105. W.G. Sebald - The Rings of Saturn

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In this episode John and Andy are joined by Philip Hoare, a broadcaster, curator, filmmaker and writer whose books include biographies of Stephen Tennant and Noel Coward, the historical studies, Wilde’s Last StandSpike Island: The Memory of a Military Hospital, and England’s Lost Eden.  His book Leviathan or, The Whale won the 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. His most recent book, RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR, is published by Fourth Estate. Philip presented the BBC Arena film The Hunt for Moby-Dick, and directed three films for BBC’s Whale Night.  He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Southampton, and co-curator of the Moby-Dick Big Read, www.mobydickbigread.com.  
The second guest is the writer, Jessie Greengrass, the author of two books. Her first, the short story collection, An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It won the Edge Hill Prize and a Somerset Maugham award (and was enthuiastically praised by John in the episode of Backlisted devoted to Husymans). Her novel, Sight, was published in 2018, and was shortlisted for the Women's Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and longlisted for the Wellcome Prize. Jessie lives in Northumberland with her partner and their two children.

The main book under discussion is The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald, first published in German by Eichborn Verlag in 1995 and in an English translation by Michael Hulse by the Harvill Press in 1998. Before that, John ventures back in timed space with The Years by Annie Ernaux and Andy is blown away by Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson.

Books mentioned:

W.G. Sebald - The Rings of Saturn; The Emigrants; The Natural History of Destruction; Austerlitz
Philip Hoare - Spike Island; Leviathan, or The Whale; RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR
Jessie Greengrass - An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It ; Sight
Annie Ernaux - The Years
Fiona Benson - Vertigo & Ghost

Other links:

Brian Eno - Dunwich Beach, 1960 (2004)
W.G Sebald on photographs and lichen
W.G. Sebald interviewed by Bookworm on KCRW, 2001
W.G Sebald reading at the 93 Street Y , NYC, in 2001
Backlisted Live at the London Library


 

104. Daphne du Maurier - The Breaking Point

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On this Hallowe’en episode Andy and John are joined by Laura Varnam. Laura is a lecturer in English Literature at University College, Oxford, and she is currently writing a book on Daphne du Maurier. She regularly appears at the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature in Cornwall and was one of the experts consulted on the documentary Daphne du Maurier: In the Footsteps of Rebecca. Also on hand – as is traditional for the Backlisted Hallowe’en festivities – is Andrew Male. Andrew is the senior associate editor of Mojo magazine and writes about books, film, radio and TV for the Guardian, Sight and Sound, and Sunday Times Culture. This is fifth time on the Backlisted (and his fourth at Hallowe’en). 

The main book Laura and Andrew are discussing is a collection of stories known as either the The Breaking Point or The Blue Lenses by Daphne du Maurier, first published in 1959 by Gollancz and issued as a Virago Modern Classic in 2009. Before that Andy explores the spooky world of The Usborne World of the Unknown - Ghosts while John explores a strange but affecting tale - Walter J.C. Murray’s Copsford, recently republished by Little Toller with an introduction by Raynor Winn.


Books mentioned:

Daphne du Maurier - The Breaking Point; Rebecca; Don’t Look Now & Other Stories; The House on the Strand; I’ll Never Be Young Again; Rule Britannia; The Infernal World of Bramwell Bronte
Christopher Maynard - The Usborne World of the Unknown - Ghosts
Walter J.C. Murray - Copsford
Shirley Jackson - The Haunting of Hill House
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
Margaret Forster - Daphne du Maurier
Tatiana de Rosnay - Manderley Forever: A Life of Daphne du Maurier

Other links:

Daphne du Maurier at Home (Pathé Newsreel)
Interview with Daphne du Maurier (BBC, 1971)
Rebecca - Alfred Hitchcock (1940)
Sheila Bond remembers Daphne du Maurier (Meridian BBC, 1989)
Daphne du Maurier on Desert Island Discs (1977)
Christopher Douglas on Don’t Look Now (A Good Read, 2007)
Don’t Look Now - Nic Roeg (1973)

103. William Faulkner - Absalom, Absalom!

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This episode marks the fourth visit by Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study in the University of London. Her previous episodes features books by Nella Larsen, Anita Loos and Gayl Jones. As a well as working as a critic, prize-judge, TV and radio pundit, Sarah is also the author of books on Marilyn Monroe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and her most recent published in paperback earlier this year by Bloomsbury, Behold, America - a history of America First and the American Dream, called ‘excoriating and brilliant’ by Ali Smith and which inspired historian Dan Snow to call Sarah his ‘number one contributor when it comes to US politics’. The book under discussion is one of the great classics of 20th century American literature, Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner first published in 1936 by Random House, and widely considered to be one of the novels that won Faulkner the 1950 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The episode also features John enjoying the smart, funny collection Sweet Home by Wendy Erskine and Andy offering another of his inimitable mash-ups, this time a combination of a short story by Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard and NEU!

