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True dedication to Literature…?

Tuesday, August 30th 2011 at 3:19 PM

Where’s Wally? Here’s a clue: he’s tattooed somewhere on the back of a 22-year-old music producer from Norfolk. Norwich resident John Mosley had the elusive wearer of bespoke stripy shirts applied to his skin last week, in a mammoth backscratching operation that lasted more than 24 hours. Wally appears hidden among 150 other characters – including Darth Vader, a beached shark, and a humanoid horse – but his precise location remains a mystery for Mosley. “I still have not seen the finished result so I don’t know where Wally is on my back,” he says. Can you find him?

August 2011

Tuesday, August 30th 2011 at 12:23 PM


The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

In the late summer of 1913 the aristocratic young poet Cecil Valance comes to stay at ‘Two Acres’, the home of his close Cambridge friend George Sawle. The weekend will be one of excitements and confusions for all the Sawles, but it is on George’s sixteen-year-old sister Daphne that it will have the most lasting impact, when Cecil writes her a poem which will become a touchstone for a generation, an evocation of an England about to change for ever

Linking the Sawle and Valance families irrevocably, the shared intimacies of this weekend become legendary events in a larger story, told and interpreted in different ways over the coming century, and subjected to the scrutiny of critics and biographers with their own agendas and anxieties. In a sequence of widely separated episodes we follow the two families through startling changes in fortune and circumstance.
At the centre of this often richly comic history of sexual mores and literary reputation runs the story of Daphne, from innocent girlhood to wary old age. Around her Hollinghurst draws an absorbing picture of an England constantly in flux. As in The Line of Beauty, his impeccably nuanced exploration of changing taste, class and social etiquette is conveyed in deliciously witty and observant prose – with a feeling akin to recalling a memory through the haze of a hot and sunny day. Exposing our secret longings to the shocks and surprises of time, The Stranger’s Child is an enthralling novel. Thoroughly recommended.

An intricate, witty, playful meditation on what is now beginning to emerge as one of Hollinghurst s chief concerns: Englishness. Comedy of manners, investigation of class, changing political and social landscape all the reliable pleasures that his fiction offers are here in their dense, detailed richness….Miraculously handled Hollinghurst set-pieces… It is woven with stupendous deftness, its internal assonances making a complex, comprehensive harmony…A magnificent coherence.” The Times

Masterful…There is a huge cleverness to the book at a structural and, as it were, managerial level. Characters are named with an aptness which is light-footed and unswervingly accurate…Hollinghurst, as ever, is quietly brilliant about architecture, both in the specific sense of a cultural discourse about buildings, and the broader sense of how people behave in different kinds of place…there is something symphonic about [the novel’s] wholeness…there is also a lot that is purely and simply very funny.” Daily Telegraph


Cain by José Saramago

The last novel to be written before the death of the great Portuguese novelist and Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, who passed away in June 2010 – two decades after he shocked the religious world with his novel The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, he has done it again with Cain, a satire of the Old Testament. Written in the last years of Saramago’s life, it tackles many of the moral and logical non sequiturs created by a wilful, authoritarian God, and forms part of Saramago’s long argument with religion.
The stories in this book are witty and provocative. After Adam and Eve have been cast out of Eden, Eve decides to go back and ask the angel guarding the gate if he can give her some of the fruit that is going to waste inside. The angel agrees, and although Eve swears to Adam that she offered the angel nothing in return, their first child is suspiciously blond and fair-skinned. Cain, in his wandering, overhears a strange conversation between a man named Abraham and his son Isaac – and manages to prevent the father from murdering the son. The angel appointed by God to prevent the murder arrives late due to a wing malfunction. Cain brushes off his apology. ‘What would have happened if I hadn’t been here?’ Cain asks, ‘and what kind of god would ask a father to sacrifice his own son?’

José Saramago’s final novel is an inventory of God’s less noble moments… as flawed and wonderful a place to inhabit as the world his cosmic nemesis created.” Sunday Herald

Every page of this novella, translated with a fluent and light touch by Margaret Jull Costa, has its charm. Every page raises difficult questions… as the final testament of Portuguese master, it is suitably disturbing and a pleasure to read.” Scotsman

Saramago’s breathless prose, expertly rendered into English by Margaret Jull Costa… conveys the sheer enjoyment of a writer bowing out at the top of his form.” Sunday Times

Shooting Angels by Christopher Hope

There is everything you don’t know,’ said Joe Angel, with a vulpine grin, as his limousine pulled away leaving Charlie Croker in a cloud of dust by the side of the road. Somehow the most famous businessman in the country had found Charlie in the backwater where he had been hiding all these years and arrived unannounced to give him an envelope of money and a simple message: come back to the Capital to learn what really happened to Constanza – the woman he loved – on that terrible night decades before. At first, Charlie is furious that Joe should just reappear with such an outrageous demand. He soon realizes a fire has been relit; one he thought had been extinguished by long years in the wilderness. But by the time Charlie returns to the city to meet Joe, the tycoon is dead. And so begins Charlie Croker’s epic journey into his own past. It is an odyssey which seems, at times, to lead straight to the broken heart of the country itself. After a lifetime spent trying to forget, Charlie realizes that there can, finally, be a reckoning with those he has loved, those he has betrayed and the guilt that has been suffocating him. Christopher Hope is the author of nine novels and one collection of short stories, including Kruger’s Alp, which won the Whitbread Prize for Fiction, Serenity House, which was shortlisted for the 1992 Booker Prize, and My Mother’s Lovers, published to great acclaim.

