John Cooper Clarke: ‘I didn’t want to quit heroin’


This post is by Tiernan Phipps from Books | The Guardian


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While conceding the drug was ‘fabulous the first time’, the veteran performer has one overwhelming message: don’t do it

John Cooper Clarke, the poet and performer who became famous during the punk rock era of the late 1970s, has said he didn’t want to quit taking heroin and weaned himself off the drug for the sake of society rather than for his own health.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Clarke recalled the addiction which dominated much of his life in the 1980s, when he was living in a flat in Brixton, south London, with Nico, the late singer and muse of the Velvet Underground.

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Will Eaves on Bath: ‘I could imagine Anne Elliot going for a walk’


This post is by Will Eaves from Books | The Guardian


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The novelist remembers the Somerset city as a hodgepodge of styles and classes where tolerance and prejudice coexisted

Georgian Bath was built within a century, and a lot of it disappeared inside a decade – the 1960s – when I was born. Calton Road and many rows of listed buildings were still coming down when I was learning to walk, and the Ballance Street flats going up, but the Brussellisation of the city was something I grew to love, something I associate with the freedom to roam I enjoyed as a kid. Bath always had a violent side, but my parents weren’t overprotective. I walked to Beechen Cliff comp every day with my friend Rachid, and the route took us through all the architectural ages of man – the Corn Market, the Roman baths, the abbey, Southgate shopping centre (demolished 20 years ago) and, in the shadow of the cliff ...

Crippled by Frances Ryan review – how disabled people have been demonised


This post is by Alice O’Keeffe from Books | The Guardian


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A powerful polemic, full of telling details, on how government cuts have ruined the lives of disabled people. But is anybody listening?

As Frances Ryan writes in this blistering polemic, Britain faces fundamental questions about what kind of society it wants to be. Will we choose a survival-of-the‑fittest system, in which poverty and disability are treated as moral failings, deserving of punishment? Or are we prepared to face our own vulnerability, recognise our shared humanity, and rebuild our welfare state?

Ryan, a Guardian columnist, makes clear just how far we have fallen over what she evocatively calls the “precipice of national character”. Over six chapters she sets out the many ways in which disabled people have been made to pay since the financial crash. In Poverty we learn how the cumulative impact of benefit changes – cuts to council tax support, the bedroom tax, increased sanctions – has pushed an ...

Tim Pears on Devon: ‘The gloomy vale of my childhood was, in reality, incredibly beautiful’


This post is by Tim Pears from Books | The Guardian


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The author recalls how growing up in the Teign Valley around scrappers, drinkers, dreamers and jokers inspired his writing

My miserable youth elapsed in small, dreary villages hidden in the sides of the Teign Valley, west of Exeter. Time passed languishing in hospital, parents divorced, adolescent despair held me in its grip. One thing was for sure: these villages and their inhabitants were stuck, and slipping into the past. Life, the future, lay elsewhere.

I left school at 16 and dossed about in a depressive state, alternating dead-end jobs with the dole. Yet also reading most of the Russian novels of the 19th and early 20th century that were translated into English, and inching towards an accommodation with this mortal existence.

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I can’t write about a world without rape – because I don’t live in one


This post is by Kaite Welsh from Books | The Guardian


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Women read and write crime fiction as a way to understand real experience. I was raped – and being told by the Staunch prize that books like mine are preventing justice is outrageous

That rape cases are hard to prosecute is no shocker, but the claim that crime writers are partly to blame shocked me. According to the Staunch prize for books with no violence against women, writers who include sexual violence and rape in their books are contributing to a wider culture in which jurors are “reluctant to convict ‘ordinary’ men” because “they don’t fit the idea of a rapist they’ve internalised through the stories and images they’ve received through popular culture”. In great thriller tradition, the call is coming from inside the house.

As someone who analyses culture for a living and often finds it wanting, I’m in the unaccustomed position of noting that what we’re talking about ...

