What will you be reading next year? London book fair’s star attractions


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Salman Rushdie’s take on Don Quixote, Elton John’s memoirs and a study of criminals in Broadmoor – a selection of the biggest and most interesting books announced at the fair

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie (August 2019)
Inspired by Don Quixote, this novel following the adventures of an ageing travelling salesman who falls in love with a TV star and travels across America to prove himself worthy of her hand.

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern (Autumn 2019)
A sequel to Ahern’s bestselling tearjerker PS I Love You, which revisits the widow Holly, seven years after her husband’s death.

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Benedict Cumberbatch on the explosive power of letters: ‘They’re grenades!’


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Noel Fielding, Thom Yorke and Cumberbatch tell us why they love Letters Live, the performances of correspondence where anything can happen

It’s a blustery Saturday night and around 900 people are lined up to go to church. The faithful have come to the Union Chapel, in Islington, London, to receive wisdom from those stepping up to the pulpit – a lineup that tonight includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Noel Fielding, Juliet Stevenson and Thom Yorke. Letters Live, a celebration of literary correspondence, has always looked a little odd on paper since it began in 2013. After all, who wants to spend a night out having letters read to them by a bunch of actors and musicians, whose identities are not revealed in advance?

“When you first hear the idea it doesn’t quite sing, but do it once and you are smitten,” says Cumberbatch, who was so smitten he became a producer ...

The Awfully Big Adventure by Paul Morley review – how (not) to think about Michael Jackson


This post is by Fiona Sturges from Books | The Guardian


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This flashy cultural deconstruction of the pop star reads oddly in the wake of the documentary Leaving Neverland

Paul Morley, ex-NME writer, sometime musician and cantankerous TV talking head, no doubt didn’t plan for his masterwork on Michael Jackson to appear shortly after Leaving Neverland, the documentary in which, via the devastating testimony of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, the King of Pop is shown as an arch manipulator, sexual predator and paedophile. If he had, The Awfully Big Adventure would, you imagine, be an entirely different book. Certainly, in other circumstances the 10th anniversary of Jackson’s death would make him ripe for cultural re-examination, but, right now, it’s hard enough to imagine shell-shocked viewers casually putting Thriller on the stereo, much less picking up a book that aims to deconstruct Jackson’s life and death. For this, Morley cannot be blamed.

His writing is another matter, though. Famed for ...

An “Alternative” Captain Marvel Soundtrack


This post is by Leah Schnelbach from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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When I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, my only disappointment was that the music wasn’t integral enough. 10cc’s opening number is vital to setting the tone for the film, and the mood shift over to Redbone’s “Come Get Your Love” is equally important. But other than that? The only reason these songs are important is because they’re talismans of Peter Quill’s mom. He loves them because she gave them to him, but if he’d lived a regular life on Earth these would not be the songs he found meaning in. My hope in going into Captain Marvel was that we were about to see a kid who grew up in the ’90s and got dropped back on Earth at some unspecified time, with her angst and her flannel and her anger. And I dearly hoped that she had a riot grrrl past that would fuel her superheroic ...

The Who’s Pete Townshend announces debut novel, The Age of Anxiety


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Musician says his tale of the ‘dark art of creativity’ is part of a magnum opus that will eventually combine fiction with opera and installation art

The Who’s lead guitarist Pete Townshend has announced his debut novel The Age of Anxiety, an “extended meditation on manic genius and the dark art of creativity” that will be published in November.

Announcing the book on Tuesday, the songwriter said he decided 10 years ago to “create a magnum opus that would combine opera, art installation and novel”. The novel is now completed and has been acquired by Hodder & Stoughton imprint Coronet, with the opera in development and the art installation to follow.

