Philip Roth: Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral author dies at 85

Chronicler of American politics, Jewishness and male sexual desire was widely regarded as one of greatest novelists of the 20th century

The novelist Philip Roth, who explored America through the contradictions of his own character for more than six decades, died on Tuesday aged 85.

Roth’s career began in notoriety and ended in authority, as he grappled with questions of identity, authorship, morality and mortality in a series of novels that shaped the course of American letters in the second half of the 20th century. He refracted the complexities of his Jewish-American heritage in works such as Portnoy’s Complaint, American Pastoral, The Human Stain and The Plot Against America, which garnered both critical and commercial success, garlanding their creator with a dazzling succession of literary prizes.

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Terror hits home: Gabriela Ybarra on the family stories behind her novel

After her grandfather was assassinated by Basque separatists in 1977, Ybarra’s family never talked about it. Using fiction to fill in the gaps, debut novel The Dinner Guest is up for the Man Booker International prize

When the Spanish writer Gabriela Ybarra heard she had been nominated for the Man Booker International prize, she could hardly believe it. “I had just fed the baby and was going to take a nap,” she says, her four-month-old son gurgling and squawking on her knee, as she speaks at her home in Madrid. “I was super-relaxed. Then I read the email from my UK editor and I couldn’t sleep, because I was so excited.”

The novel that has put this debut author alongside literary stars such as Laurent Binet, Han Kang and László Krasznahorkai is The Dinner Guest, a bold examination of silence and mortality that explores her grandfather’s murder at ...

No Kyding: eminent Shakespeare scholar seeks publisher

Sir Brian Vickers claims his reputation has been damaged by associates of the New Oxford Shakespeare: they, in turn, dispute his methods

When readers of the Times Literary Supplement open the latest issue, they’re due something of a surprise. There, alongside the advertisements for bursaries and farmhouses to rent, is a small notice from an eminent Shakespeare scholar. After a career spanning more than 50 years, during which he has published more than 40 books, Professor Sir Brian Vickers finds himself in search of a publisher.

According to Vickers, a major reason he has not yet found a home for his complete edition of works by Thomas Kyd is that his “reputation as a scholar has been damaged by a string of hostile reviews by people associated with the New Oxford Shakespeare”.

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No Kyding: eminent Shakespeare scholar seeks publisher

Sir Brian Vickers claims his reputation has been damaged by associates of the New Oxford Shakespeare: they, in turn, dispute his methods

When readers of the Times Literary Supplement open the latest issue, they’re due something of a surprise. There, alongside the advertisements for bursaries and farmhouses to rent, is a small notice from an eminent Shakespeare scholar. After a career spanning more than 50 years, during which he has published more than 40 books, Professor Sir Brian Vickers finds himself in search of a publisher.

According to Vickers, a major reason he has not yet found a home for his complete edition of works by Thomas Kyd is that his “reputation as a scholar has been damaged by a string of hostile reviews by people associated with the New Oxford Shakespeare”.

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Jay Bernard’s ‘personal and brave’ poetry wins Ted Hughes award

Surge: Side A, an intimate multimedia exploration of 1981 New Cross fire, wins £5,000 prize

Jay Bernard has won the Ted Hughes award for new poetry with the performance Surge: Side A, a multimedia sequence which explores the 1981 New Cross fire.

The £5,000 prize is given to the poet “who has made the most exciting contribution to poetry”, putting published collections alongside live performance, installations and radio pieces.

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La Belle Sauvage chosen as Waterstones book of the year

Managing director James Daunt says staff showed overwhelming enthusiasm for Philip Pullman’s return after 17 years to the world of Northern Lights

Philip Pullman’s return to the world of Lyra Belacqua, La Belle Sauvage, has picked up its first award: the Waterstones book of the year.

The novel, which is already a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, begins 10 years before Northern Lights and tells the story of an apocalyptic flood and how a young boy, Malcolm, teams up with an older girl, Alice, to save the infant Lyra from a sinister plot.

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La Belle Sauvage chosen as Waterstones book of the year

Managing director James Daunt says staff showed overwhelming enthusiasm for Philip Pullman’s return after 17 years to the world of Northern Lights

Philip Pullman’s return to the world of Lyra Belacqua, La Belle Sauvage, has picked up its first award: the Waterstones book of the year.