The Lazarus Effect by HJ Golakai

Voinjama Johnson, 28, is an ambitious investigative journalist at the Cape Town magazine Urban. Her life is messy, and to top it all, Vee’s been seeing things: a teenage girl in a red hat, more specifically, an unsettling hallucination that goes hand-in-hand with debilitating episodes Vee is loath to call ‘panic attacks’.
When Vee spots a photograph of the girl from her visions at a local hospital, she quickly launches an investigation, under the pretext of an article about missing children in Cape Town. She is soon delving into the secrets of the fractured Fourie and Paulsen families, with the help of her assistant Chloe Bishop, another young woman who isn’t quite what she seems. What happened to Jacqui Paulsen, who left home two years ago and hasn’t been seen since?
The Lazarus Effect is a gripping new addition to the Cape Town crime genre from a very talented debut author. Hawa Jande Golakai was born in Liberia. As a result of political and economic unrest she moved around a great deal with her family and lived in many African countries, including Togo, Ghana and Zimbabwe, before coming to Cape Town as a student in 2003. She trained and worked as a medical researcher in immunology at local academic research institutions. She writes from her experiences as a refugee, foreigner, scientist and contemporary African nomad, a life which has helped foster an intense passion for crime and thriller fiction. The Lazarus Effect is her first novel.

Nineveh by Henrietta Rose-Innes

There’s an out-of-control swarm of insects hampering the completion of Nineveh, a luxury estate outside Cape Town. When Katya Grubbs, proprietor of Painless Pest Relocations, is called in, she discovers far more to exorcise than the mysterious infestation. Her own past returns to torment her in the form of her unruly father and the chaos he creates. With Nineveh crumbling around her, Katya is forced to question her own place in a rapidly changing world.
This third novel by the award-winning Rose-Innes confirms her reputation as one of South Africa’s most noteworthy literary voices.
Henrietta Rose-Innes is a brilliant fiction writer based in Cape Town. She has published two novels, and her short stories have appeared locally and internationally, receiving the 2008 Caine Prize for African Writing and the 2007 Southern African PEN Literary Award.

Agent 6 by Tim Robb Smith

Former Soviet Secret Service agent Leo Demidov has built himself a new life as a civilian with his wife Raisa, and their two teenage daughters, Elena and Zoya. The Soviet Union is a country trying to reassert itself after the murderous excesses of Stalin and the chaos of the following years, and as the Cold War continues powers inside Russia seek to topple their great enemy, the United States of America. Communist allies within the United States will prove vital players in this game of intrigue and revolution. Raisa and their two daughters travel to the United States on a diplomatic mission, but a horrifying tragedy destroys everything Leo and Raisa have built. Leo must get to the States somehow and find out what happened. Exiled from the Soviet Union and separated from his family, Leo’s quest takes him through the stark wilderness of Afghanistan, reawakening all his old instincts and forcing him to confront his demons. But whatever it costs, wherever he must go, he will find Agent 6.

The best thrillers combine narrative tension, first-rate plotting and enough psychological insight to satisfy the human hunger for identification…Smith can do all this.” Guardian

“[Agent 6 has] an improvised feel, a terrific, freewheeling energy and pace, to which Rob Smith’s non-nonsense prose is perfectly suited.” Daily Telegraph

Smith remains a brilliant depicter of the past.” Sunday Times

The Unfortunates by BS Johnson

The Unfortunates is an experimental ‘book in a box’ written in 1969 by English author B. S. Johnson and reissued in 2008 by New Directions. The 27 chapters are unbound, with a first and last chapter specified. The other 25 sections are designed to be read in any order in between.
A sportswriter is sent to a small city (Nottingham) on an assignment, only to find himself confronted by ghosts from his past. As he attempts to report an association football match, memories of his friend, a tragic victim of cancer, haunt his mind.
The city visited remains unnamed, however the novel contains an accurate description of Nottingham landmarks, its streetscape, and its environment in 1969, with additional recallings of 1959. The football ground in the novel is obviously Nottingham Forest’s City Ground, from whence the fictional football club ‘City’ comes.
An almost Proustian fictional experience, this is a unique and fascinating experiment in fiction, which remains as interesting and relevant today as it was when first published.

The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block

Just outside Boston, in 1963, Frederick Merrill found himself a patient in the country’s premiere mental hospital, a world of structured authority and absolute control – a forced regression to a simpler time even as the pace of the outside world accelerated into modernity. Meanwhile, in a wintry New Hampshire village hours to the north, Frederick’s wife Katharine struggled to hold together her fracturing family and to heal from the wounds of her husband’s affliction. Nearly fifty years later, a writer in his twenties attempts to comprehend his grandparents’ story from that turbulent time, a moment in his family’s history that continues to cast a long shadow over his own young life. Spanning generations and genres, The Storm at the Door blends memory and imagination, historical fact and compulsive storytelling, to offer a meditation on how our love for one another and the stories we tell ourselves allow us to endure. Quietly incisive and unflinchingly honest, The Storm at the Door juxtaposes the visceral physical world of Frederick’s asylum with an exploration of how the subtlest damages can for ever alter a family’s fate. Based on the true story of Stefan Merrill Block’s grandparents’ marriage, this is a heartbreaking and beautiful novel.