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Taylor Jenkins Reid: ‘1970s rock is a fun space to tell a story in’


This post is by Kathryn Bromwich from Books | The Guardian


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The American writer on how Fleetwood Mac inspired her latest book, her fascination with LA and her debt to Nick Hornby

Taylor Jenkins Reid is a bestselling novelist and essayist based in Los Angeles. The author of six novels, her latest, Daisy Jones & The Six, tells the story of a fictional 70s rock band recording a hit album loosely based on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Publishers Weekly has described it as a “stunning story of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll in the 1960s and 70s… The prose is propulsive, original and often raw”. Amazon has commissioned a 13-part series based on the book, which will be co-produced with Reese Witherspoon.

What drew you to this story?
I’m fascinated by the people we make famous, and I’m drawn to the difference between what something looks like on the outside versus what it was like to live. So I wanted to write ...

Five Science Fiction-Themed Music Videos


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Science fiction themes have been intertwined with popular music since the days of Ziggy Stardust, early Yes album covers, and Parliament’s Mothership Connection, to name but the tiniest handful of examples. Continuing along that evolutionary path, modern science fiction’s technologically oriented, frequently dystopian edge is well represented within today’s popular music scene in the form of the modern medium of music videos. I frequently hear, “People still make music videos??” as though the loss of the original MTV programming format decades ago signified the death knell of the medium, but the fact is that music videos today are a frequently outstanding creative outlet, often featuring top notch production values and innovative storytelling, and science fiction has a very credible hold in this format (overwrought Muse videos notwithstanding).

Here are five science fiction themed music videos that take a look at unfolding, futuristic societal dilemmas, using five entirely different ...

Francesca Simon: how I turned The Monstrous Child into ‘Wagner for teens’


This post is by Francesca Simon from Books | The Guardian


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The Horrid Henry author’s YA novel about a smart-talking Norse goddess has become an opera – what will young audiences make of it?

A few years ago, I was sitting on the New York subway when a voice popped into my head. A sarcastic, teenage, yeah whatever, eye-rolling voice. She said, “You’d think after my brother the snake was born they’d have stopped at one.” I knew who was speaking. It was Hel, the Norse goddess of the dead, half-human, half-corpse, daughter of a god and a giantess, who Odin hurls into the Underworld and forces to rule the dead.

The whole plot of my novel The Monstrous Child came to me in that moment. I’ve always loved mythology, and Hel’s story seemed a great way to write about dysfunctional families and the turbulence and passion of adolescence. It was the first time I’d written a novel in the ...

Star Trek Has the Best Credit Sequences in All of SciFi Television


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I am an easy mark for a good credits sequence. “Good” doesn’t necessarily mean long, either—Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s exuberant twenty-second sprint tells you everything you need to know, while (in the UK, at least) Law and Order’s Rob Dougan-scored doom grimly trudges toward the same end. Then there’s the dozens of different versions of the Doctor Who theme, not the least of which is the Twelfth Doctor’s epic rock guitar take on his own theme music. Much like the Nerf Herder intro to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s a perfect summation of the show, and (also like the Buffy theme) it’s a strong contender for best TV theme music, and credit sequence, ever.

But Star Trek is the all-time champion. Across all six live action iterations of the show, the credits and theme music have done an amazing job of encapsulating the shows’ spirit and scope.

Take ...

Tracey Thorn on Brookmans Park: ‘As a teenager this slice of suburban heaven felt like hell’


This post is by Tracey Thorn from Books | The Guardian


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The singer-songwriter and author on growing up in ‘a village that wasn’t a village’, discovering punk and wanting to escape

I grew up in a village that wasn’t a village.

Brookmans Park in Hertfordshire, built mainly in the 1930s, was intended to be a garden city, but planning restrictions and the green belt stopped it in its tracks. From the 50s onwards it stayed as it was – a small commuter town, self-contained and insular. Not really rural, but not at all urban.

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Billy Bragg writes first in series of political pamphlets by musicians


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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The Three Dimensions of Freedom, a polemic about accountability by the singer-songwriter, will launch line of similar works from Faber

Singer-songwriter and leftwing activist Billy Bragg is spearheading the launch of a new line of political pamphlets in the tradition of Thomas Paine, taking on the crisis of accountability in western democracies.

