Great New Fiction
Other People’s Money by Justin Cartwright
The venerable bank of Tubal & Co is in trouble. It’s not the first time in its three-hundred-year history – it was bailed out by Rothschilds’ in 1847 – but this time will be the last. A sale is under way, and a number of rather important facts need to be kept hidden, especially from any potential buyer. Hundreds of millions of pounds are being diverted – temporarily – to shore it up, masterminded by the bank’s chairman, Julian Trevelyan-Tubal. His aging father Sir Henry would be horrified, but fortunately he is in the early stages of dementia, writing admonitory letters that all say the same thing to Julian from the sunny climes of Antibes. His letters instruct his son to stick to the time-honoured traditions of the bank, and, indeed, had his son taken his advice the bank might still be solvent. Great families have all sorts of secrets, though, and this one is no exception. And whether they are lovers, old partners, or retainers who resent not being part of the family, they have a nasty habit of turning awkward. Other People’s Money is both a subtle thriller and an acutely delineated portrait of a world and a class. Justin Cartwright manipulates our sympathies with masterly ease, unwinding the story with gentle satire, and, as ever, acute and beautifully phrased insights into the eccentricities and weaknesses of the human condition. Wonderful.
“Other People’s Money is wise, droll and beautiful fiction.” David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas
“Sharply observed, suavely written scenes.” Sunday Times
“Funny, mordant and, in places, moving.” Sunday Telegraph
“A literary first – a feel-good novel about the financial crisis … Delightful.” Financial Times
“For more than two decades, I have admired Cartwright’s fiction for its uncanny habit of catching the zeitgeist in nets of fine-meshed tragic-comic steel.” Boyd Tonkin, Independent
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
This is the stuff that great novels are made of: Say your life was on a touch screen timeline and a viewer could simply tap the screen at any point and view a snippet of your life in detail, as if watching a movie clip, both past and future. Who would not be hooked by its cleverness? Writing such a genius novel, is obviously why Jennifer Egan won the Pulitzer Prize this year for A Visit from the Goon Squad. Her writing is so photographic, that you feel like part of the gang as you follow the lives of Sascha and Bennie through different eras and decades. She lets the reader discover their secrets, but they never do. The novel is based in the music world, so there are bands, groupies, record labels and a good dose of rock ‘n roll life (soundtrack included). She lets you get so close to the characters, it feels like reading short stories about your family’s secrets, while they are in the next room. We all want to live forever, we all want to be forgiven for our wrongs, we all want to be truly loved at least once; we are no different from her characters, which hits the nerve spot-on.
(By the way, the best ode ever to Powerpoint in a novel!)
The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
In November 2008, two months after David Foster Wallace’s death, his literary agent Bonnie Nadell and his widow Karen Green start going through David’s office. On his desk they find a neat stack of manuscript, twelve chapters totaling nearly 250 pages. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. As they explore the office further they find hundreds and hundreds of pages of a novel in progress. Hard drives, file folders, ring binders, spiral-bound notebooks and floppy disks containing printed chapters, sheaves of handwritten pages, notes and more. Michael Pietsch, the man who edited his previous novel Infinite Jest, was called. Armed with all this material he set about piecing together the manuscript David had titled The Pale King. The basic plot and scene is simple: we are in the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois in 1985. Several trainees have just arrived and are discovering the mind-numbing tedium in the vast world of tax returns processing. The narrative, though, is episodic and fragmented, not simply because the work is unfinished
because David intended it so. He described the book as “tornadic” or “tornado-like” in notes to himself. It is deliberately disjointed, like pieces of information flying at the reader in a high wind. Pietsch admits in his preface that the book would have looked very different had Wallace continued working on it, but “…even unfinished, it is a brilliant work, an exploration of some of life’s deepest challenges, and an enterprise of extraordinary artistic daring. David set out to write a novel about some of the hardest subjects in the world – sadness and boredom – and to make that exploration nothing less than dramatic, funny, and deeply moving.” Death and taxes, hey? Go figure.
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale
Bruno Littlemore – linguist, artist, philosopher. A life defined by a soaring mind, yet bound by a restrictive body. Born in down-town Chicago, Bruno’s precocity pulls him from an unremarkable childhood, and under the tuition of Lydia, his intellect dazzles a watching world. But when he falls in love with his mentor, the world turns on them with outrage: Bruno is striving to be something he is not, and denying everything that he is. For despite his all too human complexities, dreams and frailties, Bruno’s hairy body, flattened nose and jutting brow are, undeniably, the features of a chimpanzee. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human – to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.
