Thursday, 31 December 2009

Man Booker Prize bibliography - 1974


In 1974 the judges were unable to separate two books, and the prize was shared:

The Conservationist, Nadine Gordimer, Jonathan Cape, London 2004. Fairly common. £30 up to £200 for a fine signed copy.

Nadine Gordimer (born 1923) is a Nobel Prize-winning author of short stories and novels reflecting the disintegration of South African society. While her early works were in the tradition of liberal South African whites opposed to apartheid, her later works reflect a move toward more radical political and literary formulations. She was born on November 20, 1923, in Springs, a mining town on the Eastern Witwatersrand, South Africa. Of Jewish heritage, her mother was from England and her father, from Russia. He worked in the gold mines, first as a mining engineer and later as secretary. Most of Gordimer's life, apart from a brief period in Zambia in the middle 1960s, has been spent in South Africa and the Witwatersrand, and it was here that she received her education, first as a day scholar at a convent and later as a student at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her first short story, entitled "Come Again Tomorrow," was published in the Johannesburg magazine The Forum in November 1939. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991.

"Mehring is rich. He has all the privileges and possessions that South Africa has to offer, but his possessions refuse to remain objects. His wife, son, and mistress leave him; his foreman and workers become increasingly indifferent to his stewardship; even the land rises up, as drought, then flood, destroy his farm."

Holiday, Stanley Middleton, Hutchinson, London, 1974. Perhaps the rarest of the Booker Prize winners. From a dealer, likely to be around £1000 or more.

Stanley Middleton (1 August 1919 – 25 July 2009) was a British novelist. He was born in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire and educated at High Pavement School, Stanley Road, Nottingham and University College Nottingham. Middleton began writing at university and in 1958 published A Short Answer. He taught English at High Pavement Grammar School for many years, and was a highly prolific author. Her Three Wise Men, his 44th novel, was published in 2008. Middleton was an accomplished organist, playing regularly at St Mark's Methodist Church, Ravensworth Road in Bulwell and stepping in to cover others, often at Mansfield Road Baptist Church in Nottingham. He was also a fine water colourist and contributed his own artwork to the 2006 re-publication of the first chapter of Holiday by Oak Tree Press (2008). In 2006, a reporter for The Sunday Times sent the first chapters of Holiday to a number of publishers and literary agents as a journalistic stunt. Almost all rejected it. Peter Bowles, the well known actor, was taught by Stanley Middleton when Bowles was a pupil at High Pavement. Many years later when Bowles was the subject of the popular TV programme, This Is Your Life, Stanley Middleton was a guest on the programme. Middleton was married to Margaret Welch from 1951 until his death; their two daughters, Penny and Sarah, both born in the 1950s, survive him. He had cancer, and died in a nursing home.

Edwin Fisher is on holiday at the English seaside - but this revisiting of childhood haunts is no ordinary holiday. Edwin is seeking to understand the failure of his marriage to Meg, but it turns out that her parents are staying at the same resort - whether by accident or design - and are keen to patch up the relationship. As the past and his enigmatic wife loom larger, deeper truths emerge and the perspective shifts in unexpected ways.


Ending Up, Kingsley Amis, Jonathan Cape, London, 1974. Easily available at around £15.

Sir Kingsley William Amis, CBE (16 April 1922 – 22 October 1995) was an English novelist, poet, critic and teacher. He wrote more than twenty novels, three collections of poetry, short stories, radio and television scripts, and books of social and literary criticism. According to his biographer, Zachary Leader, Amis was 'the finest British comic novelist of the second half of the twentieth century'. He was the father of the English novelist Martin Amis. As a young man at Oxford, Amis briefly joined the Communist Party. He later described this stage of his political life as "the callow Marxist phase that seemed almost compulsory in Oxford. He eventually moved further right, a development he discussed in the essay "Why Lucky Jim Turned Right" (1967. Amis was by his own admission and as revealed by his biographers a serial adulterer for much of his life. Not surprisingly, this was one of the main contributory factors in the breakdown of his first marriage. A famous photograph of a sleeping Amis on a Yugoslav beach shows the slogan (written by wife Hilly) on his back "1 Fat Englishman - I fuck anything".
In one of his memoirs, Amis wrote: "Now and then I become conscious of having the reputation of being one of the great drinkers, if not one of the great drunks, of our time". He suggests that this is due to a naive tendency on the part of his readers to apply the behaviour of his characters to himself. This was disingenuous; the fact was that he enjoyed drink, and spent a good deal of his time in pubs. Hilary Rubinstein, who commissioned Lucky Jim, commented: "I doubted whether Jim Dixon would have gone to the pub and drunk ten pints of beer ... I didn't know Kingsley very well, you see." Clive James comments: "All on his own, he had the weekly drinks bill of a whole table at the Garrick Club even before he was elected. After he was, he would get so tight there that he could barely make it to the taxi." Amis was, however, adamant in his belief that inspiration did not come from a bottle: "Whatever part drink may play in the writer's life, it must play none in his or her work." For 'many years',Amis imposed a rigorous daily schedule upon himself in which writing and drinking were strictly segregated. Mornings were devoted to writing with a minimum daily output of 500 words. The drinking would only begin around lunchtime when this output had been achieved. Amis's prodigious output would not have been possible without this kind of self discipline. Nevertheless, according to Clive James, Amis reached a turning point when his drinking ceased to be social, and became a way of dulling his remorse and regret at his behaviour toward Hilly.