Running to 15,000 words, Bragg’s polemic, The Three Dimensions of Freedom, will be published in May and will tackle the battleground that free speech has become. Bragg argues, said publisher Faber & Faber, “that to protect ourselves from encroaching tyranny, we must look beyond this one-dimensional notion of what it means to be free and, by reconnecting liberty to equality and accountability, restore the individual agency engendered by the three dimensions of freedom”.

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Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia by Tracey Thorn – review


This post is by Joe Moran from Books | The Guardian


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Snogs at discos and Saturday shopping ... the Everything But the Girl frontwoman looks back on humdrum days in the spiritual home of English pop

You know Brookmans Park, don’t you? Of course you do – even if, like me, you’ve never been there. It’s a dormitory settlement in Hertfordshire, population around 3,000. Its railway station, leading straight to London, is its raison d’être. Shielded from further growth by the green belt, it looks broadly the same as when it sprang up in the 1930s. Around its village green cluster a few shops, including four estate agents, a hairdresser (Cutting It Fine) and a pet salon (Groomers on the Green). The three-bedroom semis all have front lawns ending in that hint of an Englishman’s castle, crenellated walls. Today one of those houses will cost you three-quarters of a million. Know where I mean? Thought so.

Tracey Thorn grew up there, in ...

Tracey Thorn: ‘We looked at suburbia and wanted to burn it down’ – extract


This post is by Tracey Thorn from Books | The Guardian


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In this excerpt from her second memoir, Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia, Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn describes growing up in a stifling commuter village – and the first stirrings of wanting to escape

• ‘Not everything you do is cool’: Tracey Thorn Q&A

When I try to summon up the past – when I want to remember what really happened, instead of what I think happened, and what I really felt, instead of what I’d like to think I felt – I look at my diaries. They never fail to shock me with all the things they say, and all the things they don’t.

Going right back to the start, I try to picture myself on the day I first decided to keep a diary: 29 December 1975, when I was 13 years old. I must have been given it as a Christmas present, and although it ...

The Final Days of EMI review – from Beatles glory to Coldplay toothbrushes


This post is by John Harris from Books | The Guardian


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Eamonn Forde’s account of the fall of the music company, whose acts included the Sex Pistols and Rolling Stones, is full of comedy and tragedy

In the summer of 1965, the Rolling Stones released “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. On the US version, its B-side was a makeweight piece titled “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man”, which directed sneering contempt on some poor unfortunate who worked for the group’s record label: “I promo groups when they come into town / Well they laugh at my toupee, they’re sure to put me down.”

Thus began a lineage of rock songs founded on the eternal contradiction between the artistic impulse and the hucksterish, often seedy ways of the music business. This reached a peak of fury and cynicism in the era of punk with the Sex Pistols’ gloriously incoherent classic “EMI”, in which John Lydon vents his rage at the ...

Music Love Drugs War by Geraldine Quigley review – growing up with the Troubles


This post is by Cathi Unsworth from Books | The Guardian


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A compassionate and humorous look at teenage kicks and sectarian strife in early 80s Northern Ireland

Derry, February 1981: a close-knit bunch of teenagers are getting their kicks in the dingy Cave club, where the city’s assorted tribes experiment with illicit substances and snog to the heady sounds of post-punk, ska and dub. Liz, her brother Paddy, Orla, Sinéad, Noel and Christy are all about to take exams, leave home, get serious. Liz’s boyfriend Kevin is older, a man with a shadowy history; Orla’s Peter is a new flame.

But events beyond this haven are about to take control of the narrative. Inside the nearby Maze prison, the republican hunger strike gets under way. Outside, in streets occupied by the British army, riots are fomented. Paddy and Christy are drawn into nightly skirmishes, the hormonal rush of the action as much of a buzz as their pharmaceutical experiments. Kevin, whose ...

