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Poem of the week: Black Beans by Sarah Kirsch

Composed of small, domestic details, this love poem is also an oblique reflection on materialism and East German communism<p>This week's poem, Black Beans (Schwarze Bohnen) is by Sarah Kirsch, the acclaimed East German poet who died last year, aged 78. It's from a new parallel-text edition of Kirsch's …

The Morning News Roundup for February 6, 2014

Exposing Obscenity: The William S. Burroughs Century

2014 marks the William S. Burroughs centennial, and with it, a cascade of celebrations both large and modest will attempt to commemorate, celebrate, and come to terms with a writer whose vast body of work remains dwarfed by a personal mythology so outsized that it all but obscures his …

Musorgsky and his Circle by Stephen Walsh, review

Igor Toronyi-Lalic on the amateurish geniuses who started a musical revolution in Russia<p>All national schools must to some extent emerge from nothing. The nothing from which the Russian musical tradition sprang, however, was profound. No orchestras, no concerts, no great composers or teachers: this …

Books

Hanif Kureishi: What they don’t teach you at creative writing school

Forget plot, perspective and dialogue – aspiring novelists should break the rules and get into trouble, argues Hanif Kureishi<p>Ever since I was a teenager I’ve collected “How to” books about writing. I have a shelf of them, and recently I was looking at some material about plot, structure and …

Literature

Tallulah Bankhead: Gay, Drunk and Liberated in an Era of Excess Art

Tallulah Bankhead was an actress, lesbian, proto-feminist, wit, raconteur, and one of the flapper era’s most dangerous women. Excerpt from Judith …

The History of Oxford University Press, Volume III: 1896-1970 edited by Wm Roger Louis – review

Should book publishing be all about profit? The success of OUP, despite its elitism, suggests not<p>OUP is one of Britain's truly great institutions, up there, or nearly, with the NHS and the BBC. As in these other cases, its modern history has been largely dominated by the struggle to preserve its …

10 Gothic Short Stories You Can Read Online Right Now

Today marks the birthday of literature’s dark romantic and master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. The mad, mustachioed author initiated the modern …

Literature

The best books on the Philippines: start your reading here

Our literary tour of the Philippines embraces colonialism, the Marcos dictatorship and a smattering of multi-layered mystery<p><b>Dusk by F Sionil José</b><p>Dusk is the first novel in José's acclaimed Rosales Saga, five books that follow the fortunes of one family through 100 years of Philippine history.<p>The …

'No rhythm, no beauty, no humour': Hatchet Job of the Year 2014 shortlist announced

The winner of the Hatchet Job of the Year Award is announced tonight (Tuesday February 11). Here are the eight scathing book reviews in the running for the prize<p>Last year was, by most people's standards, <b>a good year for book lovers</b>. At 28, Eleanor Catton became <b>the youngest ever winner of the Booker</b> …

Books

Margaret Drabble: In Defiance of Time

The Pure Gold Baby<p>by Margaret Drabble<p>Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 291 pp., $26.00<p>The Needle’s Eye<p>by Margaret Drabble<p>Mariner, 427 pp., $23.95 (paper)<p>The …

Distant Intimacy: A Friendship In The Age Of The Internet is a vicious net à tête

By<p>DISTANT INTIMACY: A FRIENDSHIP IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET by Frederic Raphael and Joseph Epstein<p>Yale £20 ☎ £16.99 inc p&p<p><b>Rating:</b><p>Of the making of …

The Paris Review

The Joys of Rediscovering Dead Socialist Writers

There are writers who are likely to be better understood or more beloved by readers who have occupied the same corner of the world where the author …

Literature

The Four Most Common Stumbling Blocks for Writers: How to Overcome Them and Keep that New Year's Resolution to Write Your Novel

"I'm going to finally write that book," you vowed on New Year's Eve. Maybe you whispered it to your partner in bed, or brazenly trumpeted out your resolution at a party, champagne in hand.<p>Either way, now what? How can you start writing that novel or, more importantly, finish it?<p>As I head into 2014, …

Writing

Christmas 2013: the best history books of the year

We select the best history books of the year, from an extensive documentation of Jewish history to a re-examination of the Profumo affair<p>For a big subject, a big book from a big author: <b>The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000BCE-1492CE</b> by Simon Schama (Bodley Head, T £23), is in every sense a …

Forget selfies, we want to see your shelfies

Selfies may have dominated 2013, but we think a snap of your bookshelf is far more interesting. We asked to see your shelfies and you didn't disappoint. Here's a selection of our favourites<p>• Writers' and critics' best books of 2013

Henry Miller: The Last Days

If Henry Miller were still alive on December 26, he would be 121 years old. "The Last Days of Henry Miller" was originally published in <i>The Hudson Review</i> in 1993. The piece below is excerpted from the original piece. One of the ironies of my life is that I was to meet both Anaϊs Nin and Henry Miller …

John Updike on Family Affairs | Blank on Blank

10 of the Greatest Essays on Writing Ever Written

If there’s one topic that writers can be counted on to tackle at least once in their working lives, it’s writing itself. A good thing too, especially …

Creative Writing

Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? Saints and Worshippers from the Martyrs to the Reformation by Robert Bartlett – review

Diarmaid MacCulloch on an exploration of the saints – helpful, drunk and canine<p>My favourite definition of a saint is someone who has not been researched enough, which shows that I am a child of the Enlightenment – relativist and rational – or perhaps a Northern European Protestant, much the same …

Rome: Sex & Freedom

From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity<p>by Kyle Harper<p>Harvard University Press, 304 pp., $33.95<p>One of the …

Turkey: ‘Surreal, Menacing…Pompous’

Now, more than ever, it is harder to argue for the compatibility of political Islam and democracy. The ejection of the Muslim Brotherhood from the …

Slow Reading in a Hurried Age

<i>Edifying</i> is not a word people use much these days. To be edified is to receive a combination of instruction and uplift, a dose of moral …

Colin Wilson obituary

Britain's first homegrown existentialist star, he had a huge success with his 1956 book, The Outsider<p>• Terry Eagleton on The Outsider, "the book that changed me" • Colin Wilson interview by Lynn Barber in 2004<p>For a few dazzling months, Colin Wilson, who has died aged 82, was taken at his own …

Book News: 'Stoner' Created Little Buzz In 1965, But Ignites In 2013

<i>The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.</i><p>John Williams' novel <i>Stoner</i> sold a scant 2,000 copies when it was released almost 50 years ago. An understated novel about a Missouri academic named William Stoner, it went out of print the following year. But through a …

More Dynamite: Collected Essays 1990-2012, by Craig Raine, review

A critic’s exuberant iconoclasm leads him astray, says Jeremy Noel-Tod<p>In the Eighties, Craig Raine was poetry editor at Faber. For the past 14 years he has edited his own literary magazine, Areté. And since 1991 he has been a fellow in English at Oxford. If you weren’t familiar with these facts …

Literature

Christmas 2013: the best military history books of the year

Armchair generals had much to savour in 2013, including several magisterial histories of the First World War<p>With the centenary of the First World War almost upon us, publishers have been falling over themselves to get their titles out early, resulting in a plethora of Great War-related books …

World History

Christmas 2013: best biographies of the year

We select the best biographies of 2013, documenting fascinating figures from the literary world to the sciences<p>'Biographies should be written about people you love,” thought the writer Ronald Knox, “and novels about characters you dislike.” Small, bald, blind in one eye and with terrible teeth …

Literature