Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is charming, but it is also racist


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Winifred Watson’s daffy characters are inclined to cheerful antisemitism, at a time when Nazism was taking over Europe. Can we still enjoy it?

In last week’s article on Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I started with a silly but sweet bit of innuendo. It seemed a good way to introduce a book that is, for most of its 233 pages, a light, frothy delight and widely loved as a feelgood read, so much so that it was chosen as our “fun” book for September.

I understand readers’ affection; for the most part, I share it. But there’s no getting around the feel-bad aspects of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, specifically – as a few of you have pointed out – some distinctly racist passages.

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Not the Booker: The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James review – agonisingly meta


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This fractured, disparate narrative can feel like a lecture from a stoner undergraduate - but it’s also a lot of fun

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas opens with the warning that “this book is dangerous”. But don’t let that put you off.

Its author, Daniel James – or, at least, someone claiming to be Daniel James (we’ll get to that) explains in New Writing North that this book is “an unorthodox hybrid of literary fiction, biography and detective story, written by a former journalist and told through a combination of prose fiction, biographical chapters, news clippings, academic footnotes, emails, phone transcripts and more. Given these origins, the novel occupies a unique space at the intersection between truth and fiction, history and myth.”

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Not the Booker: The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James review – agonisingly meta


This post is by Sam Jordison from Books | The Guardian


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This fractured, disparate narrative can feel like a lecture from a stoner undergraduate - but it’s also a lot of fun

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas opens with the warning that “this book is dangerous”. But don’t let that put you off.

Its author, Daniel James – or, at least, someone claiming to be Daniel James (we’ll get to that) explains in New Writing North that this book is “an unorthodox hybrid of literary fiction, biography and detective story, written by a former journalist and told through a combination of prose fiction, biographical chapters, news clippings, academic footnotes, emails, phone transcripts and more. Given these origins, the novel occupies a unique space at the intersection between truth and fiction, history and myth.”

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: has naughtiness ever been so nice?


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This wonderfully warm classic is full of delicious innuendo and risqué fun – all thought up by Winifred Watson while she did the dishes

Here’s something you may not expect to read in a bestselling book from 1938 about a virginal governess:

“But he’s a grand lover,” said Miss LaFosse wistfully.

“No doubt,” said Miss Pettigrew. “All practice makes perfect.”

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is September’s reading group book


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Our fun reading for this month is Winifred Watson’s 1938 caper following a poor governess as she discovers ‘the way of sin’

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson has come out of the hat and will be the subject of the reading group this September. First published in 1938, hindsight suggests that this funny, escapist book might have been just the tonic people needed in a darkening historical era. Certainly, it became a huge hit in its time.

But if it was a book that people were craving, Watson’s publishers didn’t know it at first. They only agreed to put it out when Watson also agreed to write the kind of rustic bodice-ripper with which she initially made her name. World events also conspired against the book’s success. It was just about to be published in France when the Nazis invaded. Musical and film versions were similarly ...

Not the Booker: Please Read This Leaflet Carefully by Karen Havelin review – an angry story of pain


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This intense study of endometriosis, its agonies and its neglect by medical science, is very powerful – and quite repetitive

“Endometriosis is a bitch,” a gynaecological surgeon informs Laura, the narrator of Please Read This Leaflet Carefully. By the time he does, we already know as much. Laura has told us all about the intense pain, and agonising surgical procedures she has endured for years, thanks to the swellings, ulcers and related problems in her uterus. She has also spent most of her life plagued by allergies: “As a child I was always in the hospital – asthma, allergic to more and more things, wheezing, coughing, itching, always a bellyache for some reason or another. My test results were always borderlining something dangerous.”

There is no cure for endometriosis. As that none-too-gentle surgeon says: “We know what happens but we don’t know the causes; we can’t stop it. Too ...

Reading group: which fun book should we read in September?


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As the world grows more serious, we’re dedicating next month to reading that will entertain and amuse. Nominate your choice below

This month on the reading group we’re going to have fun. The holiday season is drawing to a close, schools and colleges are starting again and the world is on fire. I’m not suggesting we hide from reality, but it might be useful to have something to offset the pain for a while. Think of it as a literary restorative.

