A Writer's Life
Philip Larkin (1922–1985) was the ‘unofficial Poet Laureate’ whose approachable poems about ordinary life won popularity if not laurels: at his memorial service in 1986, Westminster Abbey was filled to overflowing with his admirers. In this authorized biography, Andrew Motion, one the poet’s two literary executors, draws on and quotes extensively from a huge amount of previously unpublished material – poems, letters, stories and unfinished novels – to set Larkin's work in context while charting the complex course of his life.
The Trip to Echo Spring
On Writers and Drinking
Having grown up in an alcoholic family, Olivia Laing felt drawn to investigate the link between drink and creativity through the lives and work of six great American authors: F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver. In a journey across the USA that is both exploratory and redemptive, she asks whether writing and addiction are fuelled by the same inner dissatisfaction, and contemplates the possibility of recovery.
A History of Despots Through Their Writing
From Mein Kampf to Mao’s Little Red Book, dictators have often sought to expound their ideology in print, while some have even turned their hand to creative writing. Starting with the Big Five of 20th-century tyranny – Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao – this study also examines the memoirs of Enver Hoxha, the poetry of Serb warlords, the historical fiction of Saddam Hussein and the speeches of Fidel Castro to provide a chilling insight into the despotic mindset.
Singing the New Song
Literacy and Liturgy in Late Medieval England
Starting with the medieval institution of the ‘song school’, Katherine Zieman presents a study of 14th- and early 15th-century liturgical practice and its relationship to literacy. Where many scholars have related increased literacy during this period to writing practices, Zieman focuses on the reading and singing of written liturgy, and argues that the performance of sacred texts played a vital role in learning and literacy.
The Portable Renaissance Reader
During the 15th and 16th centuries Europe rediscovered the ancient world and underwent a revolution in scientific knowledge. This classic anthology brings together selections from a range of Renaissance texts illustrating ‘characteristic tendencies, themes and seminal forms of the self-expression of the age’. It features the words of more than 100 writers including scientists and scholars (Erasmus, Copernicus), poets and artists (Petrarch, Michelangelo), and prelates and saints (Pius II, Teresa of Avila). Slightly off-mint and felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
The Best Minds of My Generation
A Literary History of the Beats
The poet Allen Ginsberg was a central figure in the ‘Beat Generation’ that revolutionized American literature in the 1950s. In the 1970s, he undertook a series of lectures on its history. Collected here, they form a discursive and revelatory first-hand account of the movement. Alongside Ginsberg’s thoughts on sex, politics, poetry and jazz are intimate portraits of the writers Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Neal Cassady. Slightly off-mint.
The Essential Essays, 1968–2002
James’s commentaries on 20th-century culture include reactions to WH Auden’s death, the media response to Germaine Greer’s writing and his thoughts on MGM musicals. This collection, originally published as As of This Writing, contains 49 essays, with postscripts penned in 2003 reflecting upon his earlier views.
Cambridge Companion to European Modernism
Contributors to this study of Modernist literature were asked to consider what ‘this cosmopolitan movement in the arts can teach us about life as a citizen of Europe and of the world’. The 15 essays examine Modernism within national and regional literatures – including studies of the former Habsburg Empire and pre-revolutionary Russia – but also discuss the movement across borders of ideas and forms and of writers such as Rilke, Joyce, Svevo and Maiakovskii. Off-mint.
The Spirit of Self-Help
A Life of Samuel Smiles
A worldwide sensation following its publication in 1859, Smiles’ Self-Help still influences our thinking about ‘the search for happiness’ in everyday life. This first biography of the man behind a modern phenomenon draws on his many other writings to trace how his ideas developed throughout his long life. It provides insights into the Victorians’ responses to their fast-changing world but also highlights the relevance of Smiles’ perspectives to today’s pressing questions about progress and freedom.
The Pocket Essential Guide to Fiction, Film and TV
Identifying Ellis Peters’ Cadfael books as a starting point for a huge expansion in the writing of historical crime, this review of the genre profiles key writers, novels, TV programmes and films, and includes a number of interviews with authors.
