Members recommend – 2006

5:55

5:55

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Atlantic, £8.99 on Amazon

This CD has wormed its way into my consciousness in the last two months, so much so that it is now the playlist that is first accessed on my iPod. It ticks all the usual boxes that you might expect of sophisticated Gallic pop, and for those of you who like Serge rest assured that Charlotte has inherited those genes necessary for smoky, breathy vocals. Choice of collaborators is exquisite: production from Nigel Godrich (Radiohead’s man behind the mixing desk), music by Air and lyrics by Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon. It’s the latter that really standout: The Operation’s fiendishly clever love/medical motif, and Night-Time Intermission’s cut-up blank conversations. It is the most interesting album of the year; and possibly the best.   Rishi Dastidar

Buy from Amazon: ‘5.55’

Monty Python’s Spamalot

MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT

Palace Theatre

Old jokes, gay crusaders, killer rabbits… doesn’t sound too promising, does it? And yet this is a rip-roaring knight out, with oodles of song, dance and silliness. Headed by the fruity Tim Curry as King Arthur, the show is a patchwork of favourite Python moments as well as a delicious send up of the musical comedy genre, which will have you singing and smiling all the way home on the night bus. A word of warning though – avoid the interval Spam sandwiches.   Jim Davies

Shalimar the Clown

SHALIMAR THE CLOWN

Salman Rushdie

Vintage, £7.99 list (paperback), or £6.39 on Amazon

Some people love Salman Rushdie, others loathe him. Sometimes I love him, sometimes I don’t. Midnight’s Children was great, Satanic Verses I found unreadable. As was Fury. So I struggled with the first 50 pages of his latest novel, thinking this was going to be one of my Rushdie rejects. But I persevered and now I recommend it as one of his best. It’s great storytelling, covering the globe, the political scene and a lot of recent history. It’s centred on terrorism and being stalked by an assassin – and who knows that subject better than Rushdie from personal experience? This really is fiction that’s engaged with some of the big issues of the world.   John Simmons

Buy from Amazon: ‘Shalimar the Clown’

Simply Botiful

SIMPLY BOTIFUL

Christoph Büchel

Free. Until 18 March 2007, 12.00pm to 7.00pm, Thursdays to Sundays. Hauser & Wirth Coppermill, 102-108 Cheshire St, off Brick Lane, E2.

Imagine wandering onto a sleeping filmset at 3am. No people, no equipment. Just a sprawling set of rooms, chambers and spaces, all offering hints that something covert and dark may be taking place. Stale bunk beds in a lorry, a hatchway opening into hidden prayer rooms, an office used for reassembling religious tracts and police witness statements, a maze formed from discarded electrical equipment… You digest the cues and clues and begin to construct a narrative. Wear old clothes, and make sure you climb into the reezer, crawl through the tunnel and meet the creature. More details here.   Tim Rich

The God Delusion

THE GOD DELUSION

Richard Dawkins

Bantam Press, £20 list (hardback) or £10 on Amazon

‘The God Delusion’ is not a perfect book. (You might say only religions claim to have those.) It’s sometimes self-indulgent, sometimes simplistic. But it’s passionate, literate, liberating stuff. One of the most common criticisms of Dawkins is that he’s as dogmatically immovable as any fundamentalist. In fact, as he explains in this book, he’d be delighted to be proved wrong. For science, every mistake overturned is another step forward. This is a key point. Religion shackles itself to a basic story it can never abandon: it’s stuck. Science is free: an ongoing story, constantly revised, enlarged and renewed. There has long been a sense that religion is beyond argument. From there, it’s not far to the idea that we shouldn’t think, we should just believe – manna from heaven for fanatics. Richard Dawkins simply wants us to think for ourselves. It’s a message that’s not only timely, but long overdue.   Mike Reed

Buy from Amazon: ‘The God Delusion’

