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British travel writer and novelist Jonathan Raban has died at 80

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From The Guardian: The British author, who lived in the US, blended memoir and travelogue in books that were often inspired by the sea.

Jonathan Raban, the British travel writer, critic and novelist known for his candid accounts of traveling the world in books such as Passage to Juneau and Coasting, has died aged 80, his agent has confirmed.

Born in Norfolk in 1942, Raban grew up the son of an Anglican clergyman in several Church of England vicarages. The family had little income but several “upper-middle-class connections: coat-of-arms, one-time country house”. “We belonged nowhere,” he wrote in his 1986 book Coasting. “We had the money of one lot, the voices of another – and we had an unearthly goodliness which removed us from the social map altogether.”

Raban, who died on Tuesday in Seattle, attended the University of Hull – where he became friends with Philip Larkin – and went into academia at the University of East Anglia. But he spent his vacations writing fiction and journalism, and eventually moved to London to become a freelance writer in 1969, lodging with the US poet Robert Lowell. The two became friends, and Raban was inspired by Lowell’s ability for “turning the turmoil of his life into art”.

Read full post on The Guardian

Novelist and screenwriter Fay Weldon has died at 91

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From The Guardian: Fay Weldon obituary…

The novelist Fay Weldon, who has died aged 91, was to an unusual extent the creation of her own extravagant imagination. A polemicist whose opinions shaped themselves around the plot of her latest book, a pragmatist who giggled her way through every sentence, she was mischievous and evasive, yet wilfully and wittily life-affirming. “I long for a day of judgment when the plot lines of our lives will be neatly tied, and all puzzles explained, and the meaning of events made clear,” she wrote in her rackety 2002 autobiography, Auto da Fay. “We take to fiction, I suppose, because no such thing is going to happen, and at least on the printed page we can observe beginnings, middles and ends and can find where morality resides.”

With these lines, Weldon gave a big wink to her future obituarists: catch me if you can, she appears to be saying – there is nothing you can write about me that I have not written about myself, and it is the storyteller who is in command of the meaning of events, insofar as there is one.

Read full post on The Guardian

Novelist Russell Banks has died at 82

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From The New York Times: Russell Banks, Novelist Steeped in the Working Class, Dies at 82.

Russell Banks, whose vivid portrayals of working-class Americans grappling with issues of poverty, race and class placed him among the first ranks of contemporary novelists, died on Sunday at his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He was 82.

His literary agent, Ellen Levine, said the cause was cancer.

The prolific author of 21 works of fiction and nonfiction, Mr. Banks brought his own blue-collar background to bear in his writing, delving into the psychological pressure of life in economically depressed towns in the Northeast, their stark reality often shadowed by the majestic Adirondacks of northern New York State.

“In Banks’s world, geography is a kind of grim destiny,” Jennifer Schuessler wrote in The New York Review of Books in 2008.

Two of his novels, “Continental Drift” (1985) and “Cloudsplitter” (1998), were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Read full post on The New York Times

The rise of celebrity book clubs

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From The Guardian: Legally bookish… Reese Witherspoon and the boom in celebrity book clubs.

Every novel I’ve ever read as part of a book club has involved a sprint to the finish. My latest group is no different, except for the possibility – at least as I understand it – of being publicly shamed by Reese Witherspoon. Which is why I am speed-reading the new novel by Celeste Ng, an hour before I am due to discuss it with my fellow members of Reese’s Book Club.

Already I am mentally drafting my apology to our host. “Sorry, Reese. It’s just been a really busy month” – not least because of all the celebrity book clubs. Today, more than 25 years since Oprah Winfrey launched hers, everyone is leading their own community of readers, from the Queen Consort to rapper Noname, from former NFL quarterback Andrew Luck to singer Amerie, from ex-vampire slayer Sarah Michelle Gellar to late-night host Jimmy Fallon.

This does not mean hosting monthly sessions at their mansions, putting on a spread and leading a debate about themes. From the talkshow-discussion-and-book-jacket-sticker-endorsement format pioneered by Winfrey (and, in the UK, Richard and Judy), today’s celebrity book clubs are conducted via social media.

