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Paddington Bear author Michael Bond dies aged 91

28 June, by Jamie Grierson and Mark Sweney[ —]

Author’s latest story featuring marmalade-loving bear from Peru was published in April

Michael Bond, the creator of the beloved children’s character Paddington Bear, has died at 91.

Bond published his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, about the marmalade-loving bear from Peru, in 1958.

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A General Theory of Oblivion review – a new perspective on Angola

https://www.theguardian.com/books/fiction-in-translationplay episode download
28 June, by Claire Kohda Hazelton[ —]
José Eduardo Agualusa’s prize-winning novel shows us Angolan independence through the eyes of a woman who has barricaded herself into her apartment

Based on a true story, Angolan author Agualusa’s beautifully sprawling and poetic novel, translated by Daniel Hahn, about a Portuguese woman who walls herself into her apartment in Angola just before independence in 1975 has now won the International Dublin Literary award. Snippets of diary entries – sometimes meditative, at other times paranoid and unhinged – interrupt an economical third-person narrative that follows Ludovica’s day-to-day survivalist life, during which she lures pigeons into traps using diamonds, grows vegetables on her terrace and makes bonfires in her kitchen. Through the windows and walls, she glimpses and hears life in the changing city outside (“a distant planet”); through her squinting eyes, we observe the country’s formative years. The book extends far beyond its political setting, however. When Agualusa describes a trauma in Ludovica’s past, he suggests parallels between her agoraphobia and Angola’s colonisation by Portugal. In Angola’s independence and the end of the civil war, we see hope of freedom for Ludovica, from traumatic memories and her fear of people.

A General Theory of Oblivion is published by Vintage. To order a copy for £7.64 (RRP £8.99) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

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One-off £1.6m boost for libraries leaves long-term future in question

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

Seven library organisations are to receive four-year Arts Council England grants, against a backdrop of continuing cuts in local government support

Campaigners have given a cautious welcome to new Arts Council England (ACE) support for short-term public library projects, but questioned whether the money will have any long-term impact on the beleaguered services.

Seven library organisations are to receive a total of £1.6m as part of ACE’s four-year National Portfolio Organisation programme, announced on Tuesday. They range from projects in Cambridgeshire, Devon and Nottinghamshire to funding for the Society of Chief Librarians. It is the first time libraries have been included in the programme, which invests £409m of public and national lottery money a year in 831 arts and culture organisations in England.

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Top 10 Shakespearean stories in modern fiction

28 June, by Edward Docx[ —]

Countless books have the Bard’s dramas at their core. From Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk to Withnail and I, here are some of the best

Some years ago, I went to see a production of King Lear and read a theory in the programme that he married twice. Regan and Goneril were the children of his first marriage – so the production proposed – but the younger daughter, Cordelia, on whom Lear so dementedly doted, was the child of his second wife and the love of his life. I have no idea if this thesis has any credence in academic circles but the thought stayed with me.

And so, when I came to write my new novel, Let Go My Hand, I decided to blend this idea with my story plan. Or, rather, to play with it a little; to make the three daughters into three sons and to narrate from the point of view of the youngest. This seemed like a way to revivify the relationships between four such characters; to refigure the complex emotional geometries of fraternity, paternity and filiality.

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Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human by Vybarr Cregan-Reid – review

28 June, by PD Smith[ —]

Why running transforms us, reconnecting us with our bodies and the natural world

While running barefoot on Peckham Rye in London, Cregan-Reid passed a boy who turned to his mother and asked: “What’s that man running away from?” Although he quipped in reply “old age!”, he realised the question was a good one and the search for an answer inspired this book. Humans evolved to become one of the best running animals on the planet and he notes that “a good runner basically needs a palaeolithic body”. That means overcoming the malign effect of sitting on chairs all day and wearing shoes. He only runs barefoot a third of the time yet Cregan-Reid clearly rates the experience highly: “Bare feet can help us feel what it is like to be in the world.” For while he cites countless examples of how it is good for our health, ultimately Cregan-Reid sees running as a profoundly transformative experience, reconnecting us with our bodies and with the natural world. Overflowing with ideas from science and philosophy, rich in literary allusions and filled with evocative descriptions of the landscapes he has run through, this is a wonderfully subtle and ambitious book.

Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human is published by Ebury. To order a copy for £7.64 (RRP £8.99) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99.

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Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy review – the children are missing

28 June, by Julie Myerson[ —]
This Central American thriller with plenty of pace and excitement is let down by a lack of heart

Three well-heeled families are on holiday in Central America when all of their children go missing. It’s an arresting premise for Maile Meloy’s new novel and, as everything I’ve read by her has been notable for its energy, wit and fearless emotional precision, I was intrigued to see what she would do with it.

Liv and Nora, thirtysomething cousins from LA, book themselves, husbands and kids onto a two-week cruise down the coast of Mexico and Central America. Once on board, they hook up with another family, wealthy Argentinians with two long-limbed, sporty teenagers. When the husbands go golfing for the day, the mothers take all six kids, aged six to 15, on an excursion. “This is a good country for us to go ashore in,” Liv says. “They call it the Switzerland of Latin America.”

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The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu by Charlie English – review

https://www.theguardian.com/books/travel-writingplay episode download
28 June, by William Dalrymple[ —]
This exemplary work tells a remarkable story of the saving of precious manuscripts and explores the meanings of the ‘African Eldorado’, but exposes a myth

In April 2012, the jihadist army of the Saharan branch of al-Qaida drove a fleet of their armoured pick-up trucks into the centre of the ancient caravan town of Timbuktu in northern Mali. As black flags were hoisted atop the minarets, and as trapped and terrified government conscripts scrambled out of their uniforms, the jihadists began imposing their own puritanical interpretation of sharia law. Music was forbidden, modest clothing was forced on the women, stoning was imposed as a punishment for adultery and a war declared on “unIslamic superstition”.

Related: Jihadists return to northern Mali a year after French intervention

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Ian Gibb obituary

https://www.theguardian.com/books/librariesplay episode download
27 June, by Andrew Phillips[ —]

My friend and colleague Ian Gibb, who has died aged 91, played a key role in ensuring that the British Museum Library (BML) became a fully fledged part of the new British Library (BL).

Born in Eastbourne, East Sussex, and raised in London, he was the son of John Gibb, an engineering draughtsman, and his wife, Mary (nee Owen), who worked in a bank. On leaving Latymer Upper school, Hammersmith, he studied French and German at University College London, and after six years working in UCL’s library, he became deputy librarian of the National Central Library, an interlending agency supporting public and academic libraries.

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Reading group webchat: post your questions for John Kennedy Toole's biographer

https://www.theguardian.com/books/biographyplay episode download
27 June, by Sam Jordison[ —]

Cory MacLauchlin will be here at 1pm (BST) on Friday 30 June to discuss Butterfly in the Typewriter, his life of A Confederacy of Dunces’s author

On Friday 30 June at 1pm (BST), Cory MacLauchlin will be joining us to discuss his biography of John Kennedy Toole, Butterfly in the Typewriter.

His book tells a story almost as fantastical as A Confederacy of Dunces. It’s a compelling and sympathetic portrait of Toole’s larger than life personality, his complicated relationship with his mother, his fantastic academic ability, his bright bursts of creativity, his tragic death and then the posthumous success of his novel. It’s also an important corrective to many of the myths that have grown up since Toole’s death about his private life and his initial failure to find a publisher.

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OED serves up volley of new definitions from tennis

27 June, by Danuta Kean[ —]

The dictionary’s latest online update has added a clutch of ‘new’ terms describing the game, some dating back to the 16th century

Tennis lovers will have more than the quality of their champagne and strawberries to contemplate between matches at Wimbledon this year. The game is the source of more than 80 new words and senses, the bulk of the new definitions added to the Oxford English Dictionary in its latest online update.

Some well-known terms make their debut in the venerable reference work, including “superbrat” (players prone to on-court outbursts), “changeover” (a pause in a match when players swap ends of the court) and “forced error” (a mistake in play generated by an opponent’s skill).

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