Public libraries are life-affirming | Letters

Judith Daniels thanks her council for her wonderful local library, Keith McClellan looks at the role they play in democracy, and Keith Martin argues their closure is breaking the law

I could not agree more with your leader (Editorial, 18 June) and the wonderful, life-affirming institutions that are public libraries. While sitting in my local community library writing this letter, I am surrounded by myriad activities including a well-attended jobs fair, people browsing shelves, and a cafe stocked with delicious food.

It is a sad indictment that our libraries are being decimated because local councils are being starved of the very necessary funds to keep them alive. Every generation from a child in arms to a centenarian can feel at home in a library’s multicultural, inclusive atmosphere. Loneliness is the scourge of our disconnected and alienated world, so libraries help to solve a real mental health problem by ...

Hanif Kureishi should get off his high horse | Letters

Teacher Linda Calvey was ‘astonished and upset’ by the author’s ‘intemperate’ article, which she found divisive and unnecessary

I consider myself liberal, unprejudiced, unbiased. In my capacity as a teacher in a successful academy, I have excellent relationships with pupils from a wide range of ethnic, racial, economic and gendered backgrounds; why, one could almost call us diverse. I am a South African emigrant whose teenage brother died as a result of the brutality and rigidity of the apartheid regime. But I am also white, female, possibly middle class, and I read and teach “the mainstream”. Hanif Kureishi’s intemperate, biased, prejudiced and vicious traducing of the “knuckle-draggers” who “whine” about the “dilution of their culture” (The whining about diversity is driven by fear and ignorance, 16 June) has astonished and upset me, despite my agreeing in principle with the points put forward. His own entitled whining, his thrilling ...

Female role models to inspire change in society | Letters

We need more books for both boys and girls that normalise girls as adventurous, confident and capable leaders, writes Jean Pollard. And why can no one remember the work of Eleanor Marx? asks John Airs

I very much enjoyed the supplement of best new children’s books (16 June) but how disappointing to see the continuing massive overrepresentation of male protagonists in these stories. While some recommended books did have a female lead, and there were a couple of books about real heroic women (one described as being sure to inspire girls – why not boys?), there were far, far more where the lead character was a boy and where girls remain accessories in boy’s stories. We need more books for both boys and girls to read that normalise girls as adventurous, confident and capable leaders in a whole host of activities hitherto seen as “boys’ stuff” if we are ...

Electric dreams of Philip K Dickleburgh | Brief letters

Georgina Chapman | In the Night Garden | Smart Compose | Philip K Dick | Suguru

No criticism of Georgina Chapman (‘I was so humiliated and so broken’, 11 May), but of the Guardian. Again you show an unhealthy interest in fashonista celebrity and weight loss – “the British fashion designer describes how she lost 10lbs in five days”, with an accompanying “Photograph: Annie Liebovitz for Vogue”. British or American? I’m sure your readers are desperate to know; and will you do an article on trauma weight loss?
Tim Davies
Batheaston, Somerset

• Nicola Grove can rest assured that In the Night Garden is widely watched (Letters, 8 May). As a grandfather to three under-fours, it was already my regular viewing.
Don Chroston

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Prone to getting it wrong about Karl Marx | Letters

Repositioning Marx | Older women | Book price gap | Predictive text | Stormy clue

That’s twice in one week we’ve been informed that someone is prone when in fact they’re supine (Hero or villain? While west Germany rethinks Marx, east leaves him in the cold, 5 May). The statue of Karl Marx captioned as being “prone” is clearly looking up. Here’s a little mnemonic that might help: points resting on earth = prone; staring up in expectation = supine.
Fr Alec Mitchell

• As an older woman I recently had to see my young GP prior to a visit to a consultant (Older women didn’t speak up. They’re used to being ignored, 4 May). He said to me: “My strong advice is to stop being nice and tell the truth.” Feeling reassured, I did.
Jean Jackson
Seer Green, Buckinghamshire

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BBC’s Agatha Christie adaptation – the question is not whodunnit but why

Readers respond angrily to the BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence

Who would have thought that a Guardian feminist reviewer would miss the hidden misogyny in this TV adaptation (A gloriously grim start to Christie’s crime saga, 7 April). We do indeed get the “Agatha Christie we deserve” – or rather, we get the TV adaptations we deserve, if by this we mean screenplays that mistake bleakness for profundity and cliche for character – and that reveal an innate misogyny that has little to do with Christie’s often complex, courageous, unexpected female characters.

Take Mrs Argyle. In the book, she’s conflicted, a social reformer (probably a Guardian reader!) whose painful longing for children and blindly possessive attitude to those she adopts is at the heart of the story. But here, she’s a cruel, racist abuser who even in Lucy Mangan’s review pretty much deserves to die. Well hello ...

British publishing can still lead the world after Brexit | Letters

Representatives of the Publishers Association call on the government to make sure the UK retains its place as ‘the world’s publisher’

UK publishing is world leading and a cornerstone of Britain’s cultural and economic influence. The books and journals our authors write have helped shape thoughts and ideas the world over for hundreds of years. Together our industry generates up to £7.8bn for the UK economy and supports more than 70,000 jobs. As Britain leaves the EU and looks to build new trading relationships with the world, negotiations in Brussels and beyond offer a unique chance to ensure the future success of one of Britain’s most important exports. The government has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make sure that the outcomes of any negotiations enable the UK to retain its place as the world’s publisher.

