What’s being read on the London Underground? A visit to the capital this weekend confirmed that, while e-readers make it almost impossible to check on other people’s reading habits – although I sat next to someone who was enjoying Sathnam Sanghera’s The Boy with the Topknot on his Kindle - enough travellers are sticking with real books to reveal that yes, James Patterson (or should that be ‘James Patterson’?) is popular, but one can also see Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility; Peter Robinson – Past Reason Hated, and errmm…. Mr Gum (Andy Stanton) – well, the reader was only about 4 and his Grandma was helping.
A message to the lady who asked me to take her photo reading something at the top of the Shard - I was very pleased to lend you my copy of Gaston Leroux’s Le Parfum de La Dame en Noir and I hope you win the competition!
See also here
This is a really good classical music website, with interviews, information, comment, performances, podcasts, downloads, reviews, introductions, lists; everything you could ask for, including the most knowledgeable contributors.
Also, there’s currently a comic strip retelling of The Ring…. (it’s actually very useful).
Was Hitler Ill? by Henrik Eberle and Hans-Joachim Neumann (Polity) will contend Lofts of North America: Pigeon Lofts by Jerry Gagne (Foy’s Pet Supplies) and How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees (Melville House) for the prize, which celebrates its 35th birthday this year.
Also in the running are God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis by Tom Hickman (Square Peg); Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop by Reginald Bakeley (Conari) and How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani Prior (Murdoch).
Philip Stone, the Diagram Prize’s co-ordinator, said: “People might think this prize is just a bit of fun, but I think it draws welcome attention to an undervalued art. Publishers and booksellers know only too well that a title can make all the difference to the sales of a book. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian has sold almost a million copies to date, while books such as Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared perhaps all owe some of their success to their unusual monikers.” (The Bookseller)
My money was on the goblins until I realised that it’s one of those whimsical, comic, tongue-in-cheek books about fairies which appear by the hundred. I prefer to think of a prize like this going to a book title which is accidentally bizarre, or funny because of its subject matter, not something arch and knowing.
Every now and then I listen to the afternoon repeat of the Archers and then somehow get involved in the Afternoon Play – it’s a nuisance, particularly when you need to be moving around, doing stuff, but instead, find yourself hanging around the radio. Last year I found myself unable to switch off Radio 4′s adaptation of a modern take on the epistolary novel, Love Virtually (broadcast in March 2012). Every Seventh Wave (broadcast on February 14 this year) was the sequel to this. Both starred Emilia Fox and David Tennant and you may be interested in the original novels by the Austrian writer Daniel Glattauer, published in English translation* by MacLehose paperbacks. Or you may find them intensely irritating – I suspect much of the pleasure of the radio version was provided by the actors’ beautiful voices…….
*Translators Katharina Bielenberg & Jamie Bulloch
Item in today’s news:
This is the seventh year running in which the number of independent booksellers in the UK has fallen. The UK boasted 1,535 independent bookstores in 2005, a third of which have now closed as booksellers struggle with the pressures of recession and competition from Amazon and the supermarkets.
“Closures are always painful and we were saddened to see many bookshops closing last year. The balance of risk in bookselling has changed for good and now sits disproportionately with the bookseller,” said Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association. “Bookshops are important community and cultural hubs, which also provide an important educational resource for all. Sadly, the overall picture in terms of the number of independent booksellers in the UK is still one of contraction.” (The Guardian)
Sign the online petition to make Amazon pay corporation tax in the UK.
There’s one little bit of good news though:
39 bookshops opened last year. Children’s bookshops are also “bucking the trend” of decline, according to the association, with no reported closures in 2012 and the opening of two new shops. Brentwood’s Chicken and Frog and Crouch End’s Pickled Pepper are both “breathing new life into their high streets”, said the organisation. “New and emerging booksellers … are kicking down barriers and fighting back,” said Godfray.
….. is the slogan of English PEN, an organisation which supports freedom of expression and speech for authors around the world. At the moment they are campaigning on behalf of Fazil Say:
On 18 February 2013, celebrated pianist, composer and writer Fazil Say will appear in court for the second time for comments posted on Twitter.