"Beset by boredom and the decay of old age, the septuagenarian inhabitants of Tuppenny-hapenny Cottage find that malice is the best recipe for keeping their spirits alive. And when the grandchildren arrive to do their duty on Christmas Day, the festivities degenerate into an unforeseen riot."

The Bottle Factory Outing, Beryl Bainbridge, Duckworth, London, 1974. Easily available - look to pay around £15.

Beryl Bainbridge was born in Lancashire on 21 November 1934. Even as a small child she enjoyed writing, and by age 10 she frequently updated her diary. She had elocution lessons and by 11 she was appearing on the radio alongside Billie Whitelaw and Judith Chalmers. She was expelled from Merchant Taylors' Girls' School, Crosby at age 14 when she was caught with a rude note, written by someone else, in her pocket. That summer she fell in love with a former German POW who was waiting to be repatriated. For the next six years, the couple corresponded and tried to get permission for the German man to return to Britain so they could be married. The relationship ended in 1953. The following year she married artist Austin Davies. The two divorced soon after, leaving Bainbridge a single mother of two children. She later had a third child by Alan Sharp, a daughter who is the actress Rudi Davies. She spent her early years working as an actress and appeared in a 1961 episode of the soap opera Coronation Street playing an anti-nuclear protester. In 1958 she attempted suicide by putting her head in an oven. She was awarded a DBE in 2000. Baonbridge's first published novel, A Weekend with Claud, appeared in 1967 (revised edition 1981), and was followed by Another Part of the Wood (1968), and The Dressmaker (1973), which was adapted as a film in 1989. Her more recent novels, based on real lives and historical events, include The Birthday Boys (1991), the story of Captain Scott's ill-fated Antarctic expedition; Every Man For Himself (1996), set on board the Titanic; and Master Georgie (1998), chronicling a young surgeon's adventures during the Crimean War. Beryl Bainbridge lives in north London.

"Freda and Brenda spend their days working in an Italian-run wine-bottling factory, and their nights in a dismal one-room apartment. Little wonder then, that the works outing offers such promise for Freda-determined to capture the heart of Vittorio, and such terror for Brenda - constantly escaping the clutches of Rossi. But passions run high on that chilly day of freedom, and life after the outing can - tragically - never return to normal."

In Their Wisdom, C.P.Snow, Macmillan, London, 1974. Easily available at £10.

Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow CBE (15 October 1905–1 July 1980) was an English physicist and novelist, who also served several important positions in the UK government. Born in Leicester, Snow was educated at the Leicestershire and Rutland College, now the University of Leicester, and the University of Cambridge, where he became a Fellow of Christ's College in 1930. He served several senior positions in the government of the United Kingdom. He was knighted in 1957 and made a life peer, as Baron Snow of the City of Leicester, in 1964. Snow married the novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson in 1950. He is best known as the author of a sequence of novels entitled Strangers and Brothers depicting intellectuals in academic and government settings in the modern era, and for "The Two Cultures", a 1959 lecture in which he laments the gulf between scientists and "literary intellectuals".

