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Books | Anorak - Part 7

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

Browse Harry Houdini’s Magical Sprapbooks

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THANKS to the digitisation and Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, we can browse scrapbooks owned by the great Harry Houdini  (1891-1926). The University has had the archives in its possession since 1958. But only now are they on the web, and free to view.

 

houdini posters

 

The scrapbooks are full of adverts, stories, and reviews on Houdini’s twin passions: magic and spiritualism. It’s great to think of Houdini and his peers selecting item for inclusion, then sticking them into place, editing the story of magic and live showbiz in the first two decades of the 20th Century.

Everyone should like collecting and sticking things in books with an artistic flourish. These books create wonderful memories of your life and your view of the world. They reveal what delighted you, what you did and what made you think.

 

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Posted: 16th, February 2014 | In: Books, Celebrities, Flashback | Comment


On This Day In Photos: Iran Orders Salman Rushdie To Be Murdered For Writing A Book

Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, shown in his London study on Jan. 31,1988

Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, shown in his London study on Jan. 31,1988

 

ON this day in photos: February 14 1989:  Iran’s leader Ayatollah Khomeini sentences British author Salman Rushdie to death. He also sentenced to death the publishers of Rushdie’s book the Satanic Verses. Khomeni said the book is a blasphemy against Islam. His decree introduced many of us to the word ‘fatwa’.

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Posted: 14th, February 2014 | In: Books, Celebrities, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment (1)


Daniel Defoe Reports The Great Storm of 1704

The destruction of the Eddystone Lighthouse

The destruction of the Eddystone Lighthouse

 

HOW bad are the storms pummelling the British Isles?

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Posted: 13th, February 2014 | In: Books, Flashback | Comments (2)


Read a Highly Distressing Coloring Book from 1953

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THE point of this colouring book was to teach the youngsters of 1953 good safety lessons via the alphabet.  From a perspective of 60 years later, some of these lessons seem, well, I think “distressing” is the best word I can come up with. See for yourself.

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Posted: 13th, February 2014 | In: Books, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment


Weasels Ripped My Flesh! 10 Awesome Pulp Headlines

IS there anything better than a mid-century men’s action magazine?  They were chock full of lurid stories and provocative artwork depicting female biker gangs, nympho pirates, Gestapo dominatrices, etc.  If it fulfilled a macho fantasy, it was fair game, and the headlines beckoned men to go along for the ride.  Here are ten worthy examples.

 

THE MAN WHO TOUCHED OFF PHILADELPHIA’S GREAT BOSOM RIOT

Male, Sept. 1959

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I’m a mild mannered, peaceful kind of guy – not much into protests and insurrection.  That being said, a “bosom riot” is something I could get behind.

 

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Posted: 7th, February 2014 | In: Books, Flashback, Key Posts | Comments (2)


Hear How Ice T Read The’Deep Nerd’ Dungeons & Dragons Audiobook

Parental advice: This is not how to hold a sword

Parental advice: This is not how to hold a sword

 

HOW do you follow Cop Killer and date night with the well upholstered Coco Austin? If you’re Ice-T you create an audiobook for Dungeons & Dragons.

In Ice T’s Final Level Podcast, the rapper tell how unprepared he was got the job.

“They didn’t tell me this was a motherfu**in’ Dungeons & Dragons book… [it’s] some of the most crazy, deep, deep nerd shit.Motherfu**ers talk like Yoda. They were talking about ‘pegasuses’ and ‘pegasi.’ That’s horses with wings. This motherfu**er got a sword that talks to him… Motherfuckers live in places that don’t exist, and it comes with a map. My God.”

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Posted: 6th, February 2014 | In: Books, Celebrities | Comment


How To Behave In 1920s New York: An Illustrated Guide

VISITORS to 1920s NYC  could study the Valentine’s City of New York: A Guide Book. As any reader of P.G. Wodehouse’s Psmith, Journalist will now full well, New York was a dangerous place back then, overrun by gangs, slum landlords and shysters.

