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Aug 03, 2021

The Yemeni American poet’s debut collection is a dazzling exploration of a life caught between different cultures

Who is the wild fox of Yemen? I busied myself with a form of foxhunting as I read on through Threa Almontaser’s extraordinary debut collection. She is a Yemeni born in the US and uses her in-between position to the full. Her poems are written with ambidextrous energy, acknowledging New York, gravitating towards Yemen and employing two languages: English and Arabic. One of the most original things about them is the use of transliterated – untranslated – Arabic words. You might need your mobile at hand to Google vocabulary as you read – from fajr (dawn prayer) to gahwa (brew of coffee) to miswak (twig with which to clean your teeth). Each Arabic word acts like a tiny perforation through which, as you translate, light pours. (At times, she offers Arabic script as well.) What is fascinating about the decision not to supply translation is that it turns the English-speaking reader into a foreigner. We become, at several removes, go-betweens as we learn about life in Yemen, its beauty and its suffering.

There is a fox of sacrifice, a dream creature – perhaps an image of Yemen itself, predicted to be, by 2022, the poorest country in the world. But a fox is also a scavenger, not irrelevant in this context. In her opening salvo, Hunting Girliness, she disdains conventional femininity, her stand brought on by violent global events. She declares that, after the twin towers fell, she “wore/ the city’s hatred as hijab”. The economy of the phrase amplifies its shocking effect. There is a sense, too, in which Almontaser herself is the fox, giving predators the slip in Shaytan Sneaks Bites of My Tuna Sandwich: “I am still afraid to stay out after sundown. They might follow me home/ as an animal.” But it is the fox of language that is wildest of all. In Heritage Emissary, she describes her father reminiscing in Arabic about “catching a wild fox with his cousin”. She observes that Arabic is “the medium through which his body can return home”.

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Aug 03, 2021

A former dominatrix is eviscerating in her exploration of the sexual submission required as young women mature

American author Melissa Febos is many things the average reader very likely won’t be, among them a former dominatrix and a recovering heroin addict. And yet her new book of essays, Girlhood, describes experiences that will be recognisable to every woman. If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable in your own body, unable to say no – or at least, not without a compensatory smile – or obliged to put up with the “ordinary violations” that come with being female (the catcalls, the come-ons), then Girlhood will not only speak to you, it will also ignite fury that two words like “ordinary” and “violation” should ever have cause to couple.

A capacious blend of memoir and reportage, history and cultural criticism, its seven essays loosely chart Febos’s journey from girlhood to womanhood, beginning with the changes that transformed her body – and with it her life – when she was 11 years old. By its close, Febos has found her way to a place of safety and strength, though her route there is fraught with danger: wolfish men lurk, mirrors reflect an enemy, drugs seem as hard to resist as a shiny red apple.

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Aug 02, 2021

Two books on the mysteries of the deep ocean take very different approaches in stressing the urgent need for conservation

Divers investigating an underwater canyon off California made a startling discovery in 2002. They found a dead whale that appeared to be wrapped in a crimson, shag-pile carpet. Closer examination revealed this covering was made of red worms, previously unknown to science, which were eating the whale’s skeleton.

Subsequent research showed these acid-secreting creatures were all female and inside each was a tube containing a harem of dwarf males. These were carried around to provide fertilisation when the worms encountered food, such as a whale carcass, and wanted to start breeding. Scientists named the new genus Osedax, which means “bone-devourer”.

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Aug 02, 2021

The romance of her heroine’s ‘rebellious’ red hair is much more of a feature in the Duchess of York’s historical novel than sex

She is a spirited, Titian-haired, freckled beauty, whose curls just won’t quit. While initially submitting to the strictures of high society and the tribulations of the marriage market, she endures a pasting from the press before emerging triumphant, throwing off the weight of expectations to become her true self. And write a children’s book.

The heroine of the Duchess of York’s debut novel for adults, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, bears no small resemblance to its author, in both looks and life story. Her Heart for a Compass is out on Tuesday from romance publisher Mills & Boon, but readers hoping for the sexy shenanigans usually found in the publisher’s output will be disappointed. While Margaret indulges in a handful of kisses, and at one point has a man “adjusting his kilt, swearing under his breath”, the pleasures she experiences are all very much above the waistline.

