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Anthony Burgess webchat with biographer Andrew Biswell – post your questions now

28 March, by Guardian Staff[ —]

Ahead of a live webchat on Friday 31 March at 1pm, leave questions for a writer who knows where the facts end and fiction begins in the novelist’s enigmatic life

Anthony Burgess’s biographer Andrew Biswell will be joining us for a live Q&A at 1pm on Friday 31 March.

The Real Life of Anthony Burgess is a fascinating, detailed and forgiving portrait of a brilliant and unusual man. One made all the more interesting because part of Biswell’s job has been to gently unpick the stories Burgess told about himself in his novels and his own volumes of autobiography. Alas, we learn that Burgess may not have been chased down the street by his doctor in Malaya, the four-minute mile hero Roger Bannister. But his love of gin, cigarettes, travel and literature ensure he remains an engaging and intriguing subject. Not to mention the fact that he was generally ready and able to cause controversy, consternation and confusion as well as delight and enlightenment.

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Walter Scott prize for historical fiction unveils 2017 shortlist

https://www.theguardian.com/books/grahamswiftplay episode download
28 March, by Danuta Kean[ —]

Judges hail vintage year as major authors including Sebastian Barry and Rose Tremain contend alongside unfamiliar names for £25,000 honour

Sebastian Barry and Francis Spufford are to replay their battle for the Costa book of the year award after both were shortlisted for the 2017 Walter Scott prize for historical fiction. The two feature on a shortlist that pits high-profile authors against virtual unknowns in what the judges described as one of the best years they have seen for the £25,000 award.

Related: Sebastian Barry on his Costa-winning novel Days Without End – books podcast

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Decline and Fall on TV – would Evelyn Waugh have approved?

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tv-and-radioplay episode download
28 March, by DJ Taylor[ —]

The prospect of a new BBC adaptation of Decline and Fall, starring Jack Whitehall and Eva Longoria, is stirring mixed feelings – will Waugh’s wit be sold short once again?

The new BBC1 adaptation of Decline and Fall, with Jack Whitehall as Paul Pennyfeather and Eva Longoria as Margot Beste-Chetwynde, has already stirred the usual mixed emotions among Evelyn Waugh fans. On the one hand, warm satisfaction at the prospect of a 20th-century classic brought to a TV channel otherwise graced by Mrs Brown’s Boys; on the other, a faint but congenital wariness, born of the fact that so many dramatisations of the Waugh oeuvre have defied the best intentions of director and cast alike to produce films that, for all their enthusiasm, have sold their onlie begetter woefully short.

Waugh, it turns out, had the same mixed feelings about adaptations. His early novels – notably Vile Bodies (1930), with its tantalising dialogue and artful cross-cuts – display a moviegoer’s relish for cinematic techniques. But by mid-career, Hollywood’s designs on the bestselling Brideshead Revisited (1945) had plunged him into gloom: Christopher Sykes, his first biographer, records an anguished conversation from early 1947 in which, having advised his friend not to worry about the end product and settle for cash over cachet, Sykes received a terrific lecture to the effect that: “You have no notion of what these people might want to do with my book.”

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Robots v experts: are any human professions safe from automation?

28 March, by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind[ —]

Technology already outperforms humans in many areas, but surely we would never accept machines as teachers, doctors or judges? Don’t be so sure

The main themes of our book, The Future of the Professions, can be put simply: machines are becoming increasingly capable and so are taking on more and more tasks.

Many of these tasks were once the exclusive preserve of human professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. While new tasks will certainly emerge in years to come, it is probable that machines will, over time, take on many of these as well. In the 2020s, we say, this will not mean unemployment, but rather a need for widespread retraining and redeployment. In the long run though, we find it hard to avoid the conclusion that there will be a steady decline in the need for traditional professional workers.

