Book of the Month
Touch: Stories of Contact by South African Writers
edited by Karina Magdalena Szczurek
This extraordinary collection brings together some of the greats of current South African writing, each with a story on the theme of ˜touch’.
With contributions from Nadine Gordimer, Damon Galgut, Andre Brink, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Imraan Coovadia, Ivan Vladislavic, Jonny Steinberg, Lauren Beukes and many other wonderful talents, this is a truly unique book. The theme is a beautifully broad one, and the variety of writing make this a treasure trove, as Karina writes in her Preface…
“The sheer abandon of a mother’s embrace, the proud handshake that seals an accomplishment, the afterglow of a first kiss, a chance encounter with an intriguing stranger, the desire awakened by a lover’s caress, a sign of life from a long-lost friend, and the void if all such things are absent. Touch or its absence defines all human interaction. The stories in this collection, written by twenty-two of South Africa’s most renowned and most exciting emerging voices, give nuances to the theme of touch, with all its complex emotional and physical connotations.”
Furthermore, every contributor has agreed to donate their royalties to the Treatment Action Campaign, which makes this a delightful and covetable jewel of a book.
Book of the Month Part II
by Leonie Joubert
Invaded is a story about pollution – but not the more commonly reported oil spills, litter or filthy smoke-stacks. Invaded is about biological pollution – the plants and animals that have spread around the globe on the on the back of human movement, those that have traversed the boundaries of natural habitats and have begun to erode their new adopted environment.
In telling the story of biological pollution, Leonie Joubert documents the grave consequences of humankind’s intended and unintended introduction of alien species into South Africa. While some rivers have lost their natural fish populations, the west coast is choked over with mussels from a far-off country; the Cape Floral Kingdom’s rare plants have come under increasing threat; sensitive renosterveld has been reduced to a few isolated islands of resistance; dams and lakes have been taken over by an umbrella of aquatic plants; and water is being consumed voraciously by thirsty alien trees.
Working in close collaboration with the Centre for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University, Leonie Joubert brings the general reader a scientifically sound yet accessible and important book. Invaded is, however, not a story of despair. Instead it encourages scientists, citizens and policy-makers to continue with their efforts to contain and eradicate invasive alien species. Beautifully illustrated throughout with photos by Rodger Bosch, this is a timely and important book for all the guardians of the South African environment, and for those who care.
Are you sitting comfortably? Parables and Yarns
by Ian Pears
In a novel to match the dazzling An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears tells the story of John Stone, financier and armaments manufacturer, a man so wealthy that in the years before World War One he was able to manipulate markets, industries and indeed whole countries and continents. A panoramic novel with a riveting mystery at its heart, Stone’s Fall is a quest to discover how and why John Stone dies, falling out of a window at his London home.
Chronologically it goes backwards – London in 1909, then Paris in 1890, and finally Venice in 1867 – and Stone’s character and motivation deepen as the book progresses; in the first part he is almost an abstraction, existing only in the memory of those who knew him; in the second he is a character, but only a secondary one; in the third he is the narrator of the story. A quest, then, but also a love story and a murder mystery, set against the backdrop of the evolution of high-stakes international finance, Europe’s first great age of espionage and the start of the twentieth century’s arms race. A truly gripping read – perfect for a rainy weekend!
The Last Bachelor
by Jay McInerney
A funny and poignant new collection of stories from the author of Bright Lights, Big City, in which he examines post-9/11 America in all its dark and morally complex glory.
His characters include a young woman holed up in a remote cabin while her (married) boyfriend campaigns for the highest of all offices, a couple whose sexual experimentation crosses every line imaginable, a young socialite called home to nurse her mother, and an older one scheming for her next husband.
From the streets of downtown New York during the 2003 anti-war march and the lavish hotel rooms of the wealthy socialite elite, to a husband and wife who share their marital bed with a pot-bellied pig, the characters in these stories – steeped in betrayal and infidelity – search for meaning while struggling against each other, colliding as the old world around them fractures and dissolves into a modern era full of new uncertainties, where ghosts of loss hang in the air.