“An absolute pleasure…Benjamin Hale is a fully evolved as a writer, taking on big themes, intent on fitting the world into his work.” New York Times
“A brave and visionary work of genius…touching and quirky…brash, glittering, engaging…The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is a major accomplishment.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Ambitious…it throbs with energy and boils with passion as it expresses a dark vision of our essential nature that strikes uncomfortably home.” Los Angeles Times
A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles
Perhaps better known as an Oscar nominated indie scriptwriter and director (Lone Star, Matewan) John Sayles’ new novel A Moment in the Sun proves he is also a truly great writer. Set around the events of the American-Spanish war in 1898, and weighing in at a hefty 1000 pages, it is an epic retelling of the times through the eyes of the gold-miners, African-American soldiers, presidents, assassins and revolutionaries who lived and died through them. In laying down their stories Sayles argues that the blueprint of all that is right and wrong (mostly wrong) about modern America can be traced back to events occurring during this time. Meticulously researched, and with an astute ear for the dialect and accents of his vast array of characters, Sayles’ gift is to transport us to the frontlines of this tumultuous period of American history. Beautifully bound and published by the ever brilliant McSweeney, this may just be the challenging and rewarding winter read you’ve been looking for.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
When Aimee Bender writes she pens a world where anything could happen and you would believe it. She has the uncanny ability to blend reality with myth in an effortless manner. On her ninth birthday, young Rose Edelstein bites into the lemon-chocolate cake her mother baked for her and discover that she has a new magical gift, she can taste the emotions of the baker in the cake. She is rather horrified to realise in this manner that her mother’s heart is full of despair and desperation and not at all happy as she seems on the surface. Food becomes a hazard for Rose as she grows up searching for happy factory workers to make her pasta, or fruit growers who care about their wives, when buying her apples. It is through her taste buds that Rose explores her seemingly white-picket fence family, and the reader learns about her mother’s life outside their home, her father’s strange detachment from his family and her brother Joseph’s struggle to fit into the world. Both funny and wise (and definitely sad), The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is a deeply heartfelt novel about food, family and human flaws written with such beauty, it will make you bite into your next cupcake very carefully.
The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages by Sophie Hardach
Swimming for his life towards traffickers on the Italian shore, Selim enters a world where Kurdish refugees disguise themselves as tomatoes, dates of birth are a matter of opinion, and a residency permit is a ticket to paradise. When he ends up in a small town in Germany, Selim believes he is finally safe, until the law catches up with him and the clock starts ticking. Selim realises there is only one way to avoid deportation, if he dare try..Fifteen years later, in a town hall in Paris, a Registrar receives an unsettling book in the post. The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages only fuels her suspicions surrounding an impending Kurdish wedding. Unsure how to intervene, she embarks on an investigation that brings her uncomfortably close to an old acquaintance: Selim. Written with real imaginative flair, heart and humour, The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages introduces an unlikely hero who’ll prove impossible to forget, and a splendid new talent in Sophie Hardach.
Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck
By the side of a lake in Brandenburg, a young architect builds the house of his dreams – a summerhouse with wrought-iron balconies, stained-glass windows the color of jewels, and a bedroom with a hidden closet, all set within a beautiful garden. But the land on which he builds has a dark history of violence that began with the drowning of a young woman in the grip of madness and that grows darker still over the course of the century: the Jewish neighbors disappear one by one; the Red Army requisitions the house, burning the furniture and trampling the garden; a young East German attempts to swim his way to freedom in the West; a couple return from brutal exile in Siberia and leave the house to their granddaughter, who is forced to relinquish her claim upon it and sell to new owners intent upon demolition. Reaching far into the past, and recovering what was lost and what was buried, Jenny Erpenbeck tells an exquisitely crafted, stealthily chilling story of a house and its inhabitants, and a country and its ghosts.
“One of the finest, most exciting authors alive…An extraordinarily strong book.” Michel Faber, Guardian
“This haunting novel beautifully dramatises how ordinary lives are affected by history.” The Times
“This impressive achievement is a deeply engaging panorama of Germany’s troubling 20th-century history.” Financial Times
King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher
After the success of The Northern Clemency, shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize, Philip Hensher brings us another slice of contemporary life, this time the peaceful civility and spiralling paranoia of a small English town.
Hanmouth, situated where the river Hand flows into the Bristol channel, is usually quiet and undisturbed. But it becomes the centre of national attention when an eight-year-old girl vanishes. This tragic event serves to expose the range of segregated existences in the town, as spectrums of class, wealth and lifestyle are blurred in the investigation. Behind Hanmouth’s closed doors and pastoral façade, the extraordinary individual lives of the community are laid bare. The undisclosed passions of a quiet international aid worker are set against his wife, seemingly a paragon of virtue to the outside world; a recently-widowed old woman tells a story that details her late discovery of sexual gratification. As the search for the missing girl continues, the case is made for increased surveillance, and old notions of privacy begin to crack.
King of the Badgers is a powerful study of the vital importance of individuality and the increasingly intrusive hand of political powers. Like its predecessor, it is another devastating – but frequently very funny – portrait of England from one of its finest novelists.
