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The Emperor Waltz by Philip Hensher

21 Jul 2014 21:31:53

The other challenge has to do with the common gripe about novels like this: that they're really story collections, mis-sold. Most of The Emperor Waltz's 10 "books" follow two men. First is Christian, an ironically named art student in 1930s Weimar, disturbed but ultimately apathetic about Nazism. Then there's Duncan, who in 1979 swipes capital from his hated father to open London's first gay bookshop in the face of violent homophobia. Flanking their stories are several apparently discrete nar ...

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Radical Cities by Justin McGuirk

21 Jul 2014 21:31:15

The Venice Architecture Biennale is usually a grand gathering of the biggest names in architecture, where they can display their brilliance to their peers. In the 2012 edition, however, the Golden Lion awarded to the best exhibit went to something whose fascination was not primarily to do with the input of professional architects. This was the Torre David, in Caracas, a 1990s office tower left unfinished when funds ran out. What makes it remarkable is the fact that it has now been colonised by s ...

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

21 Jul 2014 21:31:31

Alwyn "Dorrigo" Evans, the novel's protagonist, is the officer in charge of J Force – a thousand-strong group of PoWs working on the infamous "Line", the Burma Railway. Comprising an assortment of Tasmanians and other captured Australian soldiers, Evans's motley troop of men exist as vividly drawn individuals, but also as a collective – comrades bound together through shared experience, through self-identification as Aussies, through being each other's "cobbers". Flanagan is a fine writer ...

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Different ways to take interesting books

06 Apr 2014 15:30:10

Authors on rock star-style tours, animations of famous fictional characters, merchandise based on children's stories – all these are now in the armoury of Britain's biggest publisher as it fights back against the decline of the high-street bookseller. Penguin Random House UK has sold more than 10,000 tickets for a gig-style reading tour by the writer Caitlin Moran, and has sold a cartoon version of Peter Rabbit to 15 countries, with potentially lucrative tie-ins with toymakers and chocolati ...

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Tom Wilson's opinion about publishing

06 Apr 2014 15:30:22

The indie booksellers are shutting up shop, authors struggle to make a living, and more than 60% of 18-to-30-year-olds would rather watch a DVD than get their nose in a book. But as the publishing world gathers at the annual London Book Fair this week, one of the UK's leading publishers thinks the notion of the book industry in crisis is just a cliched old story. "Some commentators say the publishing industry is in enormous trouble today. They are completely wrong, and I don't understand that ...

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The author Peter Matthiessen dies

06 Apr 2014 15:30:21

Peter Matthiessen, the American author who co-founded The Paris Review and won awards for books such as The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country, died on Saturday at the age of 86. His publisher, Geoff Kloske, said Matthiessen had been “ill for some months” with leukaemia. Matthiessen died at a hospital near his home in Long Island, New York. Born to a wealthy background in New York in 1927, Matthiessen had his first short story published in the Atlantic Monthly when he was still a student ...

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Adam Johnson become the winner for story about Nirvana

04 Apr 2014 21:30:57

Twenty years after Kurt Cobain killed himself in Seattle, a short story called Nirvana featuring a ghostly performance from the singer of a line from the despairing refrain of his 1991 hit Smells Like Teen Spirit has won the Sunday Times short story competition. The winning author Adam Johnson adds the world's richest prize for a single short story to the Pulitzer prize he won in 2013 for his novel, The Orphan Master's Son. Inspired by his wife's struggle with cancer and a friend who took ...

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The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

04 Apr 2014 21:30:49

Refusing to use the past as mere picturesque setting, the best historical fiction doesn't so much give us a glimpse into that foreign country as let us look out from it. Language is the key. In my novel Ulverton, set in a village over 300 years, I used strict imitations of period language to find my way into the folds of each century, while Hodd, set in the 13th century, purported to be a translation of a Latin manuscript. For The Wake, a novel set in 11th-century Lincolnshire during and after t ...

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Parliament by Chris Bryant

04 Apr 2014 21:30:46

Those perceptions are rarely flattering. Chris Bryant, himself an MP, testifies to the disdain that greets politicians on the doorstep. He protests, rightly enough, that his colleagues are morally no more reprehensible than their long line of predecessors. But his book is not written to improve parliament's image. It joins the mood of disparagement, but directs it at the past rather than the present. "For much of its history," he declares, "the whole parliamentary system was soaked in corruption ...

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Beautiful book about The Galapagos by Henry Nicholls

03 Apr 2014 05:30:15

Ritter and Strauch were joined by a trickle of other German settlers including the Wittmers, an idealistic young family, and Eloise Wagner de Bosquet, a self-styled baroness, and her lovers Lorenz and Philipsson, whom she kept in thrall by means of revealing clothes, a riding crop and a pistol. Before long, the tiny colony unravelled. Ritter and the baroness detested each other. She and Philipsson beat and starved Lorenz. One day, the two of them disappeared without trace. Then Ritter died in su ...

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Trials of Passion by Lisa Appignanesi

03 Apr 2014 05:30:57

Unhinged lovers and tainted chocolates, pistols, rapes and floggings – Lisa Appignanesi's history of crimes of passion offers plenty of lurid detail to beguile her readers. She is a novelist as well as a historian of ideas, and her relish for a good story sometimes gets the better of her analytical purpose. But her subject is serious, and its implications are far-reaching. Lawyers have never found it easy to draw the line between madness and badness. How should a justice system designed on log ...

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A Splendid Little War by Derek Robinson

03 Apr 2014 05:30:10

The fighting didn't stop in 1918. There may have been an armistice then, but that didn't mean the trouble was over or that there weren't some restless soldiers still itching for a scrap. Particularly itchy were the pilots, who got easily bored. In this novel, one British airman flour-bombs the Brighton Express for a prank and hits the dining-car. "Few pilots had that kind of skill," muses an officer, reading the reports. "In the margin, the adjutant wrote: Jessop?" However, there was an almighty ...

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