An Odyssey by Daniel Mendelsohn review – a father, a son and Homer’s epic

Was Odysseus a hero or a self-pitying liar? Mendelsohn’s father embarrassed him by publicly challenging his view of the epic – a rich moment in a brilliant family memoir

As everyone knows, The Odyssey is a poem about a “traditional” family. A wife waits anxiously at home for her absent husband; a man-child son, still living at home, dreams of his father and snaps irritably at his mother. The husband and father himself spends 10 years away at war, and another 10 making his meandering way back home. The institution of marriage seems to lie at the heart of the poem, along with an accompanying set of double standards about gender. Odysseus spends seven years on the island of Ogygia, and in the bed of the beautiful, devoted goddess Calypso, plus another year with the sexy witch Circe. He suffers no negative repercussions, while “faithful Penelope” has to ward off all her suitors ...

An Odyssey by Daniel Mendelsohn review – a father, a son and Homer’s epic

Was Odysseus a hero or a self-pitying liar? Mendelsohn’s father embarrassed him by publicly challenging his view of the epic – a rich moment in a brilliant family memoir

As everyone knows, The Odyssey is a poem about a “traditional” family. A wife waits anxiously at home for her absent husband; a man-child son, still living at home, dreams of his father and snaps irritably at his mother. The husband and father himself spends 10 years away at war, and another 10 making his meandering way back home. The institution of marriage seems to lie at the heart of the poem, along with an accompanying set of double standards about gender. Odysseus spends seven years on the island of Ogygia, and in the bed of the beautiful, devoted goddess Calypso, plus another year with the sexy witch Circe. He suffers no negative repercussions, while “faithful Penelope” has to ward off all her suitors ...

Top 10 contemporary short stories

Ahead of 2017’s National short story prize, Jon McGregor reluctantly chooses ‘swoony’ work from recent years showing some of the ways to write them well

This summer, I read the entries for this year’s BBC National short story prize, and discussed with my fellow judges the vexed question of how the “best” might be identified.

This was both a pleasure and a serious challenge: the form of the story is so capacious and diverse that at times we were comparing apples and pears, or at least looking at an unfamiliar fruit and arguing over whether to call it an apple or a pear. (Rest assured, though: the challenge is not impossible. An apple is always better than a pear.) You can assess our choices after the shortlist is announced this Friday evening on BBC Radio 4. All five finalists will then be broadcast on successive afternoons on BBC ...

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hero ‘was originally black’

Roald Dahl’s widow and biographer say first Charlie was black but writer was persuaded to make him white

Roald Dahl originally wanted the eponymous hero of his much-loved children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be black, his widow has said.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for Roald Dahl day on Wednesday, Liccy Dahl said: “His first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy.”

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The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz – review

Lisbeth Salander is back – can this latest addition to Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series live up to the originals?

Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson planned 10 instalments in his Millennium series before his untimely death. The three novels he did write, beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, had energy, spectacular violence and superb plotting. Larsson’s weird, sometimes clunky prose style was forgiven because there was real chemistry – empathy, even – between his two stars, the computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and the journalist Mikael Blomkvist. The series made a fortune and, as no good deed goes unpunished, it has been turned into a franchise.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is the second instalment to be written by the Swedish biographer and novelist David Lagercrantz, translated by George Goulding. The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2015) sold very well and this new outing has ...

George Saunders and Mohsin Hamid lead a daring Man Booker shortlist

A spirit of experiment resounds through the chosen novels from writers including Paul Auster and Ali Smith

Paul Auster had not written a novel for seven years, and then he wrote one that came in at nearly 900 pages. Three of the other writers shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker prize had never written one before – although to regard master fabulist George Saunders as a debutant simply because he has hitherto devoted his creative energies to the short form is something of a cheat. The other two – Emily Fridlund and Fiona Mozley – we can certainly allow, as well as noting that their novels, History of Wolves and Elmet, privilege the complicatedly unreliable stories of solitary children in solitary places, both made vulnerable by the violence of adults.

In a shortlist that seems to reject conventional realism and celebrate precarious and unstable narratives, our half-dozen to watch is ...

Man Booker prize 2017: shortlist makes room for debuts alongside big names

George Saunders, Fiona Mozley and Emily Fridlund are nominated for their first novels, alongside new books from Ali Smith and Paul Auster

American heavyweights Paul Auster and George Saunders are to go head to head on the Man Booker prize shortlist, as major names from British fiction fall by the wayside.

This year’s judges, chaired by Baroness Lola Young, announced their shortlist of six titles on Wednesday morning. Alongside Auster and Saunders, the 29-year-old British debut novelist Fiona Mozley has secured a place in the final line-up, as has Ali Smith, who is shortlisted for the Booker for the fourth time with her post-Brexit novel Autumn. But a host of award-winning writers failed to make the cut, with former winner Arundhati Roy missing out on a place, as did Sebastian Barry, Kamila Shamsie and Zadie Smith.

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