The novel, which is already a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, begins 10 years before Northern Lights and tells the story of an apocalyptic flood and how a young boy, Malcolm, teams up with an older girl, Alice, to save the infant Lyra from a sinister plot.

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Elizabeth-Jane Burnett: ‘Swimming can give you the optimism to keep going’

Swims is a work of poetry that follows its author into open waters around the UK, where she finds both simple pleasure and more complicated political hope

“What can I do as a person on the planet, as a human being, as a writer, as the unique set of things that I am?” asks Elizabeth-Jane Burnett. “How can I help the environment?” For a writer and scholar who has been exploring the natural world and alternatives to capitalism in pamphlets, exhibitions and academic papers, the response to environmental catastrophe was clear: poetry.

Swims, her first book, is one long poem that follows the author as she dives into open water across England and Wales, plunging into rivers, lakes and seas in a watery circuit that takes in the Ouse, the Teign, the Channel, Grasmere and King’s Cross Pond in London. Some sections record a process or ritual – ...

Amazon’s Kindle turns 10: have ebooks clicked with you yet?

A decade after Jeff Bezos launched a revolution in reading – and a $1bn money-spinner – much has changed in the book trade. But how has it affected readers?

George W Bush was in the White House, Chris Brown was topping the Billboard chart and Jeff Bezos … well, on 19 November 2007, Jeff Bezos was doing “the most important thing we’ve ever done” and launching the Amazon Kindle.

The first Kindles were chunky things about the same size as a paperback, weighing a smidgeon less than 300g. They had wonky little keyboards and a little wheel for scrolling up and down a grey and black screen. But Bezos was never aiming for a flashy design. Speaking at the launch in New York, he said that all he wanted was a device that could “disappear”.

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Nick Harkaway: ‘I have a firework going off in my head and I have to describe it’

The novelist on technology, surveillance and having John le Carré for a father

If everybody was incredibly committed to acts of kindness and charity in a ubiquitous circle of love and whatever,” Nick Harkaway waves his hands as the words come tumbling out, “we’d be living in a utopia now. People would walk out into the street and make sure their neighbours are OK, the way they do after earthquakes.” He stops, looks around the light study at the top of his house in Belsize Park, north London, and tries to work out how he’s got from the all-seeing surveillance at the heart of his latest novel to historical materialism. “I’ve strayed again … what was the question?”

The breakneck whirl of Harkaway’s conversation is a bit like his fiction, ideas fizzing off in every direction as it hurtles along. His fourth novel, Gnomon, is no ...

Survey finds more than half of people in book trade have experienced sexual harassment

Poll by the Bookseller finds 54% of female respondents reporting sexual ‘harassment, assault or predatory behaviour’

A survey suggests that more than half of people working in the books industry have experienced sexual harassment, with 54% of women and 34% of men reporting “harassment, assault or predatory behaviour”.

The anonymous online poll was conducted by the industry magazine the Bookseller, gathering together responses from 388 people including booksellers, agents, authors and event organisers.

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Chris D Thomas Inheritors of the Earth first book interview

African rhinos in the Mediterreanean, French butterflies in southern England... the biologist on how dynamic ecology offers hope in a changing world After a lifetime out in the field, measuring the egg-laying preferences of Californian butterflies or counting plant species living in and around Birmingham, ecologist Chris D Thomas is no typical debut author. But like so many writers, his first book, Inheritors of the Earth, has been germinating for some time. The seeds were sown in the early 2000s: Thomas was researching ways of saving animals and plants threatened by climate change, when he began to focus on the inconsistencies in attitudes to the ebb and flow of nature. “When things died out or declined it was seen as a loss,” he says, “but when new things arrived it was either ignored or also counted effectively as a loss, because it was seen as a departure from how things ...

Brian Van Reet: ‘The Iraq war feels like it happened in a past life or in a dream’

The author of Spoils recalls his troubling time serving with the US army, and the uneasy process of translating his experience into fiction Fourteen years since the US invaded Iraq, and 13 since he served there with the US army, soldier-turned-author Brian Van Reet remains conflicted about the war. “On the one hand, I view the war as a whole as an evil thing,” he says. “It was unnecessary, it caused a massive amount of suffering and there’s something evil about that. I don’t think of myself as evil, but I participated in a bigger event that could be considered evil. I haven’t figured out how to resolve that.” Continue reading...

