Shady Characters Keith Houston04 Oct 2013 02:38:37
As Keith Houston points out in his notes for further reading, there is already an indispensable guide to the history of punctuation – Malcolm Parkes's Pause and Effect: Punctuation in the West. That book, as Houston acknowledges, is "probably the single most useful work on the origins of modern punctuation", though, as he also rightly suggests, it does rather dispense "with such niceties as readability, accessibility, and pleasing design". Houston's book, in contrast, is highly readable, certain... Read Full Story
Three Brothers by Peter Ackroyd 04 Oct 2013 02:37:03
The three Hanway brothers, blessed or cursed by being born in London "at the same time on the same day of the same month – to be precise, midday on 8 May" in successive years in "the middle of the last century", find themselves quickly absorbed into the torrent of change that pours through the 1950s and 60s. Harry, the eldest, learning that words are cheap and can be "manufactured by the yard", takes up journalism. Daniel, the middle brother, who feels only contempt for the postwar council estat... Read Full Story
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King03 Oct 2013 05:18:35
King, happily, starts out in some ways at an advantage: he travels light into the new book. By the end of The Shining, its setting, the evil Overlook hotel, had been blown to smithereens; its protagonist, Jack Torrance, the crazy caretaker of the evil Overlook hotel, was dead; and its baddies, the crazy and evil guests of the evil Overlook hotel, who were dead to start with, were that much deader.
Doctor Sleep picks up with one of that book's only three survivors, Jack's then five-year-old son,... Read Full Story
Collected Ghost Stories by MR James03 Oct 2013 05:09:55
To cap it all, the wood from which they have been carved has come from a tree once known locally as "the Hanging Oak". You, gentle reader, who have not, I presume, been implicated in the unfortunate demise of a prelate of the church, and who are far from sinister carvings made from accursed wood, need not tremble; but note the season, the drawing in of the evenings, the increasing darkness and the chill of the wind.
So it's appropriate that Oxford is publishing this collection at this time of y... Read Full Story
The Beatles – All These Years by Mark Lewisohn03 Oct 2013 05:03:21
Where did these four incredibly talented people actually come from, and how did they find each other? There are so many of us, forever fascinated by the story, who still cannot quite fathom how the band managed to make music so endlessly full of interest, while also embodying the idea that as the world was changing at an unprecedented rate, they were always ahead of everyone else.
The Beatles themselves, in order to stay halfway sane, always denied that anything out-of-the-ordinary had gone on.... Read Full Story
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon01 Oct 2013 06:28:06
When March Kelleher, the leftwing, paranoid blogger in Bleeding Edge, invites the heroine, Maxine Tarnow, to recall "what Susan Sontag always sez", Maxine responds: "I like the streak, I'm keeping it?" But March – the novel's voice of misguided sincerity – persists, correcting her: "If there's a sensibility you really want to talk about, and not just exhibit it yourself, you need 'a deep sympathy modified by contempt'." Sontag's idea strikes at the heart of what Thomas Pynchon has undertaken in ... Read Full Story
On the Map by Simon Garfield 01 Oct 2013 06:27:19
My favourite living room – of those in my neighbourhood I can stare into – has old maps on the walls, which I find soothing and benign. But Simon Garfield, whose home is apparently similarly decorated, tells us that map-making has been a way of appropriating the world, a function of power, whether carried on in ancient Alexandria or the Google HQ. He cites a British map of Calcutta, produced in 1842 by the "ominously named" Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Public buildings like ban... Read Full Story
Sleeping Keys by Jean Sprackland 01 Oct 2013 06:26:17
Sprackland writes about how we inhabit our lives, and describes an ambivalent relationship with domesticity. There are poems about unblocking drains, about cupboards that stubbornly refuse to clear themselves of the past, and about the slicing of bread and apples. And there is "Opening a Chimney", a delicately judged poem about finding her voice again, a new broom with which to sweep clean. Once her chimney, which has been like "a stopped throat", is open, the outside world is allowed in: "Now s... Read Full Story
The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong by Guido Mina di Sospiro28 Sep 2013 08:01:15
Everybody in the sense of everybody who likes table tennis, which means practically everybody on the planet – a planet, which, according to this book, is no more than a big ping-pong ball spinning its way through space. Bet you've never thought of the world like that before. Oh you have? Well, you've never expressed it with the Carl Sagan-meets-Desmond Douglas solemnity of Guido Mina di Sospiro.
Actually, thinking about it, seen from space, Earth looks more like a marble than a ping-pong ball, ... Read Full Story
Canadian author David Gilmour's interests in literature28 Sep 2013 07:53:33
Toronto literature professor and Giller prize-longlisted author David Gilmour has found himself at the eye of a literary storm after declaiming in an interview that he doesn't teach books written by women or Chinese authors, because he's only interested in "serious heterosexual guys".
Gilmour – not to be confused with his namesake Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour – shared his views with Shelf Esteem, a blog by Random House Canada, which offers "a weekly measure of the books on the shelves of ... Read Full Story
William Boyd Solo26 Sep 2013 04:12:49
William Boyd will be pleased to have the successful launch of Solo behind him. Few of 007's missions against those sinister mega crooks – Dr No, Goldfinger et al. – could be as fraught with jeopardy as the invitation to pick up the dangerous mantle of Ian Fleming. As in the best classical quests, the rewards are mouthwatering but the penalties for failure excruciating.
Consider the perils he faces: we know Bond was born in 1924, which would have him pushing 90. An agent on a Zimmer frame with a... Read Full Story
Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace26 Sep 2013 04:11:27
David Foster Wallace once told an interviewer that the difference between his fiction-writing persona and his non‑fiction, essay-writing persona was that the latter was "a little stupider and schmuckier than I am". Even if we take this statement at face value, it works in two ways. The way I like to approach it is to recall those still watches of the night, when I ask myself if I feel ashamed at never having finished his 1,200-plus page novel, Infinite Jest, murmur "only a very little bit", and ... Read Full Story