Readersforum's Blog

April 23, 2014

Five perfect books for men who never read

RoadJust under a third of the male population don’t read books, says a Reading Agency survey. Here are five man-friendly page-turners they might enjoy anyway.


Nearly 30% of men have not read a book since school, according to a survey commissioned for World Book Night, an annual event that hopes to change their ways. The reasons men don’t read are varied, but “not really wanting to” seems to be the main one. However, if you are a man – or know one – who might agree to try just one book for the hell of it, these are my guaranteed-no-regrets recommendations.

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October 8, 2013

The age of Amazon still needs editors like Max Perkins

Max-Perkins-Editor-of-GeniusPDFs may have replaced galley proofs, but Hemingway’s editor still has lessons to teach the literary world.

by Gavin James Bower

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius is reissued this month, 35 years after it was first published – but what can the man who told Ernest Hemingway to “tone it down” and lived to tell the tale teach us about publishing today?

Random House founder Bennett Cerf described a lunch in 1925 with Theodore Dreiser, author of An American Tragedy, and Horace Liveright, the book’s first publisher. Liveright had struck a deal with Dreiser: if he sold film rights, Dreiser would receive a one-off payment of $50,000; if Liveright got more than that, the difference would be split 50/50. Liveright later handed Dreiser a cheque for $67,500 over lunch – only for Dreiser to storm out of the restaurant, accusing his publisher of ripping him off. “Bennett,” Liveright told Cerf as he recalled the lunch, “let this be a lesson to you. Every author is a son of a bitch.”

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July 2, 2013

The Hemingways and Suicide

Ernest Hemingway    (1899 - 1961)

Ernest Hemingway
(1899 – 1961)

By Steve King

On this day in 1961 Ernest Hemingway committed suicide at the age of 61. There have been 5 suicides in the Hemingway family over 4 generations — father Clarence; siblings Ursula, Leicester and Ernest; granddaughter Margaux. The generation skipped was just barely: Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory, died as a transsexual named Gloria, of causes that put a lot of strain on the term “natural.”

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June 26, 2013

Burn Your Letters?

burn-letters-290By Roxana Robinson

Why is it that, when an author says very explicitly that she does not want her work published, we publish it? Willa Cather’s letters have been restricted since her death, in 1947. She may be spinning in her grave now that a fat volume of those letters has been published. But she’s not the first person whose wishes have been disregarded: it happens to lots of writers, sooner or later.

Ernest Hemingway’s estate decided to publish posthumously his late work “The Garden of Eden,” which Hemingway himself had (wisely) never published. Georgia O’Keeffe’s letters to her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, were unavailable, even to scholars, for twenty-five years after her death. Now they’re online, accessible to anyone with a laptop and fifteen minutes.

Maybe the only way a writer can prevent this is to do what Somerset Maugham did: he burned his letters in the fireplace, making a roaring pyre as his horrified secretary stood by. His secretary hid some of the letters, trying to save them, but Maugham caught him. Those, too, he said, and the secretary had to put them into the flames with the rest. Those Maugham letters were never published and they never ever will be.

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June 25, 2013


HaigBy Matt Haig

This is the first blog I’ve written since writing blogs for the respectable charity Booktrust. Booktrust gave me no rules for writing blogs, except that they said I couldn’t swear. So after six months of non-swearing I have been bursting to fucking swear. I really fucking have. I just need to get it out of my system.

Anyway, thought I’d start as predictably as ever, and give some fucking writing tips. Here they fucking are:

1. Don’t think that being published will make you happy. It will for four weeks, if you are lucky. Then it’s the same old fucking shit.

2. Hemingway was fucking wrong. You shouldn’t write drunk. (See my third novel for details.)

3. Hemingway was also right. ‘The first draft of everything is shit.’

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June 20, 2013

The Resurgence of the Short Story: The Smallest of Entryways and Cristen Hemingway Jaynes

By K.J. Wetherholt

Cristen Hemingway Jaynes

Cristen Hemingway Jaynes

“When well told, a story captured the subtle movement of change. If a novel was a map of a country, a story was the bright silver pin that marked the crossroads.” — Ann Patchett

In a February 15, 2013 article for The New York Times, Leslie Kaufman noted the recognition of a trend that many among the literary world are currently embracing: the digital age in publishing has brought back what Neil Gaiman once described as “the novel’s wayward younger brother” — the short stories that most might otherwise have relegated to the memory of literature classes in high school or college.