Crime writers react with fury to claim their books hinder rape trials


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Novelists have condemned the Staunch prize – for thrillers without violence against women – as a ‘gagging order’, after organisers said the genre could bias jurors

Crime novelists have hit out at the claim that fictional depictions of sexual assault influence the outcomes of rape cases, after a prize for books with no violence against women asserted that stereotypical portrayals of attackers could “seriously affect justice”.

The Staunch prize, awarded to a thriller in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered, was launched last year to “offer an alternative narrative to stories based around violence to women”. When it was announced, it was widely criticised by major writers including Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah. McDermid said that “as long as men commit appalling acts of misogyny and violence against women, I will write about it so that it does not go unnoticed”, and Hannah told her ...

Crime writers react with fury to claim their books hinder rape trials


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Novelists have condemned the Staunch prize – for thrillers without violence against women – as a ‘gagging order’, after organisers said the genre could bias jurors

Crime novelists have hit out at the claim that fictional depictions of sexual assault influence the outcomes of rape cases, after a prize for books with no violence against women asserted that stereotypical portrayals of attackers could “seriously affect justice”.

The Staunch prize, awarded to a thriller in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered, was launched last year to “offer an alternative narrative to stories based around violence to women”. When it was announced, it was widely criticised by major writers including Val McDermid and Sophie Hannah. McDermid said that “as long as men commit appalling acts of misogyny and violence against women, I will write about it so that it does not go unnoticed”, and Hannah told her ...

Top 10 books about walking in Britain | Gail Simmons


This post is by Gail Simmons from Books | The Guardian


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Travelling on foot is a national obsession that has inspired a whole tradition of great writing, from Laurie Lee to Iain Sinclair

Britain is a nation of walkers. Our landmass may be modest in size but is latticed with a generous 140,000 miles of public footpaths, bridleways and byways, and exploring them is one of our favourite pastimes.

It wasn’t always so. Before the late 18th century most people walked only because they had to, or if they were on pilgrimage. Walking was the preserve of the horseless poor. With the rise of the Romantic movement came the idea of walking for pleasure, prompting such poets as Wordsworth to some of their finest words after traipsing the countryside on foot.

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Over 40 and loving it: let’s celebrate fiction with positive older characters


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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Too many books feature sterotypical older women who can’t use phones and don’t like sex. Gransnet and imprint HQ are looking for writers to change all that

There is a passage from Jilly Cooper’s Rivals which, despite first reading it in my early teens, has stayed with me, popping into my head with increasing frequency now I’ve stepped over the threshold into the over-40 bracket. Lizzie Vereker, the curvy, middle-aged wife whose rat of a husband is cheating on her, is contemplating her misery and “feeling rather old and dried-up”.

So she rubs “skin-food into her face, only to realise she’d forgotten her neck, which is supposed to betray your age most, so she rubbed the excess skin-food down into it. Then she remembered you were supposed never to rub skin-food downwards as it made your face droop. Would her life have been different, she wondered, if she’d always remembered ...

Joseph O’Connor on Dún Laoghaire: ‘It was like Skegness with nuns’


This post is by Joseph O’Connor from Books | The Guardian


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The author recalls the faded charm and dreams of the Boomtown Rats’ hometown once visited by James Joyce and Oscar Wilde

I grew up in Dún Laoghaire, pronounced either Doon Laira or Dun Leary, a coast town seven miles south of Dublin. We had ice-cream vans, Victorian-era public baths, the Top Hat dance hall, a couple of forlorn chippers with Gene Vincent on the jukebox and icons of the Sacred Heart on the wall. Old ladies shuffled the pier, arm in arm, tutting at the greasers and their bell-bottomed girlfriends. It wasn’t the wild Irish coastline of Kerry or Connemara; it was more like Skegness with nuns.

You didn’t see the waves roar in from the horizon, those thunderous breakers born off Newfoundland, or feel the shocking tang of spray in your mouth. Some pubs were said to be rough, some backstreets to be avoided. Like all port towns, Dún ...