Patty Yumi Cottrell: ‘I’m not trying to hide anything – the novel is not a memoir’

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace is grounded in traumatic experience, but its author is keen to stress that the facts were not what made the story urgent for her Patty Yumi Cottrell is finding this interview difficult. She’s umming and erring along her fractured train of thought, stumbling from one “you know” to the next. We’re talking about her first novel, Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, a debut that she says overlaps with her own life in ways she finds very emotional, and we’re struggling with a slight delay on the line between London and Los Angeles. “In the US, I’ve done a few interviews and I haven’t really talked about it because I was trying to protect my family, you know. And, um … ” she sighs. “I guess if people want to do research or something, they could find out whatever they want to find out … I’m ...

Laurent Binet: ‘I’ll vote Macron, but I hate having to do it’

The Frenchman’s novel about the blurred line between fiction and reality, The 7th Function of Language, is all the more poignant in the era of Trump, Le Pen and fake news The walls may be covered with vintage cigarette adverts and the traditional pewter bartop may gleam, but dining at an authentically French restaurant in central London still requires a certain suspension of disbelief. For Laurent Binet, however, an author whose work treads a careful line between truth and fiction, the bistrot’s faint air of unreality seems a perfect venue. Related: HHhH by Laurent Binet – review Continue reading...

Imran Mahmood: ‘Can the moral question overwhelm legal guilt?’

The barrister explains how he took the voice of his inner-city clients to create a novel that challenges comfortable certainties Sitting in the refined calm of a panelled room at Imran Mahmood’s chambers in Middle Temple in London, the insistent voice that animates his first novel, You Don’t Know Me, seems very remote. The barrister’s debut puts the reader in the jury box at a murder trial, as a young, black man from a south London estate sacks the QC who has been defending him and embarks on a marathon closing speech, upending four weeks of evidence. “You know, part of me thought if I told my speech myself then at least you get to feel a little bit of what it is like to be me,” Mahmood’s unnamed narrator tells the jury. “That if my QC did it then maybe you would all be thinking, ‘Yeah, it’s all very ...

Make it your hone: the ebook that you are forced to edit as you read

On each page of A Universe Explodes by Tea Uglow, owners are required to add one word and remove two – which amounts to an odd reading experience It opens with a woman reaching up for a cereal bowl and closes with a new beginning – or at least it does for the moment. By the time you get to read it, my copy of A Universe Explodes will have changed. Tea Uglow’s story about a disintegrating life has been built to be literally deconstructed, with readers required to make small edits to the book’s text, as it passes from one owner to the next. Related: What apps next? Publishers and developers embrace 'unprintable' fiction Continue reading...

Elan Mastai: ‘I wrote about my mother’s death, but I used time machines to do it’

Already a screenwriter, the author of All Our Wrong Todays explains his delight in avoiding Hollywood’s filters and using the special effects that only work in books When Elan Mastai was 26, his mother died. “I think about where I am right now in my life, and it’s hard to imagine it the way it is had my mother not died,” says the Canadian screenwriter, now 43. “I started writing because of that. I started going from wanting to be a writer to actually writing. The last gift my mother gave me was the awareness that I don’t have unlimited time. When you’re young, it’s very easy to be your own worst enemy. It’s very easy to create a lot of obstacles that keep you from going after the things you want to do. It’s very easy to convince yourself that if you don’t try you won’t fail. Losing my ...

Nobel laureate, poet and playwright Derek Walcott dead, aged 87

Walcott, who died in Saint Lucia, was famous for his monumental body of work that wove in Caribbean history, particularly his epic Omeros The poet and playwright Derek Walcott, who moulded the language and forms of the western canon to his own purposes for more than half a century, has died aged 87. His monumental poetry, including 1973’s verse autobiography, Another Life, and his Caribbean reimagining of The Odyssey, 1990’s Omeros, secured him an international reputation which gained him the Nobel prize in 1992. But this was matched by a theatrical career conducted mostly in the islands of his birth as a director and writer with more than 80 plays to his credit. Continue reading...

Nelson Mandela’s presidential memoir, Dare Not Linger, due in autumn

Unfinished manuscript considering his time in power has been completed using archival material by South African poet and novelist Mandla Langa

The story of Africa’s greatest modern statesman, Nelson Mandela, will gain another chapter this autumn, with the publication of Dare Not Linger.

Following on from Long Walk to Freedom, the inspiring account of his early life and time in prison that was made into a feature film starring Idris Elba, the book will chart Mandela’s time as South Africa’s first black president from 1994 to 1999.

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