Books | Anorak - Part 10

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The latest books and literature reviews, comment, features and interviews, with extracts from famous texts and neglected gems.

In 1935 Ernest Hemingway wrote this letter in praise of ‘the bottle’

IN 1935, Ernest Hemingway wrote to Ivan Kashkin, a Russian translator and critic,. The Post Post Script is memorable:

hemingway drink

“P.P.S. Don’t you drink? I notice you speak slightingly of the bottle. I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure. When you work hard all day with your head and know you must work again the next day what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whisky? When you are cold and wet what else can warm you? Before an attack who can say anything that gives you the momentary well being that rum does? I would as soon not eat at night as not to have red wine and water. The only time it isn’t good for you is when you write or when you fight. Yuu have to do that cold. But it always helps my shooting. Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief. Let me know if my books make any money and will come to Moscow and we will find somebody that drinks and drink my royalties up to end the mechanical oppression.”

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Posted: 5th, July 2013 | In: Books, Flashback | Comment

John Steinbeck on the male beard versus the female beard

**FILE** This 1965 file photo shows author John Steinbeck winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize for literature. A son and a granddaughter Steinbeck hold the publishing rights to 10 of his early works, including "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men," a federal judge has ruled, turning away a publishing house and others who claimed the rights. U.S. District Judge Richard Owen said in a 10-page order dated Thursday that the rights properly belong to the author's son, Thomas Steinbeck, and granddaughter Blake Smyle. (AP Photo/File)

JOHN Steinbeck on the beard:

I cultivate this beard not for the usual given reasons of skin trouble or pain of shaving, nor for the secret purpose of covering a weak chin, but as pure unblushing decoration, much as a peacock finds pleasure in his tail. And finally, in our time a beard is the one thing that a woman cannot do better than a man, or if she can her success is assured only in a circus,” – John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley.

Photo: This 1965 file photo shows author John Steinbeck winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize for literature. 


Posted: 21st, June 2013 | In: Books, Flashback | Comment

A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting – the Shredded Wheat saga

GUY Delisle, a French Canadian, has written A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting. In this extract Delisle and his daughter chat about a box of Shredded Wheat:


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Posted: 12th, June 2013 | In: Books | Comment

Huxley vs. Orwell – the comic inspired by Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death

HUXLEY vs. Orwell: the comic, by Stuart McMillen adapts Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death argument thaAldous Huxley’s vision of the future in Brave New World was more prescient than George Orwell in 1984:






Posted: 10th, June 2013 | In: Books, Key Posts | Comment

Oscar Wilde explains his comment that ‘All art is quite useless’


IN 1890, Bernulf Clegg wrote asked Oscar Wilde to expand on a line in his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray: “All art is quite useless.” Wilde replied:


My dear Sir

Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.

Truly yours,

Oscar Wilde

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Posted: 28th, May 2013 | In: Books, Celebrities, Flashback | Comment (1)

Poptastic: extracts from Tony Blackburn’s fantastic autobiography

tony blackburn

EXTRACTS from Poptastic! My Life in Radio, by Tony Blackburn, as selected by Eamonn Forde. It turns there is more to Tony than admiration for Neil Sedaka and pressed trousers. Here’s what Tony didn’t cover in his first autobiography, 1985’s Tony Blackburn: The Living Legend.

First few facts about Tony for our overseas and younger readers:

Blackburn’s was the first voice heard on Radio One in 1967. In his album Tony Blackburn Sings, he crooned a version of The White Cliffs of Dover. The rest of career saw him become remarkably uncool.


Now for the extracts. Nice!

