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Authors of the week

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Patrick Kelly

Page 22, Issue 5
A LOVE STORY SET IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Can one ever anticipate what impact our choices will have on the rest of our lives? If we could, would we behave differently? A Hard Place is a novel set in Northern Ireland in the early 60s when sectarian forces that would later rip the country apart work to destroy the relationship of two lovers, with sad consequences for them both. The author, Patrick Kelly, was born in Belfast and has worked as a journalist in the UK and Spain. CLICK TO READ MORE 

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Page 14, Issue 3
SEAN SEEGER ON LITERARY CRITICISM

Linear history is a kind of entrapment. So is imperialism for those colonised by it. In this intriguing study, Sean Seeger, Lecturer in Literature at the University of Essex, observes how two writers from regions taken over by the British—James Joyce in Ireland and Derek Walcott in the West Indies—found intellectual escape routes from both forms of bondage in their rewriting of Homer. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Page 17, Issue 2
MICHAEL AND STEPHEN FARTHING
(RENAISSANCE SCIENCE)

There are 550 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci in the Queen’s collection at Windsor Castle, of which over 100 are anatomical studies. In 2012 the studies were exhibited at Buckingham Palace, then analysed by two professors of art and science, interested in what Leonardo thought he was seeing and, more generally, in drawing as a tool of Renaissance inquiry. Their findings— what Leonardo got right, what he got wrong—are the subject of the Royal Academy’s latest publication. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 8, Issue 2
ADRIENNE MAYOR
(ANCIENT MYTHOLOGY)

The ancient Greeks were fascinated by the question of what it was to be human. Their stories about Medea, Prometheus, Jason and the Argonauts, Daedalus, Hephaestus, Talos and Pandora all raised basic questions about the boundaries between biology and artifice. The most powerful of these and other myths represented the science fiction of their day; behind them lay metaphysical insights and fears about the manipulation of nature, extensively illuminated here by Adrienne Mayor. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Page 22, Issue 2
KAREN STRANG
(SCOTTISH POETRY AND ART)

Karen Strang discovered the poetry of Rimbaud during her teenage punk days and now believes that some of the prose poems in his 1873-75 collection Les Illuminations hint either at an undocumented period spent in Scotland in 1874 or at his contact with French and Scots emigrés in London. In exploring this speculation, she has produced her own set of translations, together with illustrations. The earthier of the poems she has rendered in the dialect of the east of Scotland’s Central Belt, a former mining region that matches Rimbaud’s own Ardennes. The more formal, in which she sees teasing references to Edinburgh’s self-conscious urbanity, she has treated in a manner that mimics Rimbaud’s lampoons. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 3, Issue 2
FRANÇOIS-XAVIER FAUVELLE
(AFRICAN HISTORIOGRAPHY)

Between ancient and modern times, Africa was the cradle of numerous prosperous civilizations, but what documentation has survived from these African “Middle Ages” is fractional and hard to assess. In The Golden Rhinoceros, François-Xavier Fauvelle argues for an alternative historiographical approach, examining the writings of outsiders—often Arabic and Jewish merchants rather than Europeans—and considering the circumstances behind what was written and the social dimensions of what was understoodCLICK TO READ MORE

Page 4, Issue 2
STEFAN MERRILL BLOCK 
(AMERICAN FICTION)

“Once upon a time there was a boy who fell through a crack in time, but the truth is that he didn’t fall all the way. Half of the boy remained there, on either side.” Oliver Loving lies is a hospital bed, in a coma.

Ten years earlier he was shot in the head, trapping him in suspended animation and destroying the equilibrium of his family, friends and small-town community. As Oliver’s doctors struggle to help him, issues of guilt and responsi-bility start to surface. Who knew what? Who was to blame? Who could have acted differently? 

CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 5, Issue 2
GAVRIEL ROSENFELD
(MODERN HISTORY)

Gavriel Rosenfeld’s book about the Fourth Reich is counterfactual history—an analysis of an event that has not happened. Rosenfeld looks at how anxieties about a Fourth Reich shaped the reconstruction of post-war Germany, got taken up by political activists, journalists, novelists and filmmakers and now serve as an all-purpose metaphor of condemnation used as freely by liberal critics of Donald Trump as by Putin’s Russia against Ukraine and the EU. This is important for what it reveals about our fears for the future and the continuing fragility of Western democracy. ​CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 6 and 7, Issue 2
CELESTE-MARIE BERNIER AND ANDREW TAYLOR
(AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY)

The voice of Frederick Douglass is one of the most powerful voices of America’s abolitionist era. Born into slavery on the plantations of the Eastern seaboard, Douglass had to teach himself to read and write. Inspired by the literature of eman-cipation he eventually escaped, arriving in the free state of New York in 1838. Making his home in New York City he went on to become one of the foremost black activists of the mid-19th century. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, Edinburgh University has mounted an exhibition based on manuscripts and photographs of Douglass and his family held in the Walter O. Evans Foundation in Savannah. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 9, Issue 2
THOMAS KREN
(RENAISSANCE ART)

The revival of the nude as a focus of Renaissance image-making is usually attributed to Italy and in particular to the period from Ghiberti in the early fifteenth century to Donatello in the early sixteenth. But as Thomas Kren and his colleagues show, the nude emerged from many more centres of creativity, in more varieties and media, and loaded with more meanings. Their exhibition (at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts) and their accompanying catalogue reveal the nude as the product of pan-European Christianity and of regional humanism, with all the clashes and contradictions that this suggests. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 10, Issue 2
FELIPE FERNÁNDEZ-ARMESTO
(WORLD HISTORY)

The Oxford Illustrated History of the World brings readers what may be the first environmentally conscious account of 200,000 yearsof human history, relating humanity’s growth and development to climate, energy, and interactions with the natural world that look like “a series of hair’s-breadth escapes from disaster”. Editor Felipe Fernández-Armesto explains here the grand themes that run through his writing team’s multi-faceted approach. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 11, Issue 2
MARILYN HACKER AND FAWZI KARIM
(CONTEMPORARY POETRY)

Two Carcanet collections by Marilyn Hacker, whose latest collection includes poems set in Paris and New York and several ghazals (a favourite Arabic verse form), and Fawzi Karim, who was born in Baghdad in 1945 and lived in Lebanon from 1969–72 before making his home in London in 1978. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 15, Issue 2
DAVID L. HU
(ANIMAL BIOLOGY)

In 2016, US Senator Jeff Flake appeared on the conservative TV chat show Fox and Friends to ridicule David L. Hu for leading three of the USA’s most wasteful science projects and abusing public funds. Three of those research projects—how animals dry themselves, the function of eyelashes, and whether body size affects speed of urination—are explained in Hu’s new book, together with a valuable defence of the unexpected in science. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 16, Issue 
TREVOR PATEMAN
(MODERN AESTHETICS)

As a young graduate Trevor Pateman studied under Richard Wollheim and Roland Barthes and produced a major study of Chomskyan linguistics, Language in Mind and Language in Society, 1987. He now writes wide-ranging books of essays that aim at more accessible prose. In Materials and Medium he asks how we should approach a work of art, a comple- ment to his 1991 work Key Concepts: A Guide to Aesthetics, Criticism and the Arts in Education, reissued by Routledge in 2016. CLICK TO READ MORE

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Page 12-13, Issue 2
JAY PROSSER ON
SOUTH-EAST ASIAN HISTORY

Generations of spice-trading Iraqi Jewish merchants met, loved and sometimes married the Chinese women who worked for them in Britain’s Asian empire. Jay Prosser’s story is about one such family—the family whose records he found in a camphorwood chest brought by his mother when she emigrated to England in 1961. She had been “the face of Lancôme Singapore” and still had her modelling shots, plus a cache of jewellery from her childhood escape during the Fall of Singapore in 1942. There was also his father’s  rain-stained war diary, kept while fighting for the British Army in the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s, along with a family tree charting waves of Jewish migration between Iraq, India and Southeast Asia. Taken together, these and other scraps—plus fifteen years of deep, inter-disciplinary research—offer a radically new picture of what it meant to be Jewish in Asia, and of empire not simply as an oppressive force but as the enabler of unexpected encounters and  intimacies between strangers. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 18, Issue 2Editor's choice
BRIAN VERITY ON
HUNTINGTON'S DISEASE