The Laws of Simplicity

THE LAWS OF SIMPLICITY

John Maeda

The MIT Press, £12.95 – also £12.95 on Amazon

Maeda, noted graphic designer and now a professor at the famed MIT MediaLab, admits early on that some of his design experiments have led indirectly to much of the visual junk that we have to wade through every day. ‘The Laws of Simplicity’ is his attempt to make amends. The prescriptions might seem pat, but there is depth to his ten laws, and they can apply to wider life as much as they do to design. The supporting website, www.lawsofsimplicity.com, has some tools with which you can start to declutter everything.   Rishi Dastidar

Buy from Amazon: ‘The Laws of Simplicity’

The Lost Rivers of London

THE LOST RIVERS OF LONDON

Nicholas Barton

Historical Publications Ltd, £16.95 list or £16.10 on Amazon

A fantastically-researched account of the buried tributaries of the Thames. Comes with old illustrations, photos and a beautiful pull-out sketch map of the routes of some of these lost streams. If you’ve ever wondered what was here before the city, why certain streets are the shapes they are or what that strange large pipe is over your head in Sloane square tube station this book is for you.   Roger Horberry

Buy from Amazon: ‘The Lost Rivers of London’

Very short stories

VERY SHORT STORIES

Cloud Atlas

CLOUD ATLAS

David Mitchell

Sceptre, £7.99 list or £5.54 on Amazon

Maybe not quite as  stunning as his debut novel ‘Ghostwritten’, Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’ is nonetheless a gobsmacking achievement. More a short story cycle than a novel, it connects together half a dozen characters, each with their own distinctive voice and backstory, spread across space and time. Ambitious, epic, enthralling – the superlatives come thick and fast.   Roger Horberry

Buy from Amazon: ‘Cloud Atlas’

CONVERSATION: HOW TALK CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

CONVERSATION: HOW TALK CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Theodore Zeldin

The Harvill Press, £3.99 or from £12.50 (second-hand) on Amazon

Well worth tracking down, ‘Conversation’ is a perfect introduction to one of the most interesting historians, thinkers – and writers – around. In this short pamphlet, he makes the case that to help us make sense of a changing, often impersonal world, we have to find a new way of talking to each other, and starting new types of conversations, as well as engaging with people we might not ordinarily cross the street to meet. He’s now putting his ideas into action, via The Oxford Muse, which is a most unconventional think tank; for example organizing dinners where topics for discussion are on the menu instead of food. I saw him lecture in London recently, and he was in person as he is in text: witty, discursive and stimulating.   Rishi Dastidar

Buy from Amazon ‘Conversation’

 

CREATIVE REVIEW BLOG

Creative Review’s new blog is in its infancy, but already looks set to become a key forum for debate and discussion about the visual arts and other related stuff. Threads of note so far include touching tributes to the late Alan Fletcher; a piece on the D&AD annual’s design; BBC1’s new idents; the best new design books, CD covers and music videos. Plus plenty of links to like-minded blogs and web sites – though not ours as yet. Get blogging on http://www.e-cr.co.uk/.   Jim Davies

Moon For The Misbegotten

MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN

Eugene O’Neill

Old Vic Theatre, London

The Old Vic has had a tough old time under Kevin Spacey’s leadership. It seemed that everyone was waiting for him to do the expected – star in a Eugene O’Neill play. After all, his performance in O’Neill’s ‘The Iceman Cometh’ had led directly to his role as the Old Vic’s artistic director. Now he’s delivered with the new production of ‘The Moon For The Misbegotten’, one of O’Neill’s less-known plays, but displaying all the well-recognised signs of being Eugene: length (over three hours), emotional intensity and characters destroyed by a combination of family history and alcoholism. It probably doesn’t sound like fun, but it’s an extraordinarily draining and uplifting evening at the theatre, with performances by Kevin Spacey and Eve Best that you’ll still talk about in 30 years’ time.  
John Simmons

The Best A Man Can Get

THE BEST A MAN CAN GET

John O’Farrell

Black Swan, £6.99 list or £5.59 on Amazon

I couldn’t have read this novel in more propitious circumstances, given that it’s all about having two small children, and I read it while on holiday with my two small children, almost exactly the ages of those in the book. Although the latter stages are rather disappointing as O’Farrell is forced to give the novel a semi-serious, moral ending, the description of Married Life With Kids is hilariously spot-on, often painfully so.

