Canadian author Graeme Gibson dies aged 85


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Long-term partner of Margaret Atwood had dementia but continued to travel with her on book tour for The Testaments

The Canadian author and conservationist Graeme Gibson has died at the age of 85. Gibson was the long-term partner of Margaret Atwood, and was with the novelist while she toured to promote her new book, The Testaments.

Atwood said in a statement this afternoon that her family was “devastated by the loss of Graeme, our beloved father, grandfather, and spouse, but we are happy that he achieved the kind of swift exit he wanted and avoided the decline into further dementia that he feared”.

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Thousands demand Oxford dictionaries ‘eliminate sexist definitions’


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Nearly 30,000 people have signed petition calling on the publisher to cut entries that ‘discriminate against and patronise women’

Almost 30,000 people have signed a petition calling for Oxford University Press to change the “sexist” definitions of the word “woman” in some of its dictionaries.

Launched this summer by Maria Beatrice Giovanardi, the petition points out that Oxford dictionaries contain words such as “bitch, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy, filly” as synonyms for woman. Sentences chosen to show usage of the word woman include: “Ms September will embody the professional, intelligent yet sexy career woman” and “I told you to be home when I get home, little woman”. Such sentences depict “women as sex objects, subordinate, and/or an irritation to men”, the petition says.

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Joe Abercrombie: ‘I think the combination of violence and humour wasn’t an immediate easy sell’


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The leading grimdark author, known for his cynical and violent fantasy novels, is back in the world of the First Law – along with a lot more women ...

British author Joe Abercrombie may have sold five million copies of his violent, darkly humorous fantasy novels, and had his books praised by reigning overlord of the genre, George RR Martin (“bloody and relentless”). But the first time he sat down to write what he believed would be “the great British fantasy novel”, it didn’t go well.

Growing up on David Eddings and Dragonlance, Abercrombie was aiming for full-blown epic fantasy when he made a stab at his own novel in his early 20s. He managed a few chapters, but it was “absolutely pompous”, he admits now, away from his home in Bath to meet with his publishers in London.

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The Far Side trails ‘new online era’ for Gary Larson’s beloved cartoons


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Immediate excitement has greeted one of the first sign of life from the hugely popular franchise since the publicity-shy artist retired it in 1995

Fans of the surreal, the bizarre and sardonic anthropomorphic cows are in a fervour after The Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson’s website was updated this weekend with promises of “a new online era”, 24 years after the reclusive creator retired at the age of 44.

Larson’s iconic Far Side cartoons were syndicated in more than 1,900 daily newspapers from 1980 to 1995, treating readers to daily offerings from his offbeat visions of the world. In one of his most famous cartoons, a female chimpanzee finds a blonde hair in her mate’s fur, and asks him: “Been doing more ‘research’ with that Jane Goodall tramp?” (Goodall approved.) In another – voted one of his best by scientists – a boffin with a large rectal ...

Won’t stick: reports of Margaret Atwood’s 2019 Booker prize win greatly exaggerated


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Organisers rush to clarify that judges have not yet decided beyond the shortlist after bookshop brands copies of The Testaments as the winner

The Booker prize has stressed that it has not – yet, anyway – selected Margaret Atwood’s much-heralded sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale as this year’s winner, after a bookseller mistakenly displayed copies declaring it the 2019 victor.

Novelist and academic Matthew Sperling posted an image from an unnamed bookshop of Atwood’s The Testaments on Twitter on Monday. Pictured alongside Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport, which bore a sticker highlighting its shortlisting, The Testaments instead boasted a sticker branding it the winner. “Don’t think you were supposed to use those stickers yet, lads...” wrote Sperling.

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Won’t stick: reports of Margaret Atwood’s 2019 Booker prize win greatly exaggerated


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Organisers rush to clarify that judges have not yet decided beyond the shortlist after bookshop brands copies of The Testaments as the winner

The Booker prize has stressed that it has not – yet, anyway – selected Margaret Atwood’s much-heralded sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale as this year’s winner, after a bookseller mistakenly displayed copies declaring it the 2019 victor.

Novelist and academic Matthew Sperling posted an image from an unnamed bookshop of Atwood’s The Testaments on Twitter on Monday. Pictured alongside Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport, which bore a sticker highlighting its shortlisting, The Testaments instead boasted a sticker branding it the winner. “Don’t think you were supposed to use those stickers yet, lads...” wrote Sperling.

