurate picture.

Set against a backdrop that encompasses 9/11, the collapse of the old-style music industry, the gentrification of New York, and an emergent social media, journalist Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in the Bathroom more than fulfils this brief. She features not only an impressive array of key musical players from in and around the early 00s’ New York-flavoured guitar explosion (the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the White Stripes, Interpol, Ryan Adams, LCD Soundsystem, the Moldy Peaches, Vampire Weekend, Kings of Leon, the Killers), but also record labels, nightclubs, DJs, artists, journalists, managers and music executives, fleshing out and contextualising the fast-evolving milieu.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/47c4d90b1fb429762e00639d6f987b7279a3be54/0_54_2550_1529/master/2550.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=d8eb4f0cfa5b89e1b2b6c4080bd65c14




A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath review – fight or flight?

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 08:30:09 GMT2017-08-19T08:30:09Z

Maryland, Dublin and London form the backdrop to three very different women’s lives

Paula McGrath’s first novel, Generation, was a powerfully ambitious examination of the immigrant experience –particularly that of the Irish to North America – and its indelible impact on subsequent generations. It was crowded with incident and people: one reviewer commented that “there is so much potential here that McGrath might easily have filled three novels with the characters she has created”.

The follow-up, despite having fewer overlapping stories than its predecessor, is no less broad in intent. Her seemingly boundless capacity for related narratives and disparate locations does, however, cause an imbalance which makes for a confusingly uneven whole.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/dcc330597d0b8ccc471d81c30fe969326b30a3b5/0_24_4256_2554/master/4256.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=3318afaf0fe5d43ff268ef094cccdc7d




Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne review – compulsive reading

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:00:21 GMT2017-08-18T11:00:21Z

An encounter on a Greek island between rich holiday-makers and a migrant stranger leads to jeopardy

It’s another summer on the Greek island of Hydra, another summer among the rich – specifically, the Codrington and Haldane families. Jimmie Codrington is a British airline owner and art dealer who keeps a “famously ironic” bust of Hitler in his front room. Jimmy’s first wife died when their daughter Naomi, now in her 20s, was a teen, and now he’s married to an absurdly snobby Greek woman. The Haldanes are American, less ridiculous and a little more opaque. Their daughter Sam, feeling bored by her own independence, falls quickly under the spell of the slightly older Naomi, who is dominant, naughty, cynical.

Early in the novel, Sam thinks: “A thousand summers could be like this, each one as beautiful as the last, and still nothing worth reliving a second time.” The pair aren’t alone in noting the lack of heft to their lives. Jimmie – not the most authentic of persons – wonders if you can make your children authentic against their will. Puzzling over why the young adopt political positions that don’t quite square with their own material conditions, Jimmie concludes that the problem with them is that they hardly come into contact with the real world. “Their consciousness had been created by the media, not by life.”

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/555b118f6f180e1c2782840919c337bb949caced/0_1310_2912_1747/master/2912.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=3322c9bf83b061b7444821d40fe8fccb




Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss review – a brilliant achievement

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 06:30:16 GMT2017-08-18T06:30:16Z

Moving from New York to Tel Aviv, Krauss’s first novel in seven years is a fascinating meditation on fiction itself

In his magnificent prose poem “The Blue House”, Tomas Tranströmer wrote of a man contemplating his house – and his life – from the vantage point of the nearby woods: “I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.” There is the life you live, in other words, and then there are the sketches of the lives that might have been yours, if you’d gone to a different school, married a different person, emigrated instead of staying or vice versa. But perhaps, Tranströmer suggested, these lives too are unfolding somewhere: “We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route.”

This is one of the many ideas animating Nicole Krauss’s brilliant new novel, Forest Dark. It has two narrative threads, occupying alternate chapters, both concerning characters who have found themselves adrift. One centres on a New York philanthropist named Jules Epstein, who has recently disappeared in Israel. The other is narrated by an American novelist named Nicole, for whom this idea of Tranströmer’s has recently become pressing. On returning home one afternoon, she steps into the house and realises that she’s already there. “Simply that: already there. Moving through the rooms upstairs, or asleep in the bed; it hardly mattered what I was doing, what mattered was the certainty with which I knew that I was in the house already.” A ringing telephone breaks the spell, and the sense of doubleness passes.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/fbdb291d37362e54b7a3fcd3c88fc919fbed0be1/0_495_7360_4417/master/7360.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=034a64f25105d9088d866f9e397025da




We That Are Young by Preti Taneja review – King Lear in Delhi

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:00:46 GMT2017-08-17T11:00:46Z

Contemporary India provides a fascinating backdrop for a reworking of Shakespeare’s tragedy

Thanks to publishing’s conservatism, fiction set in modern India can too easily be pigeonholed: post-colonial, Raj-nostalgic, focused on slum dwellers or a globetrotting elite. We That Are Young, the doorstop debut novel from Preti Taneja, a Cambridge academic and human rights activist, ignores and subverts these stereotypes by turns.