 

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Posted: 27th, January 2014 | In: Books, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment


A Field Guide to 1970s Men’s Sweaters

WITH so many “important things” going on the world, why spend time looking at forty year old sweaters?  Simply put, the brain needs a break from the barrage of jarring images of a world on the brink.  A tour of 70s men’s sweaters is exactly what the doctor ordered.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy a cornucopia of magnificent vintage sweaters.  And you’re welcome.

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Left: I’m not a fashion connoisseur, but I do have a general rule of thumb:  Avoid sweater vests with built in belts.

Center:  Add a cape and it’s almost superhero-like.  Don’t for a minute think that superheroes are somehow above sweaters when they have no problem prancing around in Spandex unitards.

Right: Looks like he just stole Janis Joplin’s belongings.  Poor sap. Her sweaty clothes are probably so saturated with drugs, he’ll be dead soon.

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Posted: 14th, January 2014 | In: Books, Flashback, Key Posts | Comment (1)


In 1933 Helen Keller Wrote This Open Letter To German Students Planning To Burn ‘Un-German’ Books

Miss Helen Keller, probably the most famous blind woman in the world, photographed in New York City on Oct. 29, 1931 with a bust of herself sculptured by count Hans-Albrecht Hafrach of Munich, Germany. The bust was presented to the American Foundation for the Blind by M.C. Migel, president of the American Foundation for the Blind, to pay a tribute to the work of Miss Keller for the organization.

Miss Helen Keller, probably the most famous blind woman in the world, photographed in New York City on Oct. 29, 1931 with a bust of herself sculptured by count Hans-Albrecht Hafrach of Munich, Germany. The bust was presented to the American Foundation for the Blind by M.C. Migel, president of the American Foundation for the Blind, to pay a tribute to the work of Miss Keller for the organization.

 

IN 1933, German students planned to burn “Un-German” books. Helen Keller wrote this open letter to the students:

“History has taught you nothing if you think you can kill ideas…”

helen keller letter to germans

 

Posted: 12th, January 2014 | In: Books, Flashback | Comment


Enid Blyton’s Least Popular Novel

ENID Blyton didn’t just write for children. She wrote this Famous Five pot-boiler about four felons and a devil dog:

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Spotter: martin kelner ‏@martinkelner3 Dec

 

Posted: 11th, January 2014 | In: Books, Reviews | Comment


Highlights From The Book Witnessing Made Easy: How to Pass Out Tracts for Jesus

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JERRY Keever’s 1986 books Witnessing Made Easy: How to Pass Out Tracts for Jesus is a gem. This is passive aggressive preaching from 1986.

We’ve got some highlights from its 319 pages of dogmatic wonderment.

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Posted: 7th, January 2014 | In: Books, Key Posts | Comment (1)


How To Tell Good People From Bad People According To The International Order of The Golden Rule

THE International Order of The Golden Rule is a funeral homes organisation based in Austin, Texas. On their website filed under “history”, they tell us:

To a group of funeral directors in 1928, the “Golden Rule” – a fundamental principle that is universally admired and upheld – became the cornerstone upon which to built a professional association.

The founders embarked on a mission to seek out a dependable, ethical funeral directors in every community by means of a carefully tested screening process. They wanted to establish a quality-minded identity in the minds of families everywhere. The Golden Rule credo – “Service measured not by gold, but by the Golden Rule” – speaks to that identity.

And:

Each Golden Rule® Funeral Home must show a commitment to provide to their client families: “Service measured not by gold but by the Golden Rule.”

So. What is the Golden Rule? We never do get to nail it down. Under “STandards of Ethical Conduct”, we get not one rule but 10 rules.  We also see their name printed on this booklet called “How To Tell Good People From Bad People”.

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Posted: 1st, January 2014 | In: Books, Flashback, Strange But True | Comment


Amazon Is Banning Sales Of Virginia Wade’s Monster Smut e-Books

MY Little Pony filth has nothing on this kind of cryptozoological smut. E’ve shown you dinoraur erotica before. Now Business Insider says Amazon is looking to ban “monster p*rn” e-books. Anyone read Cum for Bigfoot? Some of you have because author and mum-of-two Virginia Wade* says that 12,000-word tome earns her $30,000 a month.

monster smut

For those of you versed in Wade’s works:

An idea to write a campy, teen horror-fest, with a Sasquatch protagonist, led to the creation of Cum For Bigfoot, which is essentially a series of stories spanning several years in the lives of a tribe of Bigfoots and their human lovers. The silliness, the romance, and the sex struck a chord with readers, who enjoyed the adventures of Porsche, Shelly, and Leslie, while the kidnapped teens came to love their hairy abductors. The series is now on its fourteenth installment, with more to follow.