The Spoiler by Annalena McAfee
Two women journalists – one old, one young, one a veteran war correspondent, the other a writer of celebrity gossip – meet for the first time. It is January 1997, the dying days of John Major’s government, and newspapers, fighting for a dwindling readership, are plunging downmarket amid wild rumours that the internet is about to change the world for ever. Honor Tait (b. 1917), one of the most renowned journalists of her era, is haunted by her past; Tamara Sim (b. 1970), who compiles lists of what’s in and what’s out for Psst!, the weekend entertainment supplement of The Monitor, is struggling to secure her future, at any cost, in an increasingly precarious industry. When Sim is sent to interview Tait, their mutual incomprehension generates a rich seam of dark comedy. But when their different worlds finally collide, the consequences are devastating.
McAfee’s trenchant first novel is part satire, part portrait of an era poised unknowingly on the brink of a technological revolution. New Labour is about to take over, newspapers are increasingly obsessed by the private lives of popstars, models and footballers, and Honor Tait and her kind are an endangered species. But is Tait really such a beacon of truth and integrity? And, as this darkly witty novel asks, is compassion the first casualty in the search for a good story?
The Jack Bank: A Memoir of a South African Childhood
An extraordinary, literary memoir from a gay white South African, coming of age at the end of apartheid in the late 1970s. Glen Retief’s childhood was at once recognizably ordinary–and brutally unusual.
Raised in the middle of a game preserve where his father worked, Retief’s warm nuclear family was a preserve of its own, against chaotic forces just outside its borders: a childhood friend whose uncle led a death squad, while his cultured grandfather quoted Shakespeare at barbecues and abused Glen’s sister in an antique-filled, tobacco-scented living room.
But it was when Retief was sent to boarding school, that he was truly exposed to human cruelty and frailty. When the prefects were caught torturing younger boys, they invented “the jack bank,” where underclassmen could save beatings, earn interest on their deposits, and draw on them later to atone for their supposed infractions. Retief writes movingly of the complicated emotions and politics in this punitive all-male world, and of how he navigated them, even as he began to realize that his sexuality was different than his peers’.
“A remarkable memoir with the deeply resonant literary power of the finest fiction. The Jack Bank is an important book by a supremely gifted writer.” Robert Olen Butler
“Eloquent…readers everywhere will be caught by the searing detail about family, friendship, sex and love.” Booklist
The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz by Denis Avey and Rob Broomby
The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz is the extraordinary true story of a British soldier who marched willingly into Buna-Monowitz, the concentration camp known as Auschwitz III. In the summer of 1944, Denis Avey was being held in a POW labour camp, E715, near Auschwitz III. He had heard of the brutality meted out to the prisoners there and he was determined to witness what he could.
He hatched a plan to swap places with a Jewish inmate and smuggled himself into his sector of the camp. He spent the night there on two occasions and experienced at first-hand the cruelty of a place where slave workers, had been sentenced to death through labour.
Astonishingly, he survived to witness the aftermath of the Death March where thousands of prisoners were murdered by the Nazis as the Soviet Army advanced. After his own long trek right across central Europe he was repatriated to Britain. For decades he couldn’t bring himself to revisit the past that haunted his dreams, but now Denis Avey feels able to tell the full story – a tale as gripping as it is moving – which offers us a unique insight into the mind of an ordinary man whose moral and physical courage are almost beyond belief.
“This is a most important book, and a timely reminder of the dangers that face any society once intolerance and racism take hold.” Martin Gilbert
“Denis is a hero in time of terror, a man of limitless moral and physical courage.” Henry Kamm, New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner
This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone by Melissa Coleman
Set on the rugged coast of Maine during the 1970s, This Life Is in Your Hands introduces a superb young writer haunted by the need to uncover the truth of a childhood tragedy and capture the beauty of a unique way of life. Melissa Coleman tells of her parents, Eliot and Sue – a handsome, idealistic young couple from well-to-do families who forgo the trappings of society to carve a homestead from the woods. While they achieve success and recognition, the pursuit of purity and simplicity comes at a price. Winters are long, summers frenetic, and the young farm apprentices threaten the Coleman’s marriage. Then, one summer day when Melissa is seven, her three-year-old sister drowns in a pond where they often played. What really happened, and who, if anyone, is to blame? In the wake of the accident, ideals give way to human frailty, divorce, and a mother’s breakdown – and ultimately young Melissa is abandoned to the care of apprentices. This Life Is in Your Hands is her vivid telling of what happened; a true story, both tragic and redemptive, of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of belief.
Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason by Anne Roiphe
Luminous and intensely personal, Art and Madness recounts the lost years of Anne Roiphe’s twenties, when the soon-to-be-critically-acclaimed author put her dreams of becoming a writer on hold to devote herself to the magnetic but coercive male artists of the period. Coming of age in the 1950s, Roiphe, the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants, grew up on Park Avenue and had an adolescence defined by privilege, petticoats, and social rules. Young women were expected to give up personal freedom for devotion to home and children. Instead, Roiphe chose Beckett, Proust, Sartre, and Mann as her heroes and sought out the chaos of New York’s White Horse Tavern and West End Bar.
She was unmoored and uncertain, “waiting for a wisp of truth, a feather’s brush of beauty, a moment of insight.” Salvation came in the form of a brilliant playwright whom she married and worked to support, even after he left her alone on their honeymoon and later pawned her family silver, china, and pearls. Her near-religious belief in the power of art induced her to overlook his infidelity and alcoholism, and to dutifully type his manuscripts in place of writing her own.
During an era that idolised its male writers, she became, sometimes with her young child in tow, one of the girls draped across the sofa at parties with George Plimpton, Terry Southern, Doc Humes, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, and William Styron. In the Hamptons she socialized with Larry Rivers, Jack Gelber and other painters and sculptors. “Moderation for most of us is a most unnatural condition . . . . I preferred to burn out like a brilliant firecracker.” But while she was playing the muse reality beckoned, forcing her to confront the notion that any sacrifice was worth making for art. Art and Madness recounts the fascinating evolution of a time when art and alcohol and rebellion caused collateral damage and sometimes produced extraordinary work. In clear-sighted, perceptive, and unabashed prose, Roiphe shares with astonishing honesty the tumultuous adventure of self-discovery that finally led to her redemption.
Killer of Little Sheperds by David Starr
It is the year 1893 and Joseph Vacher has begun his descent into murder and madness by twice shooting himself in the face, escaping from a mental asylum and leaping from a moving prison train. At the same time criminologist Dr Alexandre Lacassagne is literally writing the book on the newly developed science of forensic investigation – pioneering many of the techniques that would eventually be used to apprehend one of the world’s first serial killers.
This is the story of the French Jack the Ripper, Joseph Vacher, who roamed the countryside as a vagabond, earning the nickname “The Werewolf” by ruthlessly dispatching its shepherd -, women, children and the aged – and Dr Lacassagne, the brilliant criminologist who caught him. In the process Dr Lacassagne invented methods of forensic detection such as examining blood-splatter evidence, systemised autopsy and criminal psychology, all of which are taught to students of police academies to this day.
The twin narratives of murder and medicine run side by side and grip until the end. If you’re a true crime fan or enjoy your books served rare, don’t miss this one.
The Popes: A History by John Julius Norwich
Well known for his histories of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and the Mediterranean, John Julius Norwich has now turned his attention to the oldest continuing institution in the world, tracing the papal line down the centuries from St Peter himself – traditionally (though by no means historically) the first pope – to the present Benedict XVI.
Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity. One was said to have been a woman – and an English woman at that – her sex being revealed only when she improvidently gave birth to a baby during a papal procession. Pope Joan never existed (though the Church long believed she did) but many genuine pontiffs were almost as colourful: Formosus, for example, whose murdered corpse was exhumed, clothed in pontifical vestments, propped up on a throne and subjected to trial; or John XII of whom Gibbon wrote: “his rapes of virgins and widows deterred female pilgrims from visiting the shrine of St Peter lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor.”
Others earned respect, including Leo the Great who protected Rome from the Huns and the Goths, and Gregory the Great who struggled manfully with the emperor for supremacy. After calamitous crusades, and 70-year exile in Avignon, came the larger-than-life pontiffs of the Renassiance – the Borgias and the Medicis (“God has given us the papacy; let us now enjoy it”). John Julius Norwich brings the story up-to-date with lively investigations into the anti-semitism of Pius XII, the possible murder of John Paul I and the phenomenon of the Polish John Paul II. From the glories of the Byznatium to the decay of Rome, from the Albigensian Heresy to sexual misbehaviour within the Church today, the pace never slackens.
John Julius Norwich, an agnostic with no religious axe to grind, has a thrilling and important tale to tell – and in this rich, authoritative book he does it full justice.
“To keep such a light touch, without sacrificing academic seriousness, is a distinct achievement.” Independent
“Sharp, fun and wonderfully energetic.” Scotsman
“One of the most bizarre and enjoyable history books I’ve ever read.” Duncan Fallowell
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People who Read Them by Elif Batuman
In her brilliant first book Elif Batuman takes the reader on a journey both literary and physical as she traces the evolution of her fascination with Russian literature across the globe and several centuries. This is a deeply funny, fiercely intelligent portrait of the not-always-rational pursuit of knowledge. Though Batuman lavishes attention on the specifics of her passion – and may indeed inspire you to spend the rest of this season holed up with a thick Russian novel – her book is really about the process of learning itself. It’s a relatable, absorbing account of what it feels like to be infatuated with ideas, and to let them lead you to ever more weird and wonderful places. Candid and reflective, mischievous and erudite, Batuman writes nimble and passionate essays celebrating the invaluable and pleasurable ways literature can increase the sum total of human understanding. Most importantly though, it is really an examination of how we can bring our lives closest to our favourite books.