A recasting of King Lear in today’s Delhi, the family at its centre consists of ageing patriarch Devraj, head of the multi-tentacled India Company, his daughters Gargi, Radha and Sita, right-hand man Ranjit and his son Jeet. They aren’t simply an elite; they’re practically royalty, with the Company (insistent on its capital letter) standing in for the country in more than just name, its operations covering every aspect of modern Indian life from traditional woven fabrics to coffee chains and luxury hotels. The book opens aboard a BA flight above London, with Ranjit’s illegitimate son Jivan not arriving but departing, turning his back on a somewhat passé “west” and a white girlfriend whom he derides for her attempts to “try on” his culture.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/97cb30201430d42057d2fae85344ac4f1b69ec3c/0_99_2500_1500/master/2500.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=23172bb345ca1bd957c55ae6650cf564




The Locals by Jonathan Dee review – lost in the heart of America

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:00:04 GMT2017-08-16T14:00:04Z

A moneyed interloper muscles in on a small Massachusetts town in an allegory of US politics that confounds expectations

The town of Howland sits amid the wooded hills of south-western Massachusetts. To reach it from Manhattan, one must first ride the commuter train north to the end of the line, shedding passengers at every stop, and then drive east on Route 23. In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the town feels reassuringly remote, 120 miles from the horror of ground zero. For Mark Firth – who was stranded in the city when the planes hit the towers – Howland is undeniably home. For billionaire Philip Hadi, it is something else: virgin territory, a new-found land. He arrives in the place like some millennial pilgrim father, scouting the woodland, keen to make nice with the natives.

Jonathan Dee’s mercurial seventh novel installs Hadi as the archetypal stranger come to town. The hedge-fund mogul acts as a catalyst for the community and a symptom, perhaps, of tensions in the land at large. Claiming to possess insider information about future terrorist attacks, he hires Mark to improve the security measures at his country house. Then he puts himself forward as Howland’s first selectman (the New England equivalent of mayor). Hadi is happy to forego the paltry $24,000 salary. He only wants to help; he now sees Howland as his home. Before long he’s writing personal cheques to prop up failing businesses and reducing the property tax rate to a record low. He also orders a pair of CCTV cameras to be placed at either end of Main Street.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/3be6aad827c96f092457e447b31a62c00bdd85f3/0_56_5184_3110/master/5184.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=fd72ad874aa45f1e29602185f787dfe8




Driving Short Distances by Joff Winterhart review – a masterful picture of manhood

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 06:00:06 GMT2017-08-15T06:00:06Z

In its superbly funny but tender portrait of the everyday struggles of men, this book is perfectIn Driving Short Distances, Joff Winterhart’s second graphic novel, 27-year-old Sam returns home to the boring town where he grew up, following three unsuccessful attempts at university and a breakdown. Long of face and mournful of eye, Sam, whose worldly possessions now fill a largish padded envelope, needs a job that will demand very little of him and on this score at least he is about to get lucky: the other day, a man claiming to be a second cousin of his father approached his mother, with whom Sam will now be living, in the supermarket car park and informed her, unprompted, that he’d be very happy to take her son into his employ. Doing what? Sam looks at the business card his mum has removed from the depths of her handbag. “Keith Nutt,” it reads. “Distribution and delivery.”And so it is that Sam meets Keith, a character who, as Zadie Smith has already noted, deserves to join Keith Talent in the “short but potent list of great British literary Keiths”. Keith, an older gentleman of “remarkable textures”, has nostrils like hairy caves and fingers like hairy bolsters and he is the undisputed master of his realm, which is… what, exactly? Hmm. It’s something to do with filters. And Portakabins. Sam, though, spends most of his time in Keith’s Audi, observing Keith’s fastidious habits and listening to Keith’s feebly boastful stories, the majority of which involve his former mentor, Geoff Crozier (“As good old Geoff Crozier used to say, every village has its idiot”). Together, they eat a lot of pasties, bought from flirty Hazel-Claire at the bakery. Continue reading...[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/a8e18081f4a7e6b9feb8152af8bfc98f831ff570/235_1292_2744_1647/master/2744.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=bf8c83a705bf0182d7052ba6de5bb712




