Changing the DNA of the reader

FutureBook - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 16:26

Are readers fixed in how they read? One of the frustrations around the digital transition is that despite all of the under-the-hood changes to publishing, this digital re-wiring has stopped at the reader. Readers, by and large, read now how they did before e-books ever existed.

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Top five women writers of the First World War

Telegraph - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 16:00
The historian Jerry White picks his favourite female authors who wrote under the shadow of the Great War

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Rosita Forbes: the travel writer they couldn't tame

Telegraph - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 16:00
Novelist Kamila Shamsie salutes Rosita Forbes, a glamorous Englishwoman whose daring adventures across the world are now all but forgotten

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'Literally' figuratively destroyed by program to remove the word's misuse

Guardian Books - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 15:32
A new browser plug-in displays all instances of the much-abused adverb as its traditional opposite. It's a figurative blast

In defence of 'basically'

My favourite misuse of "literally" came from an august editor at an august publishing house. A debut novel, she declared to a group of journalists, had "literally broken her heart". We all, of course, then made sure to steer well clear.

Not being a football follower, I didn't know that Jamie Redknapp had form in this area, however, and I'm rather impressed. I think "he had to cut back inside on to his left, because he literally hasn't got a right foot" is brilliantly surreal.

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Shakespeare: 10 things you didn't know

Telegraph - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 15:19
To celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth, Gregory Doran presents some startling facts

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Writers’ Trust launches $25,000 poetry prize

Quill & Quire Blog - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 15:09

Canadian poets are being feted with a new prize that will recognize a writer for his or her exceptional body of work. The $25,000 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Latner Family Foundation, will be handed out for the first time in November alongside five other literary prizes administered by the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

According to a press release, the annual prize will be awarded to “a Canadian poet in mid-career in recognition of a remarkable body of work and in hope of future contributions to Canadian poetry.” Canadian citizens or permanent residents who have published at least three collections of poetry demonstrating “outstanding mastery in the art of poetry” are eligible to receive the award, for which there is no formal submission process.

Writers’ Trust executive director Mary Osborne says the prize fills “a gap in the literary prize scene where there wasn’t a body of work prize for poets.” The other marquee Canadian poetry prizes – including the $65,000 Griffin Poetry Prize and the $25,000 Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry – recognize a single collection.

“The jurors have the freedom to look at who is doing interesting work and contributing to the poetic culture of Canada, and who has the promise of continuing to do more interesting work,” Osborne says.

The jury for the inaugural prize comprises poets Stephanie Bolster, Lorna Crozier, and Fred Wah. The winner will be announced at a gala on Nov. 4.

The Writers’ Trust already administers three prizes recognizing existing bodies of work: the Engel/Findley Award for fiction, the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People, and the Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life.

Osborne says the Writers’ Trust has received a 10-year commitment from the Latner Family Foundation to support the prize.

“I expect we’ll have a very long-term arrangement with them, partly because the impulse is coming from a genuine appreciation for the art form,” she says. “For [the Latner family], it’s really about supporting poets and their work.”


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Genre fiction radiates from a literary centre

Guardian Books - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 14:06
In the fourth of our series on literary definitions, novelist Anita Mason argues that while genre fiction tells specific kinds of story, the literary novel opens onto the universal

Gaynor Arnold: We don't think of Dickens as a historical novelist

Juliet McKenna: Science fiction travels farther than literary fiction
Elizabeth Emondson: 'Literary fiction' is just clever marketing

Go into a bookshop. You are surrounded by classifications. Crime fiction, romance, science fiction, fantasy These are the genres; they specialise. Crime fiction is a puzzle. Science fiction addresses philosophical questions in the form of an adventure story. Romantic fiction is about love, but there are restrictions on what kind of love it is otherwise the book belongs somewhere else.

There are limits and rules. Usually the book slots into its genre like a well-aimed dart. Sometimes there's a question. Maybe it's genre. Maybe it's "literary". "Literary" doesn't have a labelled shelf. There are reasons for this, one of which is that it's hard to define, but let's have a go. Literature is writing of high quality, sustained by intelligent structure and informed by original thought. It requires integration of all the elements into an intellectually and emotionally satisfying whole. Trickiest of all: it has to say something.

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Tips, links and suggestions: What are you reading this week?

Guardian Books - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 14:05

Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week's blog. Here's a roundup of your comments and photos from last week, including a number of open-ended questions coming from the community which sparked interesting conversations.

fat_hamster asked:

Here's one of those open ended questions I delight in. Has anyone read a book they feel should be made into a film one day? Mine is Room by Emma Donaghue.

I'd choose Manly Pursuits by Ann Harries. In her novel an aged and ailing Cecil Rhodes believes that the only thing that can save him is the mellifluous sound of English songbirds. Oxford ornithologist Thomas Wills is engaged for the task of delivering the birds to Cape Town. The Boer War looms. The book includes appearances by other real Victorian figures including Lewis Carrol, Oscar Wilde and Rudyard Kipling.

Okay, normally I ignore all movies-based-on but the temptation to design one to order, as it were, is too hard to resist. So I would like to see Gaiman's Graveyard book as a movie but very much like Greenaway did with The Tempest/Prospero's book. So it must be voluptious and weird, with one narrating voice (which would have to be provided by Gaiman himself.)

Batman: The Black Mirror a fantastic and (as you'd expect) dark and twisted story where the city of Gotham is a character in its own right and different Batman has to deal with foes old and new.