Other Places, Other Times

Rome by Robert Hughes

Rome – as a city, an empire, an enduring idea – is in many ways the origin of everything Robert Hughes has spent his life thinking and writing about with such dazzling irreverence and exacting rigour. In this magisterial book he traces the city’s history from its mythic foundation with Romulus and Remus to Fascism, Fellini and beyond. For almost a thousand years, Rome held sway as the spiritual and artistic centre of the world. Hughes vividly recreates the ancient Rome of Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, Nero, Caligula, Cicero, Martial and Virgil. With the artistic blossoming of the Renaissance, he casts his unwavering critical eye over the great works of Raphael, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi, shedding new light on the Old Masters. In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when Rome’s cultural predominance was assured, artists and tourists from all over Europe converged on the city. Hughes brilliantly analyses the defining works of Caravaggio, Velasquez, Rubens and Bernini. Hughes’ Rome is a vibrant, contradictory, spectacular and secretive place; a monument both to human glory and human error. This deeply personal account reflects his own complex relationship with a city he first visited as a wide-eyed twenty-year-old, thirsting for the sights, sounds, smells and tastes he had only read about or seen in postcard reproductions. In equal parts loving, iconoclastic, enraged and wise, peopled with colourful figures and rich in unexpected details, Rome is an exhilarating journey through the story of one of the world’s most timelessly fascinating cities.

In this Herculean undertaking, Hughes has captured much of the true spirit of Rome: the aspiration to great achievement despite obstacles, setbacks or failures.” Prospect

We enjoy reading Hughes precisely because he avoids an of that corseted coyness which characterises too much art history writing nowadays. Thankfully not having to worry about securing professional tenure at a university or gaining a coveted gallery curatorship, he can speak with the candour of a visceral enthusiasm, savaging mediocrity and rhapsodically defending excellence.” Literary Review

A tour of the great city with a great guide: who could do this better?” Evening Standard

“…an engaging history of this wondrous city, very much in the tradition of The Shock of the New, packed full of sharp observation and trenchant one-liners, artfully and fearlessly told.” Guardian

Hughes proves an entertaining and erudite guide. He is an impeccable raconteur, commanding, self-confident, witty.” Daily Telegraph

The art critic’s superb cultural history is also an invaluable guide to the eternal city.” Sunday Times

On the Road: Travels in the Other Europe to Babadag by Andrzej Stasiuk

Andrzej Stasiuk is a restless and indefatigable traveller. His journeys – by car, train, bus, ferry – take him from his native Poland to small towns and villages with unfamiliar yet evocative names in Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, Moldova and Ukraine.
The heart of my Europe,” he writes “beats in Sokolów, Podlaskie and in Husi, not in Vienna.” “Where did Moldova end and Transylvania begin?,” he wonders, as he is being driven at breakneck speed in a hundred-year-old Audi – loose wires hanging from the dashboard – by a driver in shorts and bare feet, a cross swinging on his chest. In Comrat, a funeral procession moves slowly down the main street, the open coffin on a pick-up truck, an old woman dressed in black brushing away the flies above the face of the deceased. On to Soroca, a baroque-Byzantine-Tatar-Turkish encampment, to meet gypsies. And all the way to Babadag, near the shore of the Black Sea, where Stasiuk sees his first minaret, ‘simple and severe, a pencil pointed at the sky’.
Here is an unfamiliar Europe, grappling with the remnants of the Communist era and the arrival of capitalism and globalisation. Original, precisely observed and lushly written meditations on travel and memory.

Stasiuk captures this “other Europe” with clarity and eloquence as he charts his journeys through Albania, Moldova, Slovenia and elsewhere.” Monocle

“…a Kerouac-style amble from the Baltic to the Adriatic.” Herald Tribune

A eulogy for the old Europe, the Europe both in and out of time, the Europe now lost in the folds of the map, On the Road to Babadag is valuable reading for UK readers. If we can’t read our way around Europe, how will we ever find our place, our identity, within it?” Guardian

He is a self-consciously hard-bitten writer (whose career began when he was jailed for deserting from the Polish army) with a self-conscious hard-bitten style. His journeys are measured out with beers and cigarettes; his evenings with hard liquor…Stasiuk follows his `perverse love for the periphery, for the provincial’ as he traverses the outer edges of the former Austria-Hungary to the little Romanian town of Babadag…Lurking beneath his romanticism is an appreciation of the conflicting realities.” Financial Times

House of Exile: War, Love & Literature, from Berlin to Los Angeles by Evelyn Juers

Evelyn Juers’ extraordinary book is a unique imagining of the unconventional love affair between the writer and political activist Heinrich Mann and Nelly Kroeger – a tall, blonde ex-barmaid twenty-seven years his junior – recounting their flight from Nazi Germany in 1933, to France and then to Los Angeles.
In House of Exile their story is intricately interwoven with others from their circle of friends, relatives and literary contemporaries: Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, James Joyce, Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf, among others. It gives us a poignant glimpse of a generation of remarkable writers who were determined to carry on living, reading and working in wartime – in ship’s cabins, train compartments and shabby rented rooms – even though it seemed the civilised world was coming to an end.
This is a unique portrayal of the strange, dislocated existence of the émigré, and how lives are connected and defined by writing. Evelyn Juers enlarges the boundaries of biography to provide an intimate, sensitively imagined view of an extraordinary time in history.

Full of intelligence, wit, humour and a deep sense for the oddness of people and the mysteries of the creative life.” David Malouf

She can soar high over an historical era and then plunge to seize upon tiny details of ordinary life that bring her famous, long-gone people close to us in an intimacy that is almost shocking.” Helen Garner

Parting Shots: Undiplomatic Diplomats – the ambassadors’ letters you were never meant to see complied by Matthew Parris and Andrew Bryson

When leaving a foreign posting, Britain’s ambassadors were encouraged to write a valedictory despatch until the practice was abolished in 2006. Unlike the usual style of the diplomatic bag, these last reports from foreign posts were unbuttoned, indiscreet and often very funny. There was much settling of scores, some poking fun of foreigners, a degree of moaning about the privations of Embassy life – and sometimes a bit of serious analysis too.
Based on a very successful BBC radio series, Matthew Parris, who once worked for the Foreign Office and had the task of distributing the despatches, and Andrew Bryson have compiled an always entertaining and frequently hilarious volume of the best of them.