Crimes of the Father by Thomas Keneally review – something rotten in Catholicism

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 07:00:07 GMT2017-08-13T07:00:07Z

The Booker prize winner’s powers remain undimmed, as he shines a light on institutionalised abuse, and denial, in the Catholic church

It is over half a century since a young Thomas Keneally had a breakdown and abandoned his studies at an Australian seminary. His Catholicism, he now says, is more cultural than practising, yet he still knows better than most the mindset of today’s priests.

Crimes of the Father, a characteristically brave and unflinching novel by the Booker and Miles Franklin prize-winner, examines how the overwhelming majority of Catholic clerics, who may struggle with their vow of celibacy but still manage to give something positive to the world, are coping in an institution where a tiny minority have abused children, too often while the church turns a blind eye.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/2b41467765cfdd04c0212477de6c13680a37c2d2/0_224_3024_1814/master/3024.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=616c9369f95ca86d02a9b9c1d5e9ddcb




Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed review – a misogynist dystopia

Sat, 12 Aug 2017 07:59:39 GMT2017-08-12T07:59:39Z

The influence of The Handmaid’s Tale is clear – but this is a skilful novel full of suspense

Gather the Daughters is set in the alternative reality of a misogynist dystopia. On an island just out of sight of “the Wastelands” (the mainland, or the rest of the world), the descendants of 10 families live in a closed community with no technology later than pen and paper, no money and some disturbing sexual practices.

The island is ruled by “the Wanderers”, a group of elite adult men who make regular trips to the Wastelands, returning with a small selection of useful commodities to eke out the produce of small-scale subsistence farming. Other men follow the kinds of trades one might find in a small medieval town: blacksmithing, weaving and carpentry (though the population is so limited that when the papermaker dies, the islanders simply run out of paper). The women stay at home, contriving what they can by way of food, clothing and cleanliness with limited resources. They divert themselves with gossip and attendance at each other’s childbirths, these being the only occasions on which they may gather without a male chaperone.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/522e483b2eb7a2bb47aa99bee88866f3ad39a0e4/0_18_900_540/master/900.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=3ce89298722027c392314bbaf0f36e18




French Poetry from Medieval to Modern Times review – warm humanity, brave choices

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 11:30:14 GMT2017-08-11T11:30:14Z

Editor Patrick McGuinness has assembled a rich and wide-ranging anthology that shows the strong links between French and English‘Il faut être absolument moderne,” wrote Rimbaud: we must be absolutely modern. Has there been a foreign-language tradition more influential to modern English poetry than French? From WB Yeats’s symbolist beginnings to Ezra Pound and TS Eliot’s discovery of Jules Laforgue and Tristan Corbière, from Gertrude Stein’s cubist prose poems to Frank O’Hara carrying a Pierre Reverdy book in his pocket, 20th-century Anglophone poetry offers strong evidence for Wallace Stevens’s claim that “French and English constitute a single language”.Patrick McGuinness, who is among the most Gallic (or, strictly speaking, Belgian) of modern British poets, has assembled a careful yet copious anthology, demonstrating just how close the two traditions are. Handily pocket-sized, this is not the book for great tracts of the Roman de la Rose and other early epics in translation; its medieval selections incline to ballades and chansons and the ultra-concision of this Christine de Pisan rondeau, in Norman Shapiro’s translation: Continue reading...[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/67391c32ee1bd8a731f3f9851d4cd3e41afe8c51/0_407_2400_1440/master/2400.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=4e9bbc9da828c077c2c7b0936943c5b0




A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma review – beautiful, sad short stories

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 06:30:51 GMT2017-08-11T06:30:51Z