Says Tony:

 “I’d say that seeing Bobby Vee perform was far more enjoyable than watching The Beatles in their prime. I was never big on Elvis – I prefer Perry Como – and I’ll take Alvin Stardust over David Bowie any day.”

tony blackburn 7

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Posted: 16th, May 2013 | In: Books, Celebrities, Key Posts | Comment

Zombie Thatcher – the book of Maggie in the afterlife

BOOK of the day: Zombie Thatcher by Bronwen Winter Phoenix (Author), Al Terry (Illustrator):

thatcher zombie


Posted: 3rd, May 2013 | In: Books, Politicians | Comment

Fabulous Frisbee 1977: A model shows us the Basic Catching Postions

fab frisbee

SO. Summer’s coming and you’re wondering who to throw a frisbee like the dudes in Hard Ticket to Hawaii. Well, in 1978, Fabulous Frisbee told us how:

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Posted: 28th, April 2013 | In: Books, Flashback, Sports | Comment

John le Carré: the cocaine that gave him a painful erection and pissing on Geoege Bush


JOHN le Carré is profiled in the New York Times. In another life, one of Anorak’s writers used to serve him his dinner at the Bacchus restaurant in London’s Hampstead. He was gracious, generous and affable. What else do we know about him?

He says on fox hunting:

“At least they aren’t hunting that poor goddamn thing with drones.”

On MI5:

“It was like working on a great newspaper. They were really funny people, not institutionalized, not too corporate in their minds and often very bright with curious interests.”

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Posted: 26th, April 2013 | In: Books, Celebrities | Comment

The TEXAS-ISRAELI WAR 1999: Charlie Bagle, over

the texas isreali war


IN 1999, those rebellious Texans kidnap the President of the US of A. Only a bunch of fearless Israelis can save him. Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop report on the TEXAS-ISRAELI WAR 1999.

The report was made in 1974, which appears odd (but it’s how newspaper reporting works).

On August 12, 1992, England’s tiny nuclear arsenal fell on Ireland, on South Africa, and finally on China. Instantly the planet went up in flames. In the first half year of what was to be called the War of ’92, half the Earth’s population perished. The United States was reduced to a vast underpeopled land — and, to make matters worse, Texas had seceded and taken her precious oil reserves. But Israel, virtually untouched in a world ravaged by war, was painfully overpopulated.

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Posted: 17th, April 2013 | In: Books | Comment

Is Microwave Cooking for One the saddest book ever written?

IS Microwave Cooking for One the saddest book ever written? Author Marie T Smith looks happy enough with her midnight snack, though. She’s a good eater is Marie…

microwave cooking for oneSpotter: Danny. K.


Posted: 29th, March 2013 | In: Books | Comment

Everyday Racism in books: Simple Edition by A Little Nigger

It tapped into a theme. Earlier, G.H. Thompson had  illustrated Ten Little Nigger Boys, a book he followed up with work on Ten Little Nigger Girls.  This was sexual equality racism. Although in the girls’ version the females start at 10 and disappear. The boys grow in number.

Now grab your golliwog and read on….

little nigger

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Posted: 26th, March 2013 | In: Books, Flashback | Comment

The oddest book title of the year is about goblins charming chickens

Goblinproofing One's Chicken Coop

THE winner of the Bookseller’s Diagram Prize for the weirdest book title of the year is…Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop. The blurb tells readers:

Plagued by pixies, goaded by goblins or bothered by gnomes? Help is on the way! Help is here. This is the essential primer for banishing the dark Fairy creatures that are lurking in the dark corners and crevices of your life. In this charming guide, fairy hunter Reginald Bakeley offers practical instructions to clear your home and garden of goblins and banish them forever!

The word charming somewhat kills it, no? It makes the book sound twee and small. ‘Offensive’ would have been better geared to marketing, or ‘inappropriate”. Both are words trending with buzz.

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Posted: 23rd, March 2013 | In: Books | Comment

Sorted Book: a sideways look at the library

sorted books 4

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Posted: 18th, March 2013 | In: Books | Comment

Emma Watson won’t be getting really naked in Fifty Shades of Grey

emma watson 50 shades

FIFTY Shades of Grey completely took over the world, giving people the chance to indulge themselves in the darker side of Mills and Boon and revel in some of the most clunky euphemisms for the vagina ever committed to a page. All good fun and a rather sweet way of getting your rocks off, compared to brutal 3 minute internet clips of tattooed LA starlets getting ravaged by men hung like wheelie-bins.