Books mentioned:

William Faulkner - Absalom, Absalom!; The Sound & the Fury; As I Lay Dying; Light in August; Sanctuary
Sarah Churchwell - Behold!, America: A History of America First & the American Dream; Careless People
Gayl Jones - Corregidora
Wendy Erskine - Sweet Home
Thomas Bernhard - The Voice Imitator; The Loser; My Prizes; Wittgenstein’s Nephew
Toni Morrison - Beloved
James Baldwin - Nobody Knows My Name


Other links:

NEU! ‘Fur Immer’
Barton Fink (2005) DVD
The Paris Review - The Art of Fiction 12: William Faulkner
William Faulkner on Absalom, Absalom!
Serge Gainsbourg - ‘Requiem pour un con’
Film of William Faulkner in Oxford, Mississippi (1952)
William Faulkner on J.D. Salinger

102. Elizabeth Taylor - The Soul of Kindness

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Here Andy and John are joined by two returning guests: Carmen Callil and Rachel Cooke. Carmen is the legendary publisher and writer, who is best known for founding the Virago Press in 1972.  After changing a generation’s taste through her publishing at Virago, and in particular the Virago Modern Classics, which continues to bring back into print hundreds of neglected women writers, Carmen went on to run Chatto & Windus and became a global Editor-at-Large for Random House. In 2006 she published Bad Faith: A History of Family & Fatherland, which Hilary Spurling called ‘a work of phenomenally thorough, generous and humane scholarship’. Appointed DBE in 2017, she was also awarded the Benson medal in the same year, awarded to mark ‘meritorious works in poetry, fiction, history and belles-lettres’. She last joined us in 2018 to discuss Elizabeth Jenkins’ The Tortoise and the Hare.

Rachel is one of the UK’s most celebrated journalists, trained at the Sunday Times, and a regular contributor now at the Observer and the New Statesman, where she is TV critic. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year and her latest book is Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties, published by Virago in 2013. Rachel joined us on the eleventh Backlisted to discuss All the Devils Are Here by David Seabrook. Her advocacy (on Backlisted and elsewhere) helped get the book back into print through Granta, where it is now one of their bestselling backlist titles.

The book that Rachel and Carmen are discussing is The Soul of Kindness, the ninth novel by Elizabeth Taylor, first published by Chatto & Windus in 1964, and reissued by Carmen in 1974 and published as a Virago Modern Classics in 1983.

This episode also includes Andy finding his way into Richard King’s musical odyssey, The Lark Ascending: The Music of the British Landscape, (Faber) and John enjoys diving into the past with Kathleen Jamie’s exquisite Surfacing (Sort Of Books).

Books mentioned:

Elizabeth Taylor - The Soul of Kindness; Angel; A Game of Hide and Seek; In A Summer Season; Complete Short Stories
Richard King - The Lark Ascending
Kathleen Jamie - Surfacing
Rachel Cooke - Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties
Carmen Callil - Bad Faith: A History of Family & Fatherland
Barry Lopez - Arctic Dreams
David Seabrook - All the Devils Are Here
Nicola Beauman - The Other Elizabeth Taylor
Jane Gardam - Old Filth
Shena McKay - The Orchard on Fire
Tessa Hadley - Late in the Day

Other links:

Tickets for the Backlisted Christmas Evening at the London Library
Ralph Vaughan Williams - ‘The Lark Ascending’
The Stan Tracey Quartet -Under Milk Wood: Jazz Suite
John Cameron - Kes Soundtrack
Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Ultramarine
Robert Wyatt - ‘Happy Land’
Elizabeth Taylor on Mastermind
Tales of the Unexpected - ‘The Flypaper’

101. Werner Herzog - Of Walking in Ice

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This episode was recorded live at the End of the Road Festival. Our guest is Luke Turner, author of the acclaimed memoir Out of the Woods which was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize and longlisted for the Polari Prize for first book by an LGBT+ writer. Luke has also been selected by Val McDiarmid as one of 10 most important LGBT+ writers for a British Council and National Centre for Writing initiative. In 2019 he’s been co-curating a programme of arts events celebrating the landscape and people of Epping Forest as part of Waltham Forest's stint as the first London Borough of Culture. He’s co-founder and editor of The Quietus and writes for a variety of publications.