Many of us remember these shorter works by literary masters: among them Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway–or in more contemporary times, noted authors such as Jim Harrison, George Saunders or Louise Erdrich, whose works, if not read in literary magazines, journals, or such publications as Esquire and The New Yorker, are instead placed in short story collections that rely almost wholly on the author’s name recognition for sales.

However, with the recent prevalence of Kindle, Nook, and other digital reading devices, short fiction has started to return as an acceptable, and salable form, in fact bringing back the form with a power and a popular respectability it has not had for some time.

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May 27, 2013

A brief survey of the short story part 49: Guy de Maupassant

guyHis prolific output of sensational stories for the popular press should not obscure the incomparable art of his best work.

By Chris Power

“He is a better writer than you think,” Malcolm Lowry once said of Guy de Maupassant. This comment, made to David Markson, indicates the conundrum Maupassant presents to readers. A hugely influential writer of short stories, the sheer mass of his extremely uneven body of work – 300 stories, 200 articles, six novels, two plays, and three travel books churned out between 1880 and 1891 – can obscure his genius like clouds around an alp. Yet while many of those 300 stories fail to rise beyond the anecdotal, nearly a quarter are very good, and within them stands a core of indisputable classics. It shouldn’t be doubted that Maupassant is one of the most important short-story writers to have lived.

It was to the detriment of Maupassant’s work – although not his bank balance – that his career coincided with a demand from French newspapers for stories of around 1-2,000 words. Jostling with news and faits divers, these stories were by necessity laconic and attention-grabbing, and Maupassant, whose severe economy was a model for Hemingway, had a great facility for producing them. The irony, however, is that Maupassant’s best works are much longer. The spareness, learned in his youth from the poet Louis Bouilhet, is still there – as in the opening of “Hautot & Son” (1889), where, as Sean O’Faolain writes, “the scene is brilliantly and swiftly painted, with three lines for the countryside and six for the sportsmen” – but the stories’ scope helps avoid the glibness that can mar his shorter work.

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May 20, 2013

Auden, Orwell, Spain

jose-bardasano-spanish-civil-war-154x210On this day in 1937 W. H. Auden’s Spain was published. Proceeds from sales of this pamphlet-length poem went to the Medical Aid Committee, one of many international organizations supporting the anti-Franco cause in the Spanish Civil War, and a group which Auden had tried to join as an ambulance driver. Had he been successful, he might have helped George Orwell: also on this day in 1937, he was shot in the throat while fighting for the Republican side.

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May 13, 2013

Chasing Bruce Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin    (1940 - 1989)

Bruce Chatwin
(1940 – 1989)

On this day in 1940 Bruce Chatwin was born. With five genre-bending books in a dozen years, Chatwin is regarded by some as one of the most important writers in the last part of the twentieth century. Many who knew him describe a compelling but enigmatic personality, one easy to lose “in a din of bright lights and colours, incessant chatter and a crowded address book where Jackie Onassis is listed next to an Oryx herder.”

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May 4, 2013

e. e. cummings reads “anyone lived in a pretty how town” (Harvard, 1953)

cummingspoemsBy Maria Popova

“…and noone stooped to kiss his face…”

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life,” Hemingway observed in his short and stirring 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. “One can never be alone enough to write,” Susan Sontag sighed. “Learn to be alone,” Tarkovsky advised young people. And yet the art of being alone comes with a dark side, the loneliness of a nonconformist amidst the herd mentality of society — something e. e. cummings captures poignantly in his poem “[anyone lived in a pretty how town],” originally published in the 1940 edition of Poetry Magazine and later included in E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems, 1904-1962 (public library). Tucked inside it is one of the most beautiful poetry lines of all time: “down they forgot as up they grew.”

On May 28, 1953, while lecturing as a visiting professor at Harvard, cummings recorded this mesmerizing reading of the poem — let his voice sweep you away:

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