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Aug 02, 2021
Bestselling author whose fascination with death and violence found expression in the Jack Caffery crime novels

In her mid-20s, while working as a hostess in a Tokyo nightclub, the author Mo Hayder, who has died aged 59, saw the lives of three strangers snuffed out in quick succession. A heart attack in a coffee bar; a workman falling to his death; a snakebite.

These close-up brushes with mortality, shortly after the murder of one friend and the brutal rape of another, sparked a fascination with death and with violence against women that would last a lifetime. Later, while working as a film-maker, Mo produced an animated short in which a cute Claymation couple went to bed together before the woman pulled the man’s head off, ate it and lobbed the skull out of the window. The film won an award, but the local TV station refused to show it, on the grounds that they did not agree with cannibalism.

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Aug 02, 2021

The poet confronts her terminal cancer without flinching but asserts a defiant will to live

I guess it was my destiny to live so long

Death chase me down
death’s way
uproot a breast
infest the lymph nodes
crack a femur
rip morale
to shreds

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Aug 02, 2021

Author Howard Cunnell picks his favourites, including a pioneering tale of a young black girl in the UK and a poetry collection by a mysterious ‘Mick Guffan’

I grew up in a southern seaside town. No dad on the scene. No money, but the beach at the end of the road. When I was a kid I knew I wanted to be a writer, but writers didn’t come from where I came from. Then I read a book by SE Hinton called The Outsiders (1967).

Ponyboy Curtis, the narrator, is a sensitive kid who lives with his brothers Darry and Sodapop on the wrong side of the tracks. The boys’ parents died in a car crash. Darry is the leader of the Greasers, a gang of poor kids at war with the Socs, or rich kids. The Outsiders showed me I could write about my world, which seemed to be full of warring teenage tribes – punks, skinheads, teds, rockabillies, bikers. And sunsets too, as Ponyboy says.

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Aug 02, 2021

The actor’s new novel is set in a world of egotistical film directors and desperate actors, but the showbiz satire is often wide of the mark

“Making this movie is like trying to complete a crossword puzzle while plunging down an elevator shaft.” So runs the epigraph to the second novel from the actor David Thewlis, who explains that these words were “spoken to the author by Marlon Brando, Australia, 1995”, when the two were filming John Frankenheimer’s famously tortuous adaptation of The Island of Dr Moreau. It seems to set the stage for a novel that will do for the movie industry what Thewlis’s satirical debut, The Late Hector Kipling, did for the Young British Artists, but the unsettling narrative that ensues is harder to pin down, folding showbiz send-up and creepy psychodrama into a giggly comedy of errors that rarely feels all that funny.

Jack, an English film director, is consoling himself after the death of his actor wife, Martha, with a silicone cast of her head (left over from when she played Anne Boleyn) and a library of audio clips. He reckons he can go one better by hiring Betty, a stage actor with a gift for mimicry, to make video calls to him while following a strict script under virtual house arrest in the south of France. “It’s the most bonkers thing I’ve ever heard,” her sister says, but Betty, struggling with alcoholism and a violent boyfriend, signs up in the hope that it might be a way to regain custody of her six-year-old son, Freddie.

The action resembles an unlikely splice of an experimental Tom McCarthy novel with a Howard Jacobson farce. While Jack shoots an autobiographical film in England – it involves a blow-by-blow reconstruction of finding his father in flagrante with his teacher – Betty, in France, stumbles upon an old phone with clues to the whereabouts of his mysteriously unmentioned son. “My God, Betty, you are like a detective,” says one of the characters she pumps for information, which you might feel rather betrays Thewlis’s anxiety about how to manage vital exposition. In general, the dialogue – if you’re being generous – would probably sound better performed:

“I quit.”
“Good, cos you’re fired.”
“Good, cos I quit.”
“Good, cos you were shit.”
“Goodbye.”
“Goodbye.”

When Freddie’s father hears coughing, he thinks it’s Betty’s lover; as she points out, it’s her nextdoor neighbour, who has emphysema. “You’re fucking Mrs Mason from next door?” he asks. There’s a strange undercurrent of nastiness to the gags. We see an elderly woman in hospital who “might have died about an hour ago by the looks of things”; a pivotal event doesn’t make front-page news because “some enterprising genius had thrown acid at a TV astrologer”.