Living in the Endless City by Ricky Burdett and Dejan Sudjic

The companion of Phaidon’s wonderful The Endless City, Living in the Endless City will add the cities of Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Istanbul to the six cities of the first volume with the same mix of compelling photographs, in-depth and beautifully presented data, and smart writing by global thinkers. Each city is explored in a series of essays that address vital themes, from security to climate change, looking closely at the problems that face contemporary cities and examining a variety of solutions. Like the first book, the new one includes the best writing and information from the Urban Age project, a series of conferences held by the London School of Economics that explore vital field of urban development. Drawing on the work of scholars from all over the globe, this book will give the reader access to a wealth of ideas and data about Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Istanbul and, by extension, urban life across the globe. In addition to this close focus on each of the three cities, Living in the Endless City will feature analysis of surveys done in each city. Editors Deyan Sudjic of the Design Museum and Ricky Burdett of the LSE have also chosen the best contributors to both this book and The Endless City to write thematic essays that discuss the ideas and the lessons they have drawn across all nine cities. Don’t miss Ricky Burdett at the Open Book Festival.

The Enchanter: Nabakov and Happiness by Lila Azam Zangeneh

Plunging into the enchanted and luminous worlds of Speak, Memory; Ada, or Ardor; and the infamous Lolita, Zanganeh seeks out the Nabokovian experience of time, memory, sexual passion, nature, loss, love in all its forms, language in all its allusions. She explores his geography – his Russian childhood, his European sojourns, the landscapes of ‘his’ America – suffers encounters with his beloved ‘nature’, hallucinates an interview with the master, and seeks the ‘crunch of happiness’ in his singular vocabulary. This rhapsodic and beautifully illuminated book will both reignite the passion of experienced lovers of Nabokov’s work, and lure the innocent reader to a well of delights.

’Happiness writes white – it doesn’t show up on the page,’ said Henri de Montherlant. This is an aphorism that sounds true but isn’t, and the work of Vladimir Nabokov, as Lila Azam Zanganeh so lightly and elegantly shows us, is its great disproof. Her book is a joyful study of the joy that inspired all of Nabokov’s art. A beautiful little book which, flitting here and there like the great man’s beloved butterflies, delightfully succeeds in netting the butterfly hunter.” Salman Rushdie

A lucid and joyful account of the great master’s art, written with all the playfulness that the subject deserves. Very delightful.” Orhan Pamuk

Constance: The Tragic & Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde by Franny Moyle

In the spring of 1895 the life of Constance Wilde changed irrevocably. Up until the conviction of her husband, Oscar, for homosexual crimes, she had held a privileged position in society. Part of a gilded couple, she was a popular children’s author, a fashion icon, and a leading campaigner for women’s rights. A founding member of the magical society the Golden Dawn, her pioneering and questioning spirit encouraged her to sample some of the more controversial aspects of her time. Mrs Oscar Wilde was a phenomenon in her own right.

But that spring Constance’s entire life was eclipsed by scandal. Forced to flee to the Continent with her two sons, her glittering literary and political career ended abruptly. Having changed her name, she lived in exile until her death.

Franny Moyle now tells Constance’s story with a fresh eye and remarkable new material. Drawing on numerous unpublished letters, she brings to life the story of a woman at the heart of fin-de-siècle London and the Aesthetic movement. In a compelling and moving tale of an unlikely couple caught up in a world unsure of its moral footing, she uncovers key revelations about a woman who was the victim of one of the greatest betrayals of all time.

“[A] diligently observed book…this sensitive biography, at last, does her justice.” Sunday Times

Franny Moyle tells the poignant story of Constance in the aftermath of Wilde’s trials and imprisonment, and of her brave attempts to keep in contact with him despite her suffering.” Irish Times

A sympathetic and fascinating biography.” Independent on Sunday

I’m Feeling Lucky: Confessions of a Google Employee by Douglas Edwards

Comparing Google to an ordinary business is like comparing a rocket to a wheelbarrow. No academic analysis or bystander’s account can capture it. Now Douglas Edwards, Employee
Number 59, takes readers inside the Googleplex for the closest look you can get without an ID card, giving readers a chance to fully experience the potent mix of camaraderie and competition that makes up the company that changed the world. Edwards, Google’s first director of marketing and brand management, describes it as it happened. From the first, pioneering steps of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the company’s young, idiosyncratic partners to the evolution of the company’s famously nonhierarchical structure (where every employee finds a problem to tackle or a feature to create and works independently), through the physical endurance feats of the company’s engineers (both on and off the roller-hockey field) to its ethos to always hire someone smarter than yourself, I’m Feeling Lucky captures for the first time the unique, self-invented, culture of the world’s most transformative corporation. Welcome to the ‘Google Experience’.

Douglas Edwards spent six years in the Googleplex as Google’s first brand manager, and I’m Feeling Lucky is a rare insider’s account of the company’s birth pangs and its early years. He can personally vouch for the goodies.” Financial Times

“[An] extremely useful insider guide…Douglas Edwards…walks into the maelstrom of a start-up full of twenty-somethings where visitors genuinely wonder ‘who trashed the chairman’s office?’ “ Independent

Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science by Michael Brooks

Scientists present themselves as cool, logical and level-headed, but the truth is they will do anything: take drugs, steal, lie and even cheat – in the pursuit of new discoveries
For more than a century, science has cultivated a sober public image for itself. But the truth is very different: many of our most successful scientists have more in common with libertines than librarians. This thrilling exploration of some of the greatest breakthroughs in science reveals the extreme lengths some scientists go to in order to make their theories public. Inspiration can come from the most unorthodox of places: Nobel laureates sometimes get their ideas through drugs, dreams and hallucinations. Science is a highly competitive and ruthless discipline, and only its most determined and passionate practitioners make headlines – and history. That’s why fraud, suppressing evidence and unethical or reckless PR games are sometimes necessary to bring the best and most brilliant discoveries to the world’s attention. In science, anything goes.

