Sunday, 25 April 2010

Book of the Week and Bibliography - David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

A couple of weeks since I posted, due to volcanic ash! However, normal service can now be resumed..... David Mitchell is often cited as the best young writer in the UK, although now that he has entered his 40’s and is about to publish his fifth novel (The Thousand Zutumns of Jacob de Zoet) , he should probably be viewed simply as one of our greatest authors. Mitchell was born on 12 Jan 1969, in Southport in England, raised in Malvern, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Kent, studying for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature. He lived for a year in Sicily, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England. After another stint in Japan, he currently lives in Ireland with his wife Keiko and their two children.

Mitchell's first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), moves around the globe, from Okinawa to Mongolia to pre-Millennial New York City, as nine narrators tell stories that interlock and intersect. The novel won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (for best work of British literature written by an author under 35) and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His two subsequent novels, number9dream (2001) and Cloud Atlas (2004), were both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and his subsequent novel (Black Swan Green) was longlisted. In 2003, Mitchell was selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, and in 2007, Mitchell he was listed among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet has been eagerly awaited, and early reviews are very strong. The book is published as a standard hardcover and also as a limited slipcased and signed edition (500 copies), at a relatively expensive £50 (though discounted by Amazon to £37.50).

“Imagine a nation banishing the outside world for two centuries, crushing all vestiges of Christianity, forbidding its subjects to leave its shores on pain of death, and harbouring a deep mistrust of European ideas. The narrow window onto this nation-fortress is a walled, artificial island attached to the mainland port and manned by a handful of traders. Locked as the land-gate may be, however, it cannot prevent the meeting of minds – or hearts. The nation was Japan, the port was Nagasaki and the island was Dejima, to where David Mitchell's panoramic novel transports us in the year 1799. For one young Dutch clerk, Jacob de Zoet, a strage adventure of duplicity, love, guilt, faith and murder is about to begin – and all the while, unbeknownst to the men confined on Dejima, the axis of global power is turning...”

Bibliography and price guide (unsigned):

Ghostwritten, Sceptre, 1999, paperback - £40

number9dream , Sceptre, 2001, paperback - £40

Cloud Atlas, Sceptre, 2004, hardcover - £35

Black Swan Green, Sceptre, 2006, hardcover - £10-15. Also one thousand signed and numbered copies in a slipcase, currently around £25.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Sceptre, 2010, Hardcover - £10 -15. Signed Limited Edition in Slipcase (500 copies) - £37.50.

Wake. David Mitchell, Klaas de Vries Published: Enschede, Nationale Reisopera, 2010. A programme including David Mitchell's libretto for Klaas de Vries's Opera, Wake, in Dutch and English. £20-25.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Book of the Week - Col Buchanan, Farlander

Although fantasy is not my favourite genre, every now and again I will try a book which gets good reviews. Farlander is a first novel from Col Buchanan, who was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, in 1973. Fantasy/Sci Fi collectors are a passionate bunch, and if a book does well it can become very collectible. Farlander is published by Tor Books, but there is also a limited edition of 150 signed and numbered copies which looks good value and is still available at cover price from Goldsboro books. Farlander received a very positive mention in the Times at the weekend, and the limited edition looks like a good buy.

The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators. The Mercian Free Ports are the only confederacy yet to fall. Their only land link to the southern continent, a long and narrow isthmus, is protected by the city of Bar-Khos. For ten years now, the great southern walls of Bar-Khos have been besieged by the Imperial Fourth Army. Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Rōshun - who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink. When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Rōshun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfil the Rōshun orders – their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports . . . into bloodshed and death.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Some Easter updates - Brian McGilloway and Philip Pullman

I have updated two bibliographies with titles which I suspect may have been saved up for an Easter release. Firstly, Brian McGilloway has published Rising, the fourth volume in his excellent crime series set in the borderlands between the North and South of Ireland. McGilloway writes well-plotted and invariably interesting crime novels, with good character development over a series of books. The books are still surprisingly affordable in signed first editions and well worth collecting - if you want to read them, I recommend you start at the beginning. You will not be disappointed.

The second Easter book is a very different beast. The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ is a volume in the Canongate Myths series from Philip Pullman, which reimagines the life of Christ from Pullman's athiestic/humanist perspective. Mary gives birth to twins, the good man Jesus and the rather more ambivalent Christ, who subverts and selectively records Jesus' words and teaching to support the development of the Church. Pullman indirectly attacked the Church in the Northern Lights trilogy, and this book more directly presents his position. The writing is spare, in some ways like Biblical prose, and unlike any of Pullman's early books. Certain to be an interesting read however. There are two separate limited editions (black and white) in addition to the trade edition - further details in the bibliography.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Book of the Week - Nigel Farndale, The Blasphemer

The Blasphemer, by Nigel Farndale, was published a few weeks ago, but was recently recommended to me by a colleague. It has received mixed reviews, which I suspect may have more to do with the sympathies and occupation of the author than the qualities of the book. Farndale (born September 30, 1964) is a British author and journalist, known for his award-winning interviews in the Sunday Telegraph, which has reviewed the book very favourably, along with one of his previous employers (the Spectator). Perhaps not surprisingly, the Guardian has been less sympathetic! Farndale has previously written four books: a novel, two biographies and a collection of interviews. His Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce was published by Macmillan in 2005 and shortlisted for that year’s Whitbread Prize and James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

Farndale grew up in the Yorkshire Dales, read philosophy for a master's degree at Durham University and worked as a farmer before becoming a journalist — he wrote an abusive letter to Auberon Waugh, who then asked him to write for Literary Review. He was a contributor to various papers and magazines after that, among them the Sunday Times, Country Life and Spectator. Since 1995, he has been a regular feature writer and columnist for the Sunday Telegraph. He is married with three sons and lives on the border between Hampshire and Sussex.

"On its way to the Galapagos Islands, a light aircraft ditches into the sea. As the water floods through the cabin, zoologist Daniel Kennedy faces an impossible choice - should he save himself, or Nancy, the woman he loves? In a parallel narrative, it is 1917 and Daniel's great grandfather Andrew is preparing to go over the top at Passchendaele. He, too, will have his courage tested, and must live with the moral consequences of his actions. Back in London, the atheistic Daniel is wrestling with something his 'cold philosophy' cannot explain - something unearthly he thought he saw while swimming for help in the Pacific. But before he can make sense of it, the past must collapse into the present, and both he and Andrew must prove themselves capable of altruism, and deserving of forgiveness. "The Blasphemer" is a story about conditional love, cowardice and the possibility of redemption - and what happens to a man of science when forced to question his certainties. It is a novel of rare depth, empathy and ambition that sweeps from the trenches of the First World War to the terrorist-besieged streets of London today: a novel that will speak to the head as well as the heart of any reader."