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Andrew Motion, one the poet’s two literary executors, draws on and quotes extensively from a huge amount of previously unpublished material – poems, letters, stories and unfinished novels – to set Larkin's work in context while charting the complex course of his life.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 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 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.
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.
A Study of Sexual Imagination
Drawn from Western erotic literature this compilation of readings, with commentary, aims to bring into the open sometimes quite shocking sex fantasies (‘psychological stimulants underlying “normal” sexual behaviour’) and thereby reduce sexual anxieties. First published in 1969. Off-mint. Sexually explicit.
Chaos and Cosmos
Literary Roots of Modern Ecology in the British Nineteenth Century
Studying prose and poetry from the Romantic and Victorian eras alongside recent ecological writings, Heidi Scott discusses how the 19th-century literary concepts of chaos and microcosm have been adopted into ecology’s scientific epistemology.
The Brontë Cabinet
Three Lives in Nine Objects
A series of everyday objects preserved at the Brontë parsonage in Haworth provides the entry-point for this exploration of the sisters’ lives and writing. The tiny notebooks in which they inscribed their juvenile literary efforts; their sewing box; the walking sticks they used when striding the moors; Charlotte’s portable desk, her passionate letters to her married lover, and the bracelet containing locks of Emily and Anne’s hair, testimony to her grief after her sisters’ deaths. Off-mint.
The World Broke in Two
Virginia Woolf, TS Eliot, DH Lawrence, EM Forster and the Year That Changed Literature
The beginning of 1922 found the four subjects of this study troubled by self-doubt, money worries, relationship difficulties and the intellectual challenge posed by James Joyce’s Ulysses. Investigating their friendships and rivalries, the book looks at their creative regeneration in works such as Eliot’s The Waste Land, Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Forster’s Passage to India and Lawrence’s important if underrated Kangaroo – works now recognized as landmarks of literary modernism.
An Uncommon Reader
A Life of Edward Garnett
‘Edward Garnett,’ wrote EM Forster, ‘occupies a unique position in the literary history of our age.’ Confidant and critic of DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad and John Galsworthy, Garnett was both feared and admired. This biography explores his often stormy relations with the writers he championed; his wife Constance, the translator who introduced Tolstoy to English readers; and his son David, writer and key member of the Bloomsbury Group.
The Reluctant Rebel
The author of Gulliver’s Travels was a man of complex character – a libertarian struggling with conservative beliefs, a church minister with complicated personal relationships, and a satirist who scorned the world yet sought to improve it. This biography follows his flight from war-torn Ireland in 1688 to the splendour and squalor of London, examining his shifting political allegiances and complicated love life to identify the roots of the ‘savage indignation’ that drove him.
St. Oswald of Northumbria
The medieval German legend of St Oswald differs significantly from Bede’s version, with the introduction of ahistorical elements and a bridal-quest narrative. This study traces the continental story’s development, revealing the significance of the Icelandic Oswald’s Saga, the full text of which is included.
Since receiving a terminal diagnosis of leukaemia in 2010, Clive James has produced an extraordinary late harvest of poetry and prose. In this collection of essays, he looks back with characteristic wit, humour and perception on a lifetime’s reading, offering his unique insights into writers from Conrad, Hemingway and Larkin to VS Naipaul and WG Sebald. Woven throughout these literary ruminations, moreover, is a thoughtful and moving reflection on life and death.
Saints' Lives in the Old Icelandic Kings' Sagas
Using Bakhtinian theoretical concepts, this study examines how generic conventions are brought into dialogue in the Old Icelandic sagas’ biographies of royal saints. This approach reveals hagiography’s role in saga’s origins and illuminates the depiction of rulers as conforming only sometimes to saintly ideals.
The DIY Revolution
Access to photocopiers gave a boost to the DIY publishing industry in the 1970s, generating hundreds of home-made punky fanzines. This volume reproduces 750 covers and pages from hundreds of underground publications, including famous examples such as Riot Grrrl and Sniffin’ Glue, and traces their evolution through the e-zines of the 1990s and the special interest titles of the 2000s to the contemporary scene.
Anglo-Saxon England and the Continent
Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, Volume 394
Originating at an International Society of Anglo-Saxonists conference, these 17 papers examine aspects of Anglo-Saxon England’s close interaction with continental Europe, including the Danish origins of the Beowulf story, early medieval travel between England and Italy, and the correspondence of Aethelweard and Matilda, abbess of Essen.