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When Milton met Shakespeare: poet’s notes on Bard appear to have been found


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Hailed as one of the most significant archival discoveries of modern times, text seems to show the Paradise Lost poet making careful annotations on his edition of Shakespeare’s plays

Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton.

The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne’s study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century, finding them alive to “the sense, accuracy, and interpretative possibility of the dialogue”. She also provided many ...

Turkish author jailed for life nominated for £50,000 book award


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Assembled from notes, Ahmet Altan’s I Will Never See the World Again is up for Baillie Gifford prize alongside Guardian and Observer journalists Amelia Gentleman and Laura Cumming

Three years almost to the day since the Turkish author Ahmet Altan was first jailed in the wake of the country’s failed coup, he has been longlisted for the £50,000 Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction for his prison memoir, I Will Never See the World Again.

First imprisoned in 2016, Altan received a life sentence in 2018 for sending out subliminal messages in favour of a coup” on television and attempting to overthrow the government. PEN America has called his imprisonment “a horrific assault on freedom of expression” and authors including JM Coetzee and AS Byatt have demanded his release in an open letter saying that his “crime is not supporting a coup but the effectiveness of his criticism of the ...

‘I am proven joyously wrong’: picture book about trans child wins major prize amid moral panic


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In a week of LGBTQ-hostile news, the £5,000 Klaus Fugge award for illustrated books goes to Jessica Love’s Julian Is a Mermaid

In Julian Is a Mermaid, a little boy riding the New York City subway with “his nana” dreams of looking like the spectacularly dressed women they see – and ends up, with his grandmother’s help, joining the iconic Mermaid Parade. Author and illustrator Jessica Love, who was partly inspired by a trans friend to create the picture book, never expected it to be published after five years of work.

On Wednesday night, Love was named winner of the prestigious Klaus Flugge prize, which goes to the most exciting and promising newcomer to picture book illustration. Judge and former children’s laureate Anthony Browne called the book “astonishingly beautiful”, saying it was amazing that it was her first attempt to write and illustrate a picture book.

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Angela Carter’s ‘carnival’ London home receives blue plaque


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The novelist wrote some of her most famous books at the Clapham house, where she also tutored the young Kazuo Ishiguro

The house in Clapham, south London, where the acclaimed author Angela Carter lived for the last 16 years of her life has been commemorated with a blue plaque by English Heritage.

Carter lived at 107, The Chase from 1976 until her death from lung cancer in 1992, aged 51. There, she wrote seminal works including The Bloody Chamber, her acclaimed erotic retellings of fairytales, Nights at the Circus and Wise Children, also tutoring her then student, now Nobel laureate, Kazuo Ishiguro at her kitchen table, and entertaining writers including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and JG Ballard.

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Jonathan Franzen’s made-up climate change model sparks online pile-on


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‘As a non-scientist, I do my own kind of modelling,’ claimed the author in the New Yorker, sparking a flurry of mockery online

It’s been almost a year since a Jonathan Franzen pile-on, so we were undoubtedly due another. This time round, the novelist – Mr “Oprah’s book club choices are ‘schmaltzy’”, Mr “I considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan”, Mr “I write in the dark with a blindfold on”, Mr “It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction” – is under fire for declaring the fight against the climate crisis to be hopeless.

Citing the “consensus among scientists and policy-makers” that we will pass the “point of no return” for the planet “if the global mean temperature rises by more than two degrees”, Franzen writes in the New Yorker of how “as a non-scientist, I do my own kind ...

Marvel artist calls for LGBTQ solidarity in Brazil after gay kiss row


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Jim Cheung says ‘LGBTQ community is here to stay’ after Rio de Janiero mayor attempts to seize copies of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade

The artist of an Avengers comic targeted by the mayor of Rio de Janeiro for featuring a gay kiss has called on the people of Brazil to focus on “ways to unite, rather than help sow the seeds of conflict and division”.

Related: Brazil paper publishes gay kiss illustration in censorship row

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Exclusive: John le Carré’s new novel set amid ‘lunatic’ Brexit intrigue


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Agent Running in the Field, due out next month, reflects ‘the divisions in Britain, and between Britain and Europe’.

  • Read an extract below

Just as intrigue over Brexit is expected to reach peak intensity next month, Britain’s master spy novelist John le Carré will be releasing a new novel, set in 2018, where the UK is ruled by “a minority Tory cabinet of 10th-raters”, and the country’s new prime minister Boris Johnson is at that point merely “a pig-ignorant foreign secretary”.

