Apr 27, 2020
High Fidelity author writes fierce defence of broadcaster, praising work to help audience ‘live through and understand a crisis’
Author Nick Hornby has written an essay praising the BBC as “one of our crowning achievements as a nation”, saying that its handling of the coronavirus pandemic should make it “untouchable” once the crisis has passed.
In an essay for Penguin, Hornby writes that the BBC, which has put together its biggest ever education programme to help parents during lockdown, is helping him “to live through and understand a crisis”. Continue reading...
Apr 27, 2020
Much garlanded novelist, playwright, poet and Oscar-winning screenwriter hailed as ‘a giant among European writers’
Swedish author Per Olov Enquist, described as “a giant among European writers” by his publisher, has died at the age of 85.
The author’s family told Swedish media that he died on Saturday night after a long illness. The much-celebrated novelist, playwright and poet, known by his initials PO, was winner of the Nordic Council’s literary prize and the Swedish Academy’s Nordic prize. His historical novel The Visit of the Royal Physician – set in the adulterous, backstabbing world of the 18th-century Danish courts, where the mad king Christian VII’s queen, the English princess Caroline Mathilde, falls in love with the court physician – won him the August prize, Sweden’s most prestigious literary award after the Nobel. It also made him the only Swedish author to take the Independent foreign fiction prize, the precursor to the International Booker, in 2001. Continue reading...
Apr 24, 2020
Dr Jessica Taylor has been speaking about her book Why Women are Blamed for Everything, but has received thousands of abusive messages and seen her computer hacked
A British academic whose new book is about why women are blamed for crimes committed against them has been subjected to thousands of coordinated attacks from alt-right trolls over the last week, culminating in her personal computer being hacked.
Dr Jessica Taylor, a senior lecturer in forensic and criminal psychology, is due to publish her exploration of victim blaming, Why Women are Blamed for Everything, on 27 April. Looking into what causes society to blame women who have been abused, raped, trafficked, assaulted or harassed by men, the book has drawn increasing publicity, including an appearance on Woman’s Hour. Continue reading...
Apr 23, 2020
Fundraiser for retailers facing hardship during the coronavirus pandemic reveals that benefactor is internet giant widely blamed for trade’s decline
Amazon, the internet retail giant vilified for years as public enemy No 1 to booksellers, has been revealed as the surprise mystery benefactor that donated £250,000 to help UK bookshops weather the coronavirus pandemic.
With booksellers around the country forced to close their doors to respect social distancing measures implemented by the government, a fundraiser was launched one month ago by Gayle Lazda from the London Review Bookshop, Picador’s Kishani Widyaratna and Daunt Books publisher Zeljka Marosevic to help them survive. Initially setting out to raise £10,000, with donations coming in from authors including Candice Carty-Williams, Adam Kay and David Nicholls, the funding target was quickly raised to £100,000, as organisations including Penguin Random House and the Booksellers Association weighed in. Continue reading...
Apr 23, 2020
You’ve seen the films, but the novel is far richer and funnier – and in these locked-down days it’s as comforting as hot buttered toast
You probably think you know the story of One Hundred and One Dalmatians. You’ve seen the film, whether that’s the charming 1961 animated version with one of the catchiest tunes ever (“Cruella de Vil, Cruella de Vil, if she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will”), or the 1996 live-action version starring the goddess that is Glenn Close.
But while the films should be an integral part of any childhood, they don’t really measure up to Dodie Smith’s book. For one thing, that’s not even the real title. The novel is called The Hundred and One Dalmatians, and, as you might expect from the author of I Capture the Castle, it’s far richer and funnier than the films. When I went back to it recently – favourites from my childhood seem to be what I need to read right now – I was entirely entranced by it, once again. Continue reading...
Apr 23, 2020
The Reading Agency, which runs the annual event going ahead on Thursday in curtailed form, says there has been a particular spike among younger readers
Brits are turning to books in lockdown, with one in three reading more since Boris Johnson told the country on 23 March to stay at home, according to a new survey.
Marking the annual World Book Night on Thursday, the survey from the Reading Agency of more than 2,000 people in the UK found that 31% were reading more since lockdown began, with the charity noting a “particular spike”, of 45%, among young people aged between 18 and 24. Continue reading...