Related: David Thewlis: ‘It does get to you, spending more waking hours as a character than oneself’

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Aug 02, 2021

Whether examining sex dolls or transhumanism, the novelist brings her skill as a storyteller to these ambitious, hugely entertaining essays

Jeanette Winterson is not usually considered a science-fiction writer, yet her novels have always been concerned with alternative realities, and for more than two decades she has drawn on the imaginative possibilities offered by technological and digital advances. Her 2000 novel, The Powerbook, was an early exploration of the fluid identities and connections offered by virtual personae; The Stone Gods (2007) combined history with interplanetary dystopias and featured a relationship between a robot and a human. Her most recent fiction, Frankisstein, reworked Mary Shelley’s story of an artificially created intelligence into a modern novel of ideas about the present and future limits of AI and the implications for art, love, sex and biology.

Now, in 12 Bytes, her first collection of essays since 1996’s Art Objects, Winterson examines all these preoccupations without the mediation of fiction, though the narrative style is as conversational and erudite as you’d expect from her, peppered with irreverent asides and mischievous flashes of wit (“Dry as dust I don’t do,” she has said of the previous collection). The 12 essays here are grouped into four “zones”, loosely covering the past, the imagination, relationships and the future, and together offer an eclectic odyssey through the history of technological progress – a history that for too long sidelined some of its most influential figures because they were inconveniently women or gay, and has only recently begun to restore their reputations. Winterson pays tribute here to the contributions of Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing, along with women such as Stephanie Shirley, the founder of all-female company Freelance Programmers, and the forgotten teams of female programmers during the second world war, their work unacknowledged for decades because it didn’t suit a narrative of male expertise.

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Aug 01, 2021

Richard Zenith’s massive biography of the Portuguese writer who constructed numerous identities captures his tragicomic oddity

In the centre of Lisbon, on a hill that serves as a municipal Parnassus, a short stroll takes you on a trip through national literary history. In a square named after him, Camões, the one-eyed epic bard who celebrated Portugal’s maritime discoveries, looks down from his monument at what remains of the country’s empire; a little way off, the frock-coated 19th-century novelist Eça de Queiroz embraces a flagrantly bare-breasted muse; and in a nearby shopping street the modernist poet Fernando Pessoa, cast in bronze, sits at a table outside a cafe, conducting the empty air with a suspended hand.

The metallic Pessoa looks abstracted, perhaps undecided about which of his personae he should pretend to be. Though Pessoa in Portuguese means “person”, he chose, as he said, to “depersonalise” himself. While dreaming of literary immortality, he adopted the jokey anglicised nickname Ferdinand Sumwan to announce that he was no one in particular. He spent his adolescence in South Africa, then returned to Lisbon and nerdily toiled at unworthy office jobs until he died in 1935, never travelling abroad. Without sexual attachments, he indulged instead, as Richard Zenith puts it, in orgies of “self-fertilisation”: the brain of this shy, innocuous man housed a thronging “para-universe”, an “invisible world of made-up characters” who wrote in English, French and Portuguese as Pessoa’s deputies or surrogates and collectively created “one of the richest and strangest bodies of literature in the 20th century”.

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Aug 01, 2021

The former teenage sensation returns with an acutely observed cast of comic characters

The young French author Faïza Guène is a literary sensation, having published her first bestseller, the contemporary novel Kiffe kiffe demain (published as Just Like Tomorrow in the UK), when she was just 19. That novel’s translator, Sarah Ardizzone, is back on board for Men Don’t Cry, a brilliantly funny, insightful and affectionate novel about life in 21st-century France.

Out go the Emily in Paris cliches of berets and baguettes and in comes a cast of characters who are multilingual, multicultural black and brown French citizens who view their country, and their diasporic histories, with a winning combination of affection, exasperation and pride. The novel is narrated by Mourad, who describes his theatrical mother, gruff but loving father and sisters Mina and Dounia with warmth and wit. At a teacher training seminar, Mourad hears that “being a teacher is a form of bereavement. It means saying goodbye to your passion for literature and mourning the loss of everything you’ve learned at university.”

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Aug 01, 2021

A novel smuggled out of Nazi Germany narrates this ingenious work which warns of the danger in ignoring lessons of history

Towards the end of Hugo Hamilton’s ingenious and engaging novel The Pages, a book club in Berlin devotes its attention to Joseph Roth’s novel Rebellion, first published in 1924, until the members become more interested in discussing restaurants. Suddenly, a voice enters the narrative: “What is this, a foodie club?”

