Friday 8 September 2017

Compass Points 229

2018 marks 100 years since the birth of Muriel Spark, one of our greatest British novelists. Between the late 1950s and the middle 1970s, Spark published pretty well a novel a year, plus dozens of short stories, plays and essays, including of course The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, her legendary tale of the Edinburgh spinster schoolteacher. The success of this character, in its Broadway, film and television versions, assured her financial security for life, and a place in the most hallowed annals of Scottish and English literature. She became a dame in 1993. The anniversary year of her birth will be marked by celebrations of Spark’s work across television, radio, theatre, and print and social media and to mark this centenary, Polygon are publishing lovely deluxe hardback editions of all 22 of her novels, with specially commissioned introductions by some of today’s leading writers and a gorgeous bright new cover design as you can see above, which Waterstone’s have already told us they love – thank you! Authorised by the Spark estate, this series is the only complete collection of her novels and the series is edited by Alan Taylor, who was a personal friend of Muriel Spark for over twenty years, and is himself a critically acclaimed journalist and author. Each edition is the perfect gift for existing fans and an enticement to new readers to discover the genius and wit of Spark’s writing for the first time. 
The first four are coming on 2 November this year and are The Comforters (978 1846974250), Robinson (978 1846974267), Momento Mori (978 1846974274) and The Ballad of Peckham Rye (978 1846974281). They are all £9.99, B-format hardbacks. A Far Cry from Kensington with an intro by William Boyd is then publishing in in early December, to coincide with a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week (over two weeks) which will be running in January. These publications, along with a personal, anecdotal, indiscrete and admiring memoir of Muriel by Alan Taylor, Appointment in Arezzo (hb, £12.99, 978 1846973758) also published in November will mark the start of a year of fantastic celebration and media coverage. So far, the following is confirmed and there will be loads more to come!
  • BBC Radio 4 Drama based on Memento Mori in Jan/Feb 2018 
  • BBC Radio 4 Drama based on The Driver’s Seat – Jan/Feb 2018
  • BBC Radio 4 Original Drama inspired by Spark’s time writing ‘black propaganda’ for radio broadcasts against the Germans during the Second World War 
  • A BBC TV (UK-wide) documentary about her life
  • A Sky TV documentary about her writing, presented by Ian Rankin 
  • A major concert at the Barbican, London on 18 October 2018
I love this quote from the great lady herself: “Be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur.” Hear hear!

And here is Maggie Smith in her 1969 Academy Award winning portrayal of Spark’s most famous creation.

Many will be wondering what life in North Korea is really like under Kim Jong Un. A fascinating new book The Sun Tyrant: A Nightmare Called North Korea (pb, £12.99 978 785902215) gives readers a frightening insight, and is a truly unique account. When Londoner JP Floru tags along with three friends running the marathon in Pyongyang, little could have prepared him for what he witnessed. Shown by two minders what the regime wants them to see during their nine-day trip, the group is astounded when witnessing people bowing to their leaders’ statues; being told not to take photos of the leaders’ feet; and hearing the hushed reverence with which people recite the history invented by the regime to keep itself in power. Often, the group did not understand what they were seeing: from the empty five-lane motorway to the missing fifth floor of their Yanggakdo Hotel on an island in the Pudong River; many answers only came through extensive research of the few sources that exist about this hermit country. Shocking and scary, The Sun Tyrant uncovers the oddities and tragedies at the heart of the world’s most secretive regime, and shows what happens when a population is reduced to near-slavery in the twenty-first century. It came out this summer from Biteback.

JP Floru has done a really interesting 15-minute Ted Talk on his experience and this book – which you can watch here.

Pressure cookers – who knew, but they are “a thing” and with a whole new generation of multi-featured versions now available, they are definitely back in fashion. The New Complete Pressure Cooker: Get the Best from Your Electric or Stovetop Model by Jennie Shapter (£15.00, hb, 978 0754832881) is the top title on this form of cooking. It contains over 120 tried-and-tested recipes with timings and settings for both types of machines, dishes from soups and stews to puddings and preserves with loads of practical step-by-step techniques and tips. This book will take you through the basics of choosing a pressure cooker (and the bestselling brand Instant Pot is included in it) how they work, which best suits your needs, as well as providing you with lots of exciting recipes to try. It was featured in all the Trinity Mirror local papers this week – with a big pic of the cover. It’s published by Lorenz.

Well, what a good excuse to have a burst of this absolute classic belter from Queen and David Bowie!

The Guardian has just published an article about the myth of radicalisation in a Birmingham school related to a forthcoming title; Countering Extremism in British Schools? The Truth about the Birmingham Trojan Horse Affair by John Holmwood and Therese O'Toole (pb, £12.99, 978 1447344131). You can read the whole piece here.  In 2014, an alleged plot to ‘Islamify’ several state schools in Birmingham led to the vilification of a previously highly successful school. This important title contests that narrative and shows how it was used to justify an intrusive counter extremism agenda. It is published in November by Policy Press and is a short, approachable and jargon-free book about a topic very high on the current political agenda. It directly challenges the narrative put across by the media and will particularly appeal to anyone engaged with schooling and those interested in recent counter-extremism policies.