McInerney’s writing has a crackling humour and a feverish, clear-sighted brilliance that perfectly underpins the lives of people living in modern America. These stories are deftly constructed, subtle, insightful and heartbreaking.
Spirit of Jura; Fiction, Essays, Poems from the Jura Lodge
Sixty years ago the beautiful and remote Hebridean island of Jura provided George Orwell with the solitude and inspiration he needed to write his political masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four. In 2006, at the invitation of the Jura Distillery, the Scottish Book Trust built on that heritage by establishing the Jura Malt Whisky Writers’ Retreat Programme, now recognised as one of the world’s great creative opportunities.
Spirit of Jura brings together work from several writers associated with the retreat. From Liz Lochhead’s love-and-laughter filled lines to Kathleen Jamie’s exquisitely observed poems of nature; from Romesh Gunesekera’s love story to Janice Galloway’s perfect-pitch evocation of Orwell’s time on Jura; from John Burnside’s haunting poems and prose to Philip Gourevitch’s meditation on isolation and loss. This collection offers a vivid flavour of the island and contrasting studies in wonder, myth and the inspiration provided by such a beautiful and extraordinary landscape. Last words go to John Burnside…
The isle is full of noises:
river-run, culvert, boot-plash, passing storm,
- and those whisperers out on the ledge
in a black wind,
come to a murmer, then gone
in the turn of a tide;
a red deer flares from the verge
in the headlamp’s glamour
and something we cannot name
returns from the dark
away to the side somewhere,
or behind our backs,
running across the sands
with printless foot
and vanishing into the blue
of CrÃ³m Dhoire
by Stephen Amidon
There isn’t much crime in Stoneleigh, Massachussets. It is a college town, a mountain getaway for the quietly rich, where burglar alarms are typically set off only by foraging wildlife. So when Edward Inman, owner of Stoneleigh’s Sentinel Security, is alerted by a late-night alarm from the home of Doyle Cutler, one of his wealthiest clients, Edward thinks little of it – until a local student, Mary Steckl, claims that she was sexually assaulted at Cutler’s house on the same night…
Edward soon finds himself convinced by Mary’s story, though the rest of the town doubts her. As he pursues his investigations, much is uncovered that many in the town would prefer to remain hidden…
Security is a brilliantly observed and gripping story of adults and children, secret lives and civic culture, suspicion and sexual hysteria.
“A novel to devour and to be devoured by…A no-nonsense style of writing that can deal efficiently with big subjects, and no subject is bigger than America…I could have wished it a Proustian seven volumes.” John Sutherland
by David Donald
“He fell asleep…only to find himself caught up in a frightening dream. Mist was swirling all around him: thick mist, cold and threatening – Khwa’s mist. Then cries and screams echoed out of the dense, white blanket. Swirling, smoking, the mist turned the colour of blood.“
A tale told in an unforgiving time, Blood’s Mist weaves a gripping drama of two families. In this meticulously researched and insightful story, the worlds of /Kaunu and Richard, a Bushman and a British settler, are linked by history and circumstance, and a clash is inevitable. The questions and discoveries that arise are the stuff of a captivating historical novel. With a richness and wonder that is reminiscent of Dalene Matthee at her best, David Donald delivers a vibrant, powerful and compelling read.
I Do Not Come To You By Chance
by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani
We’ve all seen the emails – those infamous scams that invade our inboxes with great regularity, with a variation on a plea: ‘Dear Friend, I’m a retired barrister. I alone know of the existence of this ten million dollar deposit. I am looking for your assistance…’
Kingsley is fresh out of university, eager to find an engineering job so he can support his family and marry the girl of his dreams. Being the opara of the family, he is entitled to certain privileges – a piece of meat in his egusi soup, a party to celebrate his graduation. But times are hard in Nigeria and jobs are not easy to come by.
