When you hear that now ubiquitous phrase “I find that offensive”, you know you’re being told to shut up. While the terrible murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists demonstrated that those who offend can face the most brutal form of censorship; there’s a broader threatening climate where we all have to walk on eggshells to avoid saying anything offensive – or else. Competitive offence-claiming is ratcheting up well beyond religious sensibilities. So, while Islamists and feminists may seem to have little in common, they are both united in demanding retribution in the form of bans, penalties and censorship of those who hurt their feelings. Undoubtedly, these cris de coeur are genuine. Young Muslims crying out in horror at offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad really do seem to feel the slight personally. And so do young women who seem individually distraught by pictures of scantily clad models in lads’ magazines. But just how did we become so thin-skinned? The latest title in the Provocations series from Biteback, I Find That Offensive is a call to toughen up! This thought-provoking title blames three culprits: official multiculturalism’s relativistic conflation of tolerance with positive ‘recognition’; narcissistic identity politics that proclaims the personal is political; and, finally, therapeutic educational interventions such as anti-bullying campaigns, through which the young are taught that psychological harm is interchangeable with physical violence. Clare Fox argues that it’s high time we become more robust and made a virtue of the right to be offensive. This is a forthright and provocative essay that will demand attention and add fuel to a controversial debate. Its author is a high profile writer, broadcaster and commentator on social affairs. I Find That Offensive by Claire Fox (hb, 978 1849549813, £10.00) is published in the by Biteback in March. You can find out more about it here.
Here’s Stephen Fry’s famous and funny riff on the whole “I find that offensive” debate – and if you’ve got that #Friday Feeling that you’d actually quite like to watch something offensive – then try this ten min set from comedian Frankie Boyle!
The debate on whether certain books are offensive or not is, of course, nothing new – the latest title to raise hackles in the
has been a children’s title which appears to show “happy slaves” baking a cake
for George Washington. One commentator blasted “It’s like Anne and Otto
Frank baking cookies for Adolf Hitler on Christmas.” US
Have a look here to see what all the fuss is about!
Congratulations to Pluto Press and their author David Balzer, whose book Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World Took Over the Art World and Everything Else (978 0745335971, pb, £9.99) has just won the ICA Bookshop’s Book of the Year 2015 prize, on a shortlist spanning art criticism and biography to current affairs and poetry. Curationism explores the cult of curation, where it began, how it came to dominate museums and galleries, and how it has permeated popular culture at the turn of the millennium as the dominant mode of organising and giving value to content. Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be? wrote “Balzer writes with zest, scepticism and sly humour as he tracks the rise of the "star curator" as marking the end of any possible avant-garde. Curationism is a memorable exploration that will change how you see so many daily activities. I loved this brilliant book.”
The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai is a novel that the BBC described as “Powerful and beautifully written … an incredibly courageous book”. It begins with six year-old Shivan, boarded up in his grandmother’s mansion in
While civil unrest brews outside, Shivan stands helpless as she sidelines his
mother and sister and evicts vulnerable families from their homes. Unwilling to
carry the burden of her expectations, Shivan escapes to the West. Yet ghosts
will follow you across continents. As the years pass, and his sexuality
gradually comes to light, events spiral out of control and threaten to separate
Shivan from his family once and for all. The Hungry
Ghosts is an exquisite tale of differences and how they can tear
apart both a country and the heart – not just once, but many times, until the
ghosts are freed. This is a haunting and captivating story set between Sri Lanka Sri Lanka and which was longlisted for the
DSC Prize for South Asian Literature,
and which Tan Twan Eng called “An unsettling and moving account of a family”
and which other reviewers have described as “ravishing” and “haunting”.
Shyam Selvadurai was born in Canada Colombo, Sri Lanka,
in 1965, and moved to
with his family at the age of nineteen. His other works include Funny Boy,
shortlisted for the Giller Prize and
winner of the Books in Canada First Novel Award.
The Hungry Ghosts (pb, 978 1846592003,
£8.99) is published by Telegram in March and you can
find out more here. Canada
Now that Alan Rickman has sadly left us, J.K. Rowling has revealed that he was one of the very few people to know in advance just a little more about how the Harry Potter series was going to end! Back in 2011, Rickman wrote “She gave me one left of field piece of information that helped me think that Snape was more complicated and that the story was not going to be as straight down the line as everybody thought. If you remember when I did the first film she’d only written three or four books, so nobody knew where it was really going except her. And it was important for her that I know something, but she only gave me a tiny piece of information which helped me think it was a more ambiguous route.” However, following the late actor’s death, J.K. Rowling finally revealed this week via Twitter that what that “tiny piece of information” actually was! Have a look here on Buzzfeed to see what she said!
