Posted by: Kirsty | April 12, 2009

(Very Late) Sunday Links

Apologies all for the radio silence. The essay deadline is looming and I’ve mostly had my head stuck in a pile of books and notes. But it’s nearly done now, so normal blogging should resume shortly. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve liked around the interwebs recently.

Posted by: Kirsty | April 7, 2009

Victoria Coren on David Starkey

I’m not normally a fan of everything Victoria Coren does – I’m not *not* a fan – oh, you know what I mean. BUT, this article from the most recent edition of The Observer is brilliant:

Well done, David Starkey, well done. It worked. Last week, while talking about Henry VIII, you said: “One of the great problems has been that Henry, in a sense, has been absorbed by his wives. Which is bizarre. But it’s what you expect from feminised history, the fact that so many of the writers who write about this are women and so much of their audience is a female audience.”

You said this because you are promoting a TV series about Henry VIII and you thought you would wind up the feminists, flush them out to write irritably in the press and plug your show.

And look! Here I am! Obedient as Little Red Riding Hood, trotting out of the woods with my wicker basket of annoyance. But April fool, David Starkey! For I am not going to include the name of your series, nor when it’s on, nor where; instead, I’d like to take this opportunity to recommend The Wire on DVD. Excellent.

Read the rest

Posted by: Kirsty | April 7, 2009

The British Books Awards – Winners (as if I care)

In a very slight hiccup of publicity (i.e. if it hadn’t been on the BBC News Website I would never have known anything about it), the winners of those inestimable Nibbies (The Galaxy British Book Awards) have been announced. Winners in blue.

Richard & Judy Best Read of the Year, in association with Watch TV & Heart Radio

  • The Brutal Art — Jesse Kellerman
  • The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher — Kate Summerscale
  • The Gargoyle — Andrew Davidson
  • When Will There Be Good News? — Kate Atkinson
  • The 19th Wife — David Ebershoff
  • The Bolter — Frances Osbourne
  • Netherland — Joseph O’Neill
  • The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite — Beatrice Colin
  • December — Elizabeth H. Winthrop
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo — Steven Galloway

Borders Author of the Year

  • Aravind Adiga
  • Barack Obama
  • Diana Athill
  • Rose Tremain
  • Sebastian Barry
  • Stephanie Meyer

Tesco Biography of the Year

  • At My Mother’s Knee — Paul O’Grady
  • Coming Back to Me — Marcus Trescothick
  • Dear Fatty — Dawn French
  • Dreams From My Father — Barack Obama
  • Miracles of Life — J.G. Ballard
  • That’s Another Story — Julie Walters

Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year

  • The Business — Martina Cole
  • Child 44 — Tom Rob Smith
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — Stieg Larsson
  • No Time For Goodbye — Linwood Barclay
  • Revelation — C.J. Sansom
  • When Will There Be Good News? — Kate Atkinson

Sainsbury’s Popular Fiction Award

  • Azincourt — Bernard Cornwell
  • Devil May Care — Sebastian Faulks
  • The Outcast — Sadie Jones
  • Thanks for the Memories — Cecilia Ahern
  • Things I Want My Daughters To Know — Elizabeth Noble
  • This Charming Man — Marian Keyes

PLAY.COM Popular Non-Fiction Award

  • The Ascent of Money — Niall Ferguson
  • Call the Midwife — Jennifer Worth
  • A History of Modern Britain — Andrew Marr
  • The Mighty Book of Boosh — Noel Fielding & Julian Barratt
  • Stephen Fry in America — Stephen Fry
  • The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher — Kate Summerscale

Waterstone’s New Writer of the Year, in association with the Daily Mail

  • Tom Rob Smith
  • Jennie Rooney
  • Nancy Horan
  • Farahad Zama
  • Hillary Jordan
  • Melissa Benn

WHSmith Children’s Book of the Year

  • Dinosaurs Love Underpants — Claire Freedman & Ben Cort
  • Horrid Henry Robs the Bank — Francesca Simon
  • Captain Underpants & the Preposterous Plight — Dav Pilkey
  • Artemis Fowl & the Time Paradox — Eoin Colfer
  • Breaking Dawn — Stephanie Meyer
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard — J.K. Rowling

Galaxy Book of the Year: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher — Kate Summerscale

Outstanding Achievement — Michael Palin (now this I can get behind!)

Must say that I absolutely loved – and agreed with – Bookslut’s take on proceedings:

Barack Obama couldn’t make it (Nato), Stieg Larsson couldn’t get there (dead), and Stephanie Meyer sent her regards on tape. But Jerry Springer showed up as part of the ‘stream of celebrities’ (really, BBC?) at the Galaxy Book Awards.