“Wildly original, creatively rambling…the funniest book I’ve read in a long time.” The Times
“Part personal recollection, part literary criticism, it has the remarkable quality of being so dazzlingly good in its unique genre.” Sunday Telegraph
“A deeply clever and very funny collection of essays: half memoir, half love-letter to the Russian literary greats.” Guardian
“The first outing of a major voice…seriously and perceptively, about Russian fiction, and it really is funny.” Observer
“Her stories incorporate moments of real beauty and are driven by a serious purpose … charming, complex and life-enhancing.” Sunday Times
Not by Dread Alone: Thoughts about our Journalism by Zubeida Jaffer
Not by Dread Alone is the first in a series of reflections on South Africa by veteran, award-winning journalist Zubeida Jaffer.
This first, pocket-sized book is a meditation on the state of journalism in South Africa today, on its history and on its future. It is dedicated to the memory Johnny Issel, the first organiser of community newspaper, Grassroots. Visit Zubeida’s website on www.zubeidajaffer.co.za
Diepsloot by Anton Harber
Anton Harber has a huge stature among South African journalists, not only as Caxton Professor of Journalism at Wits, but also as founder and one-time editor of the Mail & Guardian. In Diepsloot he has found a subject equal to his gifts. This township, spatially situated between Joburg and Pretoria, and sandwiched between the garish wealth of Dainfern on the one side and rural hinterlands on the other, is also situated thematically and chronologically on several other important nexes: it has its origin in the old regime, but only came into being under the new (unlike older townships like Alex), and has virtually no past of its own – Harber notes that almost all its residents are cast-offs from elsewhere, and it is thus a point where numerous old histories meet to merge into a new one. Thematically, it is a rich index of the point where several important agenda’s meet: not least the pressing humanitarian need for housing which has to be weighed up against the environmental impact of this need (in particular, development here is held up by the need to protect a certain endangered frog’s breeding ground). It is also a place world famous for its crime and poverty; and yet, as Harber discovers, it is also an incredibly optimistic place, fondly-regarded by its inhabitants. Among the many strengths of the book is the open-minded way in which Harber manages to navigate and keep in tension these opposing poles, and the fine sense of irony he manages to maintain without ever belittling or being glib. An important glimpse into a place that is at once a microcosm of our society, and a singular place with an identity all its own.
Travels with a Roadkill Rabbit by Catherine Lanz
A family holiday with toddlers can be quite an undertaking. Despite the challenges, photojournalist Catherine Lanz and her husband Byron decide to do it the hard way. Finding themselves at one of life’s crossroads, they resolve to take the gap and show their children the landscapes, wildlife and peoples of southern Africa. So they pack Kira (3) and Tom (4) and a stuffed rabbit called ‘Roadi Killi’ into their trusty Toyota Fortuner 4×4, hitch up a trailer and set off on an ambitious 10-month circuit through South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia. In the course of this 20 000-kilometre odyssey, they meet many unique characters (and some interesting people, too) and discover their passion for the vibrant soul of Africa.
Travels with a Roadkill Rabbit captures all the warmth and humour of this amazing journey, together with the frustrations, irritations and occasional disasters that can befall an expedition – especially when you run out of Jelly Tots!
Science and Wonder
The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddartha Mukherjee
In The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee, doctor, researcher and award-winning science writer, examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is a lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with – and perished from – for more than five thousand years.
The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience and perseverance, but also of hubris, arrogance and misperception, all leveraged against a disease that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out ‘war against cancer’. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories and deaths, told through the eyes of predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary.
From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the nineteeth-century recipient of primitive radiation and chemotherapy and Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through toxic, bruising, and draining regimes to survive and to increase the store of human knowledge.The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments and a brilliant new perspective on the way doctors, scientists, philosophers and lay people have observed and understood the human body for millennia.
“Sid Mukherjee’s book is a pleasure to read, if that is the right word. Cancer today is widely regarded as the worst of all the diseases from which one might suffer – if only because it is fast becoming the most common. Dr. Mukherjee explains how this perception came about, how cancer has been regarded across the years and what is now being done to treat its protean forms. His book is the clearest account I have read on this subject. With The Emperor of all Maladies, he joins that small fraternity of practicing doctors who cannot just talk about their profession but write about it.” Tony Judt
Thinking About Law: Essays for Tony Honoré
Tony Honoré is one of the most distinguished South African law academics. His long career – first as a law don at Queen’s College, Oxford then as Rhodes Reader in Roman-Dutch law at Oxford – culminated in his appointment to the Regius Chair in Civil Law at All Souls College, Oxford, from which he retired some years ago. His pre-eminence in the fields of Roman law, Roman-Dutch and modern South African law and legal philosophy (his Causation in the Law with Professor H.L.A. Hart, is still a leading text) is internationally recognised. The hallmarks of his writing are his lucid style, accessible presentation, and ability to develop a rational foundation for legal ideas and solutions.