A film adaptation of EL James’ ‘Fifty Shades’ was inevitable and 99% of the world’s press rubbed their thighs with mucky fever, talking openly about which famous actress they’d most like to see getting spanked on the silver screen.

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Posted: 18th, March 2013 | In: Books, Film, Reviews | Comments (2)

The John Nathan-Turner story: Sex, paedos and Dr Who at the BBC

John Nathan-Turner book

IAN Berriman has reviewed The Life And Scandalous Times Of John Nathan-Turner. He died in 2002. In life, he was notable as the producer of the hit BBC TV show Doctor Who (1980-89). Given the revelations about BBC stalwart Jimmy Savile and other allegations levelled against other former BBC employees, the book’s publication is sure to be of interest to the elite in Broadcasting House.

Chapter Eight is entitled “Hanky Panky”. Author Richard Marson asks: “Was John Nathan-Turner a paedophile?”

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Posted: 13th, March 2013 | In: Books, Celebrities, TV & Radio | Comment

The move to shut down Nobokov’s Lolita with violence


IN the New Yorker, Michael Idov writes about the problems of staging Lolita, a play based on Vladimir Nabokov’s book. It’s the 1955 story of a middle-aged professor who falls for a 12-year-old girl. The Sunday Express called Lolita “sheer unrestrained pornography”. It might be.

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Posted: 7th, March 2013 | In: Books | Comment

Book of the Day: The Life and Loves of Mr Jiveass Nigger

BOOK of the Day: The Life and Loves of Mr Jiveass Nigger, by Cecil Brown:


Posted: 28th, February 2013 | In: Books, Flashback | Comment (1)

William Faulkner’s Post Office regination letter and dream of working in a brothel

IN 1987, the US Postal Service produced a stamp to honour William Faulkner. Before he was a man of letters, Faulkner was delivering letters. Between 1921 to 1924, he worked as the University of Mississippi’s postmaster. He didn’t enjoy it. This is, reportedly, his resignation letter:

October, 1924

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

This, sir, is my resignation.

(Signed by Faulkner)

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Posted: 26th, February 2013 | In: Books, Celebrities, Flashback | Comment

Lady Mary Curzon: Cressida Bona’s mother appeared in Birds Of Britain

PRINCE Harry’s is dating Cressida BONAS. * (Her name must forever be capitalised.) La Bonas’s mother is Lady Mary Curzon, a siren of the Swinging Sixties with five children by three of her four husbands. She might be the Carol Jackson of high society.

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Posted: 21st, February 2013 | In: Books, Royal Family | Comment

Woman covers body in Twilight tattoos: can’t see the trees for the wooden actors

CATHY Ward, 51, Cathy Ward, has scene and quotes from the Twilight books and films on her skin. In the right light, you can role her around in bed and read her. Her lovers’ are never without literary stimulation. Of her ink of Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner, Ward says:

“I’m still continuing with them. We’ve got plans and designs for my legs next year – the aim is to cover my whole body.”

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Posted: 17th, February 2013 | In: Books, Film, Strange But True | Comment

Study the Bible, with Robert Crumb’s Book of Genesis

IT’S Sunday. Time to study the Bible, with Robert Crumb’s Book of Genesis.

Greta Christina reviews:

Of course I’ve read Genesis. More than once. It’s been a little while since I’ve read the whole thing all the way through, but it’s not like it’s unfamiliar. But there’s something about seeing the story fleshed out in images to make some of its more striking narrative turns leap out and grab your brain by the root. There’s nothing quite like seeing the two different creation stories enacted on the page to make you go, “Hey! That’s right! Two completely different creation stories!” There’s nothing quite like seeing Lot offer his daughters to be gang-raped to make you recoil in shock and moral horror. There’s nothing quite like seeing the crazed dread and burning determination in Abraham’s eyes as he prepares the sacrifice of his own son to make you feel the enormity of this act. Reading these stories in words conveys the ideas; seeing them in images conveys the visceral impact. It makes it all seem vividly, immediately, humanly real.