The book Luke is here to discuss is Of Walking in Ice, the legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog’s account of the journey he made from Munich to Paris on foot in December 1974 to visit the doyenne of German film, Lotte Eisner, who he believed to be dying. It was first published in 1978, and appeared in an English translation by Alan Greenberg, published by Jonathan Cape in 1980.

Books mentioned:

Werner Herzog - Of Walking in Ice; A Guide for the Perplexed (Conversations with Paul Cronin)
Luke Turner - Out of the Woods
Denise Riley - Time Lived, Without Its Flow; Say Something Back
Stewart Lee - March of the Lemmings: Brexit in Print and Performance 2016–2019
Derek Jarman - Modern Nature: Journals 1989 - 1990
J.A. Baker - The Peregrine
Alan Garner - The Voice that Thunders

Other links:

Werner Herzog on Lotte Eisner
The Great Ecstasy of Wood Carver Steiner (1974)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)
Encounters at the End of the World (2009)
Into the Abyss (2011)
Burden of Dreams: The Making of Fitzcarraldo
Grizzly Man (2011)
Wender Herzog on writing
Popol Vuh - soundtrack to Nosferatu

100. Robert Burton - The Anatomy of Melancholy

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Welcome to our 100th episode! To mark the occasion, Andy and John are recording at the home of one of the UK’s most celebrated writers. Sir Philip Pullman is the author of more than 30 books – for children, adults and those in between – and most famously the worldwide bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy. He and has work have been recognized with awards including the Whitbread Book of the Year, the Guardian Childrens’ Book Award, the Carnegie Medal, the Carnegie of Carnegies, the Eleanor Farjeon Award, the Astrid Lindgren Award, and the JM Barrie award. In October, David Fickling and Penguin Books will publish The Secret Commonwealth, the second book in his The Book of Dust trilogy and the BBC One will launch a new adaptation of His Dark Materials. The book under discussion is one of Sir Philip’s favourites: The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, first published in 1621, but republished five more times over the following seventeen years with substantial alterations and expansions.

Books mentioned:

Robert Burton - The Anatomy of Melancholy
Philip Pullman - His Dark Materials; The Book of Dust 1: La Belle Sauvage; The Book of Dust 1: The Secret Commonwealth; Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling (including Folio Society introduction to The Anatomy of Melancholy)
James Boswell - The Life of Samuel Johnson
John Keats - Bright Star: The Couple Poems & Letters
Jorge Luis Borges - Fictions
Bocaccio - The Decameron
Laurence Sterne - The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist
Daniel Defoe - A Journal of the Plague Year
Charles Sprawson - Haunts of the Black Masseur; The Swimmer as Hero
David Seabrook - All the Devils Are Here


Other links:

Ethel Waters - Stormy Weather
The Unthanks - Starless
Amy Winehouse -Back to Black
Nico - All That is My Own
Paddy McAloon - I Trawl the Megahertz
Richard & Linda Thompson - The World is a Wonderful Place
Billie Holiday - Gloomy Sunday

99. Books About The Beatles

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In a live recording from the 2019 Port Eliot Festival, John and Andy are joined by the grand old men of music writing, David Hepworth and Mark Ellen. David Hepworth was born on July 27th 1950. Since this makes him twelve when the Beatles first came along and still an attractively boyish nineteen when they broke up, this, as far as pop music is concerned, is the winning ticket in the lottery of life. After a career which involved school teaching and spells inside the music business he began writing for the music papers in the 70s. During the 80s and 90s he was editorial director of the publisher of such music magazines as Smash Hits, Q and MOJO while also doing his time as a presenter of BBC TV's Whistle Test. During Live Aid he was sworn at by Bob Geldof in front of earth's largest TV audience. His books include 1971: Never A Dull Moment and A Fabulous Creation: How The LP Saved Our Lives. Mark Ellen spent his teenage years sitting in fields at the feet of hairy rock voyagers like Atomic Rooster and began writing for the NME in the late ‘70s. He was an editor-in-chief at the publishers EMAP, helped launch MOJO, edited Smash Hits, Q, Select and The Word, worked for BBC television and radio and for VH1, and now writes and witters about a range of stuff but mainly music. His 2014 memoir of his life in music, Rock Stars Stole My Life!, is now considered a classic of the genre. The pair are co-hosts of the A Word in Your Ear podcast, one of the original inspirations for Backlisted.