For much of his young life Kingsley believed that education was everything, that through wisdom, all things were possible. But when a tragedy befalls his family, Kingsley learns the hardest lesson of all: education may be the language of success in his country, but it is money that does the talking. In desperation he turns to his uncle, Boniface – aka Cash Daddy – an exuberant character who suffers from elephantiasis of the pocket. He is also rumoured to run a successful empire of email scams. But he can help. With Cash Daddy’s intervention, Kingsley and his family can be as safe as a tortoise under its shell. It is up to Kingsley now, to reconcile his passion for knowledge with his hunger for money, to fully assume his role of first son. But can he do it without being drawn into this outlandish milieu? A fresh and vivid story from a wonderful new voice out of Nigeria.
Little Ice Cream Boy: A Novel
by Jacques Pauw
Groundbreaking journalist Jacques Pauw has written a storming first novel. Pauw of course came to prominence with his prominent role in Die Vrye Weekblad’s exposÃ©’s of the CCB, Vlakplaas and other Apartheid death squads in the early ˜90′s, and it is this turbulent and nihilistic milieu that provides the grist for this novel, loosely based on the career of Ferdi Barnard, the killer of David Webster. But this is not really a political novel – instead, it is a rollicking, fast-paced, donder-en-bliksem mob novel, which effortlessly captures a disturbing era (late-Apartheid) and place (the poorer areas of the East Rand, but also Brixton and downtown Johannesburg) in a pungent and unvarnished vernacular that is not for the sensitive constitution. In an era where every novel is billed a “crime novel”, this is the real deal – and yet it is as much a character study, and a slice of life of a (largely) by-gone era.
Peace versus Justice? The dilemma of transitional justice in South Africa
edited by Chandra Lekha Sriram and Suren Pillay
This book offers fresh insights on the ˜justice versus peace’ dilemma, examining the challenges and prospects for promoting both peace and accountability, specifically in African countries affected by conflict or political violence. It draws on the expertise of many insiders and analysts, individuals who are not only authorities on the processes of transitional accountability, but who have also participated in them. The book examines the wide array of experiences of transitional justice, spanning the African continent, with chapters on South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Mozambique, Sudan, DRC and the Central African Republic. While the primary focus is on processes in Africa, many of the contributors also draw on lessons from elsewhere, particularly Latin America, with which there are many parallels.
Within this remit, the contributors consider subjects such as approaches to accountability and peace building, domestic courts, tribunals, informal and non-state justice and conflict resolution. This is a valuable resource which demonstrates the wealth of experience and experimentation in transitional justice processes across the continent.
edited by Stephen Games
John Betjeman was that rare combination: and aesthete and a popular celebrity who, in campaigning for national treasures, became a national treasure himself. From the mid 1950s to the 1970s, though deeply out of tune with the times, he filled a media niche by questioning the mood of rapid modernisation and by berating officials, developers and the public for embracing it. Alongside his attacks on the vulgtarisation of culture, however, Betjeman produced thoughtful and intimate television films that focused the nation’s gaze on a vanishing world of beauty.
For years these films were all but lost. But now, in a remarkable piece of reconstruction, Betjeman’s England brings together the essence of over sixty of them in one volume. These transcripts reveal how the unexpected glories of the British landscape looked fifty years ago, to the man who feared for their survival. Whether looking at a Victorian church, a seaside guesthouse or a deserted railway station in miles of empty meadowland, he captures, in a unique way, the vital importance of the unregarded, and his diligence and dedication has led to the preservation of many unique treasures which may otherwise have vanished forever.
I Am Justice: A Journey Out of Africa
by Paul Kenyon
Eighty miles off the North African coast, a tiny fibreglass boat is sinking. There are twenty-seven men crammed on board. All are desperate. Then one of them spots a ship on the horizon. They change course and head for their only hope of survival. But when they arrive, there’s an unexpected reception. The men end up stranded on the floats of a giant fishing net as their boat finally rolls over and disappears beneath the Mediterranean Sea.