The categories are all utter bollocks (‘The Good Read Award’, ‘Author of the Year’), but some decent, non-Meyer titles won things:

Kate Atkinson for When Will There Be Good News
Tom Rob Smith for Child 44
Kate Summerscale for The Suspicions of Mr Whicher
Aravind Adiga for The White Tiger

Galaxy, FYI, is a brand of shitty, too-sweet chocolate which tries to pass itself off as being a bit sophisticated and classy. Jerry Springer.

Loved Bookslut’s take on proceedings OTHER than the fact that they think that Child 44 is a decent book. Tut tut. We all know it’s complete rubbish. I honestly can’t believe it’s won anything other than the obligatory movie contract. Oh well. Each to their own, etc.

Posted by: Kirsty | April 2, 2009

Keira Knightley’s ad for Women’s Aid

Via Cath Elliott, this is the new advert from Women’s Aid, campaigning for an end to domestic violence. Strong stuff, but absolutely needed. Well done Keira Knightley for taking part. From the Guardian:

I wanted to take part in this advert for Women’s Aid because while domestic violence exists in every section of society we rarely hear about it,” said Knightley. “Domestic violence affects one in four women at some point in their lifetime and kills two women every week.”

Anyone affected by domestic violence can (in the UK) call the Freephone 24 hr National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247

Posted by: Kirsty | April 2, 2009

Oxford Literary Festival

Do pop over to OUPblog, where I’ve currently got a post up about the Oxford Literary Festival, and a series of talks that I organize over there every year for work.

Every year we hold a series of “soap box” talks for the Very Short Introductions at the Oxford Literary Festival. It’s like Speakers’ Corner; authors from the series get on their soap box and talk for 10 minutes about their subject, hopefully attracting a small crowd and a few questions afterwards (and some book sales!). We’ve got 12 different VSI authors at the festival this year, and today I thought I’d bring you some photos.

The Oxford Literary Festival 2009 runs from Sunday 29 March until Sunday 5 April at Christ Church.

Read the rest of the post, or visit the Oxford Literary Festival website.

As regular readers will know, I’m back in the land of essay-slog. It feels like every other day I’m going to and fro the library, ferrying piles of books hither and thither. However, in the search for a copy of one particular book, which my university’s bibliographic database told me contained a chapter that would be useful for my work, I kept coming up with a blank. My university library didn’t hold it. The main University of London library didn’t hold it. I couldn’t find it on the Bodleian’s online catalogue, though I’m 99.9% sure that would have been down to my inexpert searching rather than that particular library not holding it. The only place I could find it was the British Library, which I recently got a readers’ card for. But working full time and studying for a Masters does limit one’s time somewhat, and I couldn’t immediately find a date when I could afford to spend a day in there.

How much did I really need this book? I decided to have a hunt about the interwebs for more information on it, to judge whether it would be worth my while taking a day off work to go to the BL, or whether I could easily write a good essay without this particular chapter. I eventually tracked it down to the publisher’s website… and it looks amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I bought my own copy because I just know that I’m going to want to read the whole thing when I have the chance. Behold, ladies and gents, Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality by Ewen & Ewen. Sayeth the blurb:

Typecasting chronicles the emergence of the “science of first impression” and reveals how the work of its creators—early social scientists—continues to shape how we see the world and to inform our most fundamental and unconscious judgments of beauty, humanity, and degeneracy. In this groundbreaking exploration of the growth of stereotyping amidst the rise of modern society, authors Ewen & Ewen demonstrate “typecasting” as a persistent cultural practice. Drawing on fields as diverse as history, pop culture, racial science, and film, and including over one hundred images, many published here for the first time, the authors present a vivid portrait of stereotyping as it was forged by colonialism, industrialization, mass media, urban life, and the global economy.

I think that sounds absolutely fascinating. And on top of that, the book itself looks absolutely gorgeous (and how often can you say that about a serious, academic book?). See?


Now, we do have the feminist-unfriendly image of a woman swooning bare-chestedly. However, the book itself is about stereotyping and inequality, and I think it will address the uses of these types of images so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt until I’ve read the thing. But the book is beautifully produced: a nice chunky, sturdy paperback, square-shaped, and the cover’s artistic theme continues onto the side and the back cover. Here’s a home-shot:


Of course, I’ll give you a full run-down of what really matters – what the book actually says – as soon as I’ve read it, but for now it’s a book that I just like holding. It feels nice. Is that weird?

There is also a blog that accompanies the book. Go lookee.

Posted by: Kirsty | March 30, 2009

Reading can reduce stress – good!

Have just spotted this on Cornflower’s book blog:

From the findings of a Sussex University study on reading:
 “Reading is the best way to relax….[working] better and faster than other methods to calm nerves…” Both the concentration required and the distraction “of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart”, and as little as six minutes of this can do the trick, apparently.

Excellent. Let’s start asking the NHS to prescribe free books, or at least a library membership. 🙂

Cornflower’s post here. Original article here.

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