Joseph O’Connor on Dún Laoghaire: ‘It was like Skegness with nuns’


This post is by Joseph O’Connor from Books | The Guardian


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The author recalls the faded charm and dreams of the Boomtown Rats’ hometown once visited by James Joyce and Oscar Wilde

I grew up in Dún Laoghaire, pronounced either Doon Laira or Dun Leary, a coast town seven miles south of Dublin. We had ice-cream vans, Victorian-era public baths, the Top Hat dance hall, a couple of forlorn chippers with Gene Vincent on the jukebox and icons of the Sacred Heart on the wall. Old ladies shuffled the pier, arm in arm, tutting at the greasers and their bell-bottomed girlfriends. It wasn’t the wild Irish coastline of Kerry or Connemara; it was more like Skegness with nuns.

You didn’t see the waves roar in from the horizon, those thunderous breakers born off Newfoundland, or feel the shocking tang of spray in your mouth. Some pubs were said to be rough, some backstreets to be avoided. Like all port towns, Dún ...

Nimko Ali: ‘Orgasms and sexual pleasure are a human right. I guard these things with my life’


This post is by Fiona Sturges from Books | The Guardian


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For her first book, the anti-FGM campaigner spoke to 150 women around the world about sex, periods and more. She shares what she learned, and why she supports Boris Johnson

There is a Somali phrase, says Nimko Ali, that sums up the paradox of her status both as a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM) and an activist seeking to eradicate it. “‘Bilaa xishood’. It means ‘Do you have no shame?’ Since the age of seven, when I started talking about my vagina after FGM, I was told that I should be ashamed. But I wouldn’t have been talking about these things if FGM hadn’t happened to me. FGM was the patriarchy’s way of trying to break me and keep me silent, but it made me the loudest person in the room.”

As the co-founder of the charity Daughters of Eve, 36-year-old Ali has devoted ...

How to make salad dressing in prison: the hit survival guide written by an inmate


This post is by Sian Cain from Books | The Guardian


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Is tinned fish currency? How do you make ‘jail velcro’? And will bedwetting get you a single cell? Meet Carl Cattermole, whose banged-up bible is making him a hero to prisoners

When Carl Cattermole was released from prison, after serving a year of a two-and-a-half-year sentence for criminal damage, he was “confused and angry, but ready to turn everything I’d seen into a positive”. What he’d seen, inside London’s HMP Wormwood Scrubs and HMP Pentonville, was eye-opening. Prison was not the bloodbath that Hollywood had promised, nor the “Butlins for murderers and paedophiles” that the tabloid press had raged about. But it wasn’t as rehabilitative as earnest politicians had promised either. Instead, Cattermole found a system that was simultaneously underfunded and hugely expensive, that prioritised punishment over reform, and often doled this out through instances of banal cruelty – bad food, bad bureaucracy and incentive systems that pitted prisoners against ...

Here’s to bandit country: the Irish border, writing’s new frontier


This post is by James Patterson from Books | The Guardian


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Once overshadowed by Dublin and Belfast, the border regions are finally being recognised for inspiring some of Ireland’s best writing – and it’s not all about Brexit

Ask anyone where they think about when they think about Irish writing and they’ll probably say Dublin or Belfast. When it comes to writers from the border regions, they may mention Brian Friel or Seamus Heaney, but for most people, the border between the republic and Northern Ireland is usually regarded as an area whose existence is contentious, where terms are unfavourable and the writing is characteristically unfeminine. It is an area that Labour’s former secretary of state for Northern Ireland Merlyn Rees referred to as “bandit country” in 1974, and perceptions have been slow to shift.

Yet the region has catalysed some of the country’s finest writing and never more so than today. Since the Good Friday agreement, the border region ...

Here’s to bandit country: the Irish border, writing’s new frontier


This post is by James Patterson from Books | The Guardian


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Once overshadowed by Dublin and Belfast, the border regions are finally being recognised for inspiring some of Ireland’s best writing – and it’s not all about Brexit

Ask anyone where they think about when they think about Irish writing and they’ll probably say Dublin or Belfast. When it comes to writers from the border regions, they may mention Brian Friel or Seamus Heaney, but for most people, the border between the republic and Northern Ireland is usually regarded as an area whose existence is contentious, where terms are unfavourable and the writing is characteristically unfeminine. It is an area that Labour’s former secretary of state for Northern Ireland Merlyn Rees referred to as “bandit country” in 1974, and perceptions have been slow to shift.

