I am finally starting to draw my head out of the academic sand, and put it back where it belongs (in the books, of course). I have since devoured a couple of novels, from the sadly unimpressive Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, to my current and magnificent read, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It has been an intense relief to return to fiction-induced bliss, and a fantastic escape from the stresses associated with the life of a PhD student.
I hope that you have all found yourselves equally able to immerse yourselves in some new reads. Too many books, too little time. And with spring well on the way (the birds are singing the sun down outside of my window as I write this post), it really is the perfect time of year for some literary exploration. I will next week be giving you my top recommendations for the perfect spring reads. For now, however, I give you this week’s onslaught of literary updates. So grab a cup of tea and work your way through some fantastic articles.
‘Looking Back At Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses’ – The Guardian
This is a little bit of a cheat on my part, since this is actually an article published in September 2012. It popped up as a ‘Look Back’ article, while I was perusing the Guardian website. If you are somewhat familiar with my views on literary censorship, you will be unsurprised by the interest that this article provoked in me. Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses is one of the most controversial books ever written, propelled into the spotlight by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s decision to place a fatwa on Rushdie in 1989, as a result of the novel’s perceived blasphemy. Attempts to prosecute Rushdie in the UK on charges of blasphemy resulted in the British Government announcing that it would no longer permit blasphemy-based prosecutions.
While Rushdie is still with us, looking back to the events of 1989 provides an opportunity to consider the snapshot this provides of a key period in literary history. The fatwa and its political consequences marked a watershed moment in many respects, not least in forcing authorities to consider their position on censorship and freedom of expression. This article by The Guardian collates the reminiscences of writers, lawyers, and friends of Rushdie who lived through this turbulent time. It’s a fascinating read and highly recommended, regardless of your familiarity with Rushdie’s works.
‘JK Rowling To Publish Second Crime Thriller In June’ – BBC
I’m sure that you can hear the cries of joy from where you are sitting. If you recall my review of Rowling’s first dip into the world of crime fiction, The Cuckoo’s Calling, you will already know that I have huge admiration for her abilities. So news that June will see the release of the second in the series of books based on the exploits of detective Cormoran Strike is met with intense excitement. The Silkworm will see Cormoran and his assistant Robin Ellacott investigate the murder of an author. The perfect read for a bibliophilic crime fiction fan? Absolutely.
‘The Amazon Warehouse Problem’ – Book Riot
I’ve spoken before about my conflicting views on the corporate giant that is Amazon. Edging the independent bookshop off of the high streets, Amazon’s ability to ship cut-price books directly to the door is massively appealing, but undeniably troubling. This article, addressing labour concerns in Amazon’s warehouses, raises still more questions. It suggests the company’s ‘runners’ (the individuals hired to literally run through the warehouse to retrieve orders) are working in situations of extreme stress and exhaustion. As the article states, “Amazon has allowed and encouraged its warehouse workers to toil under inhumane conditions,” working long hours and pushing physical limits.
This is a troubling development. And one that must undoubtedly concern the ethically-aware book buyer. Whether or not this causes you to question your role as an Amazon customer, knowledge is certainly better than ignorance.
‘Rebecca Mead: The Road To Middlemarch’ 20 March – Bristol Festival Of Ideas
Given that I’ve recently discussed my experiences with bibliotherapy, this event strikes a particular chord. In her book The Road to Middlemarch, author Rebecca Mead explores her personal relationship with literature. Having read Middlemarch as a young woman, Mead has since thrown herself into investigating the life of the classic’s author, George Eliot. The Road to Middlemarch is somewhere between memoir and biography. This discussion with the author promises to be an enlightening event.
TOP IN BOOK FETISH
Hopefully my previous Valentine’s Day-themed post helped you on your way to finding some fantastic literary presents for your bibliophile beau. Now that we have strolled through mid-February, it is time to start preparing for a spring of reading. This week’s Book Fetish feature will help you get ready for a truly literary season!
‘Drink Me – Sparkling Wine’ – The British Library
Taking to the countryside for a spring picnic and reading session? Well, I’ve got the drinks sorted. A gorgeous Alice in Wonderland-themed bottle, with sparkling wine as bonus. Perfect.
‘Library Book Bag’ – DesignPump
Need a bag to hike all those books to your picnic destination? Look no further. Super cute and perfectly sizeable. Also, LITTLE OWLS.
‘I’m Better Than The Movie Book Hoodie’ – FishbiscuitDesigns
We’re certainly not yet at the point of sun dresses and shorts. Until that time, it is always best to go armed with a warm jumper. This hoodie is the perfect solution. Leave the world in no doubt of your bookish affection.