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Gender pay gap figures reveal big publishing's great divide

23 March, by Alison Flood[ —]

The UK’s biggest publishers release figures showing average differences in pay between men and women ranging from 11.3% to 29.69%

The books industry may be dominated by women, but men are reaping the rewards, as the UK’s largest publishers reveal a “stark” divide in pay.

Figures reported to the government equalities office from Penguin Random House, Hachette UK and HarperCollins reveal that while women make up almost two thirds of the workforce, on average men are paid more.

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David Mitchell meets David Peace: ‘I’ve slowed down. I can’t believe I published eight books in 10 years’

play episode
23 March, by Guardian Staff[ —]

Fifteen years after they made it on to Granta’s best young British novelists list, the two authors discuss self doubt, obsessions and making a home abroad

David Mitchell: To begin, I’d like to float the observation that every author has a limited bundle of archetypal themes – sometimes as few as one. Writers don’t choose these themes as much as inherit them from the patterns of our lives, and even if we try to expel them from a work in progress, they tend to burrow their way back in. Does this sound familiar? One such theme your new book Patient X: The Case Book of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa has in common with everything in that “by the same author” list is mental breakdown, extrapolated to the short-story writer Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s Technicolor insanity. Would you agree that this is one of your archetypal themes and, if so, can you speculate as to why?

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Money in the Morgue by Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy review – Inspector Alleyn returns

23 March, by Sophie Hannah[ —]
This skilfully completed ‘continuation novel’, set in a New Zealand hospital, is an exquisite reminder of the brilliance of Marsh’s London detective

Money in the Morgue is a particular kind of crime novel: a traditional golden age-style crime novel that also falls into the subgenre of “continuation novel”, written by Stella Duffy and featuring Ngaio Marsh’s beloved detective, Inspector Roderick Alleyn of the Metropolitan Police.

Marsh wrote 32 novels featuring Alleyn, including A Man Lay Dead (1934), Surfeit of Lampreys (1941) and Death and the Dancing Footman (1942). These and other novels earned her a reputation as one of the four golden age crime queens, alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers and Margery Allingham. Although these writers are often lumped together, they were very different in their approaches. Christie put the puzzle and psychology first, whereas Marsh focused on weaving a mystery around carefully detailed and lovingly realised settings, and the intricacies of characters’ interpersonal dynamics.

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The 100 greatest novels of all time: The list

23 March, by Robert McCrum[ —]
From Don Quixote to American Pastoral, take a look at the 100 greatest novels of all time

The 100 greatest non-fiction books

The 2015 version of the 100 best novels

1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
The story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza has entranced readers for centuries.
• Harold Bloom on Don Quixote – the first modern novel

2. Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan
The one with the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair.
• Robert McCrum's 100 best novels: The Pilgrim's Progress

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Hanif Kureishi: ‘I haven’t read anything by Jane Austen. My shame is big’

23 March, by Hanif Kureishi[ —]

The author on the underrated Georges Simenon, re-reading Jean Rhys and laughing at PG Wodehouse

The book I am currently reading
The Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra. He uses Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals to help understand why everyone is so pissed off these days. He has a good theory, the Nietzschean idea of resentment – the fury of people who are excluded – and uses this to talk about radical Islam and Brexit. You could also apply it to Trump.

The book that changed my life
James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. As a teenager from a mixed race background, I struggled with issues of race and identity and Baldwin had related all this to the race politics of his day. It gave me ideas of what I might write.

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Among the Living and the Dead by Inara Verzemnieks review – a memoir of the bloodlands

https://www.theguardian.com/books/biographyplay episode download
23 March, by Sarah Ditum[ —]

An American writer uncovers the remarkable story of her Latvian grandparents, as their homeland is conquered by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union

The map of Europe was shaped in the 20th century by complicity and disappearance. Mass murders. Expulsions. Colonisation. Countries vanished; whole peoples exterminated and displaced. For Europeans, this is the story of our continent, although rarely the version of the story we choose to say out loud. For Inara Verzemnieks, as the granddaughter of Latvian refugees who settled in the US, it’s the story of her family. Among the Living and the Dead is her effort to recover that family history – splintered as it is by war, migration, shame and loss – and put the unspeakable into words.

It is, like all attempted redemptions, both partial and painful. Renowned for her journalism in the Oregonian newspaper, she begins as any reporter should: by going to the scene, in this case the family farm in Latvia. Here, “the door to the little house opens, and I see my grandmother. Of course, by this time, my grandmother, the woman who raised me, has been dead for almost five years.” The occupant of the farm is in fact Ausma, sister of Verzemnieks’s grandmother Livija, and it’s an early lesson that will be repeated again and again. Time telescopes, and memory seduces; but whatever you’re trying to get back to is always already gone.

