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April 3, 2012

Tim Robbins: I’ve thrown out my TV

Actor Tim Robbins Photo: EPA

Oscar winning actor Tim Robbins says he has got rid of his television because it was making him aggressive.

Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins says his experience directing a play based on George Orwell’s 1984 has prompted a life choice as personal as it is political: He’s living without a TV.

“I have done an experiment for the past three years: I got rid of my television. One of the things Orwell talks about in the book ‘1984’ is this thing called ‘the two-minute hate,'” Robbins said in a press conference in Bogota.

“People go in front of their television screens and they yell at the person they object to politically. I realised I had been doing that for two hours every day during (the administration of George W.) Bush. I said, ‘I’ve got to stop hating.'”

Robbins’ Actors Gang production of “1984” is among nearly 200 works being performed during this year’s biennial IberoAmerican Theater Festival in Bogota.

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October 27, 2011

Lionel Shriver: The dangers of film adaptations

Director Lynne Ramsay (left) with the actors Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller at the Cannes screening of We Need to Talk About Kevin. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

Awful film adaptations follow authors for the rest of their lives but Lynne Ramsay’s version of my book We Need To Talk About Kevin is terrific.

In grad school, I took a workshop with Scott Spencer, whose excellent novel Endless Love had just been turned into a film. We students were in awe of his prestige. Yet Scott himself was chagrined; for good reason, he hated the movie. Fair enough, with its proceeds he’d been able to buy a ranch in upper New York State. But I wonder if it was worth it. Though a fine writer, Scott Spencer will forever be associated with a cheesy, sentimental film starring the vapid box-office draw Brooke Shields.

So, back in April, I approached my first screening of Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin with trepidation. My agent had warned that, while a fine film would do my profile a world of good, a bad one wouldn’t help me at all, and I suspected she was soft-pedalling the latter possibility. The effect of a truly execrable adaptation is worse than neutral. The stink rubs off. Whenever I urge people to read Endless Love, their faces scrunch. “Oh, gawd,” they say. “Wasn’t that some ghastly film?” I insist how very much better the novel is, but they never rush out to buy the book.

Threading from the Curzon Soho as the final credits rolled this spring – the whole audience stunned, almost perfectly silent at first, eventually murmuring as if in church – I felt I’d dodged a bullet. The film is terrific.

By some stroke of improbable good fortune, I am actually proud to be associated with this adaptation, whose high quality has little to do with me; I didn’t write the screenplay, suggest the inspired casting, or edit an unwieldy four hours of footage into a taut, dreamlike, yet coherent story. Nevertheless, after this week’s UK premiere at the London Film Festival, I’m more intensely sympathetic than ever with writers whose beloved books are mangled into unrecognisable cinematic abortions, to which their names will be permanently attached.

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October 6, 2011

Nobel prize odds a-changin’ for Bob Dylan

Nobel prize for lyrics? Bob Dylan performing in China earlier this year. Photograph: Yan Bing/EPA

Late surge in betting sees singer-songwriter’s price shorten from 100/1 to 10/1 to win literature’s highest honour.

By Alison Flood

A late gamble on Bob Dylan has sent the singer-songwriter soaring up the odds to become the fourth favourite to win the Nobel prize for literature on Thursday.

Ladbrokes said this morning that the unlikely contender’s odds of landing the world’s most prestigious literary award had tumbled from 100/1 to 10/1 over the last 24 hours following “a substantial gamble from clued-up literary fans”. Dylan sits behind favourite Adonis, the Syrian poet, at 4/1, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer at 7/1 and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami at 8/1.

For some years, Dylan has made a showing as an outside contender at the bookmaker’s. And it is not the first literary prize he has been in contention for – nor even the first this week.

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August 31, 2011

Madonna’s Sex most sought after out-of-print book

Madonna's Sex most sought after out-of-print book

Explicit coffee-table title continues to be in hot demand, according to Bookfinder research.

By Alison Flood

Madonna’s explicit book Sex is once again America’s most sought after out-of-print title of the year, according to BookFinder’s annual report.

The graphic coffee-table book, featuring – in the words of BookFinder, “photos of the Material Girl, without the material” – has been one of the most popular out-of-print titles in the US for years and a collector’s item since it was first published in 1992. “Since Madonna is never one to do something twice, and the fact that the once highly controversial book is less edgy than it once was leads us to guess that Sex will remain out of print,” predicted the book search engine, a subsidiary of AbeBooks, last year.

BookFinder has tracked the most searched for out-of-print titles in America over the last 12 months for its annual report, which sees romantic suspense author Nora Roberts’s novel Promise Me Tomorrow come in second.

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July 28, 2011

Man Booker Prize 2011: Twitter ‘stopping children reading’, says judge Dame Stella Rimington

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:15 am

Children spend so much time on Twitter and mobile phones that they are losing their love of novels and reading less, the chair of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction has warned.

By Tim Ross

Dame Stella Rimington Photo: EPA/ANGEL DIAZ

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, said she was concerned that pupils were missing out on the pleasure of books as electronic communications increasingly dominate their lives.