In 1982 Brian Verity helped his wife to kill herself. Since her diagnosis with Huntington’s disease three years earlier he had felt that her doctors and the well-meaning had betrayed her. More than 35 years later he still rages at society’s toleration of this hereditary condition and the unwillingness to sterilise carriers automatically: as a result, he feels, the lives of those afflicted and those closest to them have been ruined. An Inheritance is an indictment of what Verity considers our inhumanity but it is also a revelation of conflicted personal feelings that many readers will find unpalatable. It is a book that cries out to be made into a film. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 19, Issue 2
KATE ASHTON ON
ENGLISH ART & POLITICS

Rural Buckinghamshire. Hotbed of English Communism. In her lyrical memoir of the cultural and political milieu in which she grew up, Kate Ashton introduces us to her parents’ circle of friends—Antoinette Rubbra and her son Benedict, René Hague, Edward Nuttgens and others— who shared radical ideas about craftsmanship, Catholicism and social reform in the wake of Eric Gill and his alternative community at Piggots, in the Chilterns, decades before Fiona MacCarthy’s 1989 biography and her dark revelations of Gill’s sexual misconductCLICK TO READ MORE

Pages 20 and 21, Issue 2
KIRBY PORTER ON
NORTHERN-IRISH FICTION

“This book is centered around a series of memories that have been forgotten or repressed, and the loss that that entails: a lost love, a lost youth, a lost country. For Michael, the memories return but only as a refuge from other memories too recent and too painful to think about: a girl in Belfast whom he says he loved and whom he has not thought about in years; a time that he would rather not think about; and the person that he was then whom he no longer recognises. He decides to remember, to try and find that lost past without ever being sure if what he can now recall really happened or where it all might lead”. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 23, Issue 2
PETER ARCHER ON
SCI-FI HUMOUR

Good Morning Earthlings is an existential space comedy that, like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, takes liberties with sci-fi conventions. It tells the story of Major Grenk IV, a preposterous, swaggering but life-affirming monster sent into exile where he can do the least damage but where damage is gleefully inflicted on his colleagues and on earthling Zak, an Engelbert Humperdinck impersonator whose kidnapping is a mystery until we learn of past missions to abduct terrestrial stars such as Neil Diamond. Set in an old spaceship whose mission is ultimately unknowable, this is a satire on the vanity and futility of power. “If this is the future,” says its author, “it’s a future determined not by technological advances but by character flaws”. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 4, Issue 4
TREVOR PATEMAN ON
ODDITIES OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Trevor Pateman studied PPE in the 1960s at Oxford, where he learnt to write two short essays every week, each based on a day or so in the library. Fifty years and an academic career later, he is still happy to try his hand at any topic, and his collection The Best I Can Do comprises 26 musings organised alphabetically, the subjects sometimes lighthearted, sometimes more serious. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 3, Issue 4
STEPHEN GAMES ON
THE CASE FOR A NEW BRITISH CAPITAL

Fifty years after first writing about architecture in the Guardian, Booklaunch editor Stephen Games argues that the only way to quell Brexit unrest, revitalise the regions, remodel the Union for the 21st century, and save London from itself is to build a new British capital elsewhere in the country. CLICK TO READ MORE

Page 15, Issue 4
VIVIEN WHELPTON ON
RICHARD ALDINGTON

Richard Aldington was an outstanding Imagist poet and the author of a bestselling war novel, Death of a Hero (1929) but he has worn less well than many of his contemporaries who went on to become literary, political and society celebrities, partly because of his tenacity in the face of social disapproval. In the first volume of her biography of him (2014), Vivien Whelpton looked at the crises that followed his time as an infantryman on the Western Front; this second volume seeks a balanced reassessment of his later years. CLICK TO READ MORE

 
Page 3, Issue 4
SUSAN AND PETER BARRETT ON
LIFE IN GREECE IN THE 1960s

Peter Barrett was an English graphic designer who wanted to paint, Susie Barrett was a copywriter who wanted to write a novel. Two years after marrying in 1960, and with only enough holiday money to last three weeks, they drove through the Alps and Yugoslavia to try out a new life in Greece. The Garden of the Grandfather is their account, in words, drawings and photos, of what attracted them and other outsiders to Greece and how Greece changed in response. CLICK TO READ MORE

AND MANY MORE

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