Monday 16 January 2017

Compass Points 199

There’s no doubt that most of us would dearly love to escape from this somewhat dreary January, so why not take a journey into the Venezuelan rainforest via a stunning new voice in Latin American fiction; Miguel Bonnefoy? You can read an extract of Octavio's Journey (£7.99, pb, 978 1910477311) here which has sold more than 25,000 copies in France. The gorgeously vibrant cover alone is enough to warm you up; Le Figaro called it “magnificent”, it was shortlisted for the Goncourt First Novel Award, and this short but epic fable is both a hymn to Venezuela and the magical story of an extraordinary hero. It’s published by Gallic in March.

The Old King in His Exile by Arno Geiger (pb, 978 1908276889, £8.99) is already getting some excellent review coverage – it was published on Thursday by And Other Stories. The Times Literary Supplement said “The Old King in His Exile balances the poetic, the military and the idea of performance. There is a lathe-like precision to Geiger’s writing, all straight lines and pared exactitudes . . . poignantly rendered.” It was featured in the Sunday Express Magazine yesterday and there will also be a piece in the Financial Times on 21 January and it will be reviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek on 25 January. Translated into nearly 30 languages; The Old King in His Exile will offer solace and insight to anyone coping with a loved one's aging. In it, the author sets out on a journey to get to know his father; never an easy man, and when he developed Alzheimer's, Arno realised he was not going to ask for help. Born in 1926 in the Austrian Alps, into a farming family who had an orchard, kept three cows, and made schnapps in the cellar, his father was conscripted into World War II as a 'schoolboy soldier' - an experience he rarely spoke about, though it marked him. Striking up a new friendship, Arno walks with him in the village and the landscape they both grew up in and listens to his words, which are often full of unexpected poetry. Through his intelligent, moving and often funny account, we begin to see that whatever happens in old age, a human being retains their past and their character.

Pakistan is proud of its culinary heritage and its dishes are becoming increasingly popular. The Food and Cooking of Pakistan (hb, 978 0754832393, £14.99) has just been published by Lorenz – and as you’d expect from this publisher, the production quality is very high, with beautiful full colour spreads on every page, easy to follow photographed instructions as well as sumptuous pics of all the mouth-watering classics included in this collection of 85 recipes by expert Shehzad Husain. Traditionally based on ancient Mughlai recipes, modern Pakistani cooking embraces the ingredients and techniques of nearby countries, creating richer, more elaborate food that is often referred to in the West as being Lahori or Peshawari. Delectable biryanis, nehari, haleem, kebabs, gol gappay … as one reviewer said “Great to see a new book from Shehzad Husain after a long time. As with her previous books the recipes are super easy to follow and the images are top quality. We get a background into what Pakistani cuisine is and … the illustrations are beautiful, I love the fact the paper is glossy so you can get a real feel to the food, the photography is really sharp and a lot of the focus is on the food.” There was an interview with Shehzad Husain in this Saturday’s (14th January) issue of Waitrose Weekend and also an extract feature in the Independent online and there will be more PR to come for this gorgeous book – there is nothing comparable in the market.

Big congrats to Urbane author Tom Hocknell who has been selected as one of the "diverse and original" authors with his debut novel The Life Assistance Agency (pb, £8.99, 978 1911129035) in the WH Smith Fresh Talent Promotion which launched on Thursday. It will run until 30th March across W H Smith Travel's key locations at airports in Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester and train stations in Victoria, Liverpool Street, Paddington and Euston. You can see all 12 titles here. The selection, which  "encourages readers to take a risk on a new author”, described  Hocknell's book as "a welcome inclusion to the  list" and a "vivid tale with a wry wit and sharp eye".
“I was so immersed in this utterly bonkers reading experience I greedily devoured it in one sitting. There's a cracking turn of events and it's walloped in some brilliant one liners too. Undoubtedly, considerable attention has been paid to merging the past and the present which are brought alive by the frantic finesse of mystic mayhem, and a constant stream of curiosity that I found impossible to ignore. Unquestionably quirky. Brilliantly barmy. Absolutely recommended.” said the Little Bookness Lane Blog. WH Smith isn’t the only place where this will sell  – order it for your shop too!