How can Porsche leave all of this behind and return to civilization? When she’s in the arms of her Sasquatch, warm and snuggly in his matted fur, the only thoughts going through her mind are of utter bliss. But challenges abound for the star-crossed lovers, including Leonard’s head injury, a devastating wildfire, and a sexy forest ranger named Mike. Will these obstacles shatter the growing love between an ape and its mate or will true love triumph?

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Posted: 29th, December 2013 | In: Books, Strange But True, The Consumer | Comments (2)


J.G. Ballard: The Death Of Imagination

J.G. Ballard on boredom and the death of imagination:

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


Library Rules of The Insane Asylum of California (1861)

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THESE are the Library Rules of the Insane Asylum of California (1861):

1. The Library of the male department shall be under the charge of the Supervisor. Every volume taken therefrom shall be charged to the borrower, except for the use of the patients, when it shall be charged to the Attendant, into whose ward it is taken, who will be responsible for its being used with ordinary care and returned in proper time.

2. If a volume shall be lost or destroyed, by any patient, the Attendant, having charge of the patient, will report the fact to the Supervisor, and, if practicable, exhibit the fragments. If lost or destroyed, by any other person, it must be replaced.

3. No one will be permitted to take from the library more than one volume at a time, or to keep a volume more than two weeks, without permission from the Superintendent or Assistant Physician, except Bibles, Testaments and Prayer books placed in the hands of the patients for daily reading.

4. The Supervisor will be responsible for books taken from the library and not charged.

5. The Library of the female department will be under the charge of the Matron, who, in its management, will be governed by the above rules, prescribing the duties and responsibilities of the Supervisor.

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Posted: 29th, December 2013 | In: Books, Flashback | Comment


Extreme Dieting: Keith Moon Versus Hunter S Thompson

Keith Moon, the eccentric drummer of The Who, at Heathrow Airport with his girlfriend Annette Walker-Lax, on return from the United States. PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Keith Moon, the eccentric drummer of The Who, at Heathrow Airport with his girlfriend Annette Walker-Lax, on return from the United States. 

THE late Keith Moon was once asked whether he thought he was the greatest drummer in the world, he replied: “I’m the greatest Keith Moon-style drummer in the world”, and no one can argue with that. However Moon is just as famous, even today, for packing in far more than his fair share of convivial nights during his short eventful life. He died in September 1978 just two weeks after his 32nd birthday when he fell unconscious, never to wake up, in the Mayfair flat of his close-friend Harry Nilsson. Coincidentally, it was the very same bed where Mama Cass Elliot had died four years earlier.

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Posted: 27th, December 2013 | In: Books, Celebrities, Key Posts, Music | Comments (2)


The Six Best Books of the Year 2013

Madame Arcati’s Six Best Books of the Year 2013

Who isn’t trying to flog a book these days? Independent publishing is fracking vast quantities of creative gas long ignored under our nose. Kindles everywhere are growing slow on free and cheap literary downloads, perhaps one day to be read when the kids or pets have flown and the only alternative to a heart-warming phone chat with one of Esther Rantzen’s Silver Line Friends is that book you meant to read 20 years ago.Excellent books are there to be found, and here’s Madame Arcati’s brief guide to the six best this festive season (all titles hyper-linked to Amazon):

 

Madame Arcati’s Most Excellent Book of the Year 

A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof by Roger Clarke

A-Natural-History-of-GhostsDivine, darling. Or, as Craig Revel Horwood might say if not too busy eyeing up male dancer buttock curvature, ‘fab-u-larse!’ Published last year, the paperback released a few weeks ago, this is by far the most fascinating survey of paranormal sightings and encounters I have ever read.