Apr 21, 2020
Finalists for the £30,000 prize announced after ‘a long Zoom meeting’ were praised by judges for engaging with the biggest contemporary issues
Set in an Elizabethan England haunted by the threat of plague, Maggie O’Farrell’s unexpectedly timely novel about the death of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, will go up against Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light for this year’s Women’s prize for fiction.
The novels, which are among the biggest books of 2020, lead a heavyweight shortlist that will compete this autumn for the £30,000 prize. Bernadine Evaristo’s Booker prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other, that follows a cast of 12 characters, mainly black women, is also among the finalists, as are Jenny Offill’s Weather, an exploration of climate anxiety; Natalie Haynes’s A Thousand Ships, a retelling of the Trojan war from the perspectives of the women involved; and Angie Cruz’s Dominicana, about a teenage girl who is married off to an older man in order to get her family out of the Dominican Republic and into the US. Continue reading...
Apr 21, 2020
Annual list of the most challenged books includes Alex Gino’s George, about a transgender girl, and John Oliver’s picture book about a gay rabbit, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo
Attempts to remove books from libraries across the US rose almost a fifth last year, with children’s books featuring LGBTQ characters making up 80% of the most challenged books.
The American Library Association’s annual list of the most challenged books in public, school and academic libraries was topped by Alex Gino’s George, which has made the top 10 every year since it was published in 2015. Objections to the book, about a child who “knows she’s not a boy”, cited sexual references and conflict with “traditional family structure”, with some saying schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”. Continue reading...
Apr 21, 2020
Novelist says government should be ‘charged with conspiracy to murder’ if reluctance to work with the EU obstructed provision
Philip Pullman has said that the UK government “should be arraigned on charges of conspiracy to murder” if it is found that “for Brexit-related reasons” MPs did not take part in the EU procurement scheme to buy PPE.
The government has previously said it was unable to join the EU schemes as it had not received an email of invitation. But the Guardian revealed last week that the UK missed three opportunities to be part of the EU scheme to bulk-buy masks, gowns and gloves. Continue reading...
Apr 17, 2020
Streaming daily, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 2020 incarnation also features Marianne Faithfull and Tilda Swinton as readers, set against sound and fine art
“Alone, alone, all, all alone.” The cry of the Ancient Mariner, immortalised by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, feels particularly apposite today as the world self-isolates. Now the 18th-century poem is set to be reimagined, in a daily online reading by stars from Marianne Faithfull to Iggy Pop, Jeremy Irons and Tilda Swinton for a world audience in lockdown.
The Ancient Mariner Big Read, which launches on Saturday and was commissioned by The Arts Institute at Plymouth University, will see the 150-verse poem divided into 40 readings, with readers from Faithfull to Irons each recording three or four verses to be broadcast daily for free. (Faithfull recorded it before being hospitalised with the coronavirus.) The project will combine the readings with works from major artists including Marina Abramović, and refocus on the poem’s “urgent ecological message”. Continue reading...
Apr 16, 2020
The nation’s official tourism agency published a map of inspiring bookish sights that left Wales ‘depicted as trees’ and Scotland guillotined
VisitBritain has apologised after publishing a map of British literature that appeared to suggest Wales’s only contribution to the literary history of the British Isles was a few trees.
Published on Wednesday on the Twitter account of Britain’s official tourism body, the map invited users to “explore the places” that inspired books including Dracula, Harry Potter and Wuthering Heights, “and sent British literature around the world”. Continue reading...
Apr 16, 2020
Sales of works by ancient Roman Marcus Aurelius have seen a sharp uptick in recent months. Which makes calm sense
‘Be like the rocky headland on which the waves constantly break. It stands firm, and round it the seething waters are laid to rest. ‘It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ No, you should rather say: ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearful of the future.’”
Is that Gal Gadot, roused from lockdown to offer another snippet of comfort to her followers? No, it’s Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, reflecting on his life in the second century AD in what came to be known as his Meditations. It’s just one Stoic text that has seen a “noticeable uplift” in sales during the coronavirus pandemic, alongside Letters from a Stoic by Seneca. Continue reading...