An interesting article in the Telegraph this weekend by Frances Wilson about the art of writing a diary. Among the many famous diarists she mentions is Alistair Campbell, and the sixth volume of his Diaries which is published by Biteback; saying that “Campbell’s own struggle has always read more like a Jeffrey Archer novel than a diary” which is certainly a very backhanded compliment! Alastair Campbell Diaries: Volume 6: From Blair to Brown 2005 - 2007 (£25.00, hb, 978 1785900846) is out on 19 September and as this volume opens, Blair has just won a historic third term. But any joy is short-lived and by the time it ends two years later, Brown is Prime Minister. Many books have already been written about the Brown/Blair relationship, but none with the intimacy and the unique perspective of Alastair Campbell. Campbell was virtually alone in seeing that process from both sides, as Brown began to lean on him almost as much as Blair had done. Meanwhile we continue to get an insight into Campbell's mental health struggles, his attempts to rebuild a normal family life, and the plethora of new challenges he takes on which introduce dozens of new characters, not least the rugby stars he worked with for the British and Irish Lions, and football legend and charity match teammate, Diego Maradona.

We mentioned the amazing and colourful Illustrated Guide to Dyslexia for its great cover and design last week, and this week it was referenced in the Guardian in a fascinating article talking about the benefits of dyslexia as espoused by Jamie Oliver. “I genuinely think that when someone says to you, ‘Johnny’s got dyslexia’, you should get down on your knees, shake the child’s hand and say: ‘Well done, you lucky, lucky boy’,” the chef said. Positivity about the condition is a growing part of the campaign to improve awareness and coping strategies and the British Dyslexia Association is exploring the theme during the annual Dyslexia Awareness Week next month, with events in schools and the hashtag #positivedyslexia2017. The article goes on to talk about the Illustrated Guide to Dyslexia and its Amazing People (hb, £13.99, 978 1785923302) by Kate Power and Kathy Iwanczak Forsyth which is out on 21 September from Jessica Kingsley. You can read the whole article here. 
And don’t forget that this month JKP also publish Dyslexia is my Superpower (Most of the Time) (£12.99, pb, 978 1785922992) by Margaret Rooke which contains personal tips and tactics from over a hundred children and young adults who reveal the creative benefits of dyslexia, which enable them to thrive in school and beyond. The first-hand accounts are inspiring in the way they normalise dyslexia and reveal the many success stories. There is an additional section for professionals who work in education, and the book contains some stunning illustrations by 8-18 year olds with dyslexia. It was mentioned in the Culture Section of the Telegraph this week.
A massive piece in the Mail this week, talking about a new title which reveals disturbing images from the devastating 2013 Boston Marathon terror attack, offering a new look at that terrible atrocity. Maximum Harm: The Tsarnaev Brothers, the FBI, and the Road to the Marathon Bombing (hb, £29.00, 978 1611688498) is by investigative journalist Michele R. McPhee and unravels the complex story behind the public facts. McPhee untangles the many threads of circumstance, coincidence, collusion, motive, and opportunity that resulted in the deadliest attack on the city of Boston to date and is a compelling and passionate exposé – there will be more on this story to come I’m sure. It is published by the University Press of New England and available from Oxbow. You can read the Daily Mail article here.

Publisher Michael Schmidt has paid tribute in the Bookseller to poet John Ashbery who has died aged 90 last Sunday. Carcanet has published Ashbery since 1977, starting with Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. In the years that followed, he became one of Carcanet's "cornerstones", said Michael. The press has published almost 40 books by Ashbery, including his collaborations, fiction, essays, poems and translations and will publish Ashbery's Collected Poems: 1990-2000 (£20.00, pb,978 1 784105 25 9) in January 2018. You can read the tribute here.  
How do we raise sweet young boys to become aggressive? Why do so few fathers take parental leave? Why do men rape so many people every year? Why do we still judge success on financial prowess? Why are three times as many men killing themselves as women? In short, how does our masculine determination to be dominant not only impact on the women and girls in our lives, but also the men and boys. The answer to all these questions, and more, can be determined by discovering what it really means to Be A Man by journalist and former ‘lad’ Chris Hemmings, published by Biteback. Books about modern manhood are very definitely a growth market at present; titles from Robert Webb and Grayson Perry are already flying off the shelves; and  there was a big piece in the Guardian talking about this newest bloke-book on the block this week which you can read here. Dame Jenni Murray said of it “I love this book. It’s what I've been longing for – a young man who, as a result of his own experience, is courageous enough to say traditional masculinity is bad for everyone. Bravo, Chris Hemmings!” Whether you view this new wave of titles as a bit of a fad or a genuinely encouraging sign that “men are joining our conversation about toxic masculinity” as the Guardian journalist puts it, there’s no doubt that things have moved on quite a bit since Kipling’s 1895 advice. Be A Man (pb, £12.99, 978 1785901676) is out now.

Of course, we are very glad that Chris Hemmings has seen the error of his ways and is now apologising profusely for his former laddish behaviour. However, there is still some fun to be had with the tricky business of what is and isn’t “manly” – as this amusing video (rather rudely) demonstrates!

We raved about Salt Creek (£14.99, hb, 978 1910709412) by award-winning Australian author Lucy Treloar a couple of weeks ago, and sure enough on its publication in the UK it has had some cracking review coverage, being chosen as Book of the Month in the Times Saturday Review who said “Treloar writes with beauty and a winning compassion.” and Historical Pick in the Sunday Times who called it “an impressive debut.”Beautifully written … one to watch” said Good Housekeeping magazine and “emotional…engrossing…rich in character and local colour” said Women and Home and the Daily Mail have given it another rave review today. It’s just out from Aardvark Bureau.

Let’s finish with a rather cute version of that old bluegrass song, called – yep, Salt Creek!

That’s all for now folks! More next week!

This blog is taken from an e-newsletter which is sent weekly to over 700 booksellers as well as publishers and publicists. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the office on 020 8326 5696.

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