O’Farrell has a great way with words and images at times. My favourite is his description of the couple lying stock-still and silent in bed, trying to pretend that the baby’s cries aren’t growing, and that sooner or later one of them will have to get up and feed it. They lie there in a sort of desperate optimism, he says, "like a couple trying to sunbathe in the pouring rain". If you have children, you should read this. If you’re thinking of having them, maybe you should wait until you’ve read this.   Mike Reed

By from Amazon: ‘The Best A Man Can Get’

The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My

THE BOOK ABOUT MOOMIN, MYMBLE AND LITTLE MY

Tove Jansson,

Sort Of Books, £8.99 list or £4.50 on Amazon

It was only on a recent trip to Finland that I realised what all the fuss was about with the Moomins. Just flicking through this book (or any of the Moomin books) is a strangely moving experience. Beautifully crafted, tinged with melancholy, infused with folk wisdom and gruff humour, it makes most children’s literature seem, well, kind of childish. The translation by Sophie Hannah is also brilliant. Best to buy two copies – one for the kids to get their grubby hands all over, and the other to keep pristine on your shelf.   Nick Asbury

Buy from Amazon ‘The Book About Moomin, Mymble And Little My’

THE WORMS CAN CARRY ME TO HEAVEN

THE WORMS CAN CARRY ME TO HEAVEN

Alan Warner

Jonathan Cape, £11.99 or £7.91 on Amazon

Now here’s a writer who loves to surprise his readers. Having made his name with ‘Morvern Callar’, a classic of the rave generation, Warner turned his attention to eccentric islanders (‘These Demented Lands’), teenage Scottish schoolgirls (‘The Sopranos’), and a drunken itinerant (‘The Man Who Walks’). His latest novel is something else altogether – a monologue from a middle-aged, divorced Spanish roué who thinks he is dying. Taking time out from work to reflect on his life and times, this richly evocative mix of anecdote and adventure gradually builds into a paean to the pleasures of daily life in Warner’s adoptive city of Barcelona. While it possesses an element of melodrama which doesn’t sit particularly well with its more reflective, Mediterranean qualities, this novel amply attests to Warner’s impressively original way with words.   Freddie Baveystock

Buy from Amazon ‘The Worms Can Carry Me To Heaven’

To Each His Own

TO EACH HIS OWN

Leonardo Sciascia

Carcanet Press, £6.95 on Amazon

This tale of murder and intrigue in Sicily is odd, spare and puzzling. The juices of corruption and smalltown lust bubble into a thick and bitter stew. And just when the characters’ parochial worries and existential ruminations start to drag, Sciascia grabs the plot by the neck and gives it a sharp twist. Nice cover too.   Tim Rich

Buy from Amazon: ‘To Each His Own’

write a novel in a month

WRITE A NOVEL IN A MONTH

I’m participating in the annual Write a Novel in a Month write-a-thon which has been running for a few years now. Basically, writers from all round the world gather in a virtual community, fueled by caffeine and a deluded sense of over-achievement to write 50,000 words of fiction each between 1 November and 30 November. Of course, no-one expects to write a Booker prize winning novel in just a month, but the point is to splurge out the first draft in such a rush that your inner-editor doesn’t have a chance to spoil your fun. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t have a fully developed plot because the ludicrous deadline and virtual support are amazing creative stimulants. I do have an outline worked out, but from what others tell me, the most fun is to be had from just letting the characters run free and try to type fast enough to keep up with them. If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, now could be the time to give it a go! Go to www.nanowrimo.org for the full story. (You’ll find me there, my nom-de-plume is Dazy Daisy).   Margaret Ousby

