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A Year in Provence, 20 years on

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/literary-tripsplay episode download
19 January, by John Crace[ —]
When Peter Mayle moved to rural France, he intended to write a novel – not a bestselling memoir. Two decades and several imitations later, he is still living the dream

Its only mention on publication in 1989 was a brief aside in Campaign. And that was more a nod to Peter Mayle's former career as creative director of advertising agency BBDO. The trade magazine even managed to get the basics wrong, calling his new book a novel. Even a year later, when A Year in Provence was published in paperback, the Times was the only newspaper that bothered to grace it with a review. A shortish one at that.

As far as the books pages were concerned, travel writing was the high-brow preserve of Bruce Chatwin, Freya Stark, Wilfred Thesiger and Prince Charles's favourite guru, Laurens van der Post. All else was froth, and Mayle the frothiest of the lot – an adman who'd made a few bucks with the mildly racy Wicked Willie cartoon books and upped sticks for France.

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'They raped every German female from eight to 80'

18 January, by Antony Beevor[ —]
Antony Beevor, author of the acclaimed new book about the fall of Berlin, on a massive war crime committed by the victorious Red Army.

"Red Army soldiers don't believe in 'individual liaisons' with German women," wrote the playwright Zakhar Agranenko in his diary when serving as an officer of marine infantry in East Prussia. "Nine, ten, twelve men at a time - they rape them on a collective basis."

The Soviet armies advancing into East Prussia in January 1945, in huge, long columns, were an extraordinary mixture of modern and medieval: tank troops in padded black helmets, Cossack cavalrymen on shaggy mounts with loot strapped to the saddle, lend-lease Studebakers and Dodges towing light field guns, and then a second echelon in horse-drawn carts. The variety of character among the soldiers was almost as great as that of their military equipment. There were freebooters who drank and raped quite shamelessly, and there were idealistic, austere communists and members of the intelligentsia appalled by such behaviour.

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Waterstones' annual profits jump 80% as buyers loom

18 January, by Zoe Wood[ —]

Bookseller reports pre-tax profits of £18m, with sale expected to value business at £200m

Waterstones has reported an 80% jump in annual profits, with the bookseller predicting an even brighter future just six years after the rise of the ebook threatened its existence.

Sales in 2017 had been buoyed by the success of children’s books by David Walliams as well as JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Non-book items such greetings cards, stationery and educational toys have proved a success with browsers and now account for 10% of turnover.

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The best recent crime novels – review roundup

18 January, by Laura Wilson[ —]
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld; Dark Pines by Will Dean; Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes; Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan; The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

Set in the snowy mountain forests of Oregon, The Child Finder (W&N, £12.99) is the second novel from bestselling American author Rene Denfeld. Naomi, the eponymous investigator, is asked to track down eight-year-old Madison Culver, who disappeared three years earlier during a trip to cut down a Christmas tree and is generally assumed to have frozen to death. Single-minded Naomi – herself once a missing child, now with only vague memories to help her solve the mystery of her origins – is determined to find Madison, come what may. The narrative alternates between Naomi’s search and Madison’s experience of being locked in the cave-like cellar of a remote cabin. Her coping mechanism is to reinvent herself as “the snow girl”, putting herself into a fairytale to deal with the trauma of being wrenched from her family by a predatory stranger she knows only as “B”. Given the subject matter, Denfeld’s lyrical writing can, on occasion, be discomforting, but the sense of physical and psychological isolation is palpable in this moving exploration of loss, hope and human resilience.

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John Lithgow show prompts surge in demand for out-of-print anthology

18 January, by Alison Flood[ —]

In Stories By Heart, the actor reads from 1939 volume edited by W Somerset Maugham, which has set off a spike in demand from online shoppers

The actor John Lithgow has prompted a surge of interest in an out-of-print book of short stories first published in 1939, after featuring it in his new Broadway show.

Stories By Heart sees Lithgow read aloud, and then act out, tales from British author W Somerset Maugham’s 1939 anthology Tellers of Tales. The book has been out of print for decades – hardcover copies are currently listed online for anywhere between £400 in the UK and more than $1,000 (£720) in the US – but used bookseller Abebooks has reported it has been inundated with demand for the title this week, selling all of the 24 copies it had listed in just the last seven days, for between $8 and $120.