""In their Wisdom is a moving, tough-minded, and curiously heartening elegy of our times. The story opens as the economic and industrial storm clouds grow darker and a decade of foul political weather is forecast for the nation. Three elderly peers, old friends if not political allies, and each a distinguished citizen in his own right, look wryly from the plush sidelines of the House of Lords at the looming crisis. It could mean the end of a certain way of life for all their countrymen; and each has the bitter knowledge that his life and work may have contributed not to a golden harvest but to a grim reckoning. Against this sombre (and disturbingly topical) background C.P. Snow tells the story of an epic struggle, in and out of court, over a disputed will. In Their Wisdom may well be compared to Dickens' Bleak House in the way that it transforms the majestic processes of the law into an image of a whole society. The catalyst is a vengeful millionaire. His intervention, for purely personal reasons, in the affair causes the stakes to rise immediately and almost vertically. What might have been a mildly scandalous minor suit - or even no suit at all - escalates into a battle with consequences and implications reaching deeply into the political and establishment life of the country. The love affairs of two women are intricately involved. The three peers are among those drawn into the fray, and the patterns of many relationships are changed, at first subtly and later sharply (a notable exception is the close friendship between the two leading and opposing QCs). The great law case with its built-in tensions, its measured time scale, and its eventual resolution, displays the plotting of a master."

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Man Booker Prize bibliography - 1976


Saville, David Storey, Jonathan Cape, London, 1976. Readily available at less than £20.

David Malcolm Storey (born 13 July 1933) is an English playwright, screenwriter, award winning novelist and a former professional Rugby League player. He was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, the son of a miner, and educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Wakefield. After completing his schooling at Wakefield at age 17, Storey signed a 15-year contract with the Leeds Rugby League Club; he also won a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art in London. When the conflict between rugby and painting became too great, he paid back three-quarters of his signing-on fee, and Leeds let him go. Storey wrote the screenplay for This Sporting Life (1963), directed by Lindsay Anderson, adapted from Storey's first novel of the same name, originally published in 1960, which won the 1960 Macmillan Fiction Award. The film was the beginning of a long professional association with Anderson, whose film version of Storey's play In Celebration was released as part of the American Film Theatre series in 1975. Home and Early Days (both starred Sir Ralph Richardson) were made into television films. Storey's novels include Pasmore, shortlisted for the 1972 Booker Prize, Flight into Camden, which won the 1963 Somerset Maugham Award and the 1961 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

“Saxton, a mining village in south Yorkshire, is the setting for David Storey's new novel, his most complex and ambitious since Radcliffe. Against a background of war, of an industrialised countryside, town and coalmine and village, Colin Saville grows up to be shaped not merely by the spiritual and social ambitions of the starkly contrased parents – the mother slow, long suffering and deep feeling, the father mercurial, outward going and violently charged -- but by the character, richly observed and idiosyncratic, of the mining community itself. Out of this context of home and industrialised village emerges a deeply driven and resourceful child, set against the forces which have made him. Saville, David Storey's sixth novel, is an epic, gripping in its evocation of Colin Saville’s struggles and of the sights and sounds of his place of birth, and powerful in its depiction of his spiritual and moral growth: it amply confirms David Storey's status as one of our leading novelists.”


An Instant in the Wind, Andre Brink, W.H.Allen, London, 1976.  Reasonably common - should be possible to pick up at under £20.

AndrĂ© Philippus Brink, OIS, (born 29 May 1935 in Vrede) is a South African novelist. He writes in Afrikaans and English and is a Professor of English at the University of Cape Town. Brink was brought up in a traditional Calvinist Afrikaans household, and at University was very much part of a small Afrikaans elite. His views began to change following two extended visits to Paris, and he and Breyten Breytenbach were key figures in the 1960s Afrikaans literary movement known as Die Sestigers ("The Sixty-ers"). These writers sought to use Afrikaans as a language to speak against the apartheid government, and also to bring into Afrikaans literature the influence of contemporary English and French trends. His novel Kennis van die aand ("Knowledge of the night") (1973) was the first Afrikaans book to be banned by the South African government. Brink writes his works simultaneously in English and Afrikaans. While his early novels were especially concerned with apartheid, his more recent work engages the new range issues posed by life in a democratic South Africa. His books were influential in the era of political change in South Africa - Nelson Mandela, who once told him: "When I was in prison, you changed the way I saw the world" – but he has now become a more marginal figure as a result of his opposition to the current South African government. "Now that the ANC has moved into power," he has written, "its regime sadly must be branded as the enemy of the people." An Instant in the Wind was the first of two books to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize in the 1970s.