The form that tonic takes is entirely up to you. My first resources when it comes to fun books are always PG Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett and I’d be delighted to read either of them again. But we don’t have to choose something so explicitly humorous. There is plenty to be said for the warm glow that comes from reading a more quietly witty book such as Fup by ...

How John Steinbeck ‘opened up’ The Grapes of Wrath’s readers


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It is not simply the plight of his real-life subjects that still draws readers in their millions. The story’s force depends on its craft

When Steinbeck finished The Grapes of Wrath in 1938, he expressed doubts about its quality. Since then, critics and the public alike have decided that he needn’t have worried. Sure, there are some exceptions: not everyone likes Steinbeck’s phonetic rendering of the Oklahoma dialect or his overwrought religious imagery, all the blaring indications that John Casey (JC!) may have similarities with Jesus Christ. It’s certainly true that the book doesn’t so much slip over into sentimentality as avalanche.

But then again, The Grapes of Wrath isn’t meant to be subtle. Sometimes reading about the “Okie” family’s ever-increasing woes can feel like getting clanged round the head with Tom Joad’s spade – but that’s because Steinbeck wants us to feel it hard. Reading it over the ...

Not the Booker: Flames by Robbie Arnott review – magic works in a wild Tasmania


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A novel where special coffins are required to keep the dead from rising, and river gods vandalise jetskis could be irritating. But here the tricks pay off

Flames is a novel that asks for indulgence, from its first sentence: “Our mother returned to us two days after we spread her ashes over Notley Fern Gorge.” This mother, covered in “leafy appendages”, spends a few days moping around the house, morose and silent, before trudging over to the home of her estranged husband and immolating herself on his lawn. Soon we’re following her daughter Charlotte down to the wild southern edge of Tasmania as she flees her brother Levi, who wants to get hold of a special coffin that will prevent Charlotte from also coming back to life after she dies.

We also follow Karl, who catches giant “Oneblood” tuna with the help of his buddy – a seal. There’s ...

‘My nerves are going fast’: The Grapes of Wrath’s hard road to publication


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Famously written in 100 days, John Steinbeck’s novel drew on years of other work and an agonised sense of duty to migrant farm workers

In March 1938, shortly before he began working on The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck wrote to his agent Elizabeth Otis to turn down a commission to write about migrant workers.

“The suffering is too great for me to cash in on it … it is the most heartbreaking thing in the world,” he wrote. “I break myself every time I go out because the argument that one person’s effort can’t really do anything doesn’t seem to apply when you come on a bunch of starving children and you have a little money. I can’t rationalise it for myself anyway. So don’t get me a job for a slick.”

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Not the Booker prize 2019: three more finalists revealed


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After the public vote last week, our judges and book champions reveal their choices to complete the six-novel field. Let’s start reading!

We now have a full size Not the Booker prize shortlist. Following on from the public vote, our judges from last year have selected Spring by Ali Smith, while our nominated book champions from Storyhouse library in Chester and Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh have chosen Flames by Robbie Arnott and Supper Club by Lara Williams respectively.

I’m eager to read these new additions – not least because I’ve read what our expert team of selectors have to say about them.

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Not the Booker prize 2019: the first three books on our shortlist are …


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After a lively week of voting, three novels have made it to the final stage – where your opinions will remain crucial

The votes have been cast. They have been counted. We have whittled down our very long longlist and now have a very short shortlist of three books:

The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James (Dead Ink Books)
Please Read This Leaflet Carefully by Karen Havelin (Dead Ink Books)
Skin by Liam Brown (Legend)

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The Grapes of Wrath is our reading group book for August


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John Steinbeck’s novel about a family’s desperate journey across the US is our migration-themed reading this month

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath has come out of the hat and will be the subject of August’s reading group.

I have to admit that this safely established novel by a great American writer isn’t the first thing that came to my mind for our theme of migration. But the more I consider it, the more sense it makes. It’s clear that migration figures heavily in Steinbeck’s story, about the Joad family’s desperate exodus from the dust bowl in Oklahoma and their long haul to California looking for work and dignity. It was also a popular choice, receiving many nominations, and is of course a hugely important novel.