A salutary reminder that scientists are as human and fallible as anyone else.” Steve Jones, Daily Telegraph

Fun to read…Brooks capers through the exploits of scores of brilliant and often ruthless rogues.” Financial Times

Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things by Professor Steven Connor

From combs and keys to sweets and handkerchiefs, certain objects, though seemingly mundane, can have a magical quality, and an often surprising power to arouse, absorb, disturb, or soothe. Take bags, for example. Why do most women carry handbags, while men rely on pockets? Why do so many houses have bags of bags? And why do we ‘let the cat out the bag’ or ‘give someone the sack’? What significance do our bags hold for us? Imaginatively and entertainingly, Steven Connor embarks on a historical, philosophical and linguistic journey that explores our relationships with the curious things with which we have a forgotten but daily intimacy.
A unique, quirky and fascinating exploration of the stories and meanings behind the everyday objects that shape our lives.

Recommended… Readers will enjoy the ‘eroticism of rubber’, the fascination of pop-smoking, and the joy of fidgeting.” New Statesman

A writer who can seemingly conjure the profoundest insights out of the most minute or mundane topics.” Guardian

Urbane, witty and seductive…challenging and often enchanting.” Independent

Blood Brotherhoods: The Rise of the Italian Mafias by John Dickie

Blood Brotherhoods is the enthralling new history of Italian organised crime by the author of the international bestseller Cosa Nostra.

Mafia. Camorra. ‘Ndrangheta. The Sicilian mafia, or Cosa Nostra, is far from being Italy’s only dangerous criminal fraternity. The south of the country hosts two other major mafias: the camorra, from Naples and its hinterland; and the ‘ndrangheta, the mafia from the poor and isolated region of Calabria that has now risen to become the most powerful mob of all.

Each of these brotherhoods has its own methods, its own dark rituals, its own style of ferocity and corruption. Their early history is little known; indeed some of it has been entirely shrouded in myth and silence until now.

Blood Brotherhoods is a book of breathtaking ambition, charting the birth and rise of all three of Italy’s mafias. It blends ground-breaking archival research, passionate narrative, and shrewd historical analysis to bring Italy’s unique ‘criminal ecosystem’, and the three terrifying criminal brotherhoods that evolved within it, to life on the page.

Both fine social history and hair-raising true crime, this account of the Italian underworld clans tells a grimly fascinating tale.” Independent

Beauty and the Inferno by Roberto Saviano

Roberto Saviano is best known as the author of Gomorrah, his exposé of the Camorra mafia of Naples which became an award-winning international film and a bestseller throughout Europe. The writings collected in Beauty and the Inferno trace the rich and varied path of this formidably courageous investigative journalist, and tackle universal themes with exceptional insight and humanity, with urgency, and often with anger.
He writes about the legacy of the earthquake at L’Aquila, a town at risk of coming under mafia control, and about a mother who for twenty years had to look upon the face of her son’s assassin before she finally won justice. His essay on the football star Lionel Messi describes how his greatest battle has been waged against his own body. He writes about the graphic novelist Frank Miller, and about Michael Herr’s Dispatches. He shares a platform at the Nobel Academy with Salman Rushdie, a fellow victim of threats to his literary freedom. One essay is a tribute to the legendary South African jazz singer, Miriam Makeba, who died in Italy after a concert she gave to highlight mafia violence, and in another he reflects on the aftermath of the publication of Gomorrah and how his life has been conditioned by death threats. The final essay in the collection celebrates the life and work of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, murdered because there was no other way of silencing her.

Beauty and the Inferno encompasses Saviano’s vision of life and of art, of the good to be found in humanity and the evil inherent in power. Above all his commitment to truth resonates from ever page.

Roberto Saviano writes for La Repubblica as well as many newspapers around the world. After the success of Gomorrah, he received several serious death threats that obliged the Italian government to provide him with 24-hour protection. He has been living in hiding since 2006.

It is good to be reminded of the raw bravery of the Savianos of this world and to salute them for sacrifices they have made in their challenges to power.” Guardian.

Its tone is angry and urgent…the essays in Beauty and the Inferno are in some sense a celebration of bravery and an expression of rage against corruption and cowardice… Saviano appears to be on a crusade to educate and galvanize Italy.” TLS

Local Interest

From Robben Island to Bishop’s Court: The Biography of Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane by Sindiwe Magona

This riveting biography by Sindiwe Magona traces the life and times of Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane from his time of incarceration on Robben Island to his ascension to the post of Archbishop of the Anglican Church in South Africa.
Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane may not have held the international stage like previous Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but he occupies a pivotal place in the history of South Africa. As a childhood friend of Chris Hani and inspired by the thinking of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, he became a political activist in the liberation struggle against apartheid. Preceding Nelson Mandela to Robben Island, he was in fact one of the prisoners responsible for building Madiba’s prison cell. Once released from ‘the island’ he became a champion of the poor and oppressed – speaking out against segregation, fighting for the rights of HIV positive people, and acknowledging the equal role of women in society.
On becoming Archbishop of Cape Town he succeeded Desmond Tutu and was responsible for continuing the implementation of change within the Church. During his eleven year residence in Bishopscourt, Archbishop Njongo, as he was affectionately known, was a bridge-builder linking divergent views and a catalyst for change.
Based on interviews and written by the wonderful Sindiwe Magona, this is an important addition to the canton of South African history.