Years of watching The Apprentice means we all think we’re marketing experts now, and publishers and agents sometimes do talk of authors in term of “brands”. But what exactly does that mean, and does author branding really help books to sell? Have a look  here  at this interesting piece on author branding from The Book Machine and see if you agree,

Lots of bloggers have been getting very excited about Vintage Secrets: Hollywood Beauty by Laura Slater (978 0859655088, pb, £14.99) which is published by Plexus; and I’m not surprised – the retro styling it espouses is bang on trend at the moment and this stylish guide is filled with glam pics and top tips.
Vintage blogger Dominique de Merteuil says it is “Filled with useful tips on make-up and hairstyling from the beauty regimes of iconic, glamorous movie stars such as Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich… to name just a few!  A perfect book for those who are just starting their exciting adventure with vintage hair and make-up, as well as for vintage aficionados”
This piece is great fun – if you’re at all into the glamorous Hollywood of old then you will enjoy reading  the rest of this blog about trying out some of the tips and looks from the book. The Bookbag also give the book a big thumbs up and you can read that blog  here.

Talking of the styling in the blockbuster Hollywood films –  here  is an entertaining collection of costume and make up errors that have occurred in some of the very biggest!

Congratulations to Freight, whose wonderful and wry short story collection Treats by Lara Williams (pb, £8.99, 978 1910449707) which has been chosen for the inaugural shortlist of eight titles for The Republic of Consciousness prize; designed to reward “brave, bold and brilliant” literature from small presses. You can find out more and see the whole shortlist in the Guardian here.

More publicity this week for the excellent Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? with a much more measured article in the Guardian that you can read here where the book’s author CJ Atkinson calls the fury over the book from the Mail on Sunday and Tory grandees a “trans-panic” adding: “This mud-slinging has to stop. It causes active harm. When you have a group of transgender young people, one in two will consider suicide, one in three will attempt it.” Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? (pb, £8.99, 978 1785921056) has just been published by Jessica Kingsley.

This is very beautiful and atmospheric; a short 5 minute film celebrating the poetry of Paul Celan whose poetry is published by Carcanet – you can find out more about him here. Paul Celan (1920–1970) is among the most important German-language poets of the century, and, in George Steiner’s words, “almost certainly the major European poet of the period after 1945.” He was born Paul Antschel into a Jewish family in Bukovina, a German enclave in Romania which was destroyed by the Nazis. His parents were taken to a concentration camp in 1942, and did not return; Celan managed to escape deportation and after settling in Paris in 1948, he gained widespread recognition as a poet with the publication of his first collection of poems in German in 1952.

Lots in the papers this January about The Bad Boys of Brexit by Arron Banks (978 1785901829) from Biteback. Arron Banks enjoyed a life of happy anonymity flogging car insurance in Bristol until he dipped his toes into the shark-infested waters of politics - and decided to plunge right in! Charging into battle for Brexit, he couldn't believe how Westminster types behaved, and resolved to fight for the country's future his own way. Have a look first at this great piece on The Guardian, Politics Blog entitled Thirty Things You Didn’t Know About the Referendum and the book is also featured in  Reuters, the Daily Express, The Guardian the Telegraph , Vanity Fair and The Economist.

And finally – who’s seen La La Land? Here's  a trailer to whet your appetite – and whatever you do, don’t forget to stock up on truckloads of 100 Reasons to Love Ryan Gosling by Joanna Benecke (pb, £12.99, 978 0859655019) from Plexus – which I can guarantee will fly off your shelves as effortlessly as Ryan and Emma Stone fly around in the film! Packed with trivia, jokes, and over 100 full-colour photos that graphically illustrate his physical perfection, 100 Reasons to Love Ryan Gosling provides scientifically irrefutable evidence of exactly why Ryan is so damn loveable. Is it because he takes his mom to film premieres? Plays in a hip indie band? Carries his dog through airports? Breaks up street fights? Furthered the feminist cause without even trying? Has no problem with nudity even when the script doesn't strictly require it? It's all these things and more – just order the damn book!
That’s all for now folks! More next week!
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