Now, that is something of a mixed blessing. Spending a few days with the characters in Genesis isn’t the most relaxing literary vacation you’ll ever take. Richard Dawkins wasn’t kidding when he said, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.” The God character in Genesis is cruel, violent, callous, insecure, power-hungry, paranoid, hot-tempered, morally fickle… I could go on and on. And God’s followers aren’t much better. They lie, they scheme, they cheat one another, they conquer other villages with bloodthirsty imperialist glee, they kill at the drop of a hat. This isn’t Beatrix Potter here. It’s more like Dangerous Liaisons by way of Quentin Tarantino. With tents, sand, and sheep.

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Posted: 10th, February 2013 | In: Books | Comments (5)

Jon Venables: Ralph Bulger’s new book sheds light on James Bulger’s killer

THE murder of James Bulger is still news. Ralph Bulger, father of the two-year-old murdered by twn-year-olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, has written a book. My James by Ralph Bulger and Rosie Dunn centres on the events of February 12, 1993. The parts about he and wife Denise Ferguson’s unbearable pain are horrible, like being invited to look at survivors’ slides from a fatal car crash. The parts about the child’s body and wounds are grim. They offer nothing new. What is interesting is the story of the criminal case, particularly how Jon Venables comes across: 

‘Is that you on that video, son?’ Ann Thompson demanded. ‘Nah, it’s got nothing to do with me,’ he replied. As if to prove his point, Robert went to a makeshift memorial near the railway in Walton and later took some flowers. When he got home he said to his mother: ‘Why would I take flowers to the baby if I had killed him?’ At another home nearby, Jon Venables told his mother, Susan: ‘If I’d seen them kids hurting the baby, I’d have kicked their heads in.’

Jon’s father, meanwhile, asked his son about the blue paint that was splattered on his mustard-coloured coat. He said that his friend Robert Thompson had thrown it at him.
I later learned that on the Wednesday evening an anonymous woman went to Marsh Lane Police Station. She said she was a friend of the Venables family and knew that the son, a boy called Jon, had skipped school with a friend called Robert Thompson on the Friday that James went missing. He had returned home with blue paint on his jacket.

Jon was having lunch when his mother held her son in a tight embrace and said: ‘I love you, Jon. I want you to tell the truth, whatever it might be.’ He started to cry, and just blurted out: ‘I did kill him.’ The boy looked across the room at the detectives and said: ‘What about his mum? Will you tell her I’m sorry.’ Jon continued to blame everything on Robert. He said they found James outside the butcher’s shop. He said it was his idea to take him, but it was Robert’s idea to kill him. They took him to the canal, where Robert planned to throw him in. James would not kneel down to look at his reflection in the water as they wanted, so Robert picked him up and threw him on the ground. This was how James had first injured his head. He said that James kept crying: ‘I want my mummy.’

‘He wanted him dead, probably,’ he responded. ‘Robert was probably doing it for fun because he was laughing his head off.’ For his part, though, Robert refused to admit any involvement in the attack. ‘He never actually told me the truth in the end – far from it,’ said DS Roberts. ‘He lied from the minute we started to interview him.’ ‘When he was charged, he had no problem with it. I suppose he knew that if he was found guilty he would have a better life than he would outside. I thought to myself, “This boy has caused so much misery and evil.” I didn’t look for the three sixes on the back of his head, but at that moment I thought he was the devil.’

It may oversimplify the arguments, but that to my mind makes them evil beyond belief.

You never do hear much of Robert Thompson…

Posted: 3rd, February 2013 | In: Books, Reviews | Comments (21)