Hapless, hopeful men abound in these intricate tales from the Folio prize-winning author of Family LifeThese beautiful, funny, intelligent short stories are told with such apparent simplicity. That’s Akhil Sharma’s style, honed in his two novels: An Obedient Father and the Folio prize-winning Family Life, his semi-autobiographical story of a family emigrating from India to America and then devastated by a dreadful accident, when their elder son hits his head in a swimming pool (the accident appears again in one of these stories, “Surrounded by Sleep”). Sharma’s short, declarative sentences, avoiding taking metaphorical flight, never feel mannered, or like a Carveresque moody disavowal of the possibility of saying anything. The simplicity is Sharma’s effort to get past all the temptations of falsity, of false style and ready-made ideas. His writing shines its clean light, never mercilessly or voyeuristically, on these characters winding round and round inside the muddled opacity of their lives and their thoughts. They, as well as the writer, struggle for the truth.In “The Well”, an unhappy, awkward, overweight young man, son of Indian immigrants in America, has always been “in love” with someone – at first Wonder Woman and Superman’s girlfriend, and now Betty, a blond, tennis-playing girl at work. His hungry need for Betty makes him clumsily oblivious to what she actually is, or what she wants herself. And yet there’s a moment of lovely clarity at the heart of the story, where he wonders why, as she doesn’t really like him much, she’d allowed him to get her pregnant. “The only possible explanation was that there was something in her that was weak and baffled, just like there was in me. The sympathy I felt, seeing her lie there, in the dark, murmuring to herself, would[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/43853e7ce6dee8f02e6bb0e4ce5598826709097f/0_162_6624_3974/master/6624.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=cd0df0d6ad0283de128a113b2a00ed1e




Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie review – a contemporary reworking of Sophocles

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 07:59:31 GMT2017-08-10T07:59:31Z

The story of Antigone plays out in the modern world, in this Man Booker-longlisted exploration of the clash between society, family and religious faith

In Sophocles’s play Antigone a teenage girl is forced to choose between obeying the law of the land (her uncle, the king of Thebes, has forbidden the burial of a traitor) and religious law (the traitor is Antigone’s brother, Polynices, who has declared war on his city, and killed his own brother, Eteocles, along the way). Antigone’s “good” brother gets a funeral, the “bad” one is left to rot. Leaving a relative unburied is profoundly taboo in ancient Greece, so Antigone must decide: does she obey her conscience and bury Polynices – the punishment for which is the death penalty – or does she obey the law and leave her brother to be picked apart by dogs?

Related: Kamila Shamsie: let’s have a year of publishing only women – a provocation

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/9ba8a8c9e3397623d0d9aa8307ef9e76bac2cbd1/0_178_3684_2211/master/3684.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=f4306f08364ccf1ad35d03bdd922a662




That Was a Shiver, and Other Stories by James Kelman review – a challenging collection

Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:00:35 GMT2017-08-10T11:00:35Z

Haphazard, perplexingly oblique stories from the Booker prize-winning author of How Late it Was, How LateIn a UK literary landscape dominated by the bloodless southern prose of the Oxbridge-UEA axis of Standard English, the pungent, unapologetically polemical work of Scottish writer James Kelman cannot help but stand starkly out. Kelman’s signature register is a fuck-infested, mercurially punctuated, Glaswegian vernacular. His characters and settings come from the lowest, smashed rungs of working-class life. He has published fiction prolifically – nine novels, nine short-story collections, including this latest book – but while some of the writers he has influenced, most notably Irvine Welsh, have gone on to achieve popular acclaim with a similarly dialect-intensive aesthetic, Kelman’s work has failed to find even a modest general audience.The critics have done their best. If Kelman is an obscurity, he is a venerated obscurity. He even won the Booker in 1994. Careers are routinely transformed by that prize, but Kelman’s remained stubbornly immune to the Booker’s unit-shifting auspices. How Late it Was, How Late – a splenetic stream of consciousness spat out by an unemployed alcoholic ex-con named Sammy, recently blinded by an entirely deserved smack to the head, who spends most of the novel trying to get disability benefit – is reputedly the worst-selling winner in the prize’s history. Continue reading...[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d6cc2cb6a1195ef4c3b39bc4c827fb268f4b4564/0_192_5760_3456/master/5760.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=d4d0d134b68af9a0a46135583df62f7c




Elmet by Fiona Mozley review – the wild card on the Man Booker longlist

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 06:30:01 GMT2017-08-09T06:30:01Z