Steve Wright in the Afternoon is one of the biggest shows on radio – his Radio 2 slot gets an audience of over 15 million. Good news then that in February a Hay House author, Lynne McTaggart will guest on the show, talking about What Doctors Don’t Tell You: Heart Disease. This title claims that there is no good evidence showing that cholesterol leads to clogged arteries, the standard method of measuring blood pressure is flawed and that bypass surgery can leave patients worse off than before. Steve Wright is a great promoter of books claiming to improve your health – and this title makes more sense than most, so make sure you stock it.
There is also a new title from Lynne McTaggart coming in May: What Doctors Don’t Tell You: Arthritis; Drug Free Alternatives to Prevent and Relieve the Condition (pb, £9.99, 978 1781803387). Conventional medicine finds it very hard to deal with arthritis; it is one of the most common diseases associated with old age, and one of the biggest causes of disability at any time of life. But other than help suppress the pain and inflammation and replace joints there is little doctors can do. This book supplies a wide array of possibilities that can help to relieve pain, improve movement, and even reverse the problem. What Doctors Don’t Tell You: Heart Disease (pb, £9.99 9781781803363) is available now, and you can find out more about What Doctors Don't tell you: Arthritis here.
Literary Festivals – a great chance for authors to let their hair down, mingle with their appreciative fans and drinks bucketloads of cheap white wine – OR a stressful and taxing day’s work for which they should be handsomely rewarded? The question of whether writers should be paid for attending events rumbles on, with the Oxford Literary Festival and Philip Pullman wading into the debate – you can read all about it in the Guardian here!
"I photographed the moment of my husband's death." So begins Hold Still, a nerve-twisting thriller that promises to be Murder on the Orient Express for the Snapchat generation. Hold Still is a contemporary Hitchcockian thriller about a woman who photographs the moment of her husband’s death, only to suspect that everybody else in the photo is somehow involved in his murder. As she investigates further and begins to uncover the truth the world she thought she knew I completely torn apart. This is a bona-fide page turner, with one action scene and plot twist after another, and features a strong, fearless heroine at its heart. It has an arresting cover, as we’d expect from Urbane and its author Tim Adler is an editor on the Daily Telegraph, who has also written for the Times, so there should be plenty of publicity and reviews. Tim’s two previous thrillers, Slow Bleed and Surrogate, were no1 in the crime kindle charts on Amazon, and his non fiction titles have been bestsellers. His previous book Hollywood and the Mob was Book of the Week in the Mail On Sunday and the Sunday Times called Adler’s most recent nonfiction book The House of Redgrave “compulsively readable”. This new one looks equally gripping! Hold Still by Tim Adler (pb, 978 1910692691, £7.99) is published by Urbane in March and you can find out more about it here
You can read a really interesting interview with Mathew Smith, the founder and owner of Urbane Publications on the popular blog Never Imitate here. Plenty of food for thought – including his comment “don’t get me wrong, I’d be thrilled to have a title that sells tens of thousands – but we must keep pushing to publish the new, the bold, the different, the challenging, because that is the lifeblood and the future of publishing.” We couldn’t agree more Mathew – and I’m sure all you indie booksellers out there do too!
Have you got a degree? Do you think you need a degree to be a bookseller? Or work in publishing in any capacity? Well, the MD of Compass hasn’t got one – and now Penguin are ditching their degree requirement too; you can read more on that story here.
Its film awards season and 45 Years has been nominated for lots; including one for Charlotte Rampling who has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for in the Academy Awards on 28th Feb – there are also plenty of BAFTA nominations. As you will know, 45 Years is based on a fantastic short story entitled In Another Country by David Constantine, which is published by Comma Press in an anthology of stories. The book has a great film tie-in cover – please make sure you’ve got plenty of stock as it is a terrific book in its own right, and will definitely sell on the back of all the film publicity. Here's a full list of all the awards the film has won so far – and all the nominations. 45 Years, and Other Stories (pb, £9.99, 978 1905583768) by David Constantine is available now.
The Scottish Book Trust wrote this week that “reading a great book is like watching a film in your own head. Watching an actual movie based on the book you enjoyed watching in your own head can be a mixed bag. The images on screen often fail to live up to the ones our imaginations painted on the walls of our minds. Regardless, 95% of us still get wildly excited when we hear that one of our favourite books is to become a movie. It's a strange paradox.”
They have given us this great list of (with lots of links to the trailers) of twenty one book-to-film adaptation to watch out for in 2016 – lots to look forward to – and hopefully lots more books to sell!
While we’re on the subject of films – let’s end with a bit of music. Here is MOJO’s Top Ten movie soundtracks – and here are their Top Ten iconic film scores. And if you want to immerse yourself in an hour or so of some of the best film music ever then have a listen here!
That’s all for now folks! More next week!
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