Books mentioned:

The Beatles - The Beatles Anthology
Michael Braun - Love Me Do: The Beatles’ Progress
Ian McDonald - Revolution in the Head
Joe Orton - Head to Toe & Up Against It
David Hepworth - 1971: Never A Dull Moment; A Fabulous Creation: How The LP Saved Our Lives
Mark Ellen - Rock Stars Stole My Life
Barry Miles - The Zapple Diaries: The Rise and Fall of The Last Beatles Label
Derek Taylor - As Time Goes By
Nick Cohen - Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom : Pop from the Beginning

Other links:

Andy’s ‘Shabby Road’ literary fundraiser - link for tickets
Frank Sidebottom’s version of ‘Flying’ (featuring Beatles recap)
Beatles fans in New York, 1964
’Maxwell's Silver Hammer’ - Decca and the Dectones
’I Am The Walrus’ - The Beatles
Up Against It (1997 radio production)
All Things Must Pass - George Harrison

98. Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker

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For this episode Andy & John welcome back two guests. Max Porter is a writer editor and former bookseller. His first book Grief is the Thing with Feathers (published by Faber) won the International Dylan Thomas Prize, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmith’s Award, has been translated into 29 languages and adapted for the stage; his second book, Lanny, has been longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize. He previously joined us on Backlisted to discuss Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth.

 Max is joined by Una McCormack, a New York Times bestselling author of science fiction novels, including a series of tie-in novels for Star Trek and Doctor Who  and The Undefeated, a space opera published in May by Tor.com. She also teaches and mentors creative writing students at Anglia Ruskin University has been a judge for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. She has appeared on three previous Backlisted episodes, discussing books by Georgette Heyer, Anita Brookner and J.R.R. Tolkien.

 The book they have chosen to discuss is Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban, first published by Jonathan Cape in 1980. The novel is now widely considered to be a post-war masterpiece. Anthony Burgess included it in his list of the 99 best novels published in the English language since 1939 saying ‘this is what literature is meant to be.’ Harold Bloom included it in his book The Western Canon, an examination of the work of 26 writers central to the development of Western literature. Hugh Kenner called it a book ‘where at first sight all the words are wrong, and at a second sight not a sentence is to be missed.’ John Leonard, writing in the New York Times said it was a book ‘designed to prevent the modern reader from becoming stupid.’

Books mentioned:

Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker; Turtle Diary; Pilgermann; The Moment Under the Moment
Max Porter - Grief is the Thing with Feathers; Lanny
Una McCormack - The Undefeated
David Jones - In Parenthesis
Anthony Burgess - Ninety-nine Novels - The Best in English since 1939 - A Personal Choice
Harold Bloom - The Western Canon
David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas
Iain M. Banks - Feersum Endjinn
Will Self - The Book of Dave
Paul Kingsnorth - The Wake
William Golding - The Inheritors

Other links:

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - ‘Old Fart at Play’ (from Trout Mask Replica, 1969)
Russell Hoban lecture (1990)
Rowan Williams on Riddley Walker in the New York Times (May 2019)
Riddley Walker Annotations -useful reference site
Russell Hoban Official Website
The Head of Orpheus - A Russell Hoban Reference Page

97. Ray Bradbury - The Illustrated Man

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For this episode John and Andy are joined by Sam Leith, the literary editor of the Spectator and host of their books podcast. Sam’s most recent book is Write To The Point: How To Be Clear, Correct and Persuasive on the Page, and he's currently trying to write a month-by-month chronicle of 2019 in rhyme royal. They are also joined by Jennifer Lucy Allan, a writer on sound and music, who has just submitted a PhD on foghorns, which she will be turning into a book for Lee Brackstone’s new imprint at Orion. She runs the record label Arc Light Editions, is an occasional presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, and writes regularly for The Wire, the Guardian, The Quietus and others. The book they are discussing is The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, a collection of science fiction short stories first published in the US by Doubleday in 1951. The episode also features Andy’s enthusiasm for On Chapel Sands, the book that Laura Cumming has been waiting her whole career to write (published by Chatto & Windus) and John being deeply impressed by Jay Bernard’s Surge (also published by Chatto) a collection of poetry written to remember and respond to the death of 13 young people of colour in the New Cross Fire of 1981.

