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July 31, 2013

Mixed response to Man Booker longlist


booker-longlist-2013-smaller-pic  By Joshua Farrington

The newly released Man Booker Prize longlist has been praised by the media for its diversity, but criticised for missing several big names and including multiple titles that have yet to be published.

The Guardian praised the judges, and said: “This is a jury not afraid to be experimental.”

It commended the scope of the longlist and said: “The longlist casts a wide net in terms of both geography and time, ranging from the slimmest of novels—Colm Tóibín’s stark, surprising The Testament of Mary conjures the gospel according to Jesus’s mother in a mere 100-odd pages—to vast doorstops, playful with genre and form.”

The Daily Mail focused on authors it saw as being “snubbed” from the Booker list, describing the nominated authors as “obscure . . . mostly unknown”. It said: “This year’s longlist is notable for the number of big-name authors who have been overlooked, including J M Coetzee, Roddy Doyle and Margaret Atwood. Five of the books have yet to be published.”

The Daily Mail also quoted Alex Donohue of bookmaker Ladbrokes, which has appointed Jim Crace as the current favourite at 9/2.

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William Caxton, Wasted Knights

William Caxton

William Caxton

By Steve King

On this day in 1485, William Caxton printed Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur. England’s first printer was more than a printer: in his preface to The Order of Chivalry, a practical book on knight-errantry to go with Malory’s Romance, Caxton complains that the knights of his day are altogether too un-Arthurian, spending far too much time at brothels, dice and “taking ease.”

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July 30, 2013

Big week for UK prizes

The-Folio-Prize By Clare Swanson

The Man Booker Prize announced their longlist today and, after taking some heat for its populist ways, the award’s judges have deemed the list most diverse it has ever been.

The Guardian reported that Robert Macfarlane, this year’s Man Booker chair of judges, said: “This is surely the most diverse longlist in Man Booker history: wonderfully various in terms of geography, form, length and subject. These 13 outstanding novels range from the traditional to the experimental, from the first century AD to the present day, from 100 pages to 1,000, and from Shanghai to Hendon.”

The reveal arrives one week after the Folio Prize named the panel of judges for their inaugural prize given in 2014, which includes Pulitzer Prize-winning author (and husband to sometimes controversial essayist Ayelet Waldman) Michael Chabon. The award, created by the Literature Prize Foundation, was perceived by some to be the highbrow answer to the Man Booker Prize when first announced in 2011.

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From Young Adult to New Adult: Books for the inbetweeners


Losing ItAfter the boom in Young Adult fiction,  publishers are on the hunt for the next hit genre. Have they found it in the swearing and sex of New Adult fiction?

By John Walsh

Does the book world need a new genre? The “Young Adult” demographic began in living memory and dealt with parents, teachers, good friends, treacherous friends, crushes, body-consciousness, social diseases, moral issues and lots of snogs. Then it splintered into sub-genres of teen vampires and playground werewolves, school gangs and school romance. Teenage readers were spoilt for choice, provided they had a ceaseless appetite for pubertal trauma and pustule management.

Stand by, then, for the newest genre on  the block: “New Adult.” Although the term was coined in 2009 by Dan Weiss (who masterminded the Sweet Valley High series of mild school romances for 12-year-olds), it’s only recently acquired credibility among major publishers. NA novels are written about (and often by)  18 to 25-year-olds, charting the lives of post-school, university-age friends as they encounter the world of work, offices, money, identity, rented flats and dates with people they’ve met online.


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Emily Bronte: “Peculiar Music”

emily-bronte-154x210 By Steve King

On this day in 1818, Emily Bronte was born in Thornton, Yorkshire. Most accounts portray Emily as the brightest, most intense, and most difficult of the three sisters — “not a person of demonstrative character,” wrote Charlotte, “nor one, on the recesses of whose mind and feelings, even those nearest and dearest to her could, without impunity, intrude unlicensed.”