"In the early 1749 the EriK Larsson expedition into the South African interior came to its final halt somewhere along the Great Fish River. The guide had committed suicide, the Hottentot bearers had all deserted, and all but two of the oxen had been stolen by raiding bushmen. Elizabeth Larsson did not yet know it, but her husband lay dead in a thicket some miles away, beneath a blanket of branches....
Elizabeth’s fate was decided by the arrival of Adam Mantoor, and ex-carpenter and runaway slave from the Cape, who for some weeks had been secretly and compulsively tracking the wagons.
At first their relationship was guarded, poisoned by the black and white in them both. But, slowly and breathlessly, there emerged between them a fellowship that engulfed their most private selves.
Such a long journey ahead for you and me. Oh God, oh God.
An Instant in the Wind is the poetic reconstruction of a true life drama, told with passion and yearning. The terrain of South Africa is described with exceptional mastery, alongside that other, intimate, human landscape of happiness.
This no one can take away from us, not even ourselves.“

Rising, RC Hutchinson, Michael Joseph, 1976.  Uncommon, and often in relatively poor condition.  Expect to pay at least £75 for a very good or better copy.

Ray Coryton Hutchinson (January 23, 1907 – July 3, 1975) was a best-selling British novelist. He was born in Finchley, Middlesex and educated at Monkton Combe School, near Bath. He received his BA at Oriel College, Oxford in 1927 and joined the advertising department at Colman's in Norwich. He married Margaret Owen Jones in April 1929. His first novel, Thou Hast a Devil, was published in 1930. It was followed by The Answering Glory (1932), and The Unforgotten Prisoner (1933), which sold 150,000 copies in the first month. Subsequent novels also sold very well and in 1935 he left Colman's to begin writing full-time. In March 1940 he joined the army, and in July was posted as captain in the 8th Battalion of the Buffs Regiment. He travelled widely during the war, while continuing to write. In October 1945, after preparing the official history of the Paiforce campaign, he was demobilized with the rank of Major. After the war he wrote many more successful novels, often recommended by book clubs. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in June 1962. He died before completing the last chapter of his novel, Rising (1976), which is the only Booker Prize novel to have been published posthumously, and therefore unobtainable in signed form! It was published in September 1976 and short-listed for the Booker Prize in November of that year. Hutchinson published work comprises 17 novels and 28 short stories, as well as one play, Last Train South (1938). He wrote from a conservative perspective.

"R.C.Hutchinson's last novel, whose final pages he was writing on the day of his death, is ostensibly the study of an episode in South American history.  At a deeper level it is an examination of racila and other human relationships and of the eternal problem of evil.  R.C.Hutchinson himself regarded Rising as his final testament and his most important creative acheivement.
The centre of the story is Sabino, the outcast member of a rich South American mine-owning family, and his military expedition to safeguard a railway line from saboteurs.  Sabino's men are virtually slaves - half-starved miners pressed into unwilling service - and the description of the desparate forced march they make together achieves something in the nature of poetry.  At the beginning Sabino is alienated from all around him: his soldiers, his wife, and his son Patricio, who joins the march to protect his sister's lover.  With a realism which is all but physically shared by the reader, R.H.Hutchinson shows his characters growing and changing against an almost biblical background of harsh trials and illuminating incidents.
R.C.Hutchinson's passionate concern for humanity is always salted with irony and with joyous undertones.  He paints a large canvas with supreme confidence and an accuracy of vision which is deeply satisfying to the reader."

"The Doctor's Wife, Brian Moore, Cape, London, 1976. Reasonably common at £10-15.