Justice Amin is exhausted, cold and soaked. As night comes, all hope of rescue fade and he is left drifting in a hazy place between Africa and Europe, darkness and light, innocence and experience.
Justice’s journey began in Ghana, at the hands of his abusive uncle. Determined to make something of his life, he fled across the Sahara Desert, before being captured, jailed and tortured. He managed to escape and headed for the people smugglers of Libya, who he hoped would sail him to freedom and prosperity across the sea to Britain, the ‘home country’.
Paul Kenyon is an award-winning journalist who had worked for the BBC for almost twenty years, and it was while making a two-part documentary on African migrants in 2007 that he became friends with Justice Amin.
The Dolce Vita Diaries: Stories and recipes from an Italian olive grove
by Cathy Rogers and Jason Gibb
Cathy Rogers and Jason Gibb had it all – glittering television careers, the Hollywood house, and an enviable luxury lifestyle. But they felt something was missing. So one day they bid farewell forever to the high living of LA and stepped into a new life – a run-down olive grove in Italy.
Armed with an Italian dictionary and a love of food, they set off with their young daughter to build a new life in the countryside. But as they set up their new olive business, reality dawned: with the market already awash with olive oils of every hue, how would they ever compete, let alone earn enough to live on?
From pruning to rewiring, harvesting to cooking, The Dolce Vita Diaries is a memoir of a struggle to adapt, of unbridled joy at being surrounded by beauty, of fear at taking such a huge step into the unknown. Dotted throughout with pictures and recipes, this really is an immersion into a lifestyle.
Becoming Drusilla: One Life, Two Friends, Three Genders
by Richard Beard
For years Richard Beard took spontaneous motorcycling holidays with his friend Drew. They would spend a few days walking, camping, canoeing – outdoor, manly fun – before returning to everyday life: wives, children, jobs. Richard was writing novels. Drew was working in the engine room of a cross-channel passenger ferry. Then one year Drew phoned to announce that things would soon be different: he was planning to have a sex change.
This is the story of how Drew became Dru, of what happened to their friendship, and their adventures in wildest Wales the first time they went camping as man and woman. It is warm, sad funny; and intimate tale of shared humanity.
“This beautifully written and thoroughly well-researched book is beard’s searingly honest attempt to understand what his friend had gone through…It is deliciously un-PC, unpreachy, refreshingly free of sentimentality and, at times, drily comic. Beard’s graceful admission of love and humility at the end of this gentle tribute is touching and life-affirming. It left me marvelling about human nature. There aren’t many of those kinds of books about.” Dermod Moore, Irish Post
Without a doubt one of the great successes at this year’s Badilisha Poetry Exchange was Lemn Sissay. Born in Lancashire to Ethiopian parents, his poems have been laid into the streets of downtown Manchester, feature on the side of a pub there, and have adorned a London bus route. He has performed all over the world and has been commissioned to write poems and plays, as well as being a broadcaster and documentary maker of note.
His poetry is vibrant and smart, tough and heartfelt, and he has a legion of ardent followers, who know a rare talent when they see it. His collections Rebel Without Applause and Listener, are a joy and his unique voice sings with vision, good humour and life. For any who do not know his work, it is definitely worth spending a little time in a quiet corner with – here’s a small starter.
When they took away his mother
He was determined to survive
When he found his father dead
He clenched his teeth to stay alive.
When they took away his name
He called himself free.
People close by would say
What a strong boy he must be
When they took away his home
He found it in his heart
And it only took a few more years
For it to blow his mind apart.
The Kooky Corner
A Steroid Hit the Earth: A Celebration of Misprints, Typos and other Howlers
by Martin Toseland
This book celebrates that much maligned but inevitable part of the writing process: the misprint. While publishers and newspapers employ vast teams of sub-editors to check and re-check spelling, a few will always slip through. This is a very, very funny book, as wall as a paean to the utter fallibility of the human race – from headlines to public notices, menus to corrections, numbers and instructions…
“In many parts of Co. Sligo hares are now practically unknown because of the unreasonable laughter to which they have been subjected in recent years.”