This dark debut about a family living on the outskirts of society is an impressive slice of contemporary noir steeped in Yorkshire legendFiona Mozley’s Man Booker-longlisted debut is an elemental, contemporary rural noir steeped in the literature and legend of the Yorkshire landscape and its medieval history. Doncaster is the nearest orienting location, the geographic heart of the ancient kingdom from which the novel takes its name and on which Ted Hughes based the Remains of Elmet cycle of poems. Robyn Hode and his people’s uprising nourish the narrative. As Mozley’s narrator Daniel has it: “The soil was alive with ruptured stories that cascaded and rotted then found form once more and pushed up through the undergrowth and back into our lives.”Daniel and his sister Cathy live in a house they and their Daddy have built with their bare hands near the main East Coast rail line. Daddy’s name is John, but for Daniel and Cathy he is only ever Daddy. The contrast between this gentlest of paternal diminutives and the man himself – a bare-knuckle boxer of epic stature – casts into sharp relief the primal tenderness binding the three when the children wash and cut their father’s hair or share with him roll-ups and cider. Outsiders take a harsher view: “Others saw reciprocity and debts, imagined threats founded in nothing more than his physical presence.” That presence is excessive: compared with the bailiffs and fighters he comes up against, “Daddy was gargantuan. Each of his arms was as thick as two of theirs. His fists were near the size of their heads. Each of them could have sat curled up inside his ribcage like a foetus.” Continue reading...[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d70aa80817b50f6c82a590ad4d7260dcf9c46510/0_0_3072_1843/master/3072.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=a3ca7ffeb8f9ad951e513e710c5cc9ff




Beautiful Animals by Lawrence Osborne review - worlds collide on the beach

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 08:00:35 GMT2017-08-06T08:00:35Z

This tale of two wealthy women coming across a Syrian refugee on their Greek beach holiday fails to convinceIn a speech about the Arab spring at the Edinburgh world writers’ conference in 2012, the Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif questioned the place of the novel in the white heat of political turmoil. “Attempts at fiction right now would be too simple,” she said. “The immediate truth is too glaring to allow a more subtle truth to take form… Your talent – at the time of crisis – is to tell the stories as they are, to help them to achieve power as reality, not as fiction.”Five years later and the hopefulness of those early days has been lost amid the horrors of Syria and Libya, the watery deaths of refugees fleeing the bloodshed. Against this dismal backdrop, Soueif’s statement appears to hold largely true. There have been some excellent nonfiction books dealing with the crisis – The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby and The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley among them. And while some novels – by JM Coetzee and Aleksandar Hemon, for instance – felt like they were inspired by the nightmarish visions of the past few years (and by the west’s shamefully half-hearted response) – we are yet to have a great, direct novelistic response. Continue reading...[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0e82bb46920b354209786a3dc6d278629c7c934d/1145_1407_1757_1054/master/1757.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=fb2b69ee6a7086af62c5fd318c8c629d




What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons review – a debut of haunting fragments

Sat, 05 Aug 2017 06:30:05 GMT2017-08-05T06:30:05Z

Loss, identity and the struggles that face post-apartheid South Africa

American writer Zinzi Clemmons’s debut novel is about haunting. In a series of fragmented meditations and vignettes, it tells the story of Thandi, who narrates the trajectory of her life in the context of her mother’s death – a loss so great that it overwhelms her. In overt and subtle ways, the novel sets out to do important work: to explore the contours of race, class and gender and the legacy of apartheid; and it succeeds best when exploring these ideas through the delicately drawn and profoundly moving portrait it offers of a relationship between mother and daughter.

Like Clemmons, Thandi is half “Coloured” (a distinct ethnic group in South Africa) and half African American. She is, therefore, heir to the peculiar pain of all people who are half something and half another, caught between cultures and identities: the dilemma of inbetweeness, the struggle of almost belonging.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/adaa642020b770175ff891b67962ffbb56ddd805/0_404_1050_630/master/1050.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=80522bbbbda2a443c91121e984c38fd0




Eureka by Anthony Quinn review – pacy plot and effortless prose

Sat, 05 Aug 2017 08:59:08 GMT2017-08-05T08:59:08Z

‘It’s about secrets and the mysterious power of art’ – and it’s also a knowing and lively novel

Few readers who enjoyed Freya, Anthony Quinn’s last novel, will be surprised to discover that Nat Fane is back. In a tale of female friendship and identity in the bohemian 1950s, Freya’s louche friend Nat nearly stole the show, bursting the confines of his supporting role with his waspish epigrams and his penchant for silk suits and spanking.

