Archived entries for Books

An Alternate Olympics Manifesto

Joanne Sheppard reviews Mark Perryman’s book, released ahead of London 2012: ‘Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be ‘.

I’m very excited about the London Olympics. In fact, I get excited about any Olympics, regardless of the host city. I even get excited about the winter ones where we only stand a chance in curling and that event where people slide down a hill on their bellies while lying on a tea-tray. I’ll happily sit for hours watching people I’ve never heard of compete in a sport I know nothing about. Taekwondo? Archery? Fencing? Bring ’em on. Continue reading…

Books on Books

A couple of weeks ago, on 23 April, it was World Book Night. Distinct from World Book Day, which mostly seems to involve harassed parents having to dress their child as Harry Potter or Mr Tumnus or the twitching corpse of a slaughtered teenager from The Hunger Games, World Book Night is when people get to give away free copies of a book from a selection chosen by a panel, from nominees provided by a public vote. A lot of these books weren’t actually very good, but that’s what happens when you let the public vote for things: Nick Clegg in government, Olly Murs in the charts, and Sophie Kinsella novels dished out on World Book Night.

One thing I did notice was that two of the books on the list that are very good are, fittingly, about books. So I thought I’d use the opportunity to recommend them, and a few more books about books too. Continue reading…

Mervyn Peake

Hanging in the National Portrait Gallery, dated 1932, there is an oil painting of a young man with a distinctive shock of thick black hair, which seems to stand upright and undulate at the same time, like seaweed growing from the ocean bed. Surrounded by a dark, mysterious landscape of midnight blue skies and ominous mountains, he is wide-eyed, startled, leaning back fearfully from our gaze, his neat pencil moustache an almost comic contrast to his obvious eccentricity.

The subject and the painter of the portrait are the same man: Mervyn Peake. When he created this arresting self-portrait, he was twenty-one years old.

Those who have read Peake’s work might not be surprised by his own bizarre vision of himself. His most famous novels, Titus Groan and its sequel Gormenghast, could only ever been the work of the man in that portrait. Dream-like and melancholy, often sinister and full of bizarre characters – yet with a strong thread of humour running through them – the Gormenghast novels were ahead of their time when they were published in the 1940s. Frankly, they still are. Continue reading…

The Kids Are Not Alright

Good kids gone bad

The survival of the human species presumably depends on us mostly liking children. And yet we seem to produce countless narratives about kids that are at best rather creepy and at worst, literally the spawn of the Devil. We’ve all seen plenty of scary-child films – The Shining and The Omen have left me with a strange phobia of small children on tricycles – but the creepy kid appears frequently in literature too, presumably because we fear the slightly grotesque juxtaposition of innocence and evil. Continue reading…

Football Writing – More of the not-so-same

 

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football reviews 2012’s early crop of new football writing

In early March BBC Radio 4 broadcast Fever Pitched, the first of many, and well-deserved, retrospectives to mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. This was a book that both sparked a trend in football writing, the fan confessional, while reflecting a whole range of changes in the way the game is consumed in the wake of the huge success of Italia ‘90. Continue reading…

Peter James

Writer Paul Moore on the Crime Writer who inspires him.

Due to ill health and boredom I started writing children’s stories about five years ago; my kids loved them, which was great, but I needed a bigger challenge. Then one day in a charity shop I came across an author called Peter James and his book intrigued me; a picture of Brighton Pier and the word ‘murder’ and the book was sold. It was the best fifty pence I’ve ever spent. Continue reading…

Love

As we all know, 14 February is named after St Valentine, the patron saint of greetings card companies, expensive set menus and stalkers. It’s at this time of year that we’re all supposed to abandon good taste, buy horrid shiny underwear and overpriced roses, and pay double the normal rate for a meal because it comes with a glass of Prosecco and a heart-shaped shortbread. Apparently, this has been deemed ‘romance’. Continue reading…

Danny Blanchflower

Author Martin Cloake, with an extract from his book, accompanied by an exclusive illustration by artist Lilly Allen for The  Substantive.

The legend of a great footballer inevitably tends to fade with the passing of the years. The legend of Danny Blanchflower continues not only to shine brightly, but to illuminate aspects of a modern game which is perhaps more convinced of its own importance than it should be. Blanchflower was in his prime 50 years ago. That’s before most people had a television. He died in 1993. That’s before most people had broadband internet. And yet despite existing in a less connected world he was one of the first football superstars of the modern age, one of the first to become a star entertainer in the public’s mind rather than simply someone who was very good at what was, despite being watched by masses, still a minority interest. What made him not only a great player in his day, but a legend in a much-changed world over half a century later? Continue reading…

Occupying Wall Street/It’s Kicking Off Everywhere

Occupying Wall Street

Mark Perryman of Philosophy Football reviews two instant accounts of 2011’s Year of Protest.

There’s not much doubt that for the foreseeable future 2011 will be remembered as the ‘Year of Protest’. When a mainstream magazine like Time selects ‘The Protester’ as their cover-story 2011 Person of the Year then something of significance is clearly happening. Though whether the last twelve months will in the long-term come to represent anything as significant as 1989’s fall of the Berlin Wall or 1968’s extraordinary mix of Paris, Prague and Vietnam is probably too early to judge. Continue reading…

Winter

In the bleak midwinter, I suggest you curl up with a book. I realise most reserve their peak reading weeks for summer, when they’re on holiday, but reading on your sofa by the fire with a cuppa knocks spots off beach reading. Winter nights are long and dark and the weather’s mostly rotten; it’s the ideal season to get cosy and lose yourself in a book, particularly now, after Christmas, when you’ve probably overdosed on both television and human company. Continue reading…



Copyright © 2004–2009. All rights reserved.

RSS Feed. This blog is proudly powered by Wordpress and uses Modern Clix, a theme by Rodrigo Galindez.