Ingenuity starts at concept stage. Clarke sets out not to debate whether ghosts exist. He is much more interested in the anthropology of spectral experiences and research – or put another way, in relating true-life ghost tales, the ‘scientific’ attempts to understand them and in classifying the different types of spook: elementals, poltergeists, etc.

This is clever and fortuitous because Clarke knows he’d lose most of his mainstream critical audience if he entertained the notion, even for a moment, that ghosts exist as sentient post-mortem entities. One feature of secularism and atheism is the absolute conviction that life starts and ends with synaptic crackle ‘n’ pop. But there’s no question people have ghostly liaisons. I have seen a ghost. You probably have. Pliny wrote of a haunted house in 100 AD. The materialist will flesh out any unscientific explanation-away provided no concession is made to afterlife drivel. The winner is not rationalism but a replacement irrationalism.

Clarke knows all this as a veteran Poirot of psychical inquiry. So instead he sits us down by a log fire, creeps us out with weird tales, documents the countless vain attempts to solve the mystery of hauntings and treats the topic (of ghosts) as an aspect of immemorial human experience.

Clarke writes tremendously well – an essential component of any effects-driven tale both to satisfy the Bunsen burner know-all and trembly Susan Hill addict. The slightest hint of irony here and there gives sceptics their calorific fill while oo-ee-oo narrative pleases the rest of us. He is unafraid of the plodding nature of prose, the focus on patient set-ups – Gore Vidal called this vital writerly process ‘grazing’. The cow’s temperament is vital to story-telling.

I also commend Clarke’s end notes which combine scholarly learning with a sly sense of humour. At the very least you end up sceptically well-informed and enthralled.

 

 

Madame Arcati’s Most Promising Foreplay Read of 2014

The View from the Tower by Charles Lambert

TowerOne of the joys of reading is the foreplay. Before immersion I like to examine covers, read blurbs, savour hints in reviews or previews, gaze at the author pic (if any), perhaps tantalise myself with a glimpse of the first and last pages (I am intolerant of sequence and secrets – no author will control moi). Charles Lambert is new to me, I have not read his fiction yet; but we are engaged in foreplay (one-sidedly I hasten to add). I am sampling his work at present. I intend to go all the way with his novelThe View from the Tower, published on 2 January 2014.

This is the second in a Rome-set trilogy, so really I ought to consummate with the first in the series,Any Human Face (published in 2011). ‘A dark and fast-paced literary thriller about love, sex, art and death,’ is the terse description. I have the book in front of me. On the cover, a slim man in a black suit gazes warily up an ancient alleyway. An old-style pale blue motor scooter before him startles the period monochrome. Is the man hunting or being hunted? I don’t know.

I may read Any Human Face first. It has Malaysian nuns killing time at a second-hand bookstall – a sufficiently kinky observation to grab my attention. I suspect Lambert notices much that is surprising. I can smell his curiosity and his taste for the perverse.The View from the Tower is  ‘a psychological thriller about love and betrayal, and the damage done when ideals and human lives come into conflict.’ But I suspect it’s rich in peculiar detail, too. That’s what I want. Isn’t foreplay fun?

 

 

Madame Arcati’s Best Poppet Book of the Year 2013

Sleeping With Dogs: A Peripheral Autobiography by Brian Sewell

dogsI just know I would hate art critic Brian Sewell in person. That face, fixed in a state of appalled shock. That voice, strangled to last-breath whine by an odd form of hostile genteelness – the sharp chip in the Whittard of Chelsea teacup rim. In death his visage will slowly, ineluctably draw into one final pull of grotesque disapproval, perhaps impossible in life, now achievable by the new physics of rot. Not even Tracey Emin’s art could trigger such a look.

Yet even a glorious c**t has his good side. Should you have a tail, a long tongue and a readiness to shit in public – Brian’s all yours. Preferably, you will not bore him with actual speech but simply advertise your wants with a growl and a howl. Brian has loved 17 doggies and there’s little they can do to sour his canine fetish. One bark and I’m already thinking of RSPCA extermination. But Brian loves the constant music of dog – and the relentless me-ism, the diva presumptions, the bad breath and foul turds. Why, he has four dogs at a time in his bed.

