Friday 27 June 2014

Compass Points 91

Who’s heading off on a holiday this summer? And probably lots of you are flying – that’s if those rascally French air traffic controllers even allow your plane to take off. But there are millions out there who are so terrified of flying that that a holiday overseas is a total no-no. No More Fear of Flying by Allen Carr will solve this issue and ensure that flying becomes a positive pleasure. With startling insight into why we fear planes and clear, simple, step-by-step instructions how to cure ourselves of the problem, Allen Carr unravels the many misconceptions that make us believe flying is dangerous. No More Fear of Flying explodes the myths and brainwashing from the media and Hollywood that surround flying and provides masses of practical tips to help readers feel safe and secure on their next fear-free flight. There is no doubt that Allen Carr is the absolute experts’ expert. He has an international reputation as the world's leading expert on stopping smoking and his network of clinics now spans the globe. Allen Carr's 'Easy Way' method has been applied to a host of issues including alcohol, weight control, stress and gambling - and now fear of flying. No More Fear of Flying by Allen Carr (£4.99, 978 1784042790) is published in paperback in August by Arcturus.

Do you think Allen Carr would cure Marge Simpson? Nope me neither.

Summer seems to be the time when live stand-up comedy in the UK goes into overdrive. This year there are almost 600 comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival alone – and of course there will be plenty of hilarious jokers at Glasto this weekend – and probably not all of them will be on stage. The BC has just launched its New Comedy Award for 2014 – and if you fancy yourself as a bit of a Tommy Cooper – then find out how you can enter it here. What better time then for the fabulous Bluffer’s series to bring out The Bluffer's Guide to Stand-Up Comedy! This paperback by Rob Beattie is an all new title from the 5-million-copy bestselling series which provides instant expertise, jargon and ready-made wit. As Today said; this is “a series which threatens to undermine the proper foundations of knowledge.” The Bluffer's Guide to Stand-Up Comedy by Rob Beattie (9781909937246, £6.99, pb) is published in July.

And have a look here on the Bluffer's Website for some good tips about how to bluff your way in a comedy club!

One of my personal faves in the world of stand up comedy is Sarah Millican, who you can see in a ten minute clip from her Live At The Apollo set here

What happens when you pluck a family from a Welsh hillside and transplant them to a French field? How do you renovate derelict pig shed pas de finance? Lessons in Impermanence is an exploration of experimental living. Jettisoning the 9–5, Jane Parry documents the Breton country year in a journal, facing up to the many challenges involved when you opt to live close to nature. These challenges encompass the physical and psychical, material and emotional. Mousetraps, schooling, the French tax system, yoga and mandalas all provide scope for new experiences. A candid account of rural Breton living, Lessons in Impermanence reveals the development of a very personal philosophy, as Jane and her family embrace the difficulties and triumphs of their alternative lifestyle with wit and humour. There is still a massive market for these “I gave up the rat race and moved my whole family abroad/onto a boat/into outer space” type of memoirs, and Lessons in Impermanence (978 1909844636, pb, £8.99) by Jane Parry is published by Parthian in August.

Now it’s time for a bit of dystopian science fiction. Let’s imagine an alternate future where humans seal their own fate. A time when, despairing at the state of world degeneration, a group of the world’s most renowned intellectuals form the new Scientific World Government, aiming to put the world to rights. Elected into power, they quickly start making changes for the better, eliminating world hunger and cancer; encouraging scientific thought and banning frivolous entertainment. But while congratulating themselves on a job well done, they fail to notice that actually, people are not happy… The suicide rate has sky-rocketed and, strangely, it turns out the public want a little risk and conflict in their lives. So to cater for the masses, the Department of Psychology forms a plan. They will stage an entertainment show the likes of which the world has never seen before. It starts with gladiatorial style battles, bloodthirsty and brutal, where the victors become celebrities of unseen proportions, and quickly escalates into entire historical battle re-enactments involving chemical warfare and mass destruction. Now hang on a minute, you may well be thinking. This sounds exactly like The Hunger Games. Well, yes, but rather than jumping on the bandwagon like so many other authors, Pierre Boulle (author of The Planet of the Apes and Bridge of the River Kwai) actually penned Desperate Games over forty years ago! This long neglected dystopian SF classic has been out of print for a long time, but is published next month in a brand new translation. Desperate Games imagines a world governed by science and brutality gone mad and is a thoroughly gripping tale for our times. Desperate Games by Pierre Boulle (9781843915355, pb, £8.99) is published by Hesperus in July and you can order it here

And here is that thoroughly chilling scene from The Hunger Games where the kids have to start fighting it out for the entertainment of others.

Phew – well I’m ready for something a bit more light-hearted now I must say. Love Insurance by Earl Derr Biggers is a romantic comedy of improbable proportions, very evocative of early 1900s America when it was written. This light and sophisticated writing in the manner of the day is described by Hesperus as P.G. Wodehouse meets Oscar Wilde meets The Great Gatsby, which pretty much corners the market in frothy wit I’d say. This zany romantic comedy has as its hero, Owen Jephson (an insurer at Lloyds) who is taken aback when Lord Harrowby asks him to insure against his fiancée jilting him at the altar. Never one to turn down an interesting offer, Jephson agrees but swiftly dispatches Dick Minot to Florida to make sure that Lloyds’ assets are protected and that Cynthia Meyrick makes it down the aisle. Unfortunately Minot promptly falls in love with Cynthia and it comes to light that Lord Harrowby may not be all that he seems. From then on, things go rapidly downhill as expensive necklaces go missing, long-lost brothers rear their heads and it is touch and go whether Lord Harrowby and Cynthia will eventually be joined in marriage or not.  Love Insurance has a lovely nostalgic cover, and is a highly, cinematic novel, full of charm and perfect for summer reading. Its author, Earl Derr Biggers, rather surprisingly was the creator of Chinese detective Charlie Chan! Love Insurance by Earl Derr Biggers (978 1843915256, pb, £8.99) is published by Hesperus in July.