Fazil Say, an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Erdogan, has been charged with religious defamation under Article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code in response to a series of messages posted on Twitter, including one which simply states: “I am an atheist and I am proud to be able to say this so comfortably.” He has also been charged under Article 218 of the Turkish Penal Code, which increases sentences by half for offences committed “via press or broadcast”. Say denies the charges.
Say first appeared in court in Istanbul on 18 October 2012, where his lawyers demanded his immediate acquittal. The acquittal call was rejected and the case adjourned until 18 February 2013. He faces up to 18 months in prison if found guilty.
To add your voice to the campaign, or to find out about other campaigns and events, click here
Commissioned for The Space – the new digital arts platform developed by the Arts Council in partnership with the BBC - 60 Years in 60 Poems lifts the poems off the pages of Carol Ann Duffy’s Jubilee Lines and interprets them using actors’ recordings, sound-based generative design and archive film footage to create an exciting new way to experience poetry.
Yesterday’s Open Book on Radio 4 included exciting news from Stanford University, which proves what all of us literature students, avid readers, book group members etc already knew: reading good books and thinking about what you are reading makes you brighter, more able to analyse problems at work and more able to empathise with others. Volunteers were popped into MRI scanners with copies of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park to read while their brain activity was examined: Natalie Phillips, who led the research, said it would suggest that:
it’s not only what we read – but thinking rigorously about it that’s of value, and that literary study provides a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.
If you would like to hear Mariella Frostrup speaking to Natalie Phillips, Open Book is available on i-player.
Also, yesterday the Reading Agency charity announced that patients who visit their GPs suffering from mild to moderate mental health concerns, including panic attacks, anxiety and depression, may in future be prescribed self-help books rather than medication. The books will be taken from a list of thirty titles which will be available in local libraries (ahem – if you’ve still got a local library, that is).
The scheme has been endorsed by the Department of Health and the Royal College of GPs. Books on Prescription has already been established in Wales; there are similar schemes in Denmark and New Zealand.
Some people have already managed to combine the two ideas…………
A beautiful and unusual book arrived here at Christmas: Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will written and illustrated by Judith Schalansky and translated from the German by Christine Lo.
Each double page spread looks at a different island, with a description on one page and and a simple, austere, illustration facing it. The descriptions always include specific details of the island’s location, its geography, the number of inhabitants (if any), and distances to the nearest neighbouring lands. Sometimes the history of the island is briefly recounted or its discovery and settlement. Sometimes we find out about the peculiar geography or geology of the island or the customs of the inhabitants. Of one island in Micronesia we learn that;
Even the pigs on this island are black and white. It is as if they have been made specially for the seventy-five poeople of Pingelap who see no colour: not the fiery crimson of the sunset, not the azure of the ocean, not the garish yellow of the ripe papaya, nor the ever-present deep green of the dense jungle of breadfruit palms, coconut palms and mangroves. A tiny mutation in chromosome number eight and Typhoon Lienkieki, which laid waste to the island centuries ago, are responsible. Only twenty Pingelap inhabitants survived the typhoon and the famine that followed; one of them carried the recessive gene that soon made its presence known as a result of inbreeding.
The entry for tiny Howland Island in the Pacific (area 1.84 km²) tells the poignant story of the aviator Amy Earhart, and her navigator Fred Noone, whose last call before their aircraft disappeared was made to to the crew of the Itasca, waiting just off Howland Island.
One or two of the islands are fairly well-known, like Easter Island or Pitcairn Island; others you will not have heard of:
Semisopochnoi – perhaps the westermost part of the United States. No one wants to know exactly. Nothing here is really important. No one has lived here – ever. There would be no reason to.
The author’s introduction fills in more details of the strange, often ghastly histories of these remote places, where the normal rules of civilisation have never evolved, or have been forgotten by settlers. Some islands have simply resisted human interference:
Three expeditions failed in their attempts to conquer the island, which is almost completely covered in ice. It was only in 1929 – 108 years after its discovery – that it was landed on, and until the 1990s more people had set foot on the moon than on the island. (Peter 1 Island in the Antarctic)