Eureka is the third in Quinn’s 20th-century trilogy (the first, Curtain Call, was a thriller set in 1930s theatreland) and, though Freya returns, it is Nat’s turn this time to take centre stage. In London in the steamy, seamy summer of 1967 the playwright turned screenwriter is struggling. At not quite 40, his star is on the wane: it is eight years since his first film brought him fame and an academy award, and the flops are mounting fast enough for the Evening Standard to disdain him as “British theatre’s youngest living has-been”. Everything hangs on his latest project, “Eureka”, a modern-day adaptation of a Henry James story for the hotshot German auteur Rainer Werther Kloss, scheduled to begin shooting in six weeks. Unfortunately Nat is still to write a single word.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/0237d255a656e0bf32cb06f428e70c041256ed0a/0_318_3288_1972/master/3288.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=40cc95a0585d7e49c69e14ace2a8f6eb




Reviews roundup: Gather the Daughters; Elmet; I Found My Tribe

Sat, 19 Aug 2017 16:59:19 GMT2017-08-19T16:59:19Z

Jennie Melamed’s Gather the Daughters; Fiona Mozley’s Elmet; and Ruth Fitzmaurice’s I Found My TribeThree debuts by female writers dominate reviews this week. Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed is a Handmaid’s Tale-esque future dystopia, set on a small island run by a patriarchal religious cult. Melamed may not have the “literary heft” of Margaret Atwood but she is “definitely a talent to watch”, wrote Allison Pearson in the Sunday Telegraph. “What makes this an exceptional debut is her insight into the way kids are able to normalise cruel and unnatural treatment.” Fanny Blake in the Daily Mail found that “the spirit of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale hangs over this arresting piece of speculative fiction, to great effect. It’s a chilling, vividly realised feminist novel that propels the reader into the dark heart of a cruelly repressive and sinister society.” A duff note was sounded by Leaf Arbuthnot in the Sunday Times, who found it “readable if not desperately original or well-written”. But the Independent’s Lucy Scholes praised a “richly envisioned world” and predicted that it will be “a short-term hit, especially if you’re looking for something to fill The Handmaid’s Tale hole in your life as the TV adaptation draws to a close.”Fiona Mozley’s debut novel Elmet is set in the woods, where a giant, fist fighter of a father takes his family to escape the world. In the Evening Standard, Arifa Akbar called it “the biggest surprise on this year’s Man Booker longlist” and maybe the best one “despite its oddness, or perhaps beca[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/a6af130a861026546402013940abc1e21739d2ec/0_143_4240_2545/master/4240.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=b403f9fe0786f05a5ad5d496c6878044




This Zoo Is Not for You by Ross Collins review – an irresistible pleasure

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 07:00:36 GMT2017-08-14T07:00:36Z

This beautifully illustrated tale of a put-upon platypus is given extra bite by the author’s mischievous sense of humour

Some books seem to carry a memory of the fun their creators must have had conceiving them and the latest from Scottish author/illustrator Ross Collins – about a platypus enduring a series of job interviews with some snooty zoo animals – is shot through with a particular brand of mischief. Told in rhyming couplets with beautifully expressive illustrations, it bounces along, a pleasure to read aloud.

First to grill the platypus is Chi Chi the panda, who resembles a podgy, ageing star, surrounded by his own merchandise: “I’m special, rare/ and famous too/ To get me here/ was quite a coup/ But you don’t even eat bamboo!/ I think, this zoo/ is not for you.” And it’s downhill from there: to the flamingos the platypus looks like “a worn-out shoe”, while the monkeys target him with poo.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/11e9e16229db44ac20f77f8b014177661cabd38b/1500_135_4879_2930/master/4879.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=fd71d9e0b8be4a4e653d49a0321f344f




Beyond the Wall by Tanya Landman review – brutality and hope in Roman Britain

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 09:00:54 GMT2017-08-11T09:00:54Z

Chases and cliffhangers abound in an excellent YA novel about a 14-year-old slave girl escaping sexual exploitation

What was it like to be a slave in the Roman empire? Pretty grim, according to Tanya Landman’s excellent YA novel set in fourth-century Roman Britain. Well, of course, you might say – how could deprivation of liberty and hard labour be anything else? But as we soon discover, there was something even worse in store for many slaves, particularly the young, vulnerable ones – sexual exploitation.