Brian Moore (25 August 1921 – 11 January 1999) was born and grew up in my home town of Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father was a surgeon and his mother was a nurse. He grew up in a large Roman Catholic family of nine children, but rejected that faith early in life. Some of his novels feature staunchly anti-doctrinaire and anti-clerical themes, and he in particular spoke strongly about the effect of the Church on life in Ireland. A recurring theme in his novels is the concept of the Catholic priesthood. On several occasions he explores the idea of a priest losing his faith. These works were criticized by his sister, a Roman Catholic nun, and some were banned by the Church. He once described Ireland as "a nation of masturbators under priestly instruction."
Moore was a volunteer air raid warden during the bombing of Belfast by the Luftwaffe. He also served as a civilian with the British Army in North Africa, Italy and France. He went on to work in Eastern Europe after the war ended for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Moore emigrated to Canada in 1948, worked as a reporter for the Montreal Gazette, and eventually became a citizen of Canada. While he eventually made his primary residence in the United States, he continued to live part of each year in Canada up to his death. He also taught creative writing at UCLA.
Moore lived in Canada from 1948 to 1958, and wrote his first novels there. His earliest novels were thrillers, published under his own name and the pseudonyms Bernard Mara and Michael Bryan. Moore's first novel outside the genre, Judith Hearne, remains among his most highly regarded. The book was rejected by ten American publishers before being accepted by a British publisher. It was made into a film, with Dame Maggie Smith playing the lonely spinster who is the book/film's title character. Several other Moore novels were adapted for the screen, including Intent to Kill (1958), The Luck of Ginger Coffey, Catholics, Black Robe, Cold Heaven, and The Statement. He also wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain and The Blood of Others, based on the novel Le Sang des autres by Simone de Beauvoir. Brian Moore died in 1999 at his home in Malibu, California, aged 77, of pulmonary fibrosis. He had been working on a novel about the 19th-century French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud.
The Doctor’s Wife was the first of three novels to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, which he never won.

"Like Judith Hearne, Sheila Redden is a Belfast woman. But she is married, to a successful surgeon, and the mother of a child.  The time is now, and the Belfast that looms over her is blighted by civil war. In Paris, on the way to a second honeymoon on the Riviera, she meets a young American student, with whom she falls into an extraoridinarily passionate affair.  He is at least ten years younger than Shiela, and obsessed with her, and even when they have only know eachother a few days, Shiela begins to feel curiously elated.  Nothing has ever mover her so powerfully or obtruded so completely on her sense of duty or the continuity of her life.
The Doctor's Wife isamoving portrait of a contemporary woman who submerges her aspirations in a dull marriage; a spare but telling evocation of Paris, the south of France, and Northern Ireland.; a deft sketch of hopeless political realities; an explicit, detailed account of the devastating power of sudden, highly erotic love.  It is stunningly well told: Brian Moore's narrative is always beautifully fluid, exquisitely textured. Every character is drawn boldly, but tenderly and carefully.  This is the sort of novel, so rare nowadays, that engages the reader not only because of the passions and predicaments of its characters, but also because at every moment one simply must find out what happens next."

King Fisher Lives, Julian Rathbone, Michael Joseph, 1976.  Relatively uncommon, but should be availble for £30-40.

Julian Christopher Rathbone ((10 February 1935 – 28 February 2008) was born in 1935 in Blackheath, southeast London. His great-uncle was the actor and great Sherlock Holmes interpreter Basil Rathbone, although they never met. He was brought up in Liverpool until he was 5 when war broke out and he and his parents moved to North Wales. He was educated at Clayesmore School, Dorset, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read English and took tutorials with F. R. Leavis. After university Rathbone lived in Turkey for three years, making a living by teaching English. On his return to England jobs in various London schools were followed by the post of Head of English at a comprehensive school. Having originally aspired to be an actor or a painter, Rathbone had also taken up writing and initially had three novels published, all set in Turkey and informed by a background of which he had intimate knowledge. In 1973 he finally gave up teaching and from then made his living by writing. Various threads run through Rathbone's novels over their forty-year span, although he always refused to be tied to a single genre, and this perhaps restricted his commercial success. Rathbone was an atheist and man of the left who, like many a thoughtful human being before him, had undergone a religious phase in his youth only to have a sudden realisation, on being dazzled by the yellow autumn leaves on some chestnut trees, that “this is life. It begins and ends right here with what you’ve got.” It was an epiphany, he said years later. “I never worry about whether my works will be read posthumously.” He published almost 40 books in total, include crime, thrillers and historical novels. King Fisher Lives was the first of two Booker shortlistings, although he never won the prize.

"Lewis Fisher - wise man of the sixties, author of The Fuck Haters and The Venus High... Lewis Fisher - shining star of the younger generation of seminal thinkers....  Lewis Fisher - gunned down by the Civil Guards in an onscure corner of Spain.
“King Fisher Lives” say the T-shirts of the young and the myth grows that he was yet another victim of the CIA and the forces of reaction in Spain.
But what really happened on that 13th of December in a lost paradise of Las Batuecas?
Here are the journals of his English friend Mark Southam, the frank record of Lewis's ambiguous relationship with Mark and Mark’s untamed sister, Nadia; here too is traced the chain of ideas and events that led to the ultimate in dropping out, the breaking of the last taboo, and the inevitable retribution.
In his latest book, Julian Rathbone breaks new ground. To his penetrating study he brings the suspense, the strong narrative line, the vigourous descriptions of exotic backgrounds that characterised his thrillers. The result is a powerful novel -- disturbing, thought provoking, but above all in intensley gripping, vivid and moving, in its swift progress to an unforgettable climax."

