Readersforum's Blog

September 23, 2014

50 best cult books

Albert Camus, Joseph Heller, JD Salinger and Thomas Pynchon are among the authors chosen by our critics for the 50 best cult books

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

By Telegraph Reporters

A cult book may be hard to define but one thing is for sure: you know a cult book when you see one.

Cult books are somehow, intangibly, different from simple bestsellers – though many of them are that. And people have passionate feelings on both sides:

Our critics present a selection of the most notable cult writing from the past two centuries. Some is classic. Some is catastrophic. All of it had the power to inspire . . .

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April 15, 2014

Sue Townsend – obituary

Filed under: Obituaries — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:11 am

townsend_book_2879360cSue Townsend was the writer whose diaries of spotty teenager Adrian Mole became a publishing sensation.

Sue Townsend, who has died aged 68, was the creator of Adrian Mole, the spotty, lovestruck teenager from Ashby-de-la-Zouch whose comic chronicles of myriad anxieties – political, intellectual, social, sexual – proved the publishing phenomenon of the 1980s and were turned into successful television series, starring Gian Sammarco as the title character.

Including various omnibuses, there were eventually nine volumes of Mole’s diaries; the last – The Prostate Years, published in 2009 – documented him battling cancer as a middle-aged man who runs a bookshop. But it was the early books that particularly gripped the reading public, selling millions of copies and transforming Sue Townsend, a self-confessed “Old Labour type”, from a poverty-stricken single mother-of-three into a rich woman.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾, as the first volume was titled on publication in 1982, unveiled a boy clear-eyed enough to assess the world around him but powerless to shape his own fate. His pursuit of the treacle-haired, middle-class Pandora is defeated by acne, and his self-declared intellectual inclinations by the fact that “I am not very clever”. His slight teenaged frame carried a large dollop of guilt about the state of the nation itself.

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April 9, 2014

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction: the shortlist

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of 'Americanah'

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of ‘Americanah’

Six authors from across the globe unveiled on the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist, as judges promise they will change the way readers view of the world.

By Hannah Furness.

Readers no longer care where in the world their books are set, insiders have said, as not a single author with full British citizenship features on the Baileys Women’s Prize shortlist for the first time since 1998.

This year’s shortlist features six female writers from across the globe, including novels from US writer Donna Tart, Irish Eimear McBride, and Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Their works will go up against novels from Australian Hannah Kent, Irish Audrey Magee and Jhumpa Lahiri, who holds dual US and British citizenship after being born in London but moving to America aged just two.

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Paddington Bear returns in new book

Filed under: Children's books — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 8:49 am

Michael Bond will publish Love From Paddington 56 years after releasing his first story about the little brown bear

Michael Bond will publish Love From Paddington 56 years after releasing his first story about the little brown bear

Michael Bond, the 88-year-old creator of Paddington, has written a new book about the bear from Darkest Peru

By Anita Singh.

Paddington Bear is returning in a new book after the 88-year-old author Michael Bond decided to give him another outing.

Love From Paddington takes the form of a series of letters from the little brown bear to his Aunt Lucy in Darkest Peru.

“It isn’t generally known, but bears are very good at writing letters,” Bond said.

The book will be published by HarperCollins in November, shortly before the Paddington Bear film arrives in cinemas.

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August 1, 2013

JK Rowling accepts damages from law firm that revealed her secret identity

callingJK Rowling has accepted damages at London’s High Court from a law firm which outed her as a crime author, after one of its lawyers confided her secret identity to his wife’s best friend.

By Alice Philipson

The Harry Potter author brought proceedings against Chris Gossage, who works for law firm Russells, and a friend of his, Judith Callegari.

Her solicitor, Jenny Afia, told Mr Justice Tugendhat that Rowling was revealed in the Sunday Times as the writer of crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, which was published under the name of Robert Galbraith.

A few days later, Russells contacted her agent disclosing that it was Mr Gossage who had divulged the confidential information to his wife’s best friend, Ms Callegari, during a private conversation. Ms Callegari later revealed the news in a public Twitter message to a Sunday Times journalist

Ms Afia said that Ms Rowling, who was not in court, “has been left dismayed and distressed by such a fundamental betrayal of trust”.

Mr Gossage, Ms Callegari and Russells all apologised, with the firm agreeing to reimburse Ms Rowling’s legal costs and make a payment, by way of damages, to the Soldiers’ Charity, formerly the Army Benevolent Fund.

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June 14, 2013

All That Is, by James Salter, review

James Salter: we are “born in disregard of the times”

James Salter: we are “born in disregard of the times”

Long admired by Roth and Bellow, James Salter is set to join their ranks. David Annand hails the great American writer’s first novel in thirty years.

For 50-odd years James Salter has been the writer’s writer. Richard Ford calls him “the Master”, Bellow was an admirer, Roth, too, and all over Brooklyn satchels bulge with copies of Light Years and The Hunters.

It was something, I suspect, that always worked better for us than it did for him. We got that insider buzz of knowing that we were part of the cloistered few. He got lots of writerly plaudits about the precision of his sentences, but was denied, perhaps, the deep thematic engagement that comes with central cultural import.