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Alternative ending discovered to book behind Eyes Wide Shut

18 January, by Philip Oltermann[ —]

Academics find early draft of scene from Schnitzler’s Dream Story in which doctor is punished for attending masked ball orgy

It was one of the most risque passages in European fiction when it was published in 1925, and still flushed cheeks when Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise starred in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation at the turn of the millennium.

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DC is not kidding around with Hanna-Barbera reworkings for adults

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tv-and-radioplay episode download
18 January, by David Barnett[ —]

If recasting Snagglepuss as a gay playwright in the 50s or putting Wacky Races in a Mad Max-esque fight sounds unlikely, it’s only the latest – suprisingly successful – reinvention from the comics giant

Heavens to Murgatroyd! Who could have thought that Snagglepuss, that bright pink mountain lion beloved of Saturday morning cartoon shows would one day be reimagined as a gay playwright in the 1950s in a serious, adult comic book? Or, for that matter, that such a reinvention would work?

DC Comics has embarked on the curious little experiment and, in Hanna-Barbera Beyond, given old characters a contemporary makeover. The scheme has seen Wacky Raceland drop Dick Dastardly, the Anthill Mob and the rest into a Mad Max-esque fight for survival in a postapocalyptic wasteland; the Flintstones remade into a satirical poke at the American Dream and Scooby-Doo rebooted as a “smart dog” with an implant that allows him rudimentary communication skills in a near-future where a paranormal Armageddon has unleashed the undead on the world.

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Elena Ferrante to become Guardian Weekend's new columnist

https://www.theguardian.com/books/fiction-in-translationplay episode download
18 January, by Sian Cain[ —]

Author of bestselling Neapolitan novels says she was keen to test herself with the ‘bold, anxious exercise’ of writing regular pieces for the magazine

Elena Ferrante, the bestselling Italian novelist of the highly acclaimed Neapolitan series, is to write her first ever regular newspaper column, in the Guardian.

The pseudonymous author’s return to writing, a year after an investigative journalist controversially claimed to have revealed her real identity, will be welcomed by fans anxious to see her next move. Ferrante has always said that her anonymity was important to her work, freeing her from the “anxiety of notoriety”.

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Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado review – powerful debut collection

18 January, by Justine Jordan[ —]
Horror, science fiction and fairytale merge in these short stories from a writer of rare daring

“How much to get that extra stitch?” the narrator’s husband asks in the labour room as his wife is sewn up after a difficult birth. “You offer that, right?” “The husband stitch” – the term for an extra stitch to tighten the vaginal opening when repairing an episiotomy – is considered a dark joke from the battlefield of birth, but has been attested to as part of the violence visited on women’s bodies during labour. It’s also the title of the standout story in Carmen Maria Machado’s debut collection, a finalist in last year’s US National Book awards: a tense, seductive fairytale about rumour and silence, sex and power, autonomy and being ignored.

The narrator begins as a bold girl in the tradition of Angela Carter: “This isn’t how things are done, but this is how I am going to do them ... It is not normal that a girl teaches her boy, but I am only showing him what I want, what plays on the inside of my eyelids as I fall asleep.” She takes this young man as her husband, offering him her whole self – all except the mystery of what lies beneath the green ribbon tied in a bow around her throat. “Why do you want to hide it from me?” he asks. “I’m not hiding it,” she replies. “It just isn’t yours.” The ribbon becomes a locus for desire, aggression, control; their child had accepted it as part of his mother, but when he sees the father’s angry attempts to pull at the ends must also be warned away. “Something is lost between us, and I never find it again.” There is only one possible ending: just as Chekhov’s gun must be fired, this ribbon must eventually be untied.

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12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson review – a self-help book from a culture warrior

18 January, by Hari Kunzru[ —]
The psychologist and internet celebrity with contentious views on gender, political correctness, good and evil, offers hectoring advice on how to live

The Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan B Peterson has, in recent years, become an internet celebrity, producing a slew of videos and interviews on all manner of political and social topics. He is acerbic, combative and openly contemptuous of his opponents, particularly Marxists and “Postmodernists”, for whom he harbours a special animus. He is an enthusiastic and prolific culture warrior, who has no truck with “white privilege”, “cultural appropriation” and a range of other ideas associated with social justice movements. His reluctance to call transgender people by their preferred pronouns (unless they ask him to) has earned him a reputation as a transphobe, and while his views have marginalised him within the academic community, they have bolstered his reputation in conservative circles.

Related: You are only ever as happy as your unhappiest child

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