As Tony Honoré approaches his 90th birthday, this collection of essays – the product of the UCT colloquium – celebrates and pays tribute to his extraordinary contribution, and includes the following essays:
- Jeremy Gauntlett, in his “Laudatio for Tony Honoré”, deals with Tony’s life and remarkable career in law.
- Boudewijn Sirks, the present Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford, writes on “Roman law as emancipatory and social instrument in the 19th century”.
- Marius de Waal gives an appreciation of the book that has shaped the South African law of trusts, in “Honoré’s South African Law of Trusts”.
- Edwin Cameron and Nick Ferreira illustrate how Tony’s legal philosophy has had a practical impact in certain South African cases, in “Tony Honoré’s contribution to jurisprudence”.
- Anton Fagan, in “Cause in fact”, enters into the sometimes intractably difficult area of causation, a world opened up by Hart and Honoré’s famous Causation in the Law. While the essays touch on only some aspects of his work, they give a glimpse of its extraordinary range and depth, and of its influence internationally and in South Africa.
Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
Neuroscience is arguably the richest, most vibrant area of scientific research at the moment, and there has certainly been a plethora of recent publications documenting the astonishing results of these enquiries. In fact, as David Eagleman notes, it is a distinctive feature of human intelligence that it is able to turn upon and investigate itself. He also notes that the brain, in its average incarnation of 3 pounds of densely-packed tissue, is by far the most complex matter which we have yet discovered. Thank goodness then that Incognito is an extremely readable and accessible account of its mesmerising complexity. Eagleman’s chief concern is to show how much more there is to the brain’s operation there is than we are (or can be) aware of – that is, how small a part of ourselves we mean when we say “I”. This can be a discomforting and counter-intuitive realisation, and it is a huge strength of Eagleman’s approach that he manages to give crisp and convincing examples and arguments throughout, without appearing to dumb down what he is talking about. It is a fascinating exploration of our final, inner frontier.
The Bible – three sequels:
This year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, and we have just been teased by the passing of a supposed date for the Rapture; next year is the putative final year of the Mayan calendar. There certainly seems to be something Biblical and apocalyptic in the Zeitgeist, and aside from numerous books about the King James Bible itself, there are a number of recent, more or less tongue-in-cheek “additions” to its canon…
The Second Coming: A Novel by John Niven
At first blush (and there is a lot to blush at here) John Niven’s extremely funny, irreverent novel seems designed to irk religious sensibilities, but the whole point of the novel is to strip the superficial accretions of religious dogma, precisely to rediscover the essential messages of love and peace which are the richest legacies of faith. So, for example, the original commandment, according to Niven’s God (something of an ageing hippy) was merely “Be Nice”, the original purity of which has been ceaselessly corrupted by grandstanding and well-meaning but egotistic believers, starting with Moses. This corruption necessitates Jesus having to give up his pot-fuelled jam sessions with Jimi Hendrix in Heaven, and pay a second visit to Earth, this time as – of all things – an indie-rock musician. Realising that the most efficient way to spread his message is to appear on a version of American Idol, Jesus and his ill-assorted band of misfits and outcasts sets of on a roadtrip to a Babylonic Los Angeles, conquers the media and then retreat into a rural commune, with ultimately similar results to his first visit…
This is a novel which almost explicitly sets out to offend traditional religious sensibilities (for example, Niven’s God loves homosexuals, has a heavy pot habit and swears like a sailor), but with the important rider that it does this only in order to re-affirm the essentially positive values of love and peace that religion’s supposedly profess. Niven excoriates sanctimony, but in ultimately in service of the genuinely sacred.
The Final Testament of the Holy Bible by James Frey
Yes – James Frey of A Million Little Pieces fame (or is that infamy?) is back, and having grown to revel in controversy, he has picked a topic sure to inflame the public once again. His story is that of Ben Zion Avrohom: outcast, hobo and Messiah. As with Niven, Frey is explicitly concerned to remind us that the Messiah (whether Jesus or Ben) was never the scion, but rather the enemy, of conventional morality – in a corrupt world, the Messiah is necessarily outrageous, a shock and a challenge to the system. The novel is told as a number of “gospels” – first person accounts or testimonies by various ordinary people whose paths cross that of Ben, as he awakens to his Messianic meaning. As with Frey’s previous work, this novel is guaranteed to received a lot of fraught attention for its subject matter, but what is easy to overlook, is that Frey is a really, really good writer, and this is – its topic aside – an extremely well-written book.