Supporting our global reach, encouraging new creative and academic works and leading in the digital ...

Computers that give people a bad name | Brief letters

Hertfordshire art sell-off | HAL and Arthur Clarke | Ballot stuffing | Because

At Hertfordshire county council we have taken the decision to sell some art that has no clear link to our county (Parks, halls and art sold off to pay for essential services, 14 March). We are certainly not selling off the family silver for some short-term cash to prop up frontline services. Instead we are sensibly generating some additional funding to preserve Hertfordshire and nationally significant pieces of art for future generations of Hertfordshire residents.
Terry Douris
Cabinet member for libraries and archives, Hertfordshire county council

• Dr John Docherty (Letters, 17 March) repeats an old urban myth which I thought had been dismissed years ago. Arthur Clarke’s HAL had nothing to do with IBM. The relationship between the names is entirely coincidental. Clarke was so irritated by having to continually deny the story that he even ...

Wizard’s Wilson beats Rover’s Alf | Brief letters

Comic book superstars | Gillingham | Happiest countries | Monarch mnemonics | Belfast weather

Rob Canon’s assertion (Letters, 14 March) that Alf Tupper of the Rover had “the odd fag” is wrong. Alf never smoked. Furthermore, John O Machin’s point (Letters, 13 March) that Alf was the first to do the four-minute mile is also wrong because William Wilson of the Wizard ran the mile in exactly three minutes in 1943, running four metronomic laps of 45 seconds. In the amended repeat of The Truth About Wilson in 1949, Wilson’s time was changed to 3:48, presumably to make the time more realistic, but still impossible to achieve. However, Seb Coe beat it in 1981, and El Guerrouj ran 3.43 in 1999.
Derek Marsden
Maghull, Merseyside

• The residents of Gillingham might have something to say about being referred to as villagers (Villagers told to ...

Peter Hitchens: I’m no zealot | Letters

‘I am a soppy, broad-church Anglican,’ says Peter Hitchens

Sam Wollaston (TV review, 6 March) calls me a “Christian zealot”. I think this is because I said during Monday’s largely admiring TV profile of Philip Pullman that this author’s work is an attempt to undermine Christianity. Actually, I was citing Mr Pullman’s own self-description. In the Washington Post, on 19 February 2001, Mr Pullman was quoted by his interviewer, Alona Wartofsky, as having said: “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.” As it happens, I am a soppy, broad-church Anglican who dislikes any sort of religious enthusiasm or sectarianism, given to hiding behind a pillar during Evensong. I don’t especially want to undermine anyone’s faith, even that of atheists. Surely, it is Mr Pullman, with his self-declared hostile intent towards the Church, who is the zealot.  
Peter Hitchens

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Mary Wollstonecraft must finally have her statue | Letters

Please join our call to break the ‘bronze ceiling’ and celebrate the extraordinary life and legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft, write men including Jeremy Corbyn, Andrew Adonis, Tom Watson and Vince Cable, actors Jason Isaacs and Sam West and John Hannett of Usdaw

We are joining the call made last International Women’s Day, by over 80 female politicians, academics and public figures, for the pioneering human rights champion Mary Wollstonecraft to be memorialised. Wollstonecraft was the first to call for gender equality, over 250 years ago, when she challenged the male philosophers and politicians of the time, including Burke and Rousseau. She called for women not “to have power over men but over themselves”.

As a key Enlightenment philosopher, her ideas on justice and education have become core values here in Britain and beyond. Her words directly informed Gladstone’s plans for state education in 1870. Mary Wollstonecraft was neither ...

A field guide to spotting a good shag | Brief letters

Shags versus mullets | Black dresses at the Baftas | Childhood books | Missing the moon? | Pensioners making a difference

Your “Mullets we have loved” (In pictures, 17 February) was highly flawed. Half of these “mullets” were actually shags (Ronnie Wood, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Joan Jett).
Camilla Jackson
Bedworth, Warwickshire

• Your front page stated: “All three wore black dresses after a call for the awards to focus on industry rather than clothes” (Taking a stand at the Baftas, 19 February). However, on page 11, there were three columns commenting on what the actors were wearing. I am confused.
Mike Harrison

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Pilgrim’s Progress to London luxury | Letter

The Puritan preacher John Bunyan dreamed a famous dream – but can hardly have imagined that his statue would end up inside an exclusive hotel

Martin Luther King wasn’t the first person to have a significant dream (Big business is hijacking our radical past…, G2, 9 February). Nor the first to have it hijacked by commercial interests. The opening of the Puritan preacher John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678, written during his years in prison for his dissenting religious views) is inscribed under his statue on the outside of the former Baptists’ headquarters in Southampton Row, near Holborn station in London: “As I walk’d through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a Dream.”

The building is now a boutique hotel. While it was being ...