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The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop (illustrated by Ashley King) – review

28 March, by Sarah Donaldson[ —]

Bishop’s tale of an 11-year-old detective-cum-worrier is a charming hymn to the imaginative power of books

Earlier this month, a video did the rounds on Facebook demonstrating dispiriting facts about gender and children’s books. Such as: 25% of kids’ titles don’t have any female characters at all; of those that do only half have female characters who speak. Simply baffling, at the very least because girls grow up to be more avid readers of fiction than boys.

There are no such shortcomings in The Bookshop Girl, Sylvia Bishop’s follow-up to her well-received 2016 debut, Erica’s Elephant. The protagonist, 11-year-old Property Jones (so-called because she was adopted after turning up as lost property in a secondhand bookshop run by Netty and her brainy son Michael), is by turns detective, comic, action hero and worrier.

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Man Booker International prize and Dorthe Nors – books podcast

https://www.theguardian.com/books/fiction-in-translationplay episode download
28 March, by Presented by Richard Lea and Claire Armitstead. Produced by Susannah Tresilian.[ —]

This week’s podcast heads abroad as we look at the longlist for this year’s Man Booker International prize and speak to longlisted author Dorthe Nors about her novel Mirror, Shoulder, Signal

Subscribe and review: iTunes, Soundcloud, Audioboom, Mixcloud & Acast and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

This week’s podcast heads off around the globe as we cast our eye down the longlist for this year’s Man Booker International prize. One of the judges, Daniel Hahn, joins us in the studio to introduce the writers on the list and to explore what it tells us about publishing around the world.

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Collecting Sticks by Joe Decie review – a singular, funny take on glamping

28 March, by Rachel Cooke[ —]
Rain, boredom and jigsaws – a graphic novel for everyone scarred by childhood camping holidays

How you feel about Collecting Sticks, a graphic novel by Joe Decie, is likely to depend on your relationship with camping. Tent and Primus stove fanatics may want to give it a miss; ditto enthusiastic Scout leaders, and those who even in middle age ache inside at the merest thought of Glastonbury. But if you’re still scarred by camping holidays you endured as a kid – I know I am – then this singular, funny book is for you. The rain, the boredom, the tinned beans: why anyone in their right mind prefers a night on a damp groundsheet to one in their own bed is completely beyond me.

Not that a damp groundsheet has a starring role here. In Collecting Sticks, Joe and Steph and their Star Wars-obsessed son Sam head off to the woods for a weekend of “glamping” (so-called glamorous camping), having booked a cabin somewhere near the Essex coast which comes with real beds, a fire pit, and a wood burning stove (Steph long ago vowed never to camp properly again). It sounds, they agree, idyllic, and so it should be given that it costs more than a hotel. But alas, emergency microwave or not, it’s still camping. The loo is a hole in the ground, everything tastes and stinks of smoke, and once darkness falls, the only option is to head to bed for an early night. By way of fun, they spend one evening slowly chucking the remaining pieces of an old jigsaw into the wood-burning stove.

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The retreats where famous authors found inspiration – in pictures

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/barack-obamaplay episode download
27 March, by Sarah Gilbert[ —]

Former president Barack Obama is to journey to the South Pacific island of Tetiaroa, once owned by Marlon Brando, to write his memoir. Here’s a look at where other famous authors found the inspiration to write

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Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?

27 March, by Guardian readers and Sam Jordison[ —]

Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blog, and our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

I know that this is kind of the point of our whole enterprise here, but I still love the way Tips, Links and Suggestions makes me find out about things that I would entirely miss otherwise. This recommendation from from JamesLibTech is a case in point:

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Poem of the week: Low Tide at St Andrews by Emily Pauline Johnson

27 March, by Carol Rumens[ —]

The half-English, half-First Nation Canadian translated the Romantic tradition into a beguilingly low key in this reflection on a coastal scene

Low Tide at St Andrews
(New Brunswick)

The long red flats stretch open to the sky,
Breathing their moisture on the August air.
The seaweeds cling with flesh-like fingers where
The rocks give shelter that the sands deny;
And wrapped in all her summer harmonies
St Andrews sleeps beside her sleeping seas.

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