Either way, it’s over. In a late flurry he has picked up The Paris Review’s Hadada Prize, the PEN/Malamud lifetime award, and, now, to coincide with the publication of what will surely be his last novel, across-the-board adulation.

You might have thought it irritating for old Jim that all this has happened deep into his eighties, past the age when you would want to take full advantage of the perks of full-blown literary celebrity. But really it’s of little consequence – he’s already done enough living and then some. Improbably masculine and accomplished, he was a combat fighter pilot in the Korean War. He became an accomplished skier (he wrote the screenplay for Robert Redford’s Downhill Racer); a daring mountain climber (Solo Faces, a novel, appeared on the topic in 1979); and found time to write five novels, dozens of short stories, non-fiction and some poetry.

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May 21, 2013

Howard Jacobson wins comic fiction prize

Cheering news: Howard Jacobson wins prize for comic fiction

Cheering news: Howard Jacobson wins prize for comic fiction

Howard Jacobson wins this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for his novel Zoo Time.

By Jon Stock

Howard Jacobson has been named the winner of this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for his novel, Zoo Time. It is the second occasion he has triumphed, having won the prize in 2000, the first year of the award.

Jacobson fought off stiff competition from Michael Frayn, Deborah Moggach and Helen DeWitt. Previous winners include Ian McEwan, Marina Lewycka, DBC Pierre and, most recently, Terry Pratchett.

Zoo Time tells the tale of Guy Ableman, a writer struggling with his affections for his wife and mother-in-law, and the terminal state of literature. Reviewing the book for the Telegraph, Alexei Sayle described it as “seriously funny”.

Jacobson will be presented with a suitably Wodehousian prize, a Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, which will be named ‘Zoo Time’. It will join other pigs named after books that have won the prize, including ‘A Short History of Tractors in the Ukranian’ (Marina Lewycka) and ‘Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye’ (Christopher Brookmyre).

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May 16, 2013

Sophie McKenzie’s favourite YA books

Sophie McKenzie

Sophie McKenzie

The children’s author chooses five Young Adult books that appeal to teenagers.

It’s always hard to pick personal favourites and there are so many fantastic YA books out there at the moment, so I’ve restricted my choices to books published in the last few years and to titles that I believe have appeal to actual teenagers rather than to their parents and teachers. All these novels have strong stories with some kind of romantic element – my favourite kind of reads – and each one is properly compelling in its own very distinctive way.

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Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, by David Sedaris, review

David Sedaris: wherever he goes, low-level doom greets him

David Sedaris: wherever he goes, low-level doom greets him

America’s finest humorist turns a wry eye on his adopted home, says Viv Groskop.

After the success of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Me Talk Pretty One Day comes another book of biting, intimate anecdotes from America’s finest humorist. At first glance it’s not easy to pinpoint what this collection is about – but when the writing’s this good and the writer’s this funny, it hardly matters. Sedaris could write about flossing his teeth and you’d be embarrassed by how hard you were laughing. In fact, one of the best sections of this book is all about flossing.

This purports to be an “educational series” but really it’s an excuse for Sedaris to mouth off about his childhood, the annoying people he comes across in airport lounges and the tendency of people who live in rural England – he now lives in Suffolk – to trash their hedgerows with Lucozade bottles and crisp packets.

If you could identify a theme it’s the travails of a cautiously enthusiastic but alienated outsider. Wherever Sedaris goes, low-level doom greets him – whether it’s inside his own childhood bedroom, where there is a pet turtle he has accidentally killed, on a trip with his partner to a depressing cottage that will soon become their home, or in Hawaii where his passport is stolen. Yet he always greets whatever happens with a sideways smile. (Just as he greets the German language: “It’s like English, but sideways.”)

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May 15, 2013

Here and Now: Letters, 2008-2011 by Paul Auster and JM Coetzee, review

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 12:28 pm

coetzeenewcover_2553011aIn these letters, JM Coetzee plays the straight man to Paul Auster’s clown, finds Jon Day.

Here and Now is a collection of letters between Paul Auster and JM Coetzee described by the publishers as “an epistolary dialogue between two great writers who became great friends”.

The title implies immediacy, and the letters were written from 2008-11, but the overriding sense of the exchange is of things past. The letter itself is a dying object, and a hint of anachronism runs through the correspondence.

Every now and then Auster mentions his tech-savvy wife, Siri Hustvedt, responsible for printing out emails from Coetzee and passing them on. Later he announces that he has bought an overhauled Olivetti typewriter. Coetzee too is uncomfortable with contemporary technology, which is conspicuously absent from his fiction. He speculates on the ubiquity of the mobile phone and its influence on the novel:

“The presence/absence of mobile phones in one’s fictional world is going to be, I suspect, no trivial matter. Why? Because so much of the mechanics of novel writing, past and present, is taken up with making information available to characters or keeping it from them. One used to be able to get pages and pages out of the non-existence of the telegraph/telephone and the consequent need for messages to be borne by hand or even memorised.”

Much of Here and Now is, like this, a mixture of the quotidian and the fascinating. With no introduction and only skeletal notes, it plunges you cold into a wide-ranging exchange taking in sport (watching and playing), cinema (watching and writing for) and politics (watching and despairing of) and much else. The two writers quickly fall into their allotted roles.

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