A Father, a Son and an Epic
When Mendelsohn was preparing to teach an undergraduate seminar on Homer’s Odyssey his 81-year-old father asked to join the classes. In this combination of memoir and literary criticism, the two men explore the epic together and take a Mediterranean cruise to follow in Odysseus’ footsteps. Through the ancient poem’s timeless themes the classicist and retired research scientist come to know each other better and gradually uncover long-buried secrets about their own family relationships.
Memories of a Meltdown
An Egyptian Between Moscow and Chernobyl
Mohamed Makhzangi was an Egyptian doctor studying in Kiev in April 1986 when the nuclear reactor exploded at Chernobyl, just 85 kilometres away. This book is his literary response, as an exile, to the tragedy of radiation and lies that befell the Soviet people.
When They Go Low, We Go High
Speeches that Shaped the World – and Why We Need Them
An experienced speechwriter for politicians including Tony Blair, Philip Collins explains how the right words, at the right time, can change the world. His analysis of 25 great speeches, by Pericles, Lincoln, Emmeline Pankhurst, Churchill, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and others, demonstrates how oratory can shape national identity, give voice to the people, and establish peace in place of war. In an age of fake news and populism, he argues, attention to how democratic ideas are expressed is more important than ever.
The Unauthorised Life
Ted Hughes (1930–1998) was one of the 20th century's greatest writers, the poet of The Hawk in the Rain, Lupercal and Crow, but also a children's storyteller, translator, critic, letter writer and the husband of Sylvia Plath. In this biography, Bates draws on the complete archive of writings that Hughes left for posterity, exploring the mental landscape it reveals to give the full story of the poet's life as it was lived, remembered and shaped in his art.
Letters to the Lady Upstairs
Mme Marie Williams, the wife of an American dentist, lived in the apartment directly above Marcel Proust’s in 102 Boulevard Haussmann and, despite their proximity, Proust and Mme Williams wrote to one another. Proust’s were often about the noise, yet always exquisitely expressed and often accompanied by flowers; the 23 letters are presented here with a foreword by Jean-Yves Tadié. Translated, with an afterword, by Lydia Davis.
Epitaph for the Ash
In Search of Recovery and Renewal
Alarmed by the appearance in the UK of Ash Dieback, Lisa Samson travels the length of these islands to assess the seriousness of the threat to a much-loved tree, and the measures taken by environmentalists to ensure its survival. When she is diagnosed with a brain tumour and faces life-changing surgery, the fate of the ash becomes a mirror of her own.
White Boy Running
Having been raised in an Irish family in South Africa, the poet-novelist Christopher Hope grew up with a deep insight into apartheid. He returned to the country, after twelve years’ absence, during the 1987 whites-only election. Recalling a childhood road trip (as a white boy running through the landscape) he gives an objective account of the historic grievances of both Afrikaners and the black townships.
The Divine Comedy
Inferno Purgatorio Paradiso
All three books of Dante’s Divine Comedy, narrating the poet’s journey through the circles of ‘Inferno’ and climbing the mountain of ‘Purgatorio’ to the earthly ‘Paradiso’, are presented here in the classic 1867 verse translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with illustrations by Gustave Doré.
The Whole Art of Detection
Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes
Lyndsay Faye, a lifelong fan and author of Dust and Shadows (in which Sherlock pursues Jack the Ripper), presents fifteen new stories featuring the classic sleuth, recreating Conan Doyle's style while delving deeper into the psychology of Holmes and Watson. Slightly off-mint.
Rakes, Highwaymen, and Pirates
The Making of the Modern Gentlemen in the Eighteenth Century
Discussing the masculine characters in literary works by writers including Richardson, Boswell, John Gay and Rochester, this study explores the emergence of the polite English gentleman during the 18th century and argues that the history of this archetype of modern masculinity is inseparable from that of its outlaw contemporaries, the rake, the highwayman and the pirate. Off-mint.