The Final Whistle brings to life the varied but always eventful lives of 15 Rosslyn Park rugby players who died during World War One. Haunting and heartfelt.

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16 April 2014, 0:23

I've just finished Silent Cry by Nobel Prize winner Kenzabur e, story of two brothers returning to their home village in Shikoku, a remote forested area of Japan. They are struggling with their own lives and with the myths of their family history. The book is a heavy tale of continuous descent with the ever-present rolling rumble of the futility of action in the light of insufficient knowledge, poor judgement and evitability.

This after finally finishing the extravagant and sumptuous feast that is Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec. W or the Memory of Childhood and Avoid duly purchased.

I finished reading Post Captain by Patrick O'Brien, and have already found HMS Surprise in an Oxfam bookshop so I won't have to wait so long to start the next in the series. After waiting patiently for one of the many copies to be returned to the public library, I finally chanced upon the next in the Jack Reacher series, Without Fail, and am now reading that has everything you'd expect in it so far so am not disappointed. Also just started re-reading Elephant by Raymond Carver, which is probably my favourite of all his books...

I've been reading A Perfect Spy by John Le Carré and I agree when people say it could be his best book. After the misstep of The Little Drummer Girl, a book which probably have been considered great were it written by anybody else, it's really good to see that he's returned to his familiar universe while going for something far more ambitious.

I'm not the kind of person who tends to think of 'hard' and 'easy' books and I'm definitely not one to confuse difficulty with quality but, aside from being great, it's also perhaps the most difficult books I've read: the Magnus chapters skip from first to third person, past to present tense, address usually two separate people and sometimes pull back even further out of his narration, often doing at least one of these per paragraph. It takes a while to get used to but when you get used to the rhythm, it's genius, and even with all this going on, it's still a thrilling page turner.

Just finished A Delicate Truth by le Carre. The final page was devastating, although how Toby could have avoided all the state's mechanisms is debatable. Where is Snowden now? And who else recently committed suicide rather conveniently?

Ethical medicine, Proustian detail, awkward ethnography of The English and Icelandic execution; attempting to squeeze it all in whilst playing with Mikey (and my son)

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17 April 2014, 9:33

Finished All The Pretty Horses in a state of bliss but I've decided to take a break before The Crossing. I decided on a change of scene with The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru. Just started and not yet sure what the tone is meant to be. Seems like it might be picaresque and I'm not sure if the writer is achieving it. In all fairness it's too soon to say.

Normally I will only discuss books here I enjoyed and which I would recommend to others but I will make an exception for Isabel Allende's detective novel 'Ripper'. First the faint praise: it's not really bad but weighing in at almost 500 pages 'not really bad' turns into 'why-am-I-still-reading-this?' fairly quickly. The story isn't bad, the way it's presented is not bad, the setting and what there is in terms of back story: not bad... Well, you get my drift.

[...] She is slumming here. You can't help but feel she wrote this on a dare but without putting any real thinking or writing effort into it. So, if you really have nothing better to do or if you lost your suitcase with all of your holiday reading and this book is the only thing wit words in it you come upon in a night train, some faraway hostel et cetera, then it will do. Otherwise, really, don't bother.

In honour of the Bard's birthday on the 23rd, I am reading this play while listening to the magnificent radio production put on by Sir Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston on BBC Radio 3.

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22 April 2014, 3:16

Reference books plus prized possession- a signed first edition of Laurie Lee book.

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14 April 2014, 17:27

Reading as part of my English exam. The more I read the more I enjoy it. Uplifting and recommend to anyone of any age.

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15 April 2014, 18:02

The Last Blue Sea by David Forrest. I've had two copies (it's a fairly rare paperback) both were passed to Vietnam Vets to give their wives a "feel" of jungle warfare. Neither was returned. I accept that.

Very Special Intelligence by Patrick Beesley. About the Admiralty's radio intelligence service. I got to dip into it (PQ-17 chapter). SKE picked it up. Said "This is my job". Bang. Into her Chador. Left me with the feeling I was in breach of the Official Secrets Act.

Good question. I have the opposite problem in that I can't give them away! I've bought 4 copies of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and three of Burgess's Earthly Pleasures , as gifts for people, and most ended up back on my shelves. I've stopped trying to make people read things now.

The only book I've had nicked was an annoyingly rare edition of Keats. The person who borrowed it denies memory of doing so. I'm trying to wangle an invitation to their house so I can casually pluck it off the shelf and point out my pencil notes on the inside.

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The Alphabet Library: I is for The Image of a Drawn Sword by Jocelyn Brooke

Telegraph - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 13:00
In association with, Tim Martin continues his series on the A to Z of forgotten books. This week, he recalls 'an intensely strange and singular affair' by Jocelyn Brooke

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The more the English change, the more we stay the same

Telegraph - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 11:49
A decade after 'Watching the English' became a bestseller, Kate Fox says the Olympics, social media and other developments have had little effect on our national character

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David Foster Wallace's family object to biopic The End of the Tour

Guardian Books - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 11:34
Wallace 'would never have agreed' to dramatisation of road trip he took with Rolling Stone reporter, says his literary estate

The family of David Foster Wallace have laid out their objections to a new film about the late author, which is based on a road trip he took with a Rolling Stone reporter in 1996, saying that "David would never have agreed that those saved transcripts could later be repurposed as the basis of a movie".

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The world of comedian Jenny Eclair

Telegraph - Tue, 22/04/2014 - 11:00
Comedian and writer Jenny Eclair talks to Jessamy Calkin about baths, Filofaxes and Grumpy Old Women

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