The voice belongs to a copy of the actual book Rebellion. Its individual tone has been so well established by now that we have been longing for it to intervene. Indeed, every time this book, this character, in tones both self-deprecating and wise, lets us know what it sees and feels and remembers, it enhances our sense of its quirky and necessary presence.

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Aug 01, 2021

The novelist on her first book of nonfiction – about women and disgust – and the complexities of prize culture

Eimear McBride, 44, is the bestselling author of three novels: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, which won the Women’s prize for fiction and the Goldsmith’s prize, The Lesser Bohemians and Strange Hotel. Her first work of nonfiction, Something Out of Place: Women and Disgust, is the result of an invitation by the Wellcome Collection to explore its museum and library, housed on Euston Road in London. She lives in east London with her family.

How did your new book come about?
Wellcome was a place where I was a temp, back in the old days before I was a full-time writer. I worked in the library: I was the stack monkey. So when I was asked about doing this, I was very open to the idea; I’ve always been fond of Wellcome. I didn’t go to university, so I’d never had the experience of spending a lot of time just reading.

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Aug 01, 2021

Exit of Peter Florence adds to list of woes that include two years of Covid cancellations and a sex assault claim against a Gulf royal

The future of the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts, one of Britain’s oldest and most esteemed annual cultural landmarks, was thrown into confusion this weekend after the resignation of its co-founder and director, Peter Florence.

His decision to quit follows what the board described as the unanimous endorsement last Thursday of the findings of an independent investigation that upheld an internal complaint of bullying against Florence.

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Jul 31, 2021

This unflinching memoir by the son of Ian Dury recalls his chaotic life with the ‘pot-soaked Fagin’ and his bodyguard

The first time Baxter Dury performed on stage was at his famous father’s wake. While various stars worked their way through the Ian Dury songbook, Baxter, who had recently launched his musical career at the age of 29, was the obvious choice to reprise My Old Man, Ian’s tribute to his own father, Bill Dury. A working-class east Londoner, bus driver and chauffeur, Bill hadn’t figured large in the life of his son, who was raised by his mother and her family, members of what Baxter calls “the bohemian intelligentsia”.

It’s tempting to suggest that one absent father led to another. Certainly, Ian had an elastic sense of parental responsibility, leaving his marriage to Betty Rathmell soon after the birth of Baxter and his older sister Jemima, then showing up erratically while contributing “a pittance” to their upkeep. His ambition to become a lead singer was all that counted, pursued first with Kilburn and the High Roads, and later with the Blockheads, once 1977’s New Boots and Panties!! had secured his breakthrough at age 35 (six-year-old Baxter is there on the album’s classic cover). With a severe physical disability, inflicted by polio when he was seven, Ian was an unlikely rock star and had become an even more unlikely national treasure by the time of his death in 2000.

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Jul 31, 2021

WG Sebald’s writing on the Holocaust was driven by the anger and distress he felt over his father’s service in Hitler’s army

His books are saturated with despair. Over and over again, his emotionally traumatised characters are caught – inescapably – in plots that doom them to a life of anguish. Often, they kill themselves.

Now, the psychological wounds and suicidal thoughts that blighted WG Sebald’s own life and secretly inspired him to begin writing fiction are to be laid bare for the first time in a forthcoming biography.

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Jul 31, 2021

The bestselling Virginia crime writer on getting his big break, what southern fiction means to him, and setting his next murder mystery right after Trump is elected

Crime writer SA Cosby was the talk of the US literaryscene last year when his novel Blacktop Wasteland, a heist thriller set in his native Virginia, topped Amazon’s mystery and thriller chart. As well as being named a New York Times notable book of the year, it won an LA Times award and is currently being developed for cinema by producer Erik Feig. Cosby’s new book, Razorblade Tears (published, like its predecessor, by Headline), is a revenge thriller that confronts homophobia across various communities in the deep south. Film rights have been bought by Paramount Players.

Were you surprised by the success of Blacktop Wasteland?
Immensely.

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Jul 31, 2021

The musician talks about growing up with a pop star dad, escaping his shadow – and the 6ft 7in drug dealer who lived with them

• Read an exclusive extract from Chaise Longue: ‘After a certain point of drinking, Dad’s behaviour became a lottery’

Baxter Dury strolls up to the pub, casually dressed and apologetic. The indie musician, known for his stylish suits, is wearing a white vest and unbuttoned denim shirt. His face is even whiter than the vest. Food poisoning. He ate oysters the other day, and has never been so sick. He orders a pineapple juice and soda water, sheepishly. “That’s going to be the headline, isn’t it?” The 2010 biopic about his father was named Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – after one of Ian Dury’s most celebrated songs, and a fair summary of his life.