Yet the region has catalysed some of the country’s finest writing and never more so than today. Since the Good Friday agreement, the border region ...

Lucy Caldwell on Belfast: ‘Coming from a notorious place feels like a curse’


This post is by Lucy Caldwell from Books | The Guardian


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The author on the pressure to write about her hometown and how she always felt distanced from the Troubles

Growing up in the city’s leafy eastern suburbs, Belfast was a game you played on summer evenings: ring the bell and run away, fast. The confines of our world were tight and strictly – sometimes literally – policed, but my sisters and I didn’t notice. We would dander round “the block” to the corner shop. When we weren’t allowed to leave the garden, we would climb the big cypress tree and sit, deliciously cocooned, to watch for something to happen.

We went every week to Tullycarnet library, where each of us had nine library cards. We read indiscriminately but loved long series best – Little House on the Prairie, Drina ballerina, The Dark Is Rising, the Chrestomanci books. The only “Belfast” stories I read were Joan Lingard’s Kevin and Sadie books, ...

Lowborn by Kerry Hudson; Common People by Kit de Waal – review


This post is by Barbara Ellen from Books | The Guardian


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A devastating memoir and an anthology of essays and poems showcase the energy and diversity of working-class writing

Kerry Hudson’s memoir, Lowborn, (originally a column in the now defunct online women’s magazine the Pool), is so harrowing that you have to keep reminding yourself that these are not mere “stories”, but devastating life experiences that had to be endured. Early on, submitting a bleak listing of youthful chaos (including nine primary schools, periods in care, a sexual-abuse child-protection inquiry, abortion, rape), it’s as though Hudson is warning the reader: “Brace yourself.”

Hudson is now an award-winning writer (Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma; Thirst), happily married, and “passes” in her new, more advantaged world (working-class people will know exactly what she means). Feeling caught between two realities, she decided to revisit the many towns where she grew up ...

John Boyne hits back at critics of transgender novel


This post is by Mark Brown Arts correspondent from Books | The Guardian


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Author says it is the job of writers to put themselves into the minds of others

John Boyne, the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has hit back at those who criticised him for writing about a boy struggling to cope with the transitioning of his sibling.

Boyne’s new novel for young readers, My Brother’s Name is Jessica, was attacked on social media and the novelist was criticised for writing about an issue with which he is unfamiliar.

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Mother Ship by Francesca Segal review – a moving story about motherhood


This post is by Lara Feigel from Books | The Guardian


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A remarkable memoir-diary about giving birth to premature twins is also a love letter to solidarity

In October 2015, the novelist Francesca Segal met her 10-week premature twin daughters for the first time. The intensive care soundtrack was “a combination of control tower, server room and a busy canteen”. Her doll-sized daughters were too fragile for clothes so she found them naked, curled face down in oval nests of towels. When she peered at their faces, she saw little cloth hats and white Velcro sunglasses, their noses and mouths obscured by breathing masks and feeding tubes. For a few more days, their faces remained “a secret known only to each other” and she was unable to touch them. “They are half-beings in the half-light and in an instant my heart shatters, and I become half a mother, twice.”

This is the reality of early motherhood for 100,000 women in ...

‘I’m such a big fan of the menstrual cycle!’ – the women asking whether it’s possible to have a better period


This post is by Sian Cain from Books | The Guardian


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Exhausted with doctors not taking periods seriously, a new wave of authors is asking whether menstruation can ever be tolerable – even enjoyable

A tiny drop of blood on our bathroom floor was what gave me away. My mother took it as a sign that, at the age of 15, my period had arrived. After popping out to the shops, she came to my room with sanitary pads and a bunch of flowers; the pads came with a brief lesson on how to use them while the gerberas were left behind without explanation, some unspoken symbolism for my blossoming womanhood.

The truth was, I had had my period for two years. It had arrived without fanfare when I was 13, but, in that short time, I had absorbed so many myths – that I would smell; that sharks would attack me if I swam in the ocean (I grew up ...