The Good Book: A Secular Bible by A.C. Grayling
A.C. Grayling has become the doyen of the popularisation of philosophy, and a torch-bearer of rational inquiry. He has now tried to distill and condense 3,000 years of secular wisdom into a single volume composed of 14 books, by much the same process as – he argues – the Judaeo-Christian Bible was composed by “redaction, editing, paraphrasing, interpolation, arrangement and rewriting of texts”. Like the Bible, the books are broken up into verses, and written in the heightened (somewhat portentous) language of Scripture. Grayling has drawn on both the Western and Eastern traditions of wisdom, spanning the realms of science and philosophy and history and mathematics, and few scholars are placed as favourably as he to draw all these fields together into a truly magisterial summation of secular wisdom.
Evita’s Black Bessie by Evita Bezuidenhout
The most famous and fabulous white woman in South Africa helps you to organise your life in a fun way. In the age of BlackBerrys, iPods, iPhones and such, an astonishingly versatile old technology – Evita Bezuidenhout – presents her own version of surviving a technologically challenged state of mind: a notebook focused on organising one’s life with enjoyment and humour. This is much much more than a journal and includes photos and sayings of Evita. The perfect gift for any fabulous woman!
Initially recognized for her unique graffiti and street art, Faith 47 – one of South Africa’s finest street artists – is a self-taught artist who draws inspiration from her own intuitive political and existential questions. Her art takes the form of metaphor, stirring the conscience and getting to the heart of existence in South Africa – the iniquity of life for the unfortunate. Her canvas is the abandoned car, the gutted building, the township school – the very materials which define the social injustice which her work illustrates – and yet her art sings with the hope of human strength.
She has established herself as an artist of international renown, exhibiting in galleries and taking part in global projects. She remains, however, deeply rooted in the culture and condition of her native South Africa. This is the first collection of her work in print form.
The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff Vandermeer
Over the past fifteen years, Steampunk – a mash-up of Victorian and sci-fi aesthetics with a splash of punk rock attitude – has gone from being a literary movement to a part of pop culture and a way of life. This subculture celebrates the inventor as an artist and hero, re-envisioning and crafting retro technologies including antiquated airships and steam-powered robots. The Steampunk aesthetic now permeates movies, comics, fashion, art and more, and has given a distinct flavor to iconic events such as Maker Faire and the Burning Man festival. The Steampunk Bible is the first book of its kind, a fully illustrated compendium tracing the roots and history of this subculture, from the work of its godfathers Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, to the key figures who coined the word that would spawn a literary genre, to the vast community of craftsmen and artists who translated that spark into a lifestyle with clothing and accessories such as goggles, corsets, pocket watches, and with an attitude to match. This wild and beautiful resource, filled with scores of illustrations and photographs, will appeal to aficionados and novices alike as author Jeff VanderMeer takes the reader on a crazy ride through the clockwork corridors of Steampunk past, present and future. Gorgeous!
South African Township Barber Shops and Salons by Simon Weller
As the cultural and social hubs of South Africa’s townships, barbershops and salons serve not only as places to get your hair styled but as places to gather, gossip and come together as a community. They also showcase sharp and snappy vernacular designs: renditions of the haircuts on offer as well as typographic demonstrations of each shop’s name. In South African Township Barbershops & Salons, Simon Weller presents his vivid photographs of these shops, their signage and their patrons alongside interviews with the proprietors, customers and the sign makers. Internationally acclaimed South African designer Garth Walker contextualizes these homemade signs and together with Weller’s atmospheric images of the townships across South Africa where these barbershops and salons are found, the case is made that these establishments reveal a great deal about South Africa today and the people who live in the townships.
Contemporary Photography from Africa and Middle East: Breaking News
A wide-ranging and detailed survey dedicated to the protagonists of the contemporary art scene in Africa and Middle East. This heterogeneous selection offers a clear interpretation of contemporary reality through the languages of images. African photographers are looking at the unfolding drama of contemporary life and experience in Africa with a fine-tuned alertness. They are examining and analyzing the dizzying processes of spatial transformation, massive transition, and social adaptation that make up the varied realities of diverse groups: urban and rural, formal and informal communities.
Power: Portraits of World Leaders by Platon and David Remnick
Power brings readers face to face with the major world leaders of today. In this one-of-a-kind collection, Platon – World Press Photographer of the Year – turns his lens on 150 current international leaders from across the political spectrum to create a profound portrait of global power. Shot within a twelve-month period at the United Nations, and captured with unique candor and insight, these photographs offer an intimate glimpse of the personalities behind the public faces of the world’s most powerful decision-makers. With an incisive text by New Yorker editor and Pulitzer Prize winner David Remnick, this comprehensive historical record of our time is an essential volume for anyone interested in world politics.