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Reading group: which book about migrants should we read in August?


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Stories of people on the move were told in the classical era and animate some of the best new fiction. From Virgil to VS Naipaul, please choose a destination

This month on the reading group we’re going to celebrate migration. It makes us richer, it makes us stronger, it makes our world more colourful and more interesting.

All of which goes some of the way to explaining why migration is also such a good source of literature. But there are also the tales of hardship and opportunity, stories of personal bravery, risk, cruelties and ignorance. It’s of such stuff that great novels are built, so I’m hoping we can compile an epic list of world-class literature.

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Reading group: which book about migrants should we read in August?


This post is by Sam Jordison from Books | The Guardian


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Stories of people on the move were told in the classical era and animate some of the best new fiction. From Virgil to VS Naipaul, please choose a destination

This month on the reading group we’re going to celebrate migration. It makes us richer, it makes us stronger, it makes our world more colourful and more interesting.

All of which goes some of the way to explaining why migration is also such a good source of literature. But there are also the tales of hardship and opportunity, stories of personal bravery, risk, cruelties and ignorance. It’s of such stuff that great novels are built, so I’m hoping we can compile an epic list of world-class literature.

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Not the Booker longlist: vote now to decide the 2019 shortlist


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Our initial poll has put more than 160 novels in contention. We need your learned opinions to winnow this down to a shortlist next week

This year’s Booker longlist has been described as “an absolute gift for bookselling” and seems popular with critics and the book-buying public alike, which is excellent. I hope it’s going to be a vintage year. But still: it isn’t as long as our longlist.

This year, a mighty 165 books have been nominated for the Not the Booker prize. That’s an impressive indication of the scale of publishing in English-language fiction and of the enthusiasm you guys have for reading. But now, it’s time to start talking about how good some of these books are. To do that, we need to produce our shortlist.

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‘One must find the strength to resist’: Primo Levi’s warning to history


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The clarity and moral force of If This Is a Man’s witness to nazism’s crimes against humanity is as urgent as ever

Philip Roth once called Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man and The Truce – usually published as one volume – “one of the century’s truly necessary books”. If you’ve read Levi, the only quibble you could make with Roth is that he’s too restrictive in only referring to the 20th century. It’s impossible to imagine a time when the two won’t be essential, both because of what they describe and the clarity and moral force of Levi’s writing. Reading him is not a passive process. It isn’t just that he makes us see and understand the terrible crimes that he himself saw in Monowitz-Buna. It’s that in doing so, he also makes us witnesses, passing us knowledge that gives us a moral and practical responsibility. We too ...

Not the Booker prize 2019: nominate your novel of the year now


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Now into its second decade, the reader-driven books award is introducing some exciting new features. But we still need your votes

The Not the Booker prize is back – for the 11th time. We’ve been uncovering excellent novels for more than a decade, and that’s a mighty fine thing. But let’s not dwell on the past, because the future promises yet more excitement. Like many 11-year-olds, the Not the Booker is changing.

We still want to find this year’s best novels and uncover a few gems that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. We still want to have a serious discussion about literature and prize culture. We still want to have fun. And we still want to hear from you about the books that matter. So this year’s Not the Booker prize begins like every other, with nominations ...

The Truce: how Primo Levi rediscovered humanity after Auschwitz


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Shadows from the horrors told in If This Is a Man remain, but this book shows the author finding joy in ordinary life

“Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find our strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains.”

So Primo Levi describes the beginning of the process of “the demolition of a man”, the “offence” that Auschwitz inflicted on so many people. “Häftling,” he writes in If This Is a Man, using the German word for prisoner, “I have learned that I am a Häftling. My name is ...

The Truce: how Primo Levi rediscovered humanity after Auschwitz


This post is by Sam Jordison from Books | The Guardian


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Shadows from the horrors told in If This Is a Man remain, but this book shows the author finding joy in ordinary life

“Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find our strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains.”

So Primo Levi describes the beginning of the process of “the demolition of a man”, the “offence” that Auschwitz inflicted on so many people. “Häftling,” he writes in If This Is a Man, using the German word for prisoner, “I have learned that I am a Häftling. My name is ...