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July 29, 2013

The 10 best … SA crime fiction novels

coldsleep By Charles Cilliers

In recent years, there’s been a spate of brilliant crime fiction by local authors, set in SA. Many of these titles have enjoyed critical and commercial success, both here and abroad. Charles Cilliers cherry picks some of the very best.


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When Edward Gorey Illustrated Dracula: Two Masters of the Macabre, Together

goreydracula_cover  By Maria Popova

“No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.”

As if knowing that the great Edward Gorey illustrated a small stable of little-known and wonderful paperback covers for literary classics weren’t enough of a treat, how thrilling it is to know that he also illustrated the occasional entire volume, from classic fairy tales to H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds to T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. But out of all his literary reimaginings, by far the greatest fit for Gorey’s singular brand of darkly delightful visual magic is Edward Gorey’s Dracula (public library), a special edition of the Bram Stoker classic originally published in 1977 and eventually adapted as a magnificent toy theater of die-cut foldups and foldouts.


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How Italo Calvino Arrived at a New Ideal for Fiction


Letters: 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino, selected and with an introduction by Michael Wood, translated by Martin McLaughlin

Letters: 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino, selected and with an introduction by Michael Wood, translated by Martin McLaughlin


Who any longer remembers or broods on Italy in the 1950s and 1960s? It was the era of a severe sadness—whether in the cinema of Rossellini and Antonioni, or the artistic thinking of Alighiero Boetti, or the musical thinking of Luciano Berio and Luigi Nono. There was a total noble clarity to the tone, and the deepest expression of this tone was in literature. For this was the era of Primo Levi’s prose and Pasolini’s novels and essays, as well as Cesare Pavese and Elio Vittorini’s novels and the novels of their protégés Natalia Ginzburg and Elsa Morante—and, above all, the work of Italo Calvino. In Turin and Milan and Rome, an unusually intricate investigation into what might be taken for reality was underway. This had something to do, no doubt, with the state of postwar destruction. In Paris, the postwar moment was a mute, anguished trauma. In Italy, however, the atmosphere was different. It managed to be simultaneously more utopian and more fragile, and that atmosphere allowed for investigations into reality that would have been savagely political if they hadn’t been at the same time so delicately formal.

There is nothing like it now, not in New York or London or Shanghai, just as there is no writer alive who resembles that era’s greatest writer, Calvino. So the appearance of a selection of Calvino’s letters in English is a moment of happiness. This does not mean, however, that it is a book to be read through on the ultimate sofa or day-bed. These are not self-exposing compositions like the letters of Flaubert or Elizabeth Bishop. The tone, in Martin McLaughlin’s translation, can sometimes feel coldly pedantic or earnestly verbose. The scrupulously literary focus of the selection by Michael Wood gives a strange impression, as if Calvino were unable to talk about anything in private that could not be said in a lecture course or a publishing meeting. So perhaps this isn’t a great book, not entirely.

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Chester Himes, Hard Times

Chester Himes    (1909 - 1984)

Chester Himes
(1909 – 1984)

By Steve King

On this day in 1909 Chester Himes was born. Until recently, Himes was known primarily for his contributions to the noir-hardboiled genre — Cotton Comes to Harlem, and his other “Harlem Domestic” detective novels. Recent, restored editions of some of his other books and several recent biographies make the case for regarding Himes, rather than such contemporaries as Wright and Baldwin, as “America’s central black writer.”

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July 5, 2013

A Very Short, Free And Dangerous Book – 25 Love Poems For The NSA

Filed under: Poetry — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:06 pm

screen-shot-2013-07-05-at-9-17-48-amBy Iain S. Thomas


Every poem in this book has one or more words in it that have been taken from the NSA’s watch list.

A full list of the words appears at the back of this book.

By transmitting this book via email or other means,

you are liable to be tracked by the NSA as a

potential terrorist threat.

This book is dedicated to how ridiculous that is.

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