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September 11, 2013

Man Booker Shortlist 2013

Newsletter Img When Robert Macfarlane, the chair of this year’s Man Booker Prize judges, announced the longlist he called it the most diverse in recent memory. He was right, and the same is still true of the shortlist he and his peers have just selected. The 151 novels they started with represented a tour d’horizon of contemporary fiction, a grand vista that encompassed everything from the epic to the miniaturist. The longlist distilled the numbers but kept the flavour and now the shortlist has intensified it further.
The six books on the list could not be more diverse. There are examples from novelists from New Zealand, England, Canada, Ireland and Zimbabwe – each with its own highly distinctive taste. They range in size from the 832 pages of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries to the 104-page The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín. The times represented stretch from the biblical Middle East (Tóibín) to contemporary Zimbabwe (NoViolet Bulawayo) by way of 19th-century New Zealand (Catton), 1960s India (Jumpha Lahiri), 18th-century rural England (Crace) and modern Tokyo (Ruth Ozeki).

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Sons and Lovers, Mothers and Fathers

D. H. Lawrence    (1885 - 1930

D. H. Lawrence
(1885 – 1930)

by Steve King

On this day in 1885 D. H. Lawrence was born in Eastwood, outside Nottingham, the fourth of five children. Lawrence’s autobiographical novel, Sons and Lovers (1913) made famous the tortured conditions of his upbringing: his uneducated father’s pit-and-pub life, his mother’s contempt for this and her self-sacrifice to escape, Lawrence’s own conflicted feelings about all of it.

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September 6, 2013

Seamus Heaney (RIP) Reads “Death of a Naturalist” and His Nobel Lecture on the Power of Poetry

deathofanaturalistby Maria Popova

 

How poetry works to “persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness” and remind us that we are “hunters and gatherers of values.”

 

How heartbreaking to learn that beloved Irish poet, playwright, and translator Seamus Heaney (April 13, 1939–August 30, 2013) has died. The recipient of innumerable awards, including the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature, he has been noted as the best-read living poet in the world in the past few decades.

To celebrate his legacy, here is Heaney’s exquisite reading of the title poem from his 1966 anthology Death of a Naturalist (public library), followed by his timeless wisdom on poetry, politics, and culture from his Nobel acceptance speech.

 

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Not a closed book just yet

Books+textbooks+dumpedBy YOLISA MKELE

South Africans are rapidly losing their taste for books. This is according to recent data, which shows a sharp decline in the sales of printed books.

Four major publishing houses confirmed that print book sales were waning.

According to Elitha van der Sandt, CEO of the South African Book Development Council, there are only 500000 regular book-readers left in the country.

Steve Connolly, managing director at Random House Struik, said total sales, excluding school textbooks and academic titles amounted to R1.58-billion in 2012, R1.59-billion in 2011 and R1.62-billion in 2010.

“There is clearly a downward trend here, and 2012 would have seen a steeper downward curve without the contribution of Fifty Shades of Grey,”said Connolly.

He said, as a result of the decline, it now takes significantly fewer sales for books to become “bestsellers”.

 

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Conrad, Marlow, Africa

joseph-conrad-heart-of-darkness-154x210by Steve King

On this day in 1890, thirty-two year-old Joseph Conrad took command of a small stern-wheeler for the trip down the Congo river from Stanley Falls (now Boyoma Falls) to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). Though Conrad was not exposed to the full horror that Marlow witnessed and felt beckon, these experiences were the genesis of Heart of Darkness, published twelve years later.

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September 5, 2013

10 Essential Elmore Leonard Novels: A Eulogy

elmore_leonard

elmore_leonard

Column by Ryan Peverly

I remember the first time I came across the name Elmore Leonard.

It wasn’t on the cover of one of his forty-five novels, nor was it in the credits of one of the umpteen feature films that have been adapted from his work. It was on some shoddy internet forum I frequented as a teenager.

People shared short stories with each other on this forum. Some fiction, some creative nonfiction, all just really, really shitty. These stories had exclamation points in every paragraph. These stories had words like “exclaimed” and “opined” as tags for dialogue, and adverbs like “loudly” and “proudly” modifying those tags.

Somewhere in this gigantic clusterfuck of shameful writing, someone whose snarky username has long been forgotten commented on one of these stories. The reply, the verbatim also long forgotten, said something about Elmore Leonard thinking that exclamation points were shit, anything other than “said” as a dialogue tag was shit, adverbs to modify those tags were shit, and that if he were there, on the forum, Elmore Leonard would tell the author to go fuck himself or herself.