“She cried out in agony. And at that instant she heard a horse whisper behind her.”
“The many friends of Mrs Barrett will be sorry to hear that she injured her foot on Saturday. It will probably be six weeks before the fool can be released from plaster.”
“Henry VIII by his own efforts increased the population of England by 40,000.”
And lots, lots more – an absolute treasure.
The Reverend Guppy’s Aquarium or How Jules LÃ©otard, Adolphe Sax and Roy Jacuzzi and co. immortalised their names in the dictionary.
How did Texas cattle rancher Samuel Maverick become the byword for quirky non-conformity? Did poor little rich girl MercÃ©dÃ¨s Jellinek ever have the joy of driving one of the cars that bear her name? An which filling did the fourth Earl of Sandwich opt for when he made his great culinary invention? A dip into The Reverend Guppy’s Aquarium will answer these and many other questions you forgot to ask about the heroic individuals who made our language what it is.
“A glorious swerve along the eponymic byways if the English language.” Guardian
“It is the storytelling and the author’s obvious affection for his subject that gives heart to this book.” Financial Times
What Would Keith Richards Do? Daily Affirmations from a Rock N Roll Survivor
by Jessica Pallington West
“It’s great to be here. Hey, it’s great to be anywhere.”
“I’ve never turned blue in anyone else’s bathroom. I consider that the height of bad manners.“
“I’ve never had a problem with drugs, only with policemen.”
“I’ve been invented by the media. I’m just a minstrel.”
Some pearls of wisdom from the great, the one-and-only Keith Richards, Keef, one half of the Glimmer Twins.
These, and more, have been collected together in one handy volume – Keith speaks on subjects ranging from Excess to Fear, from Food to Catastrophe, from Fame to Politics and, of course, Mick.
This book reminds us to learn from our mistakes, to let our instincts lead us and, above all, do what Keith has done better than anyone – survive.
with Don Garrard
Don Garrard has had a wonderfully distinguished international career as a bass, with a staggering repertoire of over 100 operatic roles – from Boris to Bluebeard, from Sarastro to Wotan. He has appeared with such eminent conductors as Barenboim, Abbado, Solti, Haitink and Sargent; and sung lead bass at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, Aldburgh, Ottawa, Paris and Santa Fe (to name but a few). He was already described, in 1969, as “Probably the greatest bass ever to come from [Canada]“.
Along the way, of course, he has picked up a great many observations and stories, which are gathered together for the first time here in his book Anecdotage, which is a collection of musical limericks to amuse and/or surprise; composed of fluffs, bluffs and gaffes in Opera and Concert.
This delightful little book is in store already, and we are delighted to be hosting a soiree with Mr Garrard on August 31st – details to follow.
Happy 60th Birthday to…Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four was published on Wednesday 8th June 1949 in London, and five days later in New York. Within 12 months it had sold around 50,000 hardbacks in the UK, and US sales were over one-third of a million. Today it is impossible to say how many copies have been sold or are in print – but its ideas and images have become entrenched in the modern psyche – Big Brother, Newspeak, Doublethink, Thought Police, Room 101, Unperson, the Ministry of Love – and make it one of the most influential novels ever written.
Orwell, harried by his publishers, finished it on the Scottish island of Jura (see above), suffering from the tuberculosis which was to kill him just six months after publication. The effort of finishing it and having to type up his own illegible manuscript must surely have sped his demise; and the hallucinatory fevers that accompany TB are evident in the dark paranoia of the novel.
“The tragedy of Orwell’s life” wrote his friend Cyril Connolly “is that when at last he achieved fame and success he was a dying man and he knew it. He had fame and was too ill to leave his room, money and nothing to spend it on…he tasted the bitterness of dying.”
Since its publication, the book has been adapted for radio, television, stage and cinema; it has been studied, copied, parodied, cribbed from and has, in its own way, changed the world. It is held up as a major milestone of modern literature and must surely remain so for many, many years to come.
Thankyou for reading – see you soon!