The Children of Dynmouth, William Trevor, Bodley Head. Rasonably common, but expect to pay £90 or more.

The Children of Dynmouth was the eighth novel of Irish novellst and short story writer William Trevor, who was born to a Protestant family in Mitchelstown, County Cork, on 24 May 1928. He was educated at St Columba's College, County Dublin, and Trinity College, Dublin. He worked briefly as a teacher, and later as a copywriter in an advertising agency before he began to work full-time as a writer in 1965. He was also a sculptor and exhibited frequently in Dublin and London. His first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, was published in 1958. His fiction, set mainly in Ireland and England, ranges from black comedies characterised by eccentrics and sexual deviants to stories exploring Irish history and politics, and he articulates the tensions between Irish Protestant landowners and Catholic tenants in what critics have termed the 'big house' novel. He currently lives in England, in Co.Devon.

"Dynmouth is a pretty little seaside resort on the Dorset coast and like many another smalltown it has its secrets. These might remain well kept were it not for the presence of fifteen year old Timothy Gedge. With his yellow zipped jacket and almost white hair, his smile, his chatter and his endless stock of bad jokes, he is one of those boys whom nobody wants but who are impossible to get rid of. He is a relentlessly inquisitive voyeur, worming his way into several of the town's households, his insinuations and accusations often exposing panic and shame beneath the adult facade.
But it is with two younger children that Timothy Gedge more sensationally comes into his own. Stephen and Kate are both twelve (Stephen's widowed father has just married Kate's mother). While the parents honeymoon abroad, the children return to Dynmouth for the Easter holidays, and become victims of a master tormentor. Timothy Gedge is always there, dogging their footsteps, seeking their freindship, demanding their co-operation. He implants in Stephen the suspicion that his parents hate one another, that his father actually killed his mother.
Gawky and prowling, this malignant figure dominates the novel as gradually it becmoes a tale of horror. The victims of Timothy Gedge - adults and children alike - may in the end recover, and even gain strength, from the poison he has administered. But what of Timothy Gedge himself? Does his future lie in one of his fantasies? or in the town's sandpaper factory? And one way or the other has he already become a monster?"

Monday, 28 December 2009

Book of the year

I have recommended forty six books this year in my book of the week slot, partly from the perspective of a collector and partly the perspective of a reader. Looking back on the list (at this very early stage), three have substantially increased in value. Q&A by Vikam Swarup appreciated due to the Oscar Success of Slumdog Millionaire, signed copies of The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell proved to be very uncommon, and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell went on to win the Man Booker Prize. Of course, this does not mean that long term value will be retained, and selling all three now would probably be a sensible financial strategy. Indeed, it is common for Booker Prize winners to show a large transient increase in value after winning the prize, before price falls to a more sustainable level, and other modern first edition prices can be similarly volatile.

However, my favourite book of the year has to be the book which I enjoyed most, and looking back on my choices one stands out - Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin. Toibin writes beautifully, and Brooklyn captures superbly the atmosphere of a small country town in Ireland, and the isolation and loneliness of an immigrant to New York torn between the experiences offered by a new world and the call of family ties at home. If you haven't read this book as yet, then I cannot recommend it more strongly.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Phillip Pullman - A Outrance

What to get for Christmas for the book lover with everything? The Oak Tree Fine Press have released a limited edition of an excerpt from Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, A Outrance. The book tells the story of how the rightful bear-king Iorek Byrnison regained his throne through a fight to the death with the false usurper Iofur Raknison. It is limited to only two hundred and sixty five copies and features original woodcut illustrations and features original woodcut illustrations by Chris Daunt, Harry Brockway and Andy English. The book is available in three different editions, including fifteen individual hand bound copies with unique bindings by some of the world’s leading designers, which were recently exhibited at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. As with all Oak Tree Press editions, the profits will support children in Africa with HIV. Highly recommended both as a book and a cause.