Opinion Pieces by South African Thought Leaders edited by Max du Preez

This timely collection, compiled and edited by veteran journalist and political commentator Max du Preez, contains critical reflections on various aspects of contemporary South African society. Each contributor is a significant voice in their area of commentary and is well positioned to explore the complexities of the topic under analysis. The resulting pieces offer insights that will engage all readers interested in understanding and addressing the myriad of challenges we face in South Africa.

Topics in the collection include:
• State of the nation – Njabulo Ndebele
• Identity (race, ethnicity and class) – Neville Alexander
• Environment (climate change and sustainability) – Leonie Joubert
• Governance (skills, capacity and service delivery) – James Myburgh
• Judiciary and the constitution – Carmel Rickard
• Crime and violence – Antony Altbeker
• Education – Jonathan Jansen
• Healthcare – Kerry Cullinan and Anso Thom

Bush War: Road to Cuito Cuanavale by Gennady Shubin

For almost fifteen years South Africa was involved in a civil war in Angola – the so-called Bush War – on behalf of the UNITA faction. The climax of this conflict was the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, the largest military engagement on African soil since the Second World War. Here South African forces fought with Angolan FAPLA troops and their Cuban allies in a battle whose outcome is still hotly debated.
Thousands of South African conscripts took part in the Bush War and their stories are beginning to be told. What is far less recorded is the view from the other side. This book provides, for the first time in English, first-hand, personal accounts of the conflict, leading up to Cuito Cuanavale, as told by Soviet advisers to the Angolan army. Their experience of the war and their views and assessment of their South African enemies as well as their Cuban and Angolan allies will surprise and fascinate readers and offer new insights into the conflict.

Table Mountain Classics by Tony Lourens

Table Mountain is undoubtedly one of the natural wonders of the world. It is a mountain that is endowed with a rich history and offers the explorer unsurpassed adventures almost always accompanied by wide breathtaking vistas.
This book describes some of the best walks, scrambles and moderate rock climbs Table Mountain has to offer and takes you to the most remarkable and memorable places. Scattered throughout the book are also many mythical and historical tales on the building of the reservoirs, early visitors, climbing history, fauna & flora, Van Hunks and the Devil and many more.
Whether you are a visitor to the beautiful Cape Peninsula seeking a once-off classic experience on Table Mountain, a local who wants to explore the best Table Mountain has to offer and yearns to tick off some of the great classics, or someone interested in the myths and legends and the rich history that surrounds this unique and special mountain, this is a book that should grace your bookshelf.

For the young and the young at heart

A World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky

In this riveting exploration of the world of fish, bestselling author Mark Kurlansky explains (with the help of graphic novelist Frank Stockton) why all of the world’s fish could be gone in fifty years, and what this generation of kids can do about it. World Without Fish issues a call to action to kids ages 10 and up the next generation to inherit the earth by outlining what will happen within the next fifty years if the ill effects of over-fishing, pollution, and climate change aren t addressed soon. In clear language that kids will understand, Kurlansky gives a step-by-step account of what would happen if fish became extinct and then outlines a plan for remedying the situation. As a bonus, the book includes a fifteen-page graphic novel (each page is a chapter opener) that tells the fictional story of the daughter of a marine biologist who witnesses the slow extinction of the world s fish in her lifetime. An important book for young and old alike, highlighting a very real and imminent problem.

Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen

What a funny story about the Big Bad Wolf inside all of us. Little Rolf is a good wolf, he bakes cakes, helps around the house and generally does everything right. Then he finds out that not all wolves are good, in fact most are Bad. When he meets a Bad Wolf he get challenged on his true self and has to decide who he really is.

Nadia Shireen’s created a brilliantly funny story about our true character. Her illustrations are packed with wit and wonder and we think she her debut is worthy of many gold stars. If you liked the humour of Emily Gravett’s Odd Egg, you would love Good Little Wolf.

Something Beautiful

Fred Page: Ringmaster of the Imagination by Jeanne Wright

The book is written by Eastern Cape art biographer Jeanne Wright who was commissioned by Page’s attorney and friend Cecil Kerbel, the book is the first comprehensive compilation of the artist’s work. Much of the work portrayed in the book has been drawn from private collections and therefore is revealed for the first time. Previously, the only work which has been available to the public is held in some national galleries and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum in Port Elizabeth which holds all his memorabilia as well as a major collection of his work.
Page lived and worked for most of his life in Central, one of the oldest parts of Port Elizabeth. Using the buildings as a backdrop to a range of characters and narratives, he has documented with considerable accuracy, areas of the city’s architecture that reflect a specific time within the city’s history. Reclusive by nature, Page did not receive much publicity during his life time. His subject matter was obscure and unfashionable for many years and did not hold much appeal for the general public. However, his output has subsequently been recognised as an important and unique reflection of not only the South African city he lived in but also of an extraordinarily fertile and idiosyncratic imagination at work.

Fred Page is an artist who has come in from under the radar to surprise me, as an author, with the range and diversity of his material. He was uniquely South African and his passion for the city he chose to live in, revealed not only the imaginative world of his creative life as a painter, but also the poetic and fantastical side of life in Port Elizabeth as he perceived it,” says Jeanne Wright.