Brian is probably correct in thinking that dogs share with us the same range of emotions, hence the peculiar show that is Crufts. What perhaps he adores about them is their immediacy and lack of guile, that unmediated need for a cuddle and a scoff and walkies that requires nothing more from us than basic delivery followed by unconditional gratitude (the dog’s).

How can one fail to be ensorcelled by evidence of the total collapse of Brian’s default snobbery and disdain in the presence of his best friends? Meanwhile, dog walkers should continue to place street dog turd in plastic bags. Such sights please me no end.

 

 

Madame Arcati’s Most Wondair Book of the Year 2013

The Mitford Girls’ Guide to Life by Lyndsy Spence

Mitford Girls CoverI reviewed this delightful book back in August (clickhere) and am not in the least surprised at its success. It’s quirky, quintessentially English (which is odd because Lyndsy is Irish – I think), a guide and etiquette book of sorts but also a wallow in 20th Century interwar eccentricity. Daffy is another word that comes to mind.

Lyndsy has gutted the lives of the Mitford girls and turned them into parables, bullet point social codes and how-to guidance to live this life successfully. From Unity’s fixation on and pursuit of Hitler we learn:  ‘Don’t rush head first into an encounter with your idol as this will label you as another fan. Edge your way in slowly and discreetly.’ This example does raise a question over the precise location of Lyndsy’s tongue at times (in cheek, perhaps?) but there is sufficient quantity of information on the Mitford lives to reassure on overall deadpan purpose. Certainly I learnt a great deal more about the Mitties.

Lyndsy Spence is an author to watch. She is very young – and driven by a passion for old school glamour and style. Not only has she founded The Mitford Society with a large following but she has found time to release the first of the The Mitford Societyannuals which comprises many features and essays on the aristocratic clan. One piece is authored by me – I take you to the Arcati Horoscope Revue Bar where we learn more about the astrology of the gels as stripper potential is appraised. It’s all done in the best possible taste.

 

 

Madame Arcati’s Most Peculiar Novel Award 2013Death Flies, Missing Girls and Brigitte Bardot by Kenneth George King

death fliesQuite the oddest book I ever did read is this outré and outrageous nugget which bears the name Kenneth George King. Call me a spoilsport but one may as well know that the author is Eurovision’s very own bastard son and general vile perv, Jonathan King – the man who gave us Everyone’s Gone To The Moon. This fact alone will cause certain flowers to wilt. But hardier annuals and the odd cactus or two will be rewarded in their staying power. By the end of this book you will be dreaming about flies, naked boys and sex stars and other causes of ruin. JK has well and truly gone over to the surreal side – and the result is something most interesting.

Now that we live in a world of Twitter and gnomic ejaculation, King has produced what seems like a cut-up novel thrown together kaleidoscopically for attention deficit consumption. This is not quite Burroughs cut-up style but the many autobiographical bits strewn through the narrative have a snip-snip-paste quality. We learn quite a lot about prisons, Arab straight boys who like homosex, Barbara Windsor, a bit about Bardot of course and her right-wing husband, and, oh, glam hot places where JK goes for his hols. And about police procedure.

But what’s it all abaht? Well, yes. Good question. There is indeed a car accident in Morocco. And girls go missing in England, as the blurb promises. A killer lurks and plots and an old ‘superb’ detective sniffs. Flies offer clues of sorts. Different voices tell us what they see and do, not all of their perspectives entirely relevant; but always fascinating. That’s what it’s all abaht.

We are told on the cover that the novel has been submitted for the Man Booker Prize 2014. If an astrology novel can win, so can this.

 

 

Madame Arcati’s Novella of the Year 2013You’re Never Too Old by Fiona Pitt-Kethley
 

too oldThe world could do with a few more Fiona Pitt-Kethleys. Here’s a woman who could give Boudicca a run for her money. I love her poetry. I adore the stories about her. Non-payers will soon discover what I mean. You cross Fiona at your peril. She lives in Spain with her chess champion husband and family and cats. She cooks.

