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JK Rowling's new thriller takes No 1 spot amid transphobia row

https://www.theguardian.com/society/transgenderplay episode download
23 septembre, par Alison Flood[ —]

Troubled Blood, written as Robert Galbraith, has faced criticism for including a killer who dresses in women’s clothes, but has recorded strong first-week sales

JK Rowling’s new Robert Galbraith thriller Troubled Blood sold almost 65,000 copies in just five days last week, amid widespread criticism of the author’s decision to include a serial killer who dresses in women’s clothing in the novel.

The latest Cormoran Strike novel, in which Rowling’s private detectives investigate the disappearance of a female GP decades earlier, was published last Tuesday. An early review in the Telegraph called one of the novel’s murder suspects, Dennis Creed, a “transvestite serial killer”, and asked “what critics of Rowling’s stance on trans issues will make of a book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress”. This sparked further accusations of transphobia against the author, after her previous comments about trans people, with the hashtag #RIPJKRowling trending on Twitter and incitements to burn the novel. Rowling did not comment on the controversy around Creed, other than to say that he was loosely based on two real-life murderers.

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Top 10 books about social media | Matthew Sperling

23 septembre, par Matthew Sperling[ —]

In fiction and in fact, these books trace how in less than 15 years, billions of people have given up a good deal of their waking life to Web 2.0

Has anything ever caused a faster transformation in our practices of living than social media? Fifteen years ago, it barely existed; today, it occupies a large portion of the waking consciousness of a few billion people. It has touched all aspects of life: for many people, their most intimate conceptions of themselves, their relations to other people, their political commitments, and their sexuality – as well as their basic livelihoods – are now tangled up in the loose cluster of phenomena known as Web 2.0.

“In the destructive element immerse,” urged Joseph Conrad in 1900. My new novel, Viral, plunges into the world of social media’s makers, at a decadent mid-stage in its short history: the moment in the mid-2010s when the possibilities of social as a vast advertising platform started to be harnessed in a new way. Before that, the platforms tried to downplay the fact that they were advertising companies; the marketing happened in the gaps between the user content, just an annoying sidebar. Now there is no division: the user content is the marketing content, and “social-first” is a far more powerful tool for brand promotion than traditional advertising. In Viral, I imagine a crew of half-credulous, half-cynical, mainly British ex-pats in Berlin in 2015, riding the first wave of social media marketing, and finding that it leads them into unexpected waters.

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Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh review – a dark fable about free will

23 septembre, par Aida Edemariam[ —]

Female privacy, emotion and choice are the ultimate rebellion in the follow-up to the Booker-longlisted The Water Cure

There is great power, Sophie Mackintosh has discovered, in taking a familiar thing –so familiar that we no longer see it clearly – moving it to a place slightly adjacent to our world, then bringing it into closer and closer focus until we can see nothing else. In her first, Booker-longlisted novel, The Water Cure, it was a family, three girls and their parents, alone in a grand house on an unnamed coast, with white walls and swimming pools cracking under relentless sunshine. Only like this, argued the parents, could the girls be protected from the toxic air elsewhere; anywhere, specifically, where men might live. In her new novel, the isolation of the house has been expanded to include an entire unnamed country where, when their periods begin, girls are given either a white ticket, because they are required to have children, or a blue ticket and an implant, meaning that they never will. The two groups of girls are then separated from each other, and usually never see each other again.

In this authoritarian, patriarchal world only things that are seen close up – a dress, a drink, the boot of a car, the locket containing a ticket that every woman must wear, and above all the female body with all its layers of perception, physical, mental and emotional – are detailed. Everything else is vague; this is a dreamworld, centred on a kind of vivid, claustrophobic myopia surrounded by an undifferentiated cruelty. Mackintosh’s prose matches her method: often beautiful and otherworldly, violent and tender, reverberating into the darkness. Allegory can work like this, and myth, and fairytale, though one or two moments when Mackintosh self-consciously summons the tropes of the latter can be a little too obvious – as when Calla, a blue-ticket woman who has decided that she wants a baby so much she will risk everything, finds herself on the run and in a dark wood, in a house with a little old woman wielding instruments of life and death.

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Sweet Dreams by Dylan Jones review – the story of the New Romantics

https://www.theguardian.com/music/duranduranplay episode download
23 septembre, par Alexis Petridis[ —]

From Elizabethans to Hollywood vamps, Duran Duran to Spandau Ballet … how a teenage style cult became a 1980s pop phenomenon that speaks to today

In 1979, Mick Jagger turned up at the Blitz club in London, home to an extravagant new youth cult. You can see why his interest was piqued – stories had just reached the press of a shabby Covent Garden wine bar playing host to a crowd of art students, ex-punks and Bowie obsessives, caked in makeup and dressed as Elizabethans, Hollywood vamps, pirates, priests and all points inbetween. But Jagger never got to see them first-hand.

The exact reason the club’s teenage host Steve Strange turned him away isn’t clear (two different versions of the story appear in Dylan Jones’s mammoth oral history of the Blitz, its patrons and their impact on popular culture; more are available online). But evidently the Rolling Stones’ frontman didn’t meet Strange’s criteria that only “creative-minded pioneers” should be admitted. Off into the night Jagger went, presumably wondering exactly how a 19-year-old, recently relocated to London from his native Caerphilly had suddenly ended up the arbiter of what was and wasn’t cool.