How to Be Invisible by Kate Bush review – trying to unravel an enigma


This post is by Laura Snapes from Books | The Guardian


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The singer-songwriter’s lyric collection is free of explanation yet still explores her curiosity for life and love

Trust Kate Bush, never one to explain, to complicate the straightforward lyrics collection. She doesn’t annotate this anthology, unlike Neil Tennant’s recent Faber edition. Instead, subtler direction follows an introduction by author David Mitchell, who wrote the spoken-word parts of Bush’s 2014 Before the Dawn performances. Mitchell intermingles charming fannish detail with close textual analysis that illuminates familiar songs: it is God, he points out, not the devil, who allows the man and woman to exchange their sexual experiences on Running Up That Hill, an act of divinity rather than transgression.

But Mitchell is wrong on one key point. “Kate’s the opposite of a confessional singer-songwriter in the mould of Joni Mitchell during her Blue period,” he asserts. “You don’t learn much about Kate from her songs.” Which begs the ...

Why I’m Obsessed with the Outlander Theme Song(s)


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Outlander theme song changes every season Bear McCreary Claire Brianna

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone
Say, could that lass be I?

The first time I saw the opening lyrics to Outlander’s theme song posted on a friend’s Facebook post, I thought it sounded ridiculous, way too on-the-nose to start every episode by acknowledging the series’ premise. YES WE GET IT CLAIRE YOU DISAPPEARED.

That was before I actually listened to it, and watched the title sequence—and then, like Claire at Craigh na Dun, I fell hard. Now, I forbid my husband from fast-forwarding through the credits every time we watch… and considering that we binged a season at a time to get caught up in a matter of weeks, that means I’ve got it well memorized. But why do I find this particular TV opening so compelling?

The answer, I think, is that it presses all of my nerd buttons: it’s a remix of ...

Stormzy’s co-author Jude Yawson: ‘This is about offering a different perspective’


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The first title from Stormzy’s publishing venture #Merky Books has thrust its co-author into the spotlight. He talks about the hurdles he overcame to get here

“I appreciate the aesthetic,” Jude Yawson says with an incredulous laugh, as we sit down in an oak-panelled room in a private members’ club in London’s Covent Garden (his publisher booked the location). A large model ship sits in the bay window, tea is served in chintzy china cups and the shelves are stacked with books up to the ceiling. “I’ve become a writer through a very unconventional path, but I love it.”

The 25-year-old south Londoner has had a bewildering month, doing a stream of events, TV and radio shows with Stormzy, as editor and co-author of Rise Up: The #Merky Story So Far, the first book to be published on the grime superstar’s new publishing imprint, #Merky Books, launched ...

The Flame by Leonard Cohen review – the last word in love and despair


This post is by Kate Kellaway from Books | The Guardian


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The songwriter and poet’s final writings are full of youthful spark, beauty and romance

The first time I came across Leonard Cohen – before I had ever heard his songs – I was an opinionated 16-year-old. I was drawn to a volume of his poetry in a bookshop but when I got it home dismissed it as a) too depressed and b) – more snootily – as not literature. Now, decades later, I no longer care whether Cohen’s work is literature. This grand book, The Flame, elegantly and posthumously published by Canongate, includes lyrics of last-gasp beauty from You Want It Darker – his final album with its against-the-odds satisfactions (to do partly with the octogenarian unlikeliness of its existing at all). The Flame is also a selection of the Canadian singer-songwriter’s unpublished work. Cohen’s son, Adam, has been its sensitive custodian. And as for the depression, it has ...

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib – review


This post is by Nikesh Shukla from Books | The Guardian


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The critic’s urgent collection of music journalism sheds light on life as a black man in modern America

There’s a moment in Hanif Abdurraqib’s excellent collection of essays on music, mortality and being black in America today when he is describing Prince’s famous Super Bowl performance in 2007. As the rain gets heavier, Prince becomes more mystical. Abdurraqib describes this transcendent moment where he launches into Purple Rain and appears to “bend a storm to his will”. It’s like the rain is hitting a force field around him as he hits those perfect notes we know so well. It’s magic.

Having seen the video on YouTube, and watched as the star’s silhouette becomes larger than life, I understand what Abdurraqib means when he says: “The rain never touches those who it knows were sent into it for a higher purpose.” It’s a delicate moment of joy and reflection ...