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

AS I WALKED OUT ONE MIDSUMMER MORNING

Laurie Lee

Penguin, £7.99 list or £6.39 on Amazon

It’s one of those books you think you must have read when you were younger. But I hadn’t until Stuart Delves recommended it as we were about to go off to Spain to run a writing course. Laurie Lee (who also wrote ‘Cider With Rosie’) published this book in 1969, 35 years after his journey to and across Spain. The journey was obviously a formative experience for the young Laurie Lee, and it ended with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The book tells the story of surviving on optimism, music and the support of friends made along the way. It’s written in beautiful, sometimes poetic prose that makes you stop and admire it every so often. It’s the kind of book I hadn’t read for a while – a long, relaxing bath of a book.   John Simmons

Buy from Amazon: ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’

Atomised

ATOMISED

Michel Houellebecq

Vintage, £7.99 list, or £6.39 on Amazon

Part social satire, part nihilistic meditation on materialism, part science fiction (well, in the last few pages at least), Atomised is as bleak and loveless (despite all the sex) as it is unflinchingly honest. Not one for your mum’s christmas stocking but compelling none the less.   Roger Horberry

Buy from Amazon: ‘Atomised’

Everything Is Illuminated

EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED

Jonathan Safran Foer

Penguin, £8.99 list or £7.19 on Amazon

OK, I’m a bit late on this one. It came out in 2002, won the Guardian First Book Award and has subsequently been made into a movie starring everyone’s favourite Hobbit, Elijah Wood. But there are few books out there who’s words and images stay with you weeks and weeks after you’ve read them. This is a quirky yet profound novel, which brilliantly fuses comedy and pathos. Cleverly weaving different voices and timeframes, it explores memory, history and heritage, clinging to the detritus of the past, and the necessity of storytelling. The most sickening thing about it? New Yorker Safran Foer wrote it when he was just 25. (Incidentally, the fab cover for EII is by the mega-talented Jonathan Gray, who also designed the ‘Common Ground’ cover.   Jim Davies

Buy from Amazon: ‘Everything Is Illuminated’

How to pick up people at parties and other tips for marketing executives

HOW TO PICK UP PEOPLE AT PARTIES AND OTHER TIPS FOR MARKETING EXECUTIVES

Dean Woolley

Wolley Pau, £14.99 (£14.95 plus £1.99 sourcing fee on Amazon)

What has advertising got in common with flirting? Quite a lot, according to Dean Woolley, co-founder of advertising agency Woolley Pau. He believes that too many marketing executives are inadvertently turning their brands into the equivalent of the patronising bore at a party. The one who talks too loudly, repeats himself endlessly, and is so keen to impress you can smell the desperation from the other side of the room. See if you agree with his thesis. Copies available from juliamitchell@toastpr.co.uk.

Buy from Amazon: ‘How To Pick Up People At Parties And Other Tips For Marketing Executives’

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

LIES AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM

Al Franken

Penguin, £7.99 list or £6.39 on Amazon

A case study in the power of humour to communicate fury. Franken and his team of Harvard researchers take apart the lunatic propositions of right-wing nuts like Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly with wit, slapstick and, of course, facts. If nothing else, it inspired me to seek out the Fox News Channel on satellite, and see for myself just how terrifying it is.   Mike Reed

Buy from Amazon: ‘Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them’

Naive. Super

NAIVE. SUPER

Erlend Loe

Canongate, £6.99 list or

A delightful (and delightfully short) novel in which a confused young Norwegian wrestles with a quarter-life crisis, and sets out to try and answer the big questions of life, with the help of a ball, a toddler and a trip to New York. It’s simple, charming and profound.   Rishi Dastidar

Buy from Amazon: ‘Naive. Super’
 

Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash

PASSION IS A FASHION: THE REAL STORY OF THE CLASH

Pat Gilbert

Arum Press, £8.99 list or £7.19 on Amazon

Stylishly written and thoroughly well-researched book on the iconic, self-styled ‘last gang in town’ who emerged unscathed from the 1970s punk scene to become a muscular, million-selling rock ‘n’ roll band. Roadies, relatives and punk refugees contribute to a compelling, picaresque tale of politics, performance and power chords. Jim Davies

Buy from Amazon: ‘Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story Of The Clash’