Sagmeister – Another Book about Promotion and Sales Material

Created to accompany an international travelling exhibition, Another Book about Promotion and Sales Material explores the work of one of the world’s most famous graphic designers – Stefan Sagmeister. Divided into four sections, and including case studies from ten years of graphic design, this book explores how Sagmeister creates greater awareness for corporations, his friends, his own work, and cultural events and products. Showcasing a wide range of work, from a Talking Heads boxed set, to print ads for Levis, to the wedding invitation for close friends, this books includes exclusive images from the studio archive and Sagmeister’s commentary on his work, which contains his characteristic wit and insight. The result is a funny, revealing, and intimate look at the cutting edge work of a graphic design master.
Stefan Sagmeister is one of the most influential graphic designers working today. Since 1993, Sagmeister Inc. has focused on all things printed. He lives in New York. Chantal Prod’Hom is the director of mudac (Museum of Design and Contemporary Applied Arts) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Martin Woodtli is an award-winning graphic designer. He lives in Zurich, Switzerland.

Beautiful Food

Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas from an Improbable Restaurant by Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint

This is a wonderful McSweeney’s publication. Mission Street Food is a restaurant. But it is also a charitable organisation, a taco truck, a burger stand, and a clubhouse for inventive cooks tucked inside an unassuming Chinese take-out place. In all its various incarnations, it upends traditional restaurant conventions, in search of moral and culinary satisfaction.
Like Mission Street Food itself, this book is more than one thing: it’s a cookbook featuring step-by-step photography and sly commentary, but it’s also the memoir of a madcap project that redefined the authors’ marriage and a city’s food scene. Along with stories and recipes, you’ll find an idealistic business plan, a cheeky manifesto, and thoughtful essays on issues ranging from food pantries to fried chicken. Plus, a comic.
Ultimately, Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas from an Improbable Restaurant presents an iconoclastic vision of cooking and eating in twenty-first century America.

French by Damien Pignolet

In a world where everything has to happen instantly, I am pleased to offer you a manual for cooking slowly and carefully. My hope is that my book will bring something of the traditional craft of French cooking to all who love to cook.”

A chef dedicated to the improvement and refinement of his craft, Damien Pignolet has made his name with immaculately prepared and simply presented food inspired by French classical and provincial cooking. Keen to pass on his knowledge of the techniques and methods he has honed over the years, he has devoted himself to writing this comprehensive collection of timeless French recipes. Here are essential recipes for everything from basic brown stock and foolproof mayonnaise to rustic country terrines and hearty braises, not to mention a tempting introduction to the magic of the pastry kitchen. While staying true to the French tradition, Damien takes prides in making sure his recipes are suited to home cooking in a domestic kitchen. His clear, unfussy instructions and friendly advice will give you the confidence to expand your culinary repertoire.
Complemented by Earl Carter’s beautifully rich and lavish photography, this is a cookbook both to be used and treasured.

Poetry Corner

The Tempest Prognosticator by Isobel Dixon

In The Tempest Prognosticator leeches warn of storms, whales blunder up the Thames, beetles tap out their courtship rituals, and women fall for deft cocktail makers and melancholy apes. With her keen eye and a gift for vividly capturing the natural world, Isobel Dixon entices the reader on a journey where the familiar is not always as it seems at first, where the sideways glance, the double take, yields rich rewards. From Cape Town to Nagasaki, the Congo to the Karoo, creatures real and surreal flit, and peck and spin fantastic webs across the page. In this finely-spun collection real-life explorers Robert Byron and Mary Kingsley have encounters both dangerous and humorous, we venture inside Alfred Hitchcock’s ominous Psycho house, and find Robinson Crusoe shipwrecked on the moon. Desire and loss are refracted through the writings of naturalist-poet Eugene Marais and Shakespeare, through the art of Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois and Henri Rousseau, through Pink Floyd’s music and Fred Astaire’s footwork, and with each page of this ‘ingenious carousel’ a poet’s vision of a world of art and nature emerges – stormy, celebratory, revelatory. This is a collection filled with ‘miracle and wonder’, wit and bite, a generous feast of words.

Isobel Dixon has been described by Clive James as being “born with the gift of lyricism as natural speech” and by J M Coetzee as “a poet confident in her mastery of her medium.” Her poems have appeared in publications like The Paris Review, The Guardian, Penguin’s Poems for Love and The Forward Book of Poetry.

Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins

However arresting, outlandish, or hilarious, the poems in Horoscopes for the Dead are typically prompted by the familiar things of the world: dogs, stars, food, love, and marriage as well as life’s local triumphs and disappointments, joys and shames. Collins’s gift is to unlock the mysterious in the ordinary, and he is always careful to take his reader with him. Indeed, no other living poet has done more to re-engage and revitalise poetry’s readership, or so deservedly earned its trust.
Few poets have his ability to mix bold, unadorned statements with lyric invention and imaginative richness. And here in these new poems, Collins’s inimitable tone – wry, smart, funny, and wise – takes on a darker shade, as the poems declare a deep awareness of transience and mortality. The result is the revelation of a world more precious, more fragile, richer in colour and form than ever.

Academic Corner

Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism by Laurie Penny

Modern culture is obsessed with controlling women’s bodies. Our societies are saturated with images of unreal, idealised female beauty whilst real female bodies and the women who inhabit them are alienated from their own personal and political potential. Under modern capitalism, women are both consumers and consumed: Meat Market offers strategies for resisting this gory cycle of consumption, exposing how the trade in female flesh extends into every part of women’s political selfhood. Touching on sexuality, prostitution, hunger, consumption, eating disorders, housework, transsexualism and the global trade in the signs and signifiers of femininity, Meat Market is a thin, bloody sliver of feminist dialectic, dissecting women’s bodies as the fleshy fulcrum of capitalist cannibalism.

