Books in the News: July 2017

Andrea Leadsom gave us quite a laugh early on in July. A few days after the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen‘s death, the leader of the Commons was attempting to praise the author, who will feauture on the new £10 banknotes that will go into circulation in September. Following comments from the shadow Commons leader, Valerie Vaz, praising leading female figures, she said:

“I would just add one other great lady to that lovely list, who I am delighted to join in celebrating, and that’s that of Jane Austen, who will feature on the new £10 note, which I think is one of our greatest living authors.”

When confronted with laughter, she quickly corrected her statement as follows: “Greatest ever authors, and I think it’s fantastic that at last we are starting to recognise – well I think many of us probably wish she were still living – but I absolutely share the sentiment.”

After the literary slip, she was mocked on Twitter and even trended on the social media website for a little while. Among the tweeters was bookseller Waterstones that was having a lot of fun with Andra Leadsom’s mistake.

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Some authors write their stories on a computer, others prefer paper and J.K. Rowling fancies clothes. Well, not really, but she has done it at least once.
The Harry Potter author invited the guests of her 50th birthday party to come as their “private nightmare”. Rowling herself attended as a lost manuscript, of which she wrote most over a dress. J.K. Rowling revealed this funny anecdote during an interview with Christiane Amanpour from CNN about her charity Lumos. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend you do. You can find it here.

J.K. Rowling wrote a secret manuscript on a party dress
Credits: CNN.com

The story that ended up on Rowling’s birthday dress was the political fairytale for children she’s been teasing about many years ago. It’s unclear if it will ever get published, but at least it’s hanging safely in her wardrobe, so you never know.

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Scottish writer Chris Brookmyre has been awarded the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award for 2017 for his book Black Widow. Brookmyre had been shortlisted three times for the award already, but – to use his own words – after being the bridesmaid in previous editions, he finally got to walk up the aisle.
Black Widow, features Brookmyre’s series character investigative journalist Jack Parlabane. It involves online abuse, and Parlabane investigates the death of a newly married man whose sister suspects foul play.
The author was given a cash prize of £3,000 and a hand-engraved oak cask of Theakston’s Old Peculier by beer supremo Simon Theakston.
If you’d like to take a look at the shortlist, you can read this blogpost I wrote on the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Award.

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China doesn’t seem to be ready for freedom of speech. Recently, the Chinese government decided to ban Winnie the Pooh on social media. The reason behind this rather absurd decision is a series of posts on Sina Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, in which President Xi Jinping is being compared to the honey-loving bear.
Steve Tsang, director of the London-based Soas China Institute, said the crackdown on freedom of expression had been increasing since Mr Xi assumed office in 2013.

“You have Obama as Tigger, next to the portly Pooh bear, as if he was clearing the way for a heroic tiger to follow. In that context it is not very respectful, but if they knew the story, they would not find it objectionable.
They cannot take a joke. It is President Xi Jinping so they can’t take any risks, and the Communist Party doesn’t do humour. They will see it as Mr Xi being compared to a bumbling, silly, comic figure. If the comparison had been with Captain America or Superman, it probably would have been OK.”

Steve Tsang expects the censorship to continue. Xi Jinping likes to be seen as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. Anything or anyone harming this ideal image will face censorship from the Communist Party, even when they are as harmless as a Winnie the Pooh comparison.

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There’s been some outrage in the build-up to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, that will be held from the 12th till the 28th of August, after Iranian children’s illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi was denied a visa.
The illustrator was scheduled to host several children’s events and art workshops which publisher, indie press Tiny Owl, had secured funding for to fully cover the costs of his visit. For a standard visitor visa, applicants must provide “evidence that you can support yourself during your trip, such as bank statements or payslips from the last six months”. However, the Home Office deemed his financial documentation as insufficient and the letter stated: “I am not satisfied you have shown that your ties to Iran are sufficient incentive to leave the UK at the end of your proposed visit.”

EhsanAbdollahi_Illustrator

Tiny Owl said it was the third consecutive year that its authors and illustrators had been denied entry to the UK in order to host children’s events at book festivals. “These repeated refusals are having an increasing impact on our own business. As a small independent publisher, book festivals play an indispensable part in promoting our books, and by extension the names of the authors and illustrators with whom we work. If we cannot bring our authors and illustrators to literary festivals, our events have less impact and our books do not sell.”

Following the protest and media coverage of the visa refusal, the decision has been overturned by the British embassy in Tehran, which will allow the children’s illustrator to visit the Edinburgh International Book Festival in the end. All is well.

Have a bookish day!

Sources: The Guardian, Crimefictionlover.com, The Bookseller and The Independent.

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