Special Topics in Calamity Physics

SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS

Marisha Pessl

Viking, £16.99 list, or £8.49 on Amazon

Overwrought, over-written (in the best sense) and over here, you won’t be able to avoid the hype for Marisha Pessl’s debut novel. And with good reason. Part US high school comedy, part murder mystery and part treatise on the lingering existential crises of former revolutionaries, Special Topics is Mean Girls meets The Secret History, with a good dash of the information overload of David Foster Wallace. It drips with erudition, grips like a vice and has at least two zingers of gear changes, which kept me reading well into the small hours. Hell, I’ve already started casting the movie adaptation (Catherine Keener, Scarlett Johansson and Alfred Molina at the very least). It’s an absolute firecracker of a novel. Go get.   Rishi Dastidar

Buy from Amazon: ‘Special Topics in Calamity Physics’

The Art of Looking Sideways’

THE ART OF LOOKING SIDEWAYS’

Alan Fletcher

Phaidon, £24.99 list or £16.46 on Amazon

Classic compendium from designer and visual jackdaw Alan Fletcher, who sadly died this month. If ever you’re stuck for ideas, a quick flick through its pages is bound to do the trick – as a million creatives will no doubt attest. The Design Museum will be hosting a retrospective of his work from 11 November 2006. A new book Alan Fletcher: Picturing and Poeting will also be published by Phaidon in November.   Nick Asbury

Buy from Amazon: ‘The Art Of Looking Sideways’

Tyrannosaurus Rex versus the Corduroy Kid

TYRANNOSAURUS REX VERSUS THE CORDUROY KID

Simon Armitage

Faber & Faber, £12.99 list or £8.57 on Amazon

Can I recommend a book I haven’t read yet? As it’s by Simon Armitage, 26 member and writer, I think so. Tyrannosaurus Rex versus the Corduroy Kid (the title makes me want to read on) is Simon’s just-published collection of new poetry and there is a 26 connection because it includes ‘KX’, the powerful poem Simon wrote for 26’s From Here to Here. I’ve enjoyed all Simon’s poetry books so far, and this sounds like one of his best.   John Simmons

Buy from Amazon: ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus The Corduroy Kid’

99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style

99 WAYS TO TELL A STORY: EXERCISES IN STYLE

Matt Madden

Jonathan Cape, £12.99 list or £8.57 0n Amazon

In which the resourceful Matt tells the same short 8-frame cartoon story in, you guessed it, 99 different ways – manga, fantasy, Bayeux Tapestry etc. It’s a remarkable lesson in how to turn the most unpromising source material into something exciting. Now all I need to do is read Raymond Queneau’s 1947 work of the same name which does exactly the same thing but with words.  
Roger Horberry

Bonjour Laziness

BONJOUR LAZINESS

Corinne Maier

Orion, £6.99 or £3.99 on Amazon

a bored No Logo…  … a flip, hip The Corporation…  … a pretentious Dilbert… if I was lazy I’d leave it like that. But… Corrine Maier (who as an economist and a psychotherapist is not so lazy herself) has splurged a philippic of a slackers’ guide, referencing Freud, Foucault, Marx and Debord amongst others. While French in orientation, there is plenty that is applicable to the Anglo-Saxon corporate world. She is viciously good on the bankruptcy of modern business language. It is destined to become a bible for those caught in the hell of middle management.   Rishi Dastidar

 

DAVID HUGHES

www.davidhughesillustration.co.uk. Great work, great website. Especially the ‘Private View’ section, which shows images from his ‘The Boy Who Was Cruel To Insects’ show, with some of the comments it inspired when it appeared in Charleston, South Carolina. ‘David, You must be very disturbed, if you are married I feel sorry for your wife and family.’ That made me laugh. And so did: ‘I think this artist is mentally derranged. I can’t believe I wasted 2 dollars to see it.’   Tim Rich 
(Editor’s note: no relation to the designer of the 26 newsletter.)

