While it may not be surprising, it was a little disappointing that the audience for acclaimed academic and biographer, Lyndall Gordon was a sea of creased linen, spectacles and what my neighbour called ‘Bertrand Russell hair,’ because what followed was an hour of curiosity, passion and fierce intelligence which should have been enjoyed by a wider and more diverse audience. Lyndall Gordon’s ambitious new five-way biography of Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner, Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf, Outsiders, which aims to connect the authors’ creativity to their lives as social outsiders, is also a wonderful antidote to our increasingly populist times. For at its heart it is interested in those who work on the fringes, uninterested in following a crowd (at an often-high personal cost) and who question the structures and values imposed on them.Read More
Viv Groskop’s latest book, The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature, described as a literary self-help memoir, aims to persuade us that not only are the Russian classics beautiful pieces of literature, they are also useful too, providing answers to the age old questions of life and love. For many of us the formidable Russian classics couldn’t feel further away from the current fixations of our age, however be prepared to be converted, because if just spending one hour in Groskop’s warm, witty and open presence revealed so much about Russia, life, love, bravery, food, language, poetry and even dysentery, the book looks to be an absolute gem.Read More
Every visit to an arts festival should include at least one wild card event, one where you have no idea what to expect and where (hopefully) you learn about something you previously knew little about. This year’s wildcard was an event that gave a new platform to two largely forgotten authors, Lorna Moon and Ann Quin, as well as the two determined and committed (but yet also hitherto unknown) women who have worked hard to republish them.Read More
Better known, perhaps, for her fiction, Lorrie Moore has also been writing criticism for over thirty years. See What Can Be Done, the long awaited first collection of her non-fiction writing, brings her work over this period together in one place, and it’s a jam packed four-hundred pages.Read More
The best events at book festivals are often the ones that are stripped of all formality, where the authors can freely exchange ideas and experiences between themselves and the audience without the public feeling like they are overhearing a secretive gossip session or a dry academic debate.Read More
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