Apr 16, 2020
The Handmaid’s Tale author says ‘people may be making arrangements that aren’t too pleasant, but it’s not a deliberate totalitarianism’
Margaret Atwood, who has created dystopias from Gilead to the collapsed civilisation of Oryx and Crake, has spoken: our locked-down world might be “an unpleasant, frightening, disagreeable place you don’t want to be”, but it is not dystopian.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett, Atwood said that “a dystopia, technically, is an arranged unpleasant society that you don’t want to be living in. This one was not arranged. So people may be making arrangements that aren’t too pleasant, but it’s not a deliberate totalitarianism. It’s not a deliberate arrangement.” Continue reading...
Apr 15, 2020
OED lexicographers report seeing huge rise in ‘a very short period of time’ of many coronavirus-related terms including self-isolation and WFH
With terms such as WFH, social distancing and self-isolation now in common parlance, the Oxford English Dictionary has made an extraordinary update to include Covid-19 and words related to the pandemic in its definitive record of the English language.
The dictionary’s executive editor Bernadette Paton said that it was “a rare experience for lexicographers to observe an exponential rise in usage of a single word in a very short period of time, and for that word to come overwhelmingly to dominate global discourse, even to the exclusion of most other topics”. Covid-19 has done that, and has thus been added as a new entry in the OED, where it is described as “an acute respiratory illness in humans caused by a coronavirus, which is capable of producing severe symptoms and death, esp. in the elderly and others with underlying health conditions”. Continue reading...
Apr 14, 2020
A pandemic locks down London, a doctor faces a dilemma over child abuse and a killer stalks South Georgia
Peter May Continue reading...
Riverrun, £8.99, pp416
Apr 09, 2020
Christmas in the Fog, written for adults, is to be republished in Queens of the Abyss, an anthology of lost stories
The darker side of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of classic children’s novels including The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy, is set to be revealed by a forgotten story found in the archives of the British Library, untouched for more than 100 years.
The British-American Hodgson Burnett is best remembered today for her The Secret Garden, the 1911 tale of a girl who comes from India to the isolated Yorkshire moors, and 1886’s Little Lord Fauntleroy, about a poor boy from Brooklyn who discovers he has inherited an English estate. Continue reading...
Apr 08, 2020
Campaign to convert the former prison was backed by Reading council and luminaries including Stephen Fry but rejected by the Ministry of Justice
The Ministry of Justice has rejected a bid to turn Reading prison, where Oscar Wilde was jailed for two years in 1895, into an arts centre.
The Grade II-listed building, which closed as a working jail in 2014, was put up for sale last year. Campaigners launched a bid to turn the site into an arts hub, attracting support from writers including Stephen Fry and Julian Barnes. But Reading borough council said on Tuesday that the MoJ has declined its attempt to buy the prison. Continue reading...
Apr 08, 2020
Dorian Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth is among the contenders for the political writing award named after the dystopian classic’s author
Dorian Lynskey’s “biography” of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four has made it on to the longlist for the Orwell prize for political writing.
Set up by the Orwell Foundation, the £3,000 prize is intended to reward those books that best meet Orwell’s ambition “to make political writing into an art”. Lynskey’s The Ministry of Truth, which traces the origins of Nineteen Eighty-Four to the time Orwell spent fighting on the republican side in the Spanish civil war, is up against 11 other titles. These include Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman’s exposé The Windrush Betrayal, Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women, about the gender data gap, and the poet Kate Clanchy’s memoir of life as a teacher, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. Continue reading...
Apr 08, 2020
Dating from long before Harry Potter, this story of young magicians’ adventures still enchants
I’ve actually reread Diana Wynne Jones’s Charmed Life twice in recent months: once, to check it was about the right level to read aloud to my kids, who are nine and six. It was, so then I read it to them. Both times it was equally delightful, and I’m lining it up for a third go now, because I can’t think of anything that would cheer me up more.