Fourteen-year-old Cassia is a slave on the estate of Titus Cornelius Festus, a rich, powerful Roman and a nasty piece of work. He tries to rape her, but she fights him off and goes on the run to nearby Londinium. There she is saved from being recaptured by the enigmatic Marcus Aquila, a young Roman only a few years older than her. But is he a true friend or an enemy in disguise?

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/7261dfb9e3e9593b2a44bd674336afd66cb1e83b/0_2016_3508_2104/master/3508.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=8f911c0ecc6d2c3f11c2a35a2db2bd1a




Children’s books roundup: the best new picture books and novels

Sat, 29 Jul 2017 06:59:44 GMT2017-07-29T06:59:44Z

From a retelling of Rapunzel to a tentative romance, there is something for all ages from toddlers to teens

Author-illustrator Bethan Woollvin returns to enthral picture-book fans with a retelling of Rapunzel (Two Hoots) in her characteristic, starkly beguiling graphic black and white. The contrasting waves of Rapunzel’s hair, in over-saturated buttery yellow, light up a heroine every bit as defiant, quick-witted and tough as Woollvin’s award-winning Little Red.

Another strong-willed girl features in Sean Taylor and Kasia Matyjaszek’s I Am Actually a Penguin (Templar), in which the narrator dons a seabird persona along with her beloved new costume and refuses to behave in any way unbefitting a penguin. It’s warm, hilarious, with acutely observed behaviour and a delightful twist.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/d8193731e98a94c039dd12f6fd4bebaac8b87299/0_433_3387_2033/master/3387.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=f6520f5cf49cc72576fa31d262473d38




Picture books for children reviews – from old hats to new homes

Sun, 23 Jul 2017 07:00:01 GMT2017-07-23T07:00:01Z

Neil Gaiman’s mute, pearl-eyed princess and a magical tale of moving house are among the best illustrated reads for kids this summer

It is summer – the season in which mad dogs and Englishmen are said to go out in the midday sun. A better idea might be to stay in the shade and read Raymond, by Yann and Gwendal Le Bec (Walker £11.99, ages 3+). Even before you have opened the book, you will be won over by the brilliant sunshine-yellow cover and Raymond – a little dog with big dreams – standing on his hind legs, looking perkily assured, with a cup of what looks alarmingly like coffee in his left paw.

Raymond’s big dream is to be more than one of the family – he wants to “act more and more like a human”. He becomes a celeb journo on Dogue magazine – and it all gets a bit much. It is not until he goes on holiday with his faithful old family that he remembers the enchantment of simply being a dog. The delight for readers is partly in acknowledging that we should all be careful what we wish for.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/8a0ae77d9f024950e6b77d047f19f1cecf181d2e/825_718_4026_2415/master/4026.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=08d035b3bc4b0861bf53a8f3ec061c8e




The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue review – it’s a family affair

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 07:59:33 GMT2017-07-22T07:59:33Z

Big is beautiful in the Room author’s tale of seven children, four parents (and a three-legged dog) who follow their dreamsEmma Donoghue, the award-winning novelist best known for Room, has made her first foray into children’s fiction. The Lotterys Plus One is set in cosmopolitan Toronto and features a household that embodies diversity and respect for the planet. It’s a tale that’s funny, heartwarming and quietly provocative.There is a huge difference between writing about children and for children. In sharp contrast to the grim tale of five-year-old Jack and his virtuoso narration of Room, Donoghue’s latest novel is full of warmth and light, its third-person perspective introducing us to a large and, in some respects, utopian family unit. The Lotterys are people “who like to say why not?” There are two sets of committed same-sex parents (of different ethnicities), seven children, mostly adopted (ditto), and their pets, including a rat and a three-legged dog. Caroline Hadilaksono’s charming illustrations help keep track of the large cast of characters. Having won the lottery, the parents can devote themselves to bringing up their brood in a way that cherishes their individuality, educates and encourages a sense of responsibility towards family, community and planet. “Love is not a pie,” the parents say. “Everyone doesn’t have to fight for a slice.” The parents all have nicknames, such as PapaDum and MaxiMum. The children are named after tree[...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/2113b00077482da6133340933ceb5e3d29b5e1c0/0_109_4256_2554/master/4256.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=b895f4739bc8fb7087b690c1c23fdbcd




Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence review – gripping urban teen fiction

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 08:00:04 GMT2017-07-11T08:00:04Z

The award-winning author gets to the raw heart of her diverse characters in this winning sixth form tale of romance and identity

Her award-winning debut Orangeboy, a gripping urban thriller, announced Patrice Lawrence as a bold, fresh voice in young adult fiction. This promise is realised in her second book, a tender and complex story of first love, family and belonging.