I don’t know if Elmore Leonard would have said that. I like to think he would have, but he seemed like a kind, encouraging, stand-up dude. He really did hate exclamation points and anything other than “said” as a dialogue tag and any adverbs modifying those tags, though. That part was damn true, and that’s great advice for any writer out there.

Another piece of great advice for any writer out there: READ ELMORE LEONARD. He’s one of the greatest novelists of not only our time, but all time.

Here’s 10 books from the late, great author they called “Dutch” to get you started.

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32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life

enhanced-buzz-10556-1376603383-18And all you have to do is read them!

By Erin La Rosa

1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This heartbreaking memoir, written by Jean-Dominique Bauby, follows the life of a narcissistic editor turned ward of the hospital after a sudden stroke leaves him paralyzed and unable to communicate. It’ll make you realize how important the people in your life are, and how precious every moment really is. Did I mention you might weep through the whole thing?

2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Need a little more impetus in your life?

Read this philosophical novel, and Robert Pirsig will help you realize how important it is to actually care about what you’re doing. In other words, if you’re fixing a motorcycle, then really fix it. Don’t listen to music, or do something else simultaneously. Do what you need to do, and take pride in it.

3. Cat’s Cradle

Of all the Vonnegut you could possibly read, this is the one that will raise the most questions — in a great way. Jonah, our narrator, wants to write a book about the inventor of the atomic bomb, Dr. Frank Hoenikker.

This book will make you question whether or not there should be a limit to the pursuit of knowledge. And it’ll get you to think about the power of weapons, and how even the most competent people can make mistakes with them. Plus, with all of that science comes the exploration of religion, or the futility of it, really.

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A Breaking Bad (and Beyond) Reading List

WinterBy Lauren Eggert-Crowe

Only five new episodes remain in AMC’s high-octane drama about a milquetoast family man who transforms himself into a cunning drug kingpin. Within the next two months, we can expect to see Walter White’s reckoning, whether through spectacular downfall or a final ascension to cartel royalty. Blood will spill and secrets will be revealed. Breaking Bad promises us the rush and pulse of the best Shakespeare dramas, cinematically captured in the saturated blues and bleached out beiges that signify the Southwestern landscape.

One of the strengths of Breaking Bad is its richly layered storylines. There are worlds and worlds behind Walter White’s character arc. The story of the land and people of Northern New Mexico alone could be its own fascinating spinoff of Breaking Bad. Not to mention the history of The Drug War, cartels, and race relations in the borderlands.

The books on this list range from the personal to the mythological to the journalistic, and some intertwine all three. They all depict a world of stark contrasts. There is danger here. There are hardscrabble heroes and self-made gods dripping with hubris. Each book is infused with the poetry of landscape, in which humans like Walter White and Jesse Pinkman try to craft their own story with what their realities have handed them.

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All The Pretty Corpses

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:01 am

laurenbeukestheshininggirls  by Lauren Beukes

Pop culture has a nasty habit of producing them. You know the type: the girl in the trunk with her long bare legs dangling over the bumper; the torture victim in the basement in a dirty vest and panties; matted hair over her face, the broken ingénue with glazed eyes and her dress fetchingly rucked up and one high heel kicked off and blood pooling under her.

The murder victim becomes a bloody puzzle that has to be solved. She is the sum of her injuries, rather than her life.

We focus on the gory details – the exit wound of the bullet, the angle of the knife, the pattern of the blood spatter, the DNA under her nails, the defensive cuts on her hands. We learn it from TV. This is what is important: what was done to her. Passive voice. Because there’s no subject anymore. Only object: the dead girl, the body. And a body doesn’t mean anything. It’s an empty snail shell. It’s okay to look. There’s no-one in there now. But there was once.

Which is why I wrote The Shining Girls to be a book that is as much about the victims’ stories as the killer’s.

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Hamlet in Africa

William Shakespeare   (1564 - 1616)

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

by Steve King

On this day in 1607, Shakespeare’s Hamlet was performed on board the merchant ship, “Red Dragon,” anchored off the coast of Sierra Leone; scholars regard this amateur production by the ship’s crew as the first staging of a Shakespearean play outside of Europe, and one which predates any New World Hamlet by about 150 years.

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