An early extract from Le Carré’s 25th novel, Agent Running in the Field, is published in Saturday’s Guardian. It shows Nat, a 47-year-old member of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI5), revealing his career choices to his daughter. As she picks away at his beliefs, Nat admits to serious reservations about the idea of England “as the mother of all democracies”, describing the country as in freefall, with “a minority ...

Newcastle bookseller bans Michael Owen memoir over slights to city


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Huge sports book retailer based in city says Reboot’s account of sour relationship with the city’s team has made it the first book they will ban

A sports bookshop in Newcastle upon Tyne has announced that it will not stock Michael Owen’s new memoir Reboot, after early extracts revealed the footballer’s reluctance to move from Real Madrid to Newcastle United in 2005, writing: “I don’t need to justify myself to fucking Newcastle fans.”

Newcastle-based The Back Page, which describes itself as the largest stockist of sports books in the world, said that Reboot is “the first book we have ever totally refused to stock”.

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Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel escapes from tight secrecy


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Strict measures meant to keep all details of The Testaments confidential until publication have fallen through for some US readers

Hundreds of readers in the US have received early copies of Margaret Atwood’s heavily embargoed follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, after copies were shipped out early by Amazon.

Security around the novel had been as tight as anything mounted for JK Rowling or Dan Brown’s blockbuster releases – the judges for the Booker prize, who shortlisted The Testaments for the award on Wednesday, were warned they would be held liable if their watermarked copies leaked. But since Tuesday, readers have been posting images on Twitter of their freshly delivered copies, a week before the novel’s official release on 10 September.

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Unknown text by John Locke reveals roots of ‘foundational democratic ideas’


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Newly discovered ‘Reasons for tolerateing Papists equally with others’ shows the Enlightenment thinker expressing unexpected social liberalism

A “once in a generation” discovery of a centuries-old manuscript by John Locke shows the great English philosopher making his earliest arguments for religious toleration, with the scholar who unearthed it calling the document “the origin and catalyst for momentous and foundational ideas of western liberal democracy”.

Dated to 1667-8, the manuscript titled “Reasons for tolerateing Papists equally with others”, was previously unknown to academia. It had been owned by the descendants of one of Locke’s friends until the 1920s, when it was sold at auction to a book dealer. From there, it went into private collections until it was donated to St John’s College, Annapolis, in the latter half of the 20th century. It lay unstudied in archives until Locke scholar JC Walmsley noticed a reference to it in a 1928 book ...

Harry Potter books removed from Catholic school ‘on exorcists’ advice’


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Pastor at St Edward junior school in Nashville says JK Rowling’s use of ‘actual spells’ risks conjuring evil spirits.

A Catholic junior school in Nashville has removed the Harry Potter books from its library, saying they include “actual curses and spells, which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits”.

Local paper the Tennessean reported that the pastor at St Edward Catholic school had emailed parents about JK Rowling’s series to tell them that he had been in contact with “several” exorcists who had recommended removing the books from the library.

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Taking a stanza: Simon Armitage cancer poem engraved on a pill


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Poet laureate’s second work in his official capacity honours a planned new research centre and has been carved into a tiny tablet

Simon Armitage’s latest poem, a “bullet / with cancer’s name / carved brazenly on it”, is yet to be printed or read aloud by the poet laureate from the stage. Instead, the work has been engraved by micro-artist Graham Short on to a 2cm x 1cm chemotherapy pill, in what Short said was probably the hardest job had had ever done.

Entitled Finishing It, the poem – Armitage’s second as poet laureate – was commissioned by the Institute of Cancer Research in London. It is intended to symbolise the new generation of cancer treatments that the Institute’s planned Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery will create, and which it hopes will turn cancer into a manageable disease.

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Foyles sets up libraries for high-end retirement homes


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The bookseller is moving into lending for the first time, supplying ‘hospitality-led’ luxury developments

London book chain Foyles is to supply libraries to high-end retirement homes in a deal with a residential developer.

The partnership with Elysian Residences will launch at its development in Stanmore, north-west London, when it opens later this year, with a mix of biographies, travel writing, novels and specialist books selected by Foyles. Residents at the development, which aims to combine “UK development expertise with a US hospitality-led approach to care”, will be able to borrow from a collection maintained and refreshed every quarter by the book chain. Foyles is being paid a lump sum for the work.

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