Born in 1945 Augusta, Georgia, the daughter of an insurance salesman and a school teacher, Jessye Mae Norman came into a family of accomplished musicians and began learning the piano at an early age. A precocious talent, after nearly winning a singing competition in Philadelphia, Jessye was awarded a full scholarship to Howard University in Washington where her love and knowledge of music would grow and her obvious ability would flourish. Stand Up Straight and Sing by Jessye Norman is the autobiography of one of the most celebrated and often controversial singers of the classical world. It tells the story of Norman’s extraordinary journey in her own inimitable voice. Her career has been one of meteoric musical highs. As well as possessing a gloriously rich and powerful voice she is blessed with an uncommonly wide vocal range that, when allied to her statuesque bearing and commanding stage presence, has made her an incomparable modern interpreter of most of the operatic repertory, establishing hers as perhaps the greatest contemporary female voice in the world of classical music. Stand Up Straight and Sing by Jessye Norman (978 1849546850, hb, £20.00) is published next week by Robson Press and Jessye is currently over the UK doing the following interviews to publicise the book: The Daily Telegraph, BBC Radio 4, Midweek, Classic FM, BBC Radio 3 and the BBC World Service.

If you are not familiar with the extraordinary power of Jessye Norman’s voice then here she is singing Schubert's Ave Maria.

“Despite being pasty and overweight, the writer was a hit with the ladies.” Well, there’s a headline to inspire many of us with confidence. This reassuring sentence comes from the big piece yesterday in the Daily Mail all about a new biography: The Three Lives of Dylan Thomas by Hilly Janes which has just been published by Robson Press (£19.99, hb, 978 1849546881). As the article says: “Six decades after his death, Dylan Thomas is creeping back into fashion. But the superb rolling music of his lines isn’t to everybody’s taste; some prefer their poetry crisper, sharper, cooler. The trouble is that there have been many, many accounts of his shambolic, sponging, drunken life — and the more you read, the harder it is to separate the petulant, self-indulgent, overgrown child from the glorious bard, who is surely one of the most interesting voices of the last century. Hilly Janes paints a largely sympathetic portrait of the poet, which is fitting, since her unique ‘way in’ is through the eyes of her own father, the distinguished painter Fred Janes. He completed three portraits of his lifelong friend — and these (pictured on the book jacket) give Hilly Janes her loose structure: the ‘three lives’.”  You can read the whole piece here - it’s highly entertaining! 

As I’m sure you are well aware, 2014 marks the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth. Poems of his such as Do not go gentle into that good night regularly come top of polls of the nation’s favourites, and his play Under Milk Wood is studied in schools all over the world and has never been out of print. In addition to The Three Lives of Dylan Thomas, there are three other Dylan Thomas titles which I would like to bring to your attention:  Firstly Dylan Thomas by Walford Davies (hb, £16.99, 978 1783160587). This is published by University of Wales Press and is the best short introduction to Dylan Thomas, written by a leading authority on the poet. Accessibly written, it covers the whole range of Thomas’s poetry and prose, and shows its change and development. By means of close analysis throughout, this book will help a wide range of readers to enjoy and understand the power of this major poet’s life and work.

Dylan Thomas: Under Milkwood:  Images by Peter Blake (978 1907587610, pb, £30). is a beautiful 176 page edition of Dylan Thomas’s groundbreaking 1954 “play for voices” Under Milk Wood. Revealed here for the very first time with the definitive play text are the ‘dismays and rainbows’ of this great artist’s richly detailed sequences of 110 watercolours, pencil portraits and collages, comprising one of his most distinctive and significant single bodies of work. The sleepy Welsh seaside town of Llareggub, comes to life in the cycle of one spring day. At once a lively and humorous depiction of the butchers, bakers, preachers and children, of Captain Cat, Nogood Boyo and Polly Garter it is also a modern pastoral tale on a Chaucerian scale. It is published by Enitharmon Editions.

And finally, A Pearl of Great Price: The Love Letters of Dylan Thomas to Pearl Kazin was published earlier this year by Parthian Books. As the Sunday Times wrote; it offers “a unique insight” into the poet. The letters from Dylan to his mistress Pearl were bought and sold on condition that they would not be published during her lifetime. In an interview with the Sunday Times in January, editor Jeff Towns explained that he was given permission to use the letters by Kazin's son, David, after her death three years ago.. Until these letters came to light, Pearl had remained something of a ghost – the mysterious ‘Sarah’ of Dylan Thomas in America. In A Pearl of Great Price, Jeff Towns, with a little help from Pearl’s son David Bell, attempts to flesh out the woman Dylan felt more for than any other mistress and offer new insights into their liaison. There’s was an intense and passionate relationship and these  six love letters from Dylan to Pearl, never before published, along with a couple of snapshots of them together in London form the basis for this book. You can order A Pearl of Great Price: The Love Letters of Dylan Thomas to Pearl Kazin Edited and Introduced by Jeff Towns from Compass: 978-1909844681, hb, £20.

That’s all for now folks, more next week!

This blog is read weekly by over 700 booksellers as well as publishers and publicists. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please click here to go to the Compass New Titles Website or talk to your Compass Sales representative.

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