Books mentioned:

Ray Bradbury - The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, The Golden Apples of the Sun, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Laura Cumming - On Chapel Sands
Jay Bernard - Surge
Sam Leith - Write To The Point: How To Be Clear, Correct and Persuasive on the Page
Raymond Antrobus - The Perseverance
H.P. Lovecraft -The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories
Ian MacEwan - Machines Like Me
H.G. Wells - The War of the Worlds
Jean-Paul Sarte - Nausea
J.G. Ballard - The Complete Short Stories: Vol 1

Other links:

Ray Bradbury interviews by Groucho Marx in 1956
Ray Bradbury on BBC World Service, Meridian (1989)
Ray Bradbury - Text of ‘Skeleton’ (1945)
The Martian Chronicles TV series (1980)
’Fuck Me Ray Bradbury’ by Rachel Bloom
The New Cross Fire 1981 (Wikipedia)
Andy’s review of On Chapel Sands in The Spectator
Backlisted Bookseller of the Week: Foyles Westfield Stratford City

96. D.E. Stevenson - Miss Buncle's Book

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For this episode John and Andy are joined  by the novelist Shelley Harris. Shelley is the author of two novels: her debut, Jubilee (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize, a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime and a Richard and Judy selection. Her second, Vigilante (also from Weidenfeld), about a feminist wannabe superhero, was described by The Times as ‘entertainment wrapped round a tense thriller’. She is a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Reading and is working on her third novel. Her favourite book is Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay but the book she has chosen for Backlisted is  Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson first published by Herbert Jenkins in 1934, and republished in an exquisite new edition by Persephone Books in 2008. This episode also features Andy being intrigued by Sam Riviere’s 81 Austerities (Faber 2012), a collection that wrests poetry of the fragmentary world of social media, and John wallows in the soil and sadness of How to Catch a Mole by Marc Hamer, published by Harvill Secker.

Books mentioned:

D.E. Stevenson – Miss Buncle’s BookMiss Buncle Married;The Two Mrs Abbotts
Shelley Harris – Jubilee; Vigilante
Sam Riviere – 81 AusteritiesKim Kardashian’s Marriage; Safe Mode
Marc Hamer – How to Catch a Mole
Michael Chabon – The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier & Clay
Paul Kingsnorth – The Wake
Alice Jolly – Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile
Arthur Machen – The Great God Pan
Sylvia Townsend Warner – Lolly Willowes
Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows
Elizabeth Jenkins – The Tortoise and the Hare
Charles Williams – Descent into Hell

‘Village’ books:
Adam Thorpe - Ulverton
Ronald Blythe – Akenfield
John Wyndham – The Midwich Cuckoos
Miss Read – The School at Thrush Green
Agatha Christie  - 4.50 from Paddington
Penelope Fitzgerald – The Bookshop

Other links:

 The Kinks – ‘Village Green’ 
Opening voiceover from Went the Day Well
Deadwood on DVD
Interview with David Milch in the New Yorker (May, 2019)
Mark Rylance reading from The Wake

 

 

 

95. Italo Calvino - The Baron in the Trees

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For this episode Andy and John are joined by Caspar Henderson, a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Independent, New Scientist, the New York Review of Books, and other publications. From 2002 to 2005 he was a senior editor at OpenDemocracy. He received the Roger Deakin Award from the Society of Authors in 2009 and the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award in 2010. His first book The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, a bestiary for the 21st Century, was shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books and earned him the epithet the zoological Borges’; his second The New Map of Wonders received  a set of tremendous reviews moving one critic to write that it created ‘a new vision of science illuminated by a rich range of literature, philosophy, art, and music.’
The book under discussion is The Baron in the Treesthe early novel by Italo Calvino, first published as Il Barone Rampante by Einaudi in 1957. Most English readers will have discovered it as the middle part of a trilogy of tales called Our Ancestors, along with the The Cloven Viscount and The Non-Existent Knight. This episode also features John’s excitement at Kate Clanchy’s powerful book about teaching, Some Kids I Taught & What They Taught Me (published by Picador) and Andy shares his enthusiasm for reading Auden’s 1965 collection About the House (published in the UK by Faber in 1966) in his ongoing reading of individual collections of poems. He reads from ‘The Cave of Making’ - a poem written in memory of Auden’s friend and fellow poet Louis MacNeice.