My Father And Other Working Class Football Heroes

MY FATHER AND OTHER WORKING CLASS FOOTBALL HEROES

Gary Imlach

Yellow Jersey Press, £7.99 list or £3.99 on Amazon

Stuart Imlach was a footballer of some distinction, a Scottish international and FA Cup winner, while gracing the Nottingham Forest side of the late-1950s. His son Gary, a sports journalist of some distinction, didn’t really ‘know’ him; the downs of his career, the conditions he worked under, the struggles he faced. This book is attempt to find the footballer in his father, away from the press clippings and newsreels, and instead through those that knew him: former teammates, managers and coaches. Part memoir, part biography, part social history and part detective story, Gary writes with a clear eye and crisp phrases. There is bite in his judgements on the blazers that ran the sport at the time, but this is not a bitter tale – instead, one filled with love, affection and bags of heart.   
Rishi Dastidar

Unspeak

UNSPEAK

Stephen Poole

Little Brown, £9.99 or £6.59 on Amazon

Interesting analysis of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which language is used as a political weapon, focusing on those acts of naming that are designed to warp or close off an argument before it has even taken place. A whole lexicon of phrases come in for close analysis – pro-life, natural resources, road map, community, surgical strike, war on terror. The book has a definite political point of view (generally not hugely enamoured of George Bush), but it’s full of revealing research and insights – particularly for anyone whose trade is using words as a persuasive tool.   Nick Asbury

 

BAD DESIGN AMNESTY


As part of the London Design Festival, Purpose Design are inviting submissions for a ‘Bad Design Amnesty’. This is an exhibition (and, later, a book) of the most hated pieces of design – graphic, product, architectural or whatever. A fun project and a great excuse for some well-worded rants. For more, go to www.purpose.co.uk.   Mike Reed

Howies jeans

HOWIES JEANS


Pardon? I just bought a pair in their summer sale. They’re made from organic cotton and washed with an ‘eco ball’ to go easy on the world’s dwindling supply of pummice. One of the back pockets is stitched to reveal the coastline of Cardigan Bay in Wales, where Howies is based. Inside the waistband it says (in large) "Life is sweet", and underneath (in small) "terms and conditions apply". A long white label on the inside is printed with a detailed and disturbing story about cotton production headlined "100% cotton. 73% true". It explains that the average 100% cotton T-shirt contains 73% cotton – the rest is chemicals. That cotton is the world’s most sprayed crop, accounting for quarter of the world’s pesticides. That’s why they use the organic stuff. I love the way Howies use every opportunity to express their point of view, to connect, to create a dialogue. Their words are always well put – well said and well placed. www.howies.co.uk.   Jim Davies

 

SHAKESPEARE’S SONNETS AND KANDINSKY’S PAINTINGS


Both have a feeling of abstraction, though the Sonnets are about and addressed to real people. Kandinsky puts marks, colours, outlines in his paintings that suggest reality. In fact they suggest a number of possible interpretations. That line there could be a horse, a hill or a human. Or all three. In the same way, Shakespeare suggests multiple possibilities in every line. You have to work at the meaning but in the end you stand back, look at the overall picture, and simply admire it without understanding every nuance or layer of meaning. You can see ‘Kandinsky: The Path To Abstraction’ at Tate Modern until 1 October. You can read Shakespeare’s Sonnets any time. John Simmons

The Brand Gap

THE BRAND GAP

Marty Neumeier

(New Riders, RRP £13.95 or £9.20 on Amazon

One of the clearest and most entertaining books on branding around. It sets out all the fundamentals of what a brand is and how you go about bridging the gap between logic (the strategic stuff) and magic (the creative stuff). Begins with one of the most sensible definitions of the word ‘brand’ I’ve come across: "A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is." Nick Asbury

The Cloudspotter's Guide

THE CLOUDSPOTTER’S GUIDE

Gavin Pretor-Pinney

(£7.99 on Amazon)

Hands up everyone who knows their cumulus from their altocumulus. Or their stratus from their nimbostratus. Well, quite. This enjoyable little book from one of the chaps who brought us ‘The Idler’ magazine is as light as its subject matter but don’t let that put you off. Surprisingly interesting once you get into it. Honest.   Roger Horberry