Here’s the thing about her very short novel, available only on Kindle at 77p. It’s not about James Bond – it can’t be because the Ian Fleming estate wouldn’t permit it. No siree. No, let’s get this straight. It’s not about Bond, James Bond. It’s about James Round – a retired spy. The sort of ‘feisty oldie’ Fiona worships. Perhaps Round sees himself as a latter-day Bond. We all have our dreams. In another universe I’m a pop star. Friends with Michael.

Anyway, Round is ancient. He’s stuck in some cold hovel in Scotland. He longs to get back to his old life of action, double agenting and leg-overing nubile pin-ups. A chance meeting re-opens up his life and before you know it he’s on a spying mission to a spa in Israel with senile drunken secretary Penny. Oh the fun we have. Round ain’t passed it. It’s treble dry Martinis all round.

I love Pitt-Kethley’s droll, throw-away humour, the teasing satire and the hopeful moral for the silver surfers. Saga magazine should serialise this tale. You’ll smile and you’ll laugh.

 

You can get your hands on the Madame’s book her – please do.

Follow him here and on Twitter here.

Posted: 19th, December 2013 | In: Books, Key Posts | Comment


Dictionary Update Says Geeks Are Cool And Not In the Least Bit Socially Awkward

geeks

SO the language changes once again. Collins, the dictionary people, has just released its list of words of the year. They always do this just before Christmas in order to remind middle aged men that dictionaries make very good presents from Santa for their children. Just like their own fathers told them 35 years ago.

In the list change this year we’ve a change in the definition of “geek”. From one who is socially awkward, near incompetent, to one who is now at the blazing, leading, edge of contemporary culture.

“Often we find that they achieve better longevity too. Just compare previous generations’ use of words like ‘cloud’, ‘tweet’ and ‘tablet’ to ours.

“‘Geek’ is a great example of a word that has evolved from having a negative meaning to having a positive one.

“Its origins are in the 19th century, but it has most recently changed from describing someone preoccupied with computing to someone who is passionate about any field of expertise.

“This change in meaning represents a positive change in perceptions about specialist expertise, and is a result of the influence of technology on people’s lives in 2013.

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Posted: 16th, December 2013 | In: Books, Reviews, Technology | Comment


Bob Carey Travels The World In His Pink Tutu To Make His Cancer-Suffering Wife Laugh

BOB Carey made his cancer-suffering wife laugh by dressing up in a pink tutu. When in 2003 Bob heard that his beloved Linda has breast cancer, he wanted to help. So. During the ordeal of chemotherapy, he set out to brighten her day.

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Posted: 14th, December 2013 | In: Books | Comment


Buy An Angel And Keep A Cartoonist In His London Home This Christmas

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BRIAN Davis has been handing out free drawings in London. The cartoonist currently faces eviction from his London flat due to rent arrears and is hoping to raise funds to help through his book Angel Delights for him to stay in his Finchley home.

You can find out more about Brian on his website, and buy his book here.

 

Posted: 13th, December 2013 | In: Books | Comment


A.A. Milne Reads Winnie The Pooh In 1929 (With Photos Of The Writer Playing With ‘Christopher Robin’)

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IN 1929 A.A. Milne (above) was recorded reading aloud a passage from his book, Winnie-the-Pooh.

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Posted: 7th, December 2013 | In: Books, Flashback | Comment


The Free Nelson Mandela Comic Books

IN 2005, former South African President Nelson Mandela starred in the Madiba Legacy Series comic books – a nine-part comic book series based on Nelson Mandela’s life freely distributed in schools and newspapers. It was created by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

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Posted: 5th, December 2013 | In: Books, Politicians | Comment


Judith Kerr: The Artist Who Came From Nazi Germany To Write A Wonderful Book About A Tiger Who Liked Tea

ALAN Yentob’s Imagine focuses on Judith Kerr, the author of such children’s books as Mog, My Henry, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and most famously of all The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Kerr’s 90 and living in London. But she wasn’t born in England. Judith Kerr was born in Berlin. She fled Nazi Germany aged nine. Her father, Alfred Kerr, the dramatist and writer, had spoken out against the Nazis. The family should leave. A policeman told her father his passport was about to be seized. After they left, the Nazis burnt his books.