The chemistry is instant when Indigo and Bailey meet at sixth form. But these are two teenagers from very different places. As a small child, Indigo witnessed her father kill her mother and has grown up in the care system. Her notorious story and her own reputation for losing it shadow her start at this “last-chance” school. Mixed-race Bailey, meanwhile, who’s known for his love of guitars and distinctive ginger afro, lives with his middle-class parents. A hesitant romance develops between the pair, beautifully capturing both the shine of mutual attraction and the awkwardness of fledgling lovers. When Bailey is approached by a tramp who knows far more about Indigo than he should, he faces the most difficult decision of his life.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/1fce2b6aebebf26916902c067fc50dd18e844100/0_73_4928_2957/master/4928.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=19e5508333444a0f5d30057749699c39




Piggy Handsome by Pip Jones review – a modern animal hero

Sun, 20 Aug 2017 10:00:40 GMT2017-08-20T10:00:40Z

The prizewinning author of Squishy McFluff turns from rhyme to prose to create a ‘furious fuming fireball’ of a guinea pig

Piggy Handsome is 19th in a line of illustrious guinea pigs, each “an utter sensation”. Despite reaching the age of three (getting on, in guinea pig years), our hero has yet to achieve the fame he yearns for. With long-suffering friend Jeff – a budgie who switches his high-pitched tweets for a gruff rasp once humans are out of the room – a scheme is formulated to turn Piggy’s fortunes around. Naturally, nothing goes to plan but the plot zips along, evolving into the kind of crime caper Michael Bond’s Olga da Polga could only dream of.

Pip Jones made her children’s books debut with another animal character, imaginary feline friend Squishy McFluff, winning the Greenhouse Funny prize for her charming rhyming series. Here she switches to prose, creating a longer story with much to appeal to readers of seven-plus.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e61371265b077dad6b0e0a34d942649d596042e9/0_47_546_328/master/546.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=9893e1e7bb926f3465808eb889600f46




Summer reading with John Gordon Sinclair and Horatio Clare – podcast

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 16:46:01 GMT2017-08-08T16:46:01Z

Subscribe and review: iTunes, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud and Acast. Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

On the podcast this week, Gregory’s Girl and World War Z actor John Gordon Sinclair talks to Richard about his latest crime novel Walk in Silence, and explains how being mistaken for the actor Tim Robbins lead him – in a roundabout way – to writing books.

Continue reading...


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/c2fe6007de4abdaa98c4d6373affc4496238c354/0_376_4144_2487/master/4144.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=4cc8367dcb45cf5b7e2124c676fc6720




The Explorers by Katherine Rundell review – wildly exciting adventure

Sun, 06 Aug 2017 10:00:38 GMT2017-08-06T10:00:38Z

The gripping tale of four youngsters plunged into the Amazon forest will delight with its warmth and wisdomFrom the whimsical streets of Victorian Paris in Rooftoppers to the frozen white plains of Russia in The Wolf Wilder, Katherine Rundell conjures an extraordinary sense of place in her novels, no more so than in the lush Amazon rainforest of her latest. Readers are plunged, quite literally, into a wildly exciting adventure when four children crash-land hundreds of miles from civilisation after their pilot suffers a heart attack. They are alone and in absolute peril, without food or water, at the mercy of the ferocious jungle. But it’s also a place of wonder: Rundell’s rich, descriptive prose will transport her young readers to a mesmerising world where they can swim with river dolphins, eat a tarantula and discover a ruined city. The mystery deepens when the discovery of a map suggests they are not the first humans to find this place.The early 20th-century setting disallows the pesky interference of modern technology, lending a timeless feel to the plot. At the heart of the novel is how her four main characters – aspiring explorer Fred, gloriously spiky Con and Brazilian siblings Lila and Max – embark on a journey of self-discovery, coming to terms with their situation and finding the bravery and ingenuity they need. On one level it’s a gripping [...]


Media Files:
https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/410ec98851fc1ed123d2bb28225e5e7020fd6ea2/0_46_1458_875/master/1458.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=6a6688ada381e1dcf433ec1075c51d8f