But we’re not here to talk about Dad, says Baxter, a successful musician in his own right. It’s 21 years since his father died, and 19 since Baxter recorded his debut album, the fabulously titled Len Parrot’s Memorial Lift. Don’t get me wrong, he says, he loved the old man, but he’s got Ian Dury fatigue. He’s tired of the comparisons – their music, voice, looks and lifestyle.

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Jul 31, 2021

Inspired by a desire to be good and help others during the pandemic, novelist Sarah Perry trained to vaccinate people. But what does it mean to be good when there is so much bad faith?

Earlier this year – lockdown three: no sign of spring – I travelled to an airport to try to be good. Dogged for months by the sense of my own uselessness, and having wept with relief and accumulated sorrow when the first Covid-19 vaccine was approved, I’d joined an organisation training volunteers to deliver vaccinations, and so arrived at a desolate Stansted shortly after dawn. Here I sat in the basement of a hotel fallen almost out of use, and in the company of a hundred strangers – though alone and masked in a square of carpet marked out with black tape – learned how to treat fainting fits, panic attacks and anaphylactic shock. In our number were a circus performer, a firefighter, a consultant of some kind; and having been starved of unfamiliar faces for so long we were all, I think, happy to be there (putting a woman in the recovery position I apologised for what seemed a shocking intimacy; but she said what a pleasure it was, after all that time, to be touched). Then we attached sponges to our upper arms, and learned how to insert the needle at 45 degrees, stretching the skin to avoid a bleed; how to depress the plunger, and then remove the needle without doing ourselves a mischief. Then, observed by the nurse, who’d hurried out of retirement to train us, we demonstrated our prowess, were awarded a certificate, and went home to await deployment.

Related: Sarah Perry: what good are books, in a situation like this?

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Jul 31, 2021

A zombie thriller, a flooded world, poetry and a very worried pig … plus the best new YA novels

This month, readers of eight plus with a taste for apocalyptic fiction will relish Polly Ho-Yen’s How I Saved the World in a Week (Simon & Schuster). Billy’s fierce, unusual mother taught him fire-building and foraging, hammering home the rules of survival before a disastrous accident forced them apart. Now Billy’s dad says Mum was ill, and the skills she taught are no longer needed – but when a mysterious virus breaks out, and the infected overrun the cities, Billy may be humanity’s last hope. This tense, haunting zombie thriller perfectly balances terrifying peril with emotional depth.

Set in a damaged, flooded world to which hope is just beginning to return, Nicola Penfold’s second novel, Between Sea and Sky (Stripes), follows Pearl, who lives on a floating oyster farm with her sister Clover, and Nat, visiting them for the summer from the mainland – with a secret in his luggage that could overthrow everything. Atmospheric, memorable, extraordinarily gripping, this is storytelling at its finest.

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Jul 30, 2021

A whirlwind of screwball comedy, murder and friendship that examines the cannibalisation of experience to feed social media

The treatment of female celebrities in the first decade of the century has been subject to much dissection – those who spent their teens watching it through the lenses of the paparazzi and the women’s magazine have come of age, and those who suffered in the camera’s glare, most notably Britney Spears, continue to suffer. So despite being set in 2008, Other People’s Clothes, the debut novel from Berlin-based American artist and writer Calla Henkel, feels timely.

The book beams us back to an era when Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton et al ruled the headlines and social media was in its babyhood. It follows Zoe and Hailey, two American art students on a year abroad in Berlin who sublet a palatial flat from Beatrice, the author of bestselling potboilers, and suspect that she is spying on them as fodder for her next novel. And so they begin to perform, putting on huge, flamboyant parties, their life becoming, essentially, an art installation mediated through the gaze of Facebook. Such a premise could be ponderous and pretentious but isn’t at all, because there’s murder: this is a very good plot-driven thriller dressed in a glittery jumpsuit. The story is multilayered, touching on sex, female friendship, queerness, Berlin nightlife, drugs, celebrity culture and art in ways that in less confident hands could easily have become a mess.