 

 

Children’s author Judith Kerr signs books for fans during the Tingle Creek Christmas Festival at Sandown Park.Date: 03/12/2011.

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There a plaque at the station where she and her brother set off for swimming: “From this station the Berlin Jews were transported to Auschwitz.”

They settled in Paris. And then in 1936, her parents decided to move to England.

In Britain, she worked for the Red Cross, helping wounded soldiers. A talented Artist, Kerr was encouraged by her lover and soon-to-be-husband scriptwriter Nigel Kneale (creator of Quatermass) to find work at BBC television scriptwriter.

 

 

 

Judith Kerr proudly holds her Order of the British Empire (OBE) medal, after it was presented to her by the Prince of Wales during the Investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace in central London. Picture date: Friday January 25, 2013.

 

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* By the start of the second world war, she was living in a grim residential hotel in Bloomsbury with parents who carried suicide pills in case of a German invasion. Her father made propaganda broadcasts for the BBC, while her mother became the main wage-earner as secretary to a wealthy socialite.

That period ended when the hotel was bombed with the Kerr family inside it: only a wardrobe prevented the ceiling in her father’s room from falling on his head. Her brother Michael, by then a law scholar at Cambridge, was interned on the Isle of Wight. “This is a good country, you know,” she says, not for the first time. “Germans were classed as enemy aliens, but people like us were officially called friendly enemy aliens. We had to report to the police if we went more than five miles away so we knew them well. My mother went straight to them when we heard Michael was interned and they tried to get a call through to him.”

As soon as Michael was released, he joined the RAF. Judith, meanwhile, began to attend life-drawing classes. She sold her first drawing for 3s 6d to a man she met at a Lyons Teashop, and then talked her way into painting murals for a restaurant in Victoria.

 

 

tiger tea

 

 

She left behind her pink rabbit in Germany. She was allowed to travel with just one toy. She never forgot.

hitler

In When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, she writes:

“ I always knew we should have brought the games compendium” said Max, “Hitler’s probably playing Snakes & Ladders with it this very minute.” “And playing with Pink Rabbit!” Said Anna and laughed. But some tears had come into her eyes and were running down her cheeks all the same.” “Oh well, we’re lucky to be here at all,” said Max. “What do you mean?” Asked Anna. Max looked carefully passed her out of the window. “Papa heard from Heimpi,” he said with elaborate casualness. “The Nazis came for all out passports the morning after the elections.”

 

She writes in Judith Kerr’s Creatures’, by Judith Kerr:

* I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to draw. It seemed a normal way to pass one’s time, just as it was normal for my brother Michael to kick a ball about. I liked to draw figures in motion, and I always drew them from the feet up, which I would now find difficult. My visual memory has always been very eccentric. My memory holds onto people walking on the street, how their trousers hang, how they move their arms. That stays.

No one else in my Jewish family drew, but my mother was very proud of my drawing and carefully preserved my better efforts…

I wanted to be a painter, but I didn’t do enough to get really good. After I left art school I was offered a job as a script reader for the BBC. I said yes, and loved it, though I sometimes felt a bit guilty, as though I’d betrayed something. It seems extraordinary to me now that for about 12 years of my life, I did not do any serious drawing. On the other hand, I feel I’m catching up now…

When I had my first child, Tacy, my husband Tom and I both made up stories for her. Quite often we went to the zoo. In those days, before David Attenborough, it was the only way you could see animals. After these visits I used to make up stories about the animals, and one she liked was about a tiger. She would say imperiously, “Talk the tiger.” That story became my first picture book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, published in October 1968.

mog

“Mog was a composite of many cats. Every cat is extraordinary – they all do different, very strange things. Our cat Wienitz was the strangest one: a very solid cat who was terribly fearful. She was frightened of heights and she was terrified of Christmas trees. I never meant to do a whole lot of books about Mog but I thought I could do a book about that…

“After The Tiger I thought I would be very methodical, and so before I wrote Mog I bought all these inks, and decided that I would try them out on a bit of paper. It was probably a delaying tactic so as not to have to start work! I drew the family as well, to refer back to.”

 

Posted: 26th, November 2013 | In: Books | Comment