Poetry is pleasing, even on YouTube | Letters

Poetry of all tastes and genres should be celebrated, say Angela Croft and Catherine Roome

Further to the critique in PN Review that you report (Literary world split as poet attacks rise of social media ‘noble amateur’, 24 January), the wonderful thing about the current poetry scene is there is room for all – both experimental and traditional. I enjoyed listening to Hollie McNish on YouTube as much as I enjoyed listening to those nominated for the TS Eliot prize; and to poets reading at Kings Place and other venues across London and elsewhere.

The appreciation of poetry is highly subjective and, it is encouraging to find workshops and readings across the country embracing people of all ages and from all walks of life. I am neither a professor of English nor a publisher, but as for some poetry being “easy to read” and containing “few challenges” – that can be ...

The mystery of the Sphinx’s nose is already settled | Brief letters

Asterix | Regional accents | Boris’s bridge | Picture lending schemes | Trump’s wall | Plastic packaging

The question of the Sphinx’s nose was conclusively settled in that peerless work Asterix and Cleopatra, where the nose falls victim to Obelix’s climbing skills (10 things from history everyone gets wrong, 18 January).
Eliza Wheaton
Didcot, Oxfordshire

• You’re welcome to the long “a” in your “bath”, lass (Emma Brockes, Opinion, 19 January) – just so long as you don’t expect northerners to have a “beth” as taken by the royal family.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

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Mary Shelley wasn’t a one-hit wonder | Letters

Barbara Jane O’Sullivan on the Frankenstein author’s other literary output, and John Green on confusion caused by having authors of the same name

Fiona Sampson (The creation myth, Review, 13 January) provides an overview of possible sources for the central theme of Frankenstein, but fails to mention a significant one: Prometheus. It is no coincidence that Percy Shelley grasped this myth in Prometheus Unbound, and that Mary critiqued it in Frankenstein and subsequent work. As she commented to Byron’s mistress after his death: “We are all Cassandras; and we are so blind that we do not give heed to the silent voice which makes itself heard within our soul.”

While exploring the story of the production of Frankenstein, Sampson also inadvertently encourages the myth that Mary was a one-great-book wonder, lumping her impressive lifetime’s achievement under the category “dogged survivor and consummate professional”. Valperga (1823) was ...

Why my father Cecil Day-Lewis’s poem Walking Away stands the test of time | Letters

Sean Day-Lewis says the poem, quoted in a recent Guardian article, is as relevant today as it was when first published more than half a century ago

It was good to see the last couplet of my father’s Walking Away properly quoted by Saskia Sarginson (Empty nest? Not a chance, Family, 6 January). But she is a little off-message with her view that this Cecil Day-Lewis poem was “written for a different society”.

It can be argued that much of his poetry, now well out of fashion, belonged to its time. But this poem is very much for all times. It is a memory poem, looking back to my nervous first day at school in 1938. But it was published, some while after he walked away from my mother into a second marriage, in his 1962 volume of verse The Gate. Believe it or not, society of 1962 was much like ...

John Clare archive under threat from library cuts | Letters

Writers and academics including Hilary Mantel, Philip Pullman, Simon Armitage and Josie Long appeal to Northampton county council to preserve a unique collection of works by the great poet of the English countryside

We write with grave concern at cuts being planned to the library services across Northamptonshire, options for which are currently out for public consultation through the council’s Review of library services in Northamptonshire. While we believe any retraction of library provision will have a debilitating impact upon those who rely on them (including future generations too), we write with particular concern about a library not mentioned in the various “options” that Northamptonshire county council sets out: the Northampton central library, on Abington Street, Northampton, home to an important collection of the manuscripts and books of the poet John Clare.

The council’s plans seem to mask the fact that this library will also be hugely affected ...

Joyce Marlow’s was a life to remember | Letters

The historian did important work on the Peterloo massacre and the suffragette movement, says Lindsey German, and deserves greater prominence than the failed memoir forger Clifford Irving

It shows a somewhat strange priority that your main obituary on 27 December described the life of Clifford Irving, who unsuccessfully faked an autobiography of Howard Hughes, while the actual historian Joyce Marlow was given only a brief obituary in the “Other lives” section. Marlow deserves to be widely remembered for her important work, including her book on the Peterloo massacre and her collections on women and the suffragette movement, and women in the first world war. She recognised the importance of studying the actual words and writings of those participating in historical events, and of looking at history from below.
Lindsey German 

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Reflections on aspects of the Christmas spirit | Letters

Christopher Goulding on Marley’s Cornish origins; John Hunter remembers John Masefield; Nik Wood reveals a not-so-charitable Christmas message

Barry West’s theory about the Cornish origins of Jacob Marley’s surname is an interesting one, but it forges a rather too tenuous connection between his beloved home county and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Ghost of Cornish past, 20 December). Dickens’ childhood in Kent would have given him ample opportunity to see lighthouses, miners and sailors long before his visits to Cornwall.

Moreover, the well-known folk song “Elsie Marley ... the wife who sells the barley” would have meant that surname was far from being “unusual”. A verse and chorus of the song are quoted in the novel The Fortunes of Nigel (1822) by Sir Walter Scott, with whose works Dickens was very familiar. Originating in the north of England in the 18th century, the song could well have ...