Thursday 13 June 2019

Compass Points 309

Well, I think we can agree that the publicity story of the week has been the Tory leadership race, and in particular what Michael Gove has up his nostrils. Michael Gove: Man in A Hurry (978 1785904400, £20, hb) by journalist of the moment Owen Bennett has had widespread review coverage in all the national papers and is published on 18 July by Biteback. From an Edinburgh orphanage to standing for the leadership of the Conservatives, his story could have come straight from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel. A charming man to his friends, and a cold-blooded zealot to his enemies, Gove is set to play a crucial role in the future of the UK. It’s all been serialised in the Daily Mail; here's the first part of this explosive biography, the second episode is here  – that’s the “heart-warming tale of how he rose from the very humblest of origins”, and here is the “five in a bed romp” which is worth clicking on just for the hilarious pictures of the young Gove I’d say! Owen has been interviewed this week on Daily Politics, Good Morning Britain, Newsnight, Sky and LBC and the book has been featured pretty much everywhere!

On the subject of books about repellent politicians, here's a thought-provoking piece in the Bookseller entitled “Why we must publish books we hate.” It asks whether we should “be willing to assist in the promotion of the sort of people and policies we abhor? Political books have exploded because politics has morphed into entertainment.” It points out that “the players all want to write books. Even Donald Trump, who has almost certainly never read a complete book in his adult life, understands that being a published author can lead to real power and real change. If Trump hadn’t put his name to The Art of the Deal, he would probably not have been chosen to front the US version of The Apprentice, a show which convinced enough people to vote him President.” So, should a publisher refuse to publish a manuscript on the grounds that it might result in an unwanted success for the author? Should a ghostwriter turn down a client because they might one day turn out to be a ruthless dictator? Interesting stuff!

Widespread coverage for Gerald Murnane continues, which hasn't let up since the UK publication of Border Districts (978 1911508380, £8.99, pb) and Tamarisk Row (978 1911508366, £10.99, pb) were published by And Other Stories in January and February this year. Last Sunday, Murnane's work was featured on BBC Radio 4's Open Book, with initially sceptical host Mariella Frostrup declaring herself “seduced” by Munane's writing, also described during the programme as “addictive” and “exciting and gripping.”
There really has been some superb coverage for these two titles over the last six months, so if you haven’t discovered Gerald Murnane for your bookshop yet – you’re really missing out! The Sunday Times said “Border Districts excavates a fascinating subject: the experience of encountering fiction, and what our minds unconsciously conjure for us as we read.”, the New Statesman said “Murnane’s books are expeditions that encompass a territory unlike any other”, the Guardian called them “strange and luminous” and the Spectator wrote Tamarisk Row is a remarkably acute portrayal of what it is to be a bullied, confused boy, while Border Districts is dazzling for its austerity, its cruel purity. Their sentences ring in the ear, and the novels stay with you.” with the Irish Times saying “his books are so good and so important. They are strange, unique and uncategorisable.”

Many congratulations to Glen James Brown and Ironopolis (£9.99, pb, 978 1912681099) which has made the shortlist for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. The Orwell Prizes are the UK’s most prestigious prizes for political writing an every year, the Foundation awards prizes for the work which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition “to make political writing into an art”; you can see the shortlists in full here.  Published by Parthian, this is, as Northern Soul wrote, “an unflinching tale about narratives at the heart of working-class communities and the struggle to keep them alive.” The Morning Star called it “the most accomplished working-class novel of the last few years” and the Bookseller, an “edgy and arresting debut.”

E. Sylvia Pankhurst: A Suffragette in America Reflections on Prisoners, Pickets and Political Change (£16.99, pb, 978 0745339368) is an important and fascinating collection of Sylvia Pankhurst's writing on her visits to America in 1911. Unlike the standard suffragette tours which focused on courting progressive members of America's social elite for money, Pankhurst got her hands dirty, meeting striking laundry workers in New York, visiting female prisoners in Philadelphia and Chicago and grappling with horrific racism in Nashville, Tennessee. These never-before-published writings mark a significant stage in the development of the suffragette's thought, and bringing her own experiences of imprisonment and misogyny from her political work in Britain; she found many parallels between the two countries. There’s an interesting interview with its editor Katherine Connelly in the Morning Star here and a review in Counterfire here. It’s just been published by Pluto.

Industry insiders have reacted angrily to analysis from the Guardian (that’s here) covering the “highly concerning” story that the top 100 illustrated children’s books published last year showed a growing marginalisation of female and minority ethnic characters. However, the analysis did not take into account 66% of the picture book market, by only focusing on the top 100 books, and did not look at the number of titles that do not feature any human characters. You can read more on this in the Bookseller here.

Sometimes poetry can shine new light on difficult subjects, and in the light of all the discussion over the UK’s attempt to become carbon neutral by 2050, it is rewarding to read Isabel Galleymore’s debut collection of poems Significant Other (£9.99, pb, 978 1784107116) which explore ecology, extinction and climate change. These are, as poet Jessica Traynor wrote, “jewel-like poems which approach the natural through the eyes of a miniaturist”, and Isabel’s influences are poets such as Jen Hadfield, Jorie Graham and Les Murray. She has just been shortlisted for the prestigious Gladstone's Library Residency next year, and is also currently shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. You can find out more on the Carcanet website here.

I am loving this terrific till-side display at Foyles for Pluto’s 50th Birthday! Remember, Bertrams are offering special terms throughout June on Pluto titles, and there is POS material available on request to support in store promotions – see your Compass rep for details! If you want to find out more about fifty years of independent radical publishing, the Pluto website is very informative!

If you and your customers are fed up with the crap UK weather, then you’re probably planning a summer getaway to warmer climes – and where better than Italy! This week the Mail Online featured twenty gorgeous images from Amber’s new Visual Explorer Guide: Italy (£9.99, pb, 978 1782748700 ) by Claudia Martin which is a stunning collection of pictures ranging from the natural beauty of lakes to the vineyards in Tuscany to the glory of Venice's canals and palaces, the magnificence of classical antiquity in Rome, the Arab-Norman architecture of Palermo and Renaissance Florence. And as well as the famous highlights, the book also features lesser known unexplored sides to the country, be it the abandoned cave towns of Puglia and the 16th century star-shaped town of Palmanova; there’s plenty of information about each gorgeous photograph too.  You can salivate over them here.

Great to see Jane Yeh’s Discipline (£9.99, pb, 978 1784107079) featured in the Guardian’s Best Books of 2019 So Far, that’s here. They said “Yeh can evoke a feeling or concept with alarming exactitude, and, like the paintings of Kirsten Glass that inspire the title poem, she shows that the elegant and the macabre are never far apart.”

Quite a lot of nice publicity for The Perfect Afternoon Tea (£15, hb, 978 0754834519)  – it’s heavily featured in the latest issue of Baking Heaven and also  in The Lady. This delightful recipe book presents 200 delicious dishes to serve for afternoon tea, together with a brief history of afternoon tea traditions, a guide to specialty teas of the world and of course information on how to choose, blend and make the perfect cuppa. It is sumptuously illustrated throughout – and there really are some mouth-watering recipes! This edition is new from Lorenz.

Nice to finish with some music, so let’s have a little bit  of Jack Buchanan from 1935; Everything Stops for Tea!

That’s all folks, more next week!

This weekly blog is written for the UK book trade. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please talk to your Compass Sales Manager, or call the Compass office on 020 8326 5696. Every Friday an e-newsletter containing highlights from the blog is sent out to over 700 booksellers and if you’d like to receive this then please contact

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