The Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray review – a rightwing diatribe

This post is by William Davies from Books | The Guardian

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Do racism and sexism really exist, or are they just the creation of angry lefties? The bizarre fantasies of a rightwing provocateur, blind to oppression

Being stuck in a culture war is a bit like being a driver stuck in a traffic jam. From within one’s own car, the absurdity and injustice of the situation is abundantly plain. Other drivers can be seen cutting in, changing lanes excessively, and getting worked up. Roadworks appear needlessly restrictive. Why are there so many cars on the road anyway? Horns begin to honk. There is one question that few drivers ever consider: what is my own contribution to this quagmire?

Psychoanalysts refer to the process of “splitting”, where the self is unable to cope with its good and bad qualities simultaneously, and so “splits” the bad ones off and attributes them to other people. The result is an exaggerated sense of one’s own ...

Canadian author Graeme Gibson dies aged 85

This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian

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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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Nearly half of all book reviews in Australia in 2018 were of works by female authors

This post is by Stephanie Convery from Books | The Guardian

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Stella Count researchers say gender parity reached by most publications

Researchers have praised most Australian publications for reaching gender parity in their book review sections last year.

Of published book reviews in Australia in 2018 49% were for books written by women, according to research published on Thursday by the Stella Count.

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Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith review – memories of the magic and the mundane

This post is by Fiona Sturges from Books | The Guardian

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From looming political crisis to a leaky flat – a troubled year in the life of a great American punk poet

At the start of 2016, Patti Smith’s friend the producer, manager and rock critic Sandy Pearlman was hospitalised after suffering a brain haemorrhage. She first met him in 1971 when he attended one of her performances during which she read poetry against a backdrop of feedback, courtesy of guitarist Lenny Kaye. Pearlman approached Smith after the show and suggested she front a rock band, but, as she recalls in her new memoir: “I just laughed and told him I had a good job working in a bookstore.” Later she took his advice and went on to make the landmark punk album Horses. Their friendship endured, leading her and Kaye to his bedside nearly 50 years later as he lay in a coma. “We stood on either side of ...

Top 10 novels about burning issues for young adults

This post is by Sif Sigmarsdóttir from Books | The Guardian

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From Black Lives Matter to the south London modelling circuit, the tangled mess of real life provides plenty of raw material for YA fiction

Newspapers and novels – fact and fiction – are often seen as polar opposites. But as a writer of both, I have come to find that fiction and non-fiction are simply two sides of the same coin.

My YA Nordic thriller, The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake, was inspired by two of the biggest news stories of last year and the fearless women behind them. In 2018, the journalist Carole Cadwalladr revealed that a British company called Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and used it to influence elections. Around the same time the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum. In 2018, the actor and activist Rose McGowan released her captivating book, Brave, in which she ...

Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth review – the repercussions of childhood suffering

This post is by Lara Feigel from Books | The Guardian

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Dark humour, drunken rants and dreams of escape in a bestselling autobiographical novel from Norway

“It is terrible that someone who has been destroyed spreads destruction, and how hard that is to avoid.” There are three generations of destructive parents and children in Vigdis Hjorth’s Will and Testament. The protagonist, Bergljot, was sexually abused as a child by her rich and powerful father, who once half excused himself by alluding to the terrible experiences of his own childhood. Now in her 50s, Bergljot fears that she too has been a destructive parent, and her daughter writes a moving letter to her grandmother and aunts telling them that her mother’s childhood has impacted on her own: “I’ve seen Mum as broken and distraught as a human being is capable of without dying.”

The book was a bestseller when it was published in Norway in 2016, partly because readers recognised ...

‘We see with the brain’: creating a comic book for blind people

This post is by David Barnett from Books | The Guardian

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Chad Allen explains how losing access to comics after becoming blind inspired Unseen, the first audio comic aimed at readers who see with their mind

Comic books were not at the top of the list of the things that Chad Allen would desperately miss when he went blind, but they were certainly on there. Growing up in Rhode Island, a friend’s older brother had a huge collection of Marvel and DC comics, which the two younger boys would carefully remove from their protective sleeves to immerse themselves in the four-colour world of superheroes – especially Allen’s favourites, the Hulk and the Punisher.

From a young age, Allen was dealing with some of the effects of what would develop into full-blown sight-loss: “It started off as night blindness, and if I came out of a movie theatre into the sunlight I wouldn’t be able to see for a while.”

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She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey review – the inside story of Weinstein and #MeToo

This post is by Helen Lewis from Books | The Guardian

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All about power ... the reporters who broke the Weinstein story give the full account of who talked, and how #MeToo began

Three events define the #MeToo era. The first was the release, in October 2016, of the #Pussygate tape, on which presidential candidate Donald Trump was recorded boasting about his seduction technique: “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” A year later, the New York Times published a story about the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of sexual aggression against both A-list actors and junior employees. (He lost his job, but still denies many of the allegations.) In the autumn of 2018, an academic called Christine Blasey Ford testified to a Congressional committee – and the world’s media – that the Republican supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had assaulted her at a drunken college party, in front of a male friend. “Indelible in the hippocampus ...

Sleeps With Monsters: Is This the Book I Wanted to Read?