University in Development by D Cooper

A seminal study, The University in Development explores how the university is indeed ‘in development’: pursuing a new third mission of external societal development (alongside its two existing missions of teaching and research), and experiencing a major internal revolution as this impacts on its structural organisation. Already prevalent in many institutions internationally, this third academic mission has begun to pose troubling challenges to existing academic research cultures and systems in South Africa.
Emerging from an extended study, The University in Development provides a powerful analysis of the complex nexus of transformation occurring between universities and the rapidly changing global society of which they form a part. Embedded within the book is a central theoretical claim: that driving this new international transformation within universities is a global post-1970s new capitalist industrial revolution, with economies seeking out use-inspired basic research at universities in order to survive and grow within the competitive international market. The analysis thus provides new understandings of current concepts of ‘globalisation’, ‘use-oriented’ research, ‘knowledge society and economy’, and ‘national system of innovation’.
The University in Development will be of interest to scholars in the fields of higher education, innovation studies and the sociology of knowledge, and is of critical relevance to policy-makers.

Open Book Author of the Month

Earl Lovelace

Novelist, playwright and short-story writer Earl Lovelace was born in Toco, Trinidad in 1935 and grew up in Tobago. He worked for the Trinidad Guardian, then for the Department of Forestry and later as an agricultural assistant for the Department of Agriculture, gaining an intimate knowledge of rural Trinidad that has informed much of his fiction.

He studied in the United States at Howard University, Washington (1966-7) and received his MA in English from Johns Hopkins University in 1974. In 1980 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent that year at the University of Iowa. After teaching at a number of other American universities, Lovelace returned to Trinidad in 1982, where he now lives and writes, teaching at the University of the West Indies.

His first novel, While Gods Are Falling, was published in 1965 and won the British Petroleum Independence Literary Award. It was followed by The Schoolmaster (1968), about the impact of the arrival of a new teacher in a remote community. His third novel, The Dragon Can’t Dance (1979), regarded by many critics as his best work, describes the rejuvenating effects of carnival on the inhabitants of a slum on the outskirts of Port of Spain. In The Wine of Astonishment (1982) he examines popular religion through the story of a member of the Baptist Church in a rural village. Salt, published in 1996, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book) in 1997. Set in Trinidad, the book explores the legacy of colonialism and slavery and the problems still faced by the country through the story of Alford George, a teacher turned politician.

His new novel, Is Just a Movie, is a study of political upheaval set in the remote Trinidadian (imaginary) village of Cascadu. The Guardian said “Lovelace is bursting with things to say about this complex, heterogeneous society in the late 20th century. This he does with a flair that at its best reaches a soaring rhapsody.

Happy reading!

Snappy Teeth Storytime

Saturday, August 27th 2011 at 11:00 AM

My what big teeth you have Mr Crocodile! Today we will read snappy tales of crocodiles and alligators. Nothing too scary, but definitely funny!

Join us with your best teethy grin … rumble…


Martin Legassick @ The Book Lounge

Thursday, August 25th 2011 at 5:30 PM

Martin Legassick Struggle for the Eastern Cape @ The Book Lounge

Professor Martin Legassick returns to The Book Lounge for the launch of his book The Struggle for the Eastern Cape1800-1854.

He will be in discussion with Professor Jeff Peires.


“Metal That Will Not Bend” @ Lobby Books

Thursday, August 25th 2011 at 5:30 PM

Metal that will not bend (NUMSA) by Kally Forrest @ Lobby BooksAt Lobby Books, 6 Spin Street

Author Kally Forrest will be joined on a panel by Tony Ehrenreich, Martin Jansen and Neil Coleman for the launch of this history of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa between 1980 and 1995.

The panel will be chaired by Terry Bell.

Please RSVP to either, or to 021 467 7606.


An interesting evening of cartooning at The Jewish Museum

Wednesday, August 24th 2011 at 6:48 PM

New writer wins oldest book prize

Monday, August 22nd 2011 at 4:58 PM

Debut novelist Tatjani Soli has been announced as the winner of Britain’s oldest book prize. American author Solu won the fiction prize for her first novel The Lotus Eaters, which is set in the final days of the Vietnam War.

The James Tait Black Memorial awards are given to one work of fiction and one work of biography each year.

Theatre critic Hilary Spurling claimed the biography prize for her book Burying the Bones: Pearl Buck in China..

Previous winners include Ian McEwan, Cormac McCarthy and A S Byatt.

The winners of the prizes – awarded annually by the University of Edinburgh – were announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

They are the only major British book awards judged by scholars and students of literature.

Also shortlisted for the £10,000 fiction prize this year were debut novelists Julie Orringer and Michael Nath, and acclaimed writer David Mitchell.

The biography shortlist included studies of Henry Ford by Greg Grandin, of EM Forster by Wendy Moffat and an autobiography by renowned Scottish author Alisdair Gray.

The James Tait Black Prizes were founded in 1919 by Janet Coats, the widow of publisher James Tait Black, to commemorate her husband’s love of books.

[This article first appeared on]

Celebrate Julia Donaldson with us at story time

Saturday, August 20th 2011 at 11:00 AM

Julia Donaldson, author of most loved books such as The Gruffalo and the Snail and the Whale has recently been made the Children’s Laureate for 2011 – 2013. This is a great honour for an author and they get two years to promote reading to children.

As she lives a bit far away, we thought the best we can do is read some of her stories especially her new one called Jack and the Flumflum Tree which is simply brilliant and already a new favourite. Join us for a morning of Julia Donaldson classics.


2012 Moleskine Diaries now in!!

Friday, August 19th 2011 at 2:05 PM

Get them while they’re hot!

Ingrid de Kok launches new poetry collection

Thursday, August 18th 2011 at 5:30 PM