Phillip Pullman Bibliography

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir

There is an interesting article in this week's Times about a new translation of The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, and published by Jonathan Cape. The exisiting translation by H.M.Parshley, a biologist, came out in 1954. Parshley was the author of a scientific book on human reproduction, and was selected by the publisher Knopf because they believed The Second Sex was a French version of The Kinsey Report. He was, therefore, ill equipped to translate many of the passages and as a consequence misunderstood or omitted altogether many key parts. Nonetheless, his translation was enormously influential in the development of feminist thinking in English speaking countries. The campaign for a superior translation has been ongoing for a number of years, and the result is now about to be published.

The original French version (Le deuxieme sexe) is a very attractive set in two volumes, published by Editions Gallimard in Paris in 1949, bound in stamped cloth. The edition is numbered out of 2050 copies; Vol I is subtitled: Les Faits et Les Mythes and vol. two : L'Experience Vecue. Many years ago I was able to pick up the two volumes very cheaply from separate dealers, reconstructing a set. However, for such an influential book it remains surprisingly affordable even today.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Book of the Week - Laleh Khadivi, The Age of Orphans

Laleh Khadivi was born in Esfahan Iran and emigrated with her family shortly after the Iranian revolution. In 2002 she began to research the Kurds, particularly their fate in the southwestern region of Iran under the first Shah. Her debut novel, The Age of Orphans, is the first novel in a trilogy that follows the lives of three generations of Kurdish men as they grapple with landlessness, migration and national identity. She is the recipient of a Whiting Foundation Award, a Carl Djerassi Fellowship and an Emory Fiction Fellowship and has also worked extensively as a documentary filmmaker and received a number of grants and awards for her films about women in prison and the criminal justice system. Currently, she is at work on the second novel, The Walking, that tells the story of Reza Khourdi’s youngest son and his move to the United States. Signed copies of the first edition are currently available from several modern first specialists, and look like a good buy.

Kurdistan, Persia. A village high in the Zagros mountains. A small green-eyed boy wrestles free from his mother and climbs atop a straw and mud hut to gaze at the dusty landscape; the jagged mountains and azure sky, the cattle in the distance. With his arms stretched out beside him he pretends to be a bird, to lift up and soar over this land: the land of his fathers and forefathers. Kurdish land. Soon after the boy is ritually initiated into manhood, messengers from the hills bring whispers of war; rumours that the Shah's army is moving from village to village, stamping out any tribal rebellion that may stand in the way of the creation of a unified 'Iran'. Just nine years old, the boy must stand alongside his men and fight for their land. Years later, Reza Pahlavi Khourdi can only faintly recall the brutal murder of his father and cousins. Orphaned on the bloody battlefield, conscripted into the great column of the army and given a new name, he has quickly risen up the ranks, proving both his prowess in battle and allegiance to the Shah's troops. Now in Tehran, Reza is about to marry to a beautiful, educated, city girl, and become a Capitian. But there are stirrings within his heart. He will soon move west to be the Shah's servant in Kermanshah, the land of his birth, and a figurehead of modernization. At once rich and bleak, The Age of Orphans unleashes a tapestry of untold horrors and pleasures, of blood and smoke, hopes, dreams and desires. It is a profound and darkly poetic story of a land roughly sewn together under the ambitious imagining of a nation, and of the life of a boy whose identity does not - can not - unite with this vision.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Book of the Week - Christopher Nicholson, The Elephant Keeper

As it gets near the end of the year, the number of interesting new novels begins to dwindle, so for the next couple of weeks I will look back to a few books I missed earlier in the year. The Elephant Keeper is a second novel from Christopher Nicholson, which was published back in February. It has just been shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year (although I hope this will be a win for Brooklyn, also the Sunday Times novel of the year). The Elephant Keeper was published in hardcover by Fourth Estate, and deserves to do well.

"I asked the sailor what an Elephant looked like; he replied that it was like nothing on earth. In the middle of the 18th century, a ship docks at Bristol with an extraordinary cargo: two young elephants. Bought by a wealthy landowner, they are taken to his estate in the English countryside. A stable boy, Tom Page, is given the task of caring for them. The Elephant Keeper is Tom's account of his life with the elephants. As the years pass, and as they journey across England, his relationship with the female elephant deepens in a startling manner. Along the way they meet incredulity, distrust and tragedy, and it is only their understanding of each other that keeps them together. Christopher Nicholson's charming and captivating novel explores notions of sexuality and violence, freedom and captivity, and the nature of story-telling -- but most of all it is the study of a profound and remarkable love between an elephant and a human being."