The Golden Gate

THE GOLDEN GATE

Vikram Seth

(Faber & Faber, RRP £5.99 or £4.79 on Amazon)

A word to the quick in this faltering stanza;
In the space of the lines left here
Let me attempt to convince you of a bonanza
To be found in sheaves not so dear.
A novel in verse, startling and bold
First written in 1986, and yet not old
A meditation on what makes life pleasurable and true
At first appearance flighty, and yet you do
Soon discern the depths within
Characters well drawn, rounded
Musing on art, love and sin
In tetrameter well-crafted, not hounded
Into life by Vikram Seth, ‘The Golden Gate’ is to be praised
Buy it, and enjoyment will be raised.   Rishi Dastidar

The Stories of English

THE STORIES OF ENGLISH

David Crystal

(Penguin, £6.9 on Amazon)

If you’re a very vigilant reader of these recommendations, you’ll know that this is the second time this has had a mention. However, I make no apologies about this. It’s an amazing, compendious survey of the development of our language from its earliest influences through to its current international diaspora. And just in case you’re daunted by a 600 page, closely typed book on language, the title is accurate. It’s a compelling set of narratives, a story in its own right. Finally, I can say no more for it than that I’ve been left with an even greater respect and love of English than I had before, and I’ve got a store of insights and quirky facts that will serve me well for the years ahead.   Martin Lee

 

WORDCOUNT


Warning! WordCount™ can be addictive. This brilliant web site is an artistic experiment in the way we use language, showing the 86,800 most frequently used English words. ‘The’ is at no.1, with ‘conquistador’ at no. 86,800. ‘Love’ is in the 300s, while ‘hate’ is in the 3000s – surely something to celebrate? Check out your ‘name neighbours’ (e.g. ‘honestly julie campaigns’) and invent new slogans like ‘Resurrect denizens northbound!’. Or indulge in covert swearing. ‘Khmer calorie’ anyone? www.wordcount.org.   Fiona Thompson

CONSIDER THE LOBSTER

CONSIDER THE LOBSTER

David Foster Wallace

(Abacus RRP £10.99, or £7.79 on Amazon)

In which America’s pre-eminent post-modern stylist, genius grant recipient, and user of words such as ‘snootlet’, takes on diverse subjects such as the class structure to be found in the US porn industry, Senator John McCain, adn why he might be the saviour of US politics, whether or not lobsters feel pain when they are boiled alive, what’s wrong with John Updike, what’s right with Kafka adn why you really ought  be concerned about the words you use, while deploying rhetorical tricks such as page-long footnotes, in-text interpolations and 100-word sentences, and being laugh-out loud funny all at the same time. RD

'FOUND' MAGAZINE

‘FOUND’ MAGAZINE

www.foundmagazine.com

I collect odd scraps of letters washed into the gutter, strange lost Post-It notes, peculiar posters for country fayres, notices in public places, and all sorts of other hand-written or badly printed electica. I thought I was odd. Then I discovered (or should that be found) ‘Found’ Magazine. Now I think I’m odd but not alone. TR

THE JEAN VIGO COLLECTION

THE JEAN VIGO COLLECTION

(Artifical Eye, £29.99 from Amazon)

This collection features the brilliant ‘Zero de Conduite’, a 40-minute film from 1933 that has anarchic schoolboys and teachers running amok in a boarding school. Very silly, surreal and Frrench in a pre-Jacques Tati kind of way. You also get the class ‘L’Atlante’, where a honeymoon on a barge lurches from romance to high drama, and ‘A Propos de Nice’, a silent montage that captures the rich and poor of the South of France as they prepare for the carnival. FT

LABYRINTHS

LABYRINTHS

Jorge Luis Borges

(Penguin Modern Classics, £8.99 list or £7.99 on Amazon)

The classic collection of short fictions, including ‘The Library of Babel’; from a master of intrigue and philosophic mischief. Feel your imagination whirl as he takes you down strange paths of thinking, then leads you to question everything you’ve just thought. A very entertaining way to try to make sense of writing, reading and the universe. TR 

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