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Dead Men’s Trousers by Irvine Welsh review – the Trainspotting gang party on

https://www.theguardian.com/books/trainspottingplay episode download
23 March, by Sam Leith[ —]

Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy and Spud are back in this wildly farcical story of revenge, sentimentality and psychedelic drugs

At a newspaper I used to work for, the story was told of a foreign correspondent dictating his report down the line to the copytakers. He rolled on, through paragraph after paragraph of purplish prose about the horrors of war, until he was, eventually, interrupted by the woman at the other end of the phone. She asked in a matter-of-fact voice: “Is there much more of this stuff, dear?”

Irvine Welsh is that kind of author. There is a lot of this stuff, and the quality-control lever is wobbly. He has never been a careful writer. At his best, he manages a sort of ragged glory, a life-affirming comic energy combined with a sense of horror or desperation and the ability to place his lowlife shenanigans in a wider thematic or social context. In a different gear, though, he is just a black-hearted farceur.

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What can we learn about our wellbeing from memoirs of ill health?

https://www.theguardian.com/books/biographyplay episode download
23 March, by Nick Duerden[ —]

Simon Gray, Christopher Hitchens, Joan Didion ... some of the most vivid memoirs have been accounts of illness. But what can they teach us about being well?

I was in my late 30s, and still comparatively fighting fit, when I first came across Simon Gray’s exquisite The Smoking Diaries, which catalogued the eminently fatal damage this thrilling curmudgeon was doing to his lungs with cigarettes. If we read to know that we are not alone, I can hardly fathom why his book so resonated with my younger, nicotine-free self, but the writing was wonderful. Likewise, when I read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, her devastating account of how she coped after her husband’s death, my own spouse was, and remains at the time of going to press, very much alive.

I should like to point out that I consider myself possessed of a fairly upbeat disposition towards life. I do not suffer from depression, and sustain near-manageable levels of neuroses. But if, say, Christopher Hitchens writes about his own impending mortality in a manner so typically reluctant to pull punches that he titles it Mortality, I’m in. I don’t think I read a more involving book last year than Decca Aitkenhead’s desperately sad All at Sea, and AA Gill’s final column, on his “full English” of cancers, took my breath away.

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The Overstory by Richard Powers review – the wisdom of trees

23 March, by Benjamin Markovits[ —]

This tangled epic about diverse lives is rooted in environmental principles

In The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell complains that “artists of any consequence can never be persuaded into the Socialist fold … Nearly everything describable as Socialist literature is dull, tasteless, and bad.” He calls this fact “disastrous”. He goes on to say that “the high-water mark, so to speak, of Socialist Literature, is WH Auden, a sort of gutless Kipling, and the even feebler poets who are associated with him” – trying to kill two perfectly good birds with one slightly childish stone.

Regardless of what we think of Auden, Orwell has a point. Any political view, no matter how useful or right, that can’t persuade artists to make good art out of it, has real problems. It’s a kind of litmus test for the health of a worldview – to measure the art it produces. These days he might have been tempted to apply it to environmentalism. Of course, there’s a long tradition of what might be called “environmental” writing. The Romantics believed in the rehabilitating powers of nature, but there was always a streak of escapism that undermined their political seriousness. The real point of nature was to go out in it and have a feeling; it was a necessary luxury of the poetic classes. As Keats once wrote: “Scenery is fine – but human nature is finer.”

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Book claims Prince Charles is a capricious spendthrift obsessed with public opinion

https://www.theguardian.com/books/biographyplay episode download
23 March, by Alison Flood[ —]

Tom Bower’s unauthorised biography, Rebel Prince, reveals discontented future king who says his life is ‘utter hell’

An unauthorised new biography of Prince Charles paints a picture of a capricious man who is obsessed with the public’s opinion of him, whose lavish spending reveals a royal utterly divorced from the life of ordinary people.

According to Tom Bower’s Rebel Prince, published on Thursday by William Collins, Charles once “shrieked” and “trembled” at the sight of an unknown plastic substance covering his dinner, only to be told “It’s cling film, darling,” by Camilla. On another occasion, Bower claims the prince brought his own mattress, toilet seat, Kleenex Velvet toilet paper and two “landscapes of the Scottish Highlands” when visiting a friend in north-east England.

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