Penguin Great Food Series
Throughout the history of civilization, food has been more than simple necessity. In countless cultures it has been livelihood, status symbol, entertainment – and passion. In the Great Food Series Penguin has collected together some of the finest food writing from the last 400 years, and packaged them in delightful jackets. The series features writing by Pellegrino Artusi, Gertrude Jekyll, Charles Lamb, Elizabeth David, Alexander Dumas, Claudia Roden, Alice B. Toklas, Isabella Beeton and many more.
To start your collection see below for a great Book Lounge Giveaway!
The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan
Ryan is the current U.S. poet laureate, and winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her tiny, skinny poems pack a punch unlike almost anything else in contemporary poetry, though not unlike haiku, if haiku could be cut with a dash of Groucho Marx. This, her first retrospective volume, which also contains a book’s worth of new poems, is a much-needed introduction to the work of one of America’s most accessible poets.
This ample but representative collection should attract new readers curious about the work of America’s current poet laureate and should also satisfy those familiar with Ryan’s conversational but tightly wrought poems. Her strength lies in creating short-lined poems that slide past the reader like notes from a journal but that, unlike many such efforts, are not merely self-indulgent anecdotes or predictable bromides. Rather, readers find surprise arising from each incident or pondering, creating an effect like that of the classical Zen haiku that starts out commonplace and rises to philosophical heights.
“Ryan’s poems are consistent delights. They fizz with euphonies, they crackle with rhyme and off-rhyme…they are marvels of compact, slightly bitter wit…Ryan’s poems are what Robert Frost said all poems must be, momentary stays against confusion.” San Francisco Chronicle
The Feather Room by Anis Mojgani
Anis Mojgani’s poetry is a lot like his name (which, in case you’re wondering, is of Parsi origin, though he is from the United States): from the outside it can seem almost exotic, but one gets the feeling that to him, it comes as natural as breathing. Mojgani made his name as a performance poet on the Slam circuit (there are numerous youtube videos of his performances, and they’re wonderful!), where he has garnered numerous awards, but – unusually perhaps, for someone from this tradition – his work is gentle and whimsical and also scans beautifully in written form. He is a master at sensing the fantastical in the mundane, and mining the small gesture or moment for the big emotion. While writing this collection, he got married and moved between several cities – and there is a palpable sense of optimistic romance, as well as a reckoning of the past which gave birth to him which suffuses this elegant collection. Most striking, though, is the sheer wonder with which he regards the world, and the winsome sense of warmth and honestly felt beauty which illuminate his beautifully turned lines. This is poetry to cuddle with, and to read aloud by candle-light and in hushed tones to a loved one on a cold winter’s night.
Open Book Author of the Month
Each month between now and September we will feature an author who will be appearing at the very exciting Open Book Festival (21st-25th September). This month, the wonderful Neel Mukherjee…
He reviews extensively, he is a judge for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and his debut novel, A Life Apart was chosen as ‘Book of the year’ in The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, The TLS and The Sunday Telegraph. Published originally as Past Continuous, it was joint winner of the Vodafone-Crossword Award for best novel of 2008 along with Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies. While it would be easy to categorise the novel as a coming of age tale, it is so much more than that. A Life Apart is a heady blend that Mukherjee has handled with immense grace. One part history, one part outsider novel, one part coming of age novel, the mix is held together by Ritwik. He is a young man who has escaped India and everything he knows for the wetter climate of Oxford and the chance to study. While he glimpses the underbelly of England over the course of his studies, it is only when he continues to live there as an illegal that he truly experiences it. That he is gay and ends up working as a rent-boy is almost an aside where in some novels that may in fact be the point of the novel. Mukherjee does this to his readers repeatedly – just as you think you have grasped what kind of novel you are reading, he takes that away. It is a surprising novel that deserves every one of the positive reviews it received. We are delighted that Mukherjee has confirmed he will be attending the first edition of Open Book Cape Town and only wish that his next novel, The Lives of Others was due in September rather than 2013.
Book Lounge Giveaways
1) Penguin Great Food
If your tastebuds were tickled by the morsel above, and you would like to sampler dishes from the world of food writing, presented in mouth-watering designs – we have 3 sets of 3 of these tempting titles.
Many thanks to Penguin Books for these.
2) McSweeney’s Issue 37
The latest in this literary feast features Jonathan Franzen on Upper East Side ambition, Jess Walter on the men who ride children’s bicycles in Spokane, Washington, Joe Meno on women who want to be eaten by lions, Etgar Keret and Joyce Carol Oates on murder and language in a restaurant called Cheesus Christ and at Gate C34 of Newark International Airport, respectively–and ten more stories besides. Delicious!
We have 2 copies to give away to lucky winners. Many thanks to Book Promotions.