Book mentioned:

Italo Calvino - The Baron in the Trees; Our Ancestors; If On a WInter’s Night a Traveller; Invisible Cities; Cosmicomics; Six Memos for the Next Millennium; Mr Palomar; Why Read the Classics?
Caspar Henderson - The Book of Barely Imagined Beings; A New Map of Wonders
Kate Clanchy - Some Kids I Taught & What They Taught Me
Alexander Masters - Stuart: A Life Lived Backwards
W.H. Auden - About the House; Collected Poems
Anonymous - La Vida de la Lazarillo de Tormes
Laurence Sterne - Tristram Shandy
Voltaire - Candide
Jaroslav Hašek - The Good Soldier Švejk


Other links:

A picture of Kazuo Ishiguro as a student
Italo Calvino interviewed on French TV in 1960
Salman Rushdie review of Calvino in translation (LRB, September 1981)
Ian Thomson on the 30th anniversary of Calvino’s death - Daily Telegraph, September 2015
Italo Calvino interviewed on Bookmark in 1985

94. Alan Isler - The Prince of West End Avenue

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In this episode John and Andy are joined by William Sutcliffe, the author of twelve novels, including the international bestseller Are You Experienced? and The Wall, which was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. William has written for adults, young adults and children, and his books have been translated into twenty-eight languages. His 2008 novel Whatever Makes You Happy has just been filmed by Netflix, starring Patricia Arquette and Angela Bassett, and will be released in August under the title Otherhood. His latest novel, The Gifted, The Talented and Me (published by Bloomsbury) was described by The Times as ‘dangerously funny’ and by the Guardian as ‘refreshingly hilarious’. William is joined by Samantha Ellis, returning to Backlisted for a second time after her key early episode Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend-Warner. Samantha writes books, plays and films. Her sparkling 2016 play How to Date a Feminist has been produced in Poland and Mexico, with another 4 productions in Germany alone; and her reading memoir How to be a Heroine (which came out of an argument with her best friend over which literary heroine she liked best, Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw) was published by Chatto in 2014, and her latest book Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life, an attempt to get to know the ‘other’ Brontë sister, who turns out be a radical pioneer, with a lot to teach us about how to find our way in the world. Samantha also worked as a script editor and writer on the two Paddington movies. The book under discussion is The Prince of West End Avenue, the first novel by Alan Isler, originally published by independent US publisher Bridge Works in 1994. It went on to win National Jewish Book Award, the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

The episode also contains Andy’s favourite paragraph of the year in his discussion of Claire Dederer’s Love & Trouble: Memoirs of a Former Wild Girl (published by Tinder Press) and John discovering the incandescent philosophical tales of Luis Sagasti in Fireflies (translated by Fionn Petch) and published by the excellent Charco Press.

Books mentioned:

Alan Isler - The Prince of West End Avenue
William Sutcliffe - Are You Experienced?; Whatever Makes You Happy; The Gifted, The Talented and Me; The Wall
Samantha Ellis - How to be a Heroine; Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life
Kate Lister - A Curious History of Sex
Eve Babitz - Sex & Rage: Advice to Young Ladies Eager for a Good Time
Claire Dederer - Love & Trouble: Memoirs of a Former Wild Girl
Luis Sagasti - Fireflies
Carlo Ginzburg - The Cheese & the Worms
Nina Stibbe - Paradise Lodge
B.S. Johnson - House Mother Normal
Liz Jensen - War Crimes for the Home
Kingsley Amis - Ending Up
Tove Jansson - Sun City
Adam Biles - Feeding Time

Other links:

Andy Miller - ‘My Many years of Reading Dangerously’ on Boundless
Alan Isler interviewed at John Adams Institute in 1997
Penelope Fitzgerald on Alan Isler on A Good Read (1998)