This post is by Liz Bourke from Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content

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A difficulty haunts me, now, when I’m reviewing or otherwise critiquing books: am I judging the book I in fact read, or the one I wanted to read? Sometimes they’re the same thing. Often they’re not, and the question of how much I resent the novel in front of me for not being different in these specific ways becomes a live and pressing issue.

Part of that’s because I need to reconcile myself to living with my brain on some degree of burnout for the foreseeable future. (It’s dreadfully frustrating to feel duller and more stupid than one used to be all the time.) Part of it, though, is that I’ve been spoiled in the past while by the number of books I’ve read in which queerness was both present (prominent) and unremarkable. It seems I’ve come to expect an acknowledgement that people like me can (do more than ...

Rereading The Ruin of Kings: Chapters 62 and 63

This post is by Leigh Butler from Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content

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CAKE OR DEATH, Cake? Well, we’re OUT of cake! So instead, have a RROK Goddess of Death with your afternoon tea, won’t you? I thought you would!

This blog series will be covering The Ruin of Kings, the first novel of a five-book series by Jenn Lyons. Previous entries can be found here in the series index.

Today’s post will be covering Chapter 62, “The Gryphon Ring”, and Chapter 63, “Tea with Death.” Please note that from this point forward, these posts will likely contain spoilers for the entire novel, so it’s recommended that you read the whole thing first before continuing on.

Got that? Great! Click on for the rest!


Chapter 62: The Gryphon Ring (Talon’s story)

[In which a boy, a thief and an expository interlude walk into a bar, and stop me if you’ve heard this one]

You probably haven’t heard this ...

Handmaid’s sales: Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments is immediate hit

This post is by Alison Flood and Jade Cuttle from Books | The Guardian

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Novelist’s return to the dystopia of Gilead sold more than 100,000 copies in hardback in its first week on sale in the UK

A hardback copy of Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, was sold every four seconds in the UK last week, according to sales figures that show the dystopian novel racing to the top of this week’s book charts.

Published at midnight on Monday, The Testaments had sold 103,177 hardbacks by Saturday, according to official book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan. Set 15 years after the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, the novel traces the continued evolution of Atwood’s totalitarian state of Gilead, where women are reduced to their wombs and justification is found in the Bible for every abuse of power.

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Thousands demand Oxford dictionaries ‘eliminate sexist definitions’

This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian

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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’

This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian

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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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Russian comics get sales boost after culture minister calls them ‘pathetic’

This post is by Jade Cuttle from Books | The Guardian

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Vladimir Medinsky’s comments have sparked backlash from fans and boosted sales, according to one Russian publisher

The Russian culture minister’s dismissal of comic books as “for those who can’t read well” has sparked a backlash from fans but also boosted sales of the genre, according to one publisher.

The minister, Vladimir Medinsky, told an audience at the Moscow international book fair that comics are “like chewing gum, it’s not food”. “Comic books are aimed at children who are only learning to read,” he added. “I think it’s pathetic for adults to read comic books.”

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

This post is by Sam Jordison from Books | The Guardian

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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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Isadora review – glorious art of a dervish

This post is by Rachel Cooke from Books | The Guardian

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The avant garde dancer’s wild life is celebrated in Julie Birmant and cartoonist Clément Oubrerie’s clever retelling

In the public imagination, the avant garde dancer Isadora Duncan often appears as a somewhat ridiculous figure: a tunic-wearing, self-taught dervish whose art could be almost as vulgar as it was glorious. If her death at the age of 50, when her trailing scarf became caught in the wheels of the car in which she was travelling, still seems sad and wasteful, there’s also, at this distance, something blackly comical about it: the hand-painted, floating ribbon of silk that killed her speaks of an exuberance that was never practical, and only very rarely wise.

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Susan Sontag and photography | Benjamin Moser

This post is by Benjamin Moser from Books | The Guardian

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The great critic shaped our understanding of the camera’s position in culture, which she continued to sharpen in her last days following the Iraq war

In 2004, as Susan Sontag lay dying, horrifying pictures began to emerge from a prison in Iraq.

She had received a diagnosis of blood cancer at the end of March that year, at the age of 71. Having had cancer twice before, she knew the suffering the disease, treated or untreated, would entail. And as she hesitated over what course to take, she, like much of the world, was looking at the pictures coming out of Abu Ghraib. This had been one of Saddam Hussein’s most notorious prisons, and was now in US hands. The pictures showed soldiers torturing Iraqis: chaining them to walls; forcing them to stand in painful and humiliating positions; piling them, naked, into human pyramids.

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Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie review – profound reflections

This post is by Alex Preston from Books | The Guardian

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Jamie links the life-changing trials of middle age with the natural world and lost communities in these subtle, wonderful essays

Kathleen Jamie’s third essay collection, Surfacing, is a quieter, gentler work than her earlier volumes: 2005’s Findings and 2012’s Sightlines. It’s perhaps fitting – this is a book mostly written in, as she puts it, “late middle age”, when her children have grown and the view back is longer than the view forward. Surfacing is the literary equivalent of the slow food movement: writing that may describe momentous events – the death of Jamie’s father; her own cancer diagnosis and treatment; a 500-year-old massacre; the 1989 Chinese student demonstrations that ended in Tiananmen Square – but does so in a manner that is sidelong, subtle and requires a degree of readerly patience.

There’s no doubt that this is the work of the same author as those earlier collections, ...

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

This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian

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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 ...

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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