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From creating new notebooks to creating notes in your favorite book, there’s a lot to learn about Amazon’s new Kindle Scribe.

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From ZDnet: Kindle Scribe tips: 9 ways to get the most out of Amazon’s digital notebook.

Amazon’s newest Kindle is unlike any Kindle before it. First of all, its 10.2-inch e-ink display is giant. Second, it now comes with a pen that you can use on the Scribe’s display to take notes, draw or highlight text.

Amazon currently sells two different versions of the Scribe, one that comes with the basic pen, and another that comes with a premium pen. There are also varying levels of storage, going from 16GB to 32GB to 64GB. The basic pen doesn’t have any extra features — put the tip to the screen and write. However, the premium pen has a shortcut button for quick actions like triggering the pen’s highlighter mode along with a dedicated eraser on the opposite end of the pen.

The Scribe offers a completely new way of using a Kindle, and I’m here to show you how to get the most out of the Kindle’s new note-taking features. Below you’ll find nine tips and tricks to help do just that.

In order to take notes, create a calendar, planner or task list, you’ll need to create a notebook. You can have as many notebooks as you want, as long as your device has the storage for them.

To create a new notebook, wake up your Kindle and then tap on the Notebook icon that has a plus sign to the right of the search bar.

Read full post on ZDNet

A look at the growing trend of mindfulness books for children

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From The Guardian: Mindfulness books for children are a runaway publishing trend.

Mindfulness books for children as young as two are the latest runaway publishing trend, the industry has said, with children themselves calling for more titles to help them make sense of their emotions.

Publishers including Magic Cat Publishing are reporting that sales of books for children under 10 years old that address emotions and mental health issues are up almost 40% year on year since 2021.

These titles now account for a quarter of Magic Cat’s publishing list, said Kate Manning, its marketing and publicity director. The success has encouraged the publisher to expand the genre: it will shortly announce a new list of titles for children over 10 years old.

“It’s very much a conscious decision in response to various recent reports on how Covid, climate change and now the cost of living have affected children directly and one that has developed over time to become the core of our publishing,” she said.

Read full post on The Guardian

TS Eliot’s hidden love letters reveal intense, heartbreaking affair

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From The Atlantic: Before she died, Emily Hale donated love letters she had received from the author while his wife was ill. Now public, the writings reveal his quiet duplicity.

“The question is not does love exist / But when she leaves, where she goes.” What’s that—something from Four Quartets? Actually it’s “Secrets,” by Van Halen. But how elegantly it expresses the problem. What happens to the love gone cold? All that madness, transport, froth, projection, communion—where does it go? With the source extinguished, do its beams still travel, like light from a snuffed-out star? Or does it dissipate entirely into unreality?

For a long time, T. S. Eliot was in love—chastely, unconsummatedly—with a woman who was not his wife, a woman named Emily Hale. Then, overnight as it seemed, he wasn’t. For 17 years, she in America and he in England, they had been maintaining an intense, and intensely sublimated, attachment. They wrote hundreds of letters. They saw each other infrequently, and behaved, when they did, with appalling propriety. And then, in 1947, it was over: “A mutual affection that he and I have had for each other,” she wrote to a friend, with typical restraint, after a visit from Eliot, “has come to a strange impasse.”

With hindsight (and the glibness of posterity) perhaps not so strange. Eliot’s first wife, the erratic Vivienne, had just died in a mental hospital at the age of 58. Their marriage had made him so miserable that he wrote The Waste Land, and he hadn’t seen her since 1935, but they never divorced—his brand of ascetic Anglicanism would not permit it. And with the shock of Vivienne’s death, the peculiar constellation of yearnings and prohibitions that had sustained his love for Emily Hale was dissolved. Thanatos took down Eros. Just like that. Ten years later, when Hale learned that Eliot had remarried, she broke down. “She went into the Massachusetts General Hospital,” writes Lyndall Gordon in T. S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life, “complaining of dizziness, and was investigated for a brain tumour, but the doctors found nothing.”

Read full post on The Atlantic