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Jul 30, 2021
Writer who invited the gods back into literature in an ambitious series retelling the great ancient myths

Roberto Calasso, who has died aged 80, wrote: “A life in which the gods are not invited is not worth living. It will be quieter, but there won’t be any stories.” The Italian writer did not lead a quiet life: he invited the gods back into literature and retold the great Greek, Vedic, Egyptian and other myths in one of the most extraordinarily ambitious literary projects of modern times, a series of nine books that began with The Ruin of Kasch (1983) and ended with The Book of All Books, due to be published this year.

His magnum opus made him a man out of time, one who, like Billie Holiday and Walter Benjamin, realised that there was blood at the roots of our civilisation. “There is no society which doesn’t start with dealing with violence,” he said. “And that has much to do with one of the themes I’ve been writing about since the beginning, which is sacrifice. If you look at how it all began you see it’s connected very closely with hunting, and hunting is what makes a big part of human history. Hunting starts when men, who had been for some million years simply prey of predators, become themselves predators.”

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Jul 30, 2021

Thought to be the first blue-collar female novelist, Holdsworth once outsold HG Wells. Now reprints and an alternative blue plaque aim to restore her reputation

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth wrote in 1914 that “literature up till now has been lopsided, dealing with life only from the standpoint of one class”. Now the Lancashire mill worker and author, a forgotten name who is believed to be the first working-class woman in Britain to publish a novel, and who in her heyday outsold HG Wells, is set to be celebrated with an alternative blue plaque and a return to print.

Born in Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire in 1886, Holdsworth began working in a textile factory at the age of 11. She also wrote poetry, saying that the rhythm of the looms helped her compose her lines. Dubbed the “Lancashire mill girl poetess” by the local paper, she came to the attention of journalist Robert Blatchford, who gave her a job on his magazine, the Woman Worker. Holdsworth published her first novel, Miss Nobody, in 1913 and went on to write a further nine. She also set up anti-fascist journal the Clear Light, and helped other working-class women learn to read and write. She stopped writing novels in 1946, worn out by the process according to her daughter.

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Jul 30, 2021

The outspoken MP is on a one-woman campaign to banish jargon, snobbery and tradition and make sure politics is for everyone

“Believe me,” writes Jess Phillips in Everything You Really Need to Know About Politics; My Life As an MP, “if you think you don’t belong in Parliament or in political life because you have never made a rousing speech or are crap at public speaking then you are wrong – you would be in good company in politics.” It’s not so much that the outspoken MP is disillusioned with Westminster. She’s enamoured of everything about the place, from the cornicing to the 90% of MPs who “genuinely want to make the world a better place”. That’s often the figure people use to make this point, that however self-serving politics looks, its participants are generally motivated by public duty. I would be interested to see the field work.

No, Phillips is not disappointed so much as indignant – on a one-woman campaign to strike out the mystique of politics, which is rooted variously in snobbery, the complications and jargon of process and tradition and the overall Hogwartsiness of the place. The debate is often not that erudite, and the number of truly great orators on the green benches is vanishingly small. I think she’s right, and furthermore, she herself is one of them. Yet both as a politician, and here as part-explainer, part-memoirist, she is peculiarly resistant to big ideas.

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Jul 30, 2021

Fresh from the record-breaking Line of Duty, Mercurio has created a conspiracy thriller set in the 24th-century, with co-writer Prasanna Puwanarajah and illustrator Coke Navarro

Jed Mercurio has mastered the art, and science, of keeping audiences deeply invested in his intricate, web-like plots. A record-breaking 12 million viewers simultaneously tuned into the final episode of his police corruption drama, Line of Duty, in May, and for those now bereft of his meticulous brand of storytelling, literary relief is at hand. He has teamed up with former colleague Prasanna Puwanarajah, who starred in Mercurio’s 2018 medical drama Critical, to create Sleeper – a conspiracy thriller in the form of a graphic novel series.

Set in the 24th century, and featuring a bionic, deep-space law-enforcement marshal called DS-5, the first instalment has all the ingredients for a ripping sci-fi yarn. There’s mass murder as a space station explodes; a greedy corporation, Texosaturn, that mines clean energy source Titan Green following “carbon wars” on the largest moon of Saturn; and human frailty, as our “biologically enhanced” hero’s ageing tech starts to glitch, and he regains awareness of the person he once was. The action is illustrated by Valencian artist Coke Navarro, a die-hard fan of the shadowy1990s comics Sin City and Hellboy.

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