Published in 1977, Charmed Life is the first of Wynne Jones’s books about a mysterious, brilliant enchanter known as Chrestomanci, all of which are excellent and unrivalled. This one, about Cat and Gwendolen Chant, two children who are sent to live with the great enchanter after their parents die, won her the Guardian children’s fiction prize. Amid a glorious list of former winners (Goodnight Mr Tom! The Owl Service! The Knife of Never Letting Go!), it’s probably my favourite. Continue reading...
Apr 07, 2020
A decade after finishing the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, the author is continuing her bestselling series – and explains how she found it again
When Michelle Paver won the Guardian children’s fiction prize in 2010 for the final book in her bestselling Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, she was done with the stone age adventures of the boy Torak, his wolf companion, and the girl Renn. “As soon as you write that last line and finish the book they are gone,” she told the Guardian at the time, “and they don’t come back.”
Ten years later, Torak, Renn and Wolf are, in fact, back, both in an upcoming TV adaptation of the first six books and in Paver’s latest novel, Viper’s Daughter. Now Torak is on the trail of Renn, who has disappeared without a word. “Tracking was what Torak did best, and even by starlight he found Renn’s three-day-old trail. To his alarm, it didn’t lead towards the valley where the clan was camped, but down to the River Blackthorn where he and Renn kept their canoe. The canoe was gone,” Paver writes, before sending her stone age boy and his wolf on a quest to the far north, where they’ll be hunted by ice bears, and face their most evil enemy yet. It’s wonderful – sheer escapism, for children and adults alike. Continue reading...
Apr 06, 2020
Accounts of bucolic isolation by Leïla Slimani and Marie Darrieussecq prompt charges of elitism and comparisons to Marie Antoinette
Leïla Slimani and Marie Darrieussecq may be two of France’s most acclaimed writers – but their accounts of life in lockdown in their second homes in the countryside have unleashed an outpouring of resentment among French readers, with one fellow writer even comparing Slimani to Marie Antoinette.
Slimani, who won the Prix Goncourt for her bestselling novel Lullaby, wrote in Le Monde of how she had left Paris and sequestered herself and her children in their countryside second home since 13 March, telling them that it was “a bit like Sleeping Beauty”. “Tonight, I couldn’t sleep,” she wrote. “Through my bedroom window, I watched dawn break over the hills. The icy grass, the lime trees on the branches of which the first buds appear.” Continue reading...
Apr 03, 2020
Shops forced to shut by coronavirus had been surviving with online sales, but difficulties ordering titles present fresh threat
Amazon has denied reports that it is no longer accepting new deliveries of books to its warehouses while prioritising essential goods amid the coronavirus outbreak, as major cutbacks at the UK’s two main book wholesalers have begun to prevent bookshops up and down the country from acquiring new stock.
Amid reports in publications such as the Times that the online retail giant was turning away book deliveries to focus on household essentials and medical supplies, Amazon told the Guardian on Friday that it is still accepting new stock from publishers. Continue reading...
Apr 02, 2020
The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld joins five other ‘expansively imagined’ novels contending for £50,000 award
Dutch author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has become one of the youngest writers to be shortlisted for a Booker prize, after their debut novel made the final line-up for the International Booker.
Rijneveld, a rising star in Dutch literature, is 28 – slightly older than British author Daisy Johnson was when she was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2018, age 27. The author, who identifies as male and uses the pronouns they/them, was shortlisted after a six-hour virtual judging meeting for the £50,000 prize, which is shared equally between writer and translator, for The Discomfort of Evening, translated by Michele Hutchison. The novel, tells of a girl whose brother dies in a skating accident and draws from Rijneveld’s own experiences: when they were three, their 12-year-old brother was knocked over and killed by a bus. Continue reading...
Mar 30, 2020
The ‘National Emergency Library’ has made 1.4m ebooks freely available, many by current bestsellers, and sparked outrage from writers’ organisations
The Internet Archive has launched a “National Emergency Library”, making 1.4m books available free online – but has been accused of “hitting authors when they’re down” by denying them sales of books that are still in copyright.
Founded in 1996 to archive web pages, the IA began digitising books in 2005. It has long been at loggerheads with writers’ organisations who have accused it of uploading books that are not in the public domain, and denying authors potential income from sales and public library borrowing. Continue reading...