The judges yesterday announced this year’s longlist of 13 novels, including one of the shortest books ever selected for the 42-year-old award, four first-time novelists and one previous winner.

Dame Stella said that while she was confident a market for fiction would still exist in 100 years, she feared many children were not growing up to be book lovers. “I think much of the Twittering and emailing and texting and all that sort of stuff that children go in for now may be taking their eyes off reading fiction. When I was young we read more than the average child reads now.”

Teachers needed to find ways to instil a love of fiction in children, she said, although electronic “reader” devices that can store hundreds of books and newspapers, such as the Amazon Kindle, “could help turn the tide”.

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July 24, 2011

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:51 am

Iran’s supreme leader attacks ‘harmful’ books

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks out against books with ‘political hidden motives’, prompting criticism from former culture minister.

By Saeed Kamali Dehghan


Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader. Photograph: EPA

Iran’s former culture minister, Ataollah Mohajerani, has criticised the country’s supreme leader for restricting access to literature after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly attacked “harmful books” and likened them to “poisonous” drugs.

In a meeting with librarians and officials from Iran’s book industry on Wednesday, Khamenei spoke out against books “with a cultural appe arance but with specific political hidden motives.

“Not all books are necessarily good and not all of them are unharmful, some books are harmful,” he said, according to his official website,

Mohajerani who was culture minister until 2000 under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, said the ayatollah was worried about “literary, philosophical and social” books that might raise questions about his legitimacy as the supreme leader. “I think that he is very much concerned about books that can either implicitly or explicitly target his position as the supreme leader and also his legitimacy.”

He had fallen foul of the ayatollah when he was at the ministry as he favoured greater cultural openness and removed thousands of titles from the lists of banned books. Some analysts believe his lack of deference to the hardline ayatollah was another reason he came under attack from conservative clerics which finally forced him to resign. Numerous publications were closed down after he went. He currently lives in exile in London.

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July 13, 2011

JK Rowling ‘writing hard’ on new work

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:16 am

Harry Potter author says the end of the film series is ‘a new beginning’

By Alison Flood

JK Rowling: 'I've done quite a lot'. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Start all the clocks and plug the telephone back in: JK Rowling has provided a shred of comfort to the millions of mourners lamenting the release of the final Harry Potter movie with the revelation that she has written “quite a lot” of new material and has plans to publish it.

Speaking at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two, Rowling told MTV News that “I’m writing, and I’ve done quite a lot since finishing Harry Potter”. She expanded further to BBC News, saying “I think I always felt I didn’t want to publish again until the last film was out because Potter has been such a huge thing in my life. I’ve been writing hard ever since I finished writing Hallows, so I’ve got a lot of stuff and I suppose it’s a question of deciding which one comes out first. But I will publish again. In a sense it’s a beginning for me as well as an end.”

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March 25, 2011

What they’re reading in Germany

As part of the Guardian’s New Europe series, literary editors reflect on the literary scene in their countries, beginning with Germany’s Sebastian Hammelehle of Der Spiegel.

By Sebastian Hammelehle

A young woman reads Herta Mueller's novel 'Atemschaukel'. Photograph: ARNE DEDERT/EPA

One of the biggest recent news stories in Germany involved a plagiarism scandal that brought down the defence minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Perhaps this is a fitting moment, therefore, to recall another case of plagiarism that rocked the literary world at the beginning of 2010.

The debut novel by the Berlin author Helene Hegemann, who was 18 at the time, had the unusual title of Axolotl Roadkill and made headlines with its depiction of a teenage girl’s drug-addled adventures in Berlin’s club scene. But the author found herself attracting headlines of an entirely unwelcome kind when it was revealed that she had borrowed liberally from other writers, including a blogger who goes by the name Airen. The initial enthusiasm for the book quickly melted away, and some critics may have wondered how they had allowed themselves to get caught up in the hysteria over what turned out to be a minor literary event.

Perhaps that’s why a large swath of German readers are pleased that there is at least one person who never loses his cool, namely the former chancellor Helmut Schmidt. Four of his non-fiction works are among the 10 most successful books of the past 10 years.

                                                                                                                                           …read more

January 10, 2011

WikiLeaks demands Google and Facebook unseal US subpoenas

  Call comes after revelation that US has tried to force Twitter to release WikiLeaks members’ private details.
WikiLeaks has demanded that Google and Facebook reveal the contents of any US subpoenas they may have received after it emerged that a court in Virginia had ordered Twitter to secretly hand over details of accounts on the micro-blogging site by five figures associated with the group, including Julian Assange.

'Free Julian Assange' protestors demonstrate in central London before the WikiLeaks founder's court hearing in December. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Amid strong evidence that a US grand jury has begun a wide-ranging trawl for details of what networks and accounts WikiLeaks used to communicate with Bradley Manning, the US serviceman accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of sensitive government cables, some of those named in the subpoena said they would fight disclosure….read more


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