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Milan Kundera 'joyfully' accepts Czech Republic's Franz Kafka prize

https://www.theguardian.com/books/fiction-in-translationplay episode download
22 septembre, par Alison Flood[ —]

Prestigious award follows the restoration of his citizenship last year after decades of exile in Paris

Milan Kundera, whose Czech citizenship was restored last year after he had spent more than 40 years in exile, has won one of the Czech Republic’s most prestigious literary awards, the Franz Kafka prize.

The $10,000 (£7,800) award, organised by the Franz Kafka Society and the city of Prague, is chosen by an international jury. Franz Kafka Society chairman Vladimír Železný said Kundera won for his “extraordinary contribution to Czech culture”, and for an “unmissable response” in European and world culture.

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The Age of Innocence is a gang story as brutal as Goodfellas

22 septembre, par Sam Jordison[ —]

Some were surprised when Martin Scorsese filmed Edith Wharton’s novel, but its milieu is governed by codes of tribal loyalty as lethal as in any mob

Even in 1993, it seemed surprising that Martin Scorsese should direct an adaptation of The Age of Innocence. Why was the director of bloody and furious classics such as Taxi Driver and Raging Bull taking on this story of decorum and reserve in New York high society? When the film came out, critic Roger Ebert wrote that the pairing had “struck many people as astonishing – as surprising, say, as if Abel Ferrara had announced a film by Henry James”.

But Edith Wharton’s great novel has more in common with Scorsese’s work, especially Mean Streets and Goodfellas, than might be supposed. Most obviously, it’s about gangs: their unspoken rules, their codes of honour, and their structures of power. Wharton’s society, with the formidable Van der Luydens “above all of them”, is as tough as they come. Transgressors against its strict honour code are punished without mercy. Scorsese told Ebert:

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Rhianna Pratchett: 'Dad would be smiling to see my name on a book'

https://www.theguardian.com/books/terrypratchettplay episode download
22 septembre, par Alison Flood[ —]

The game designer shares her father Terry’s love of fantasy, but expected to leave writing fiction to him. She talks about writing a Fighting Fantasy book and adapting Discworld

If there is one, teeny tiny upside for Rhianna Pratchett in the fact that her father is no longer around, it’s that she doesn’t have to hear what he thinks about her first novel.

“Obviously, it goes without saying that I wish he was still here,” says Rhianna. Her father, Discworld author Terry Pratchett, died in 2015. “But the tiniest silver lining is that he would have had lots of opinions about what I was doing right and wrong, and I think it would have been probably even more nerve-racking to have him read it.”

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Young adult books round-up – review

22 septembre, par Fiona Noble[ —]

Ancient legends, fairytales and real-life injustice inform the latest crop of fiction for teenagers

Alex Wheatle won the Guardian children’s fiction prize for Crongton Knights, his chronicle of life on a fictional London council estate. Now, his first work of historical fiction for teenagers proves to be every bit as compelling and relevant. Cane Warriors (Andersen Press, £12.99) is the story of a real-life slave rebellion in 18th-century Jamaica, seen through the eyes of 14-year-old Moa. Giving voice to characters seldom heard in British children’s books, this is an important, powerful novel about hope, freedom and brotherhood.

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (HarperCollins, £7.99) takes the story of Salaam’s wrongful conviction as one of the “Central Park Five” as the starting point for a searing fictional story of racial injustice in contemporary America. Alam Shahid, 16, is a promising art student until the night he is accused of assaulting a white boy. His trial and subsequent incarceration expose the devastating impact of systemic racism in a taut, non-linear verse novel with the potential to resonate in the same way as The Hate U Give.

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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman; The Diver and the Lover by Jeremy Vine – review

22 septembre, par Tim Adams[ —]

A retirement village in Kent and 50s Catalonia provide the backdrops for two popular TV hosts’ very different debut novels

In a recent YouGov survey concerning British TV celebrities, Richard Osman emerged as the ninth most popular telly personality – the words most often used to describe him were “likable, clever, quick-witted and charming”. Fans of Osman were, the survey suggested, most likely also to admire Dawn French, Judi Dench and appliances made by Russell Hobbs. All of which data no doubt helps to make Viking Penguin, the publisher of Osman’s first novel, comfortable with its decision to invest a “seven-figure advance” in a two-book deal, safe in the knowledge that the Pointless co-presenter is well on the way to national treasure status.

The Thursday Murder Club might double as a final application for that accolade. The club of the book’s title meets every week in the jigsaw room at Coopers Chase, a superior gated retirement village in rural Kent; the puzzle the members attempt to solve, however, is not the “two thousand piecer of Whitstable harbour” left unfinished on the coffee table, but rather one of several cold murder cases brought to their attention by Penny, a resident in the village and a former police inspector. What follows threatens to become the Famous Five in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, or a Midsomer murder for a whole gang of Miss Marples. Could there be a more seductive pitch to the readers of middle England (or to the producers of Sunday evening drama)?

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

21 septembre, par 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 blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from the last week.

Let’s start with a beauty. Theothebook has been reading JL Carr’s A Month in the Country:

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