93. Toni Morrison - Beloved

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In this episode Andy and John are joined by  Preti Taneja a novelist and teacher in prisons and in universities. Her novel We That Are Young  published by the excellent Galley Beggar Press won the 2018 Desmond Elliot Prize for the best debut of the year. It was also shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize and the ‘Books are my Bag Readers Choice’ Awards, and longlisted for the Jhalak Prize, the Rathbones Folio Prize and for Europe’s most prestigious award for a work of world literature, the Prix Jan Michalski. It has been translated into seven languages to date and will soon be a major international TV series from Gaumont. Fellow writer Mark Haddon, wrote that ‘it does what all the best novels do. It expands the possibilities of the form.’ The book under discussion is Beloved by Toni Morrison, first published in 1987 by Knopf, it went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, among many other prizes. In 2006, the New York Times declared Beloved the best work of American fiction of the previous twenty-five years.
In this episode John also enthuses about Lisa Blower’s sparkling story collection It’s Gone Dark over Bill’s Mother’s published by Myriad Editions and Andy discovers the perfect holiday read in Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands. published by Weidenfeld.

Book mentioned:

Toni Morrison - Beloved;Beloved audio book (read by Toni Morrison); Mouth Full of Blood: Essays, Speeches, Meditations; The Bluest Eye; Song of Solomon
Preti Taneja - We That Are Young
Lisa Blower - It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s
Paraic O’Donnell - The House on Vesper Sands
Kit de Waal (ed) - Common People
Andy Miller - The Year of Reading Dangerously
William Faulkner - Light in August; Absalom, Absalom
Gayl Jones - Corregidora

Other links:

Toni Morrison interviews b Charlie Rose (1993)
Toni Morrison interviewed by the Paris Review (1993)
Beloved movie DVD (1998)

92. G.B. Edwards - The Book of Ebenezer Le Page

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This episode was recorded live at the 2019 Guernsey Literary Festival in the church of St James in St Peter Port. John and Andy are joined by Will Smith, the former stand-up comedian and now screenwriter and novelist. Will was the co-writer of HBO comedy Veep for which he won two Emmys and two Writers Guild of America awards. He contributed to The Thick of It as both an actor and writer and is the author of Mainlander a thriller set in Jersey (where he grew up) and which the Independent described as 'John le Carré meets Middlemarch'. The book under discussion is the great novel of Guernsey, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards, Edwards’ only novel which was published posthumously in 1981.

Both NYRB Classics and Blue Ormer books have kindly offered Backlisted listeners 30% off The Book of Ebeneezer Le Page and Genius Friend by Edward Chaney if you order direct from their websites and enter the discount code ‘Backlisted’ at check out.

Books mentioned:

G.B. Edwards - The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (special Backlisted offer from NYRB Classics)
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page audiobook (read by Roy Dotrice)
Edward Chaney - Genius Friend: G.B. Edwards & The Book of Ebenezer Le Page
(special Backlisted offer from Blue Ormer books)
Will Smith - Mainlander
Victor Hugo - The Toilers of the Sea; Les Miserables
James Joyce - Dubliners
J.D Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye
Philip Roth - Sabbath’s Theater
W.H. Hudson - A Shepherd’s Life
Adam Thorpe - Ulverton
Graham Swift - Waterland
Samuel Beckett - Krapp’s Last Tape
Allan Gurganus - The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All
Robert Tresell - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
Gabriel García Márquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Salman Rushdie - Midnight’s Children


Other links:

The Last Will and Testament of Jake Thackray
Pure DC performing ‘Whole Lotta Ebenezer Le Page’ live on Guernsey
Ebenezer Le Page on Twitter

91. Daniel Defoe - A Journal of the Plague Year

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For this episode, Andy and John are joined by James Hannah, whose first novel, The A to Z of You and Me, was published by Doubleday in 2015, and was listed for the Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction. A second novel is in preparation. He has a Masters in Samuel Beckett Studies from the University of Reading, home of the Beckett International Foundation. He also discovered and popularised the Toblorange. He is joined by Jo Waugh. Jo is a senior lecturer in nineteenth-century literature at York St John University. She directs a module there called ‘Sick Novels: Literature and Disease' on which students this year read Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. She’s interested in contagion narratives generally, and has written about rabies in Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley. She also co-hosts the podcast, ‘Smith and Waugh Talk About Satire’, in which she and Dr Adam Smith discuss the history, form, function, and future of satire. They are here to talk about A Journal of the Plague Year  by Daniel Defoe first published in 1722, but set in 1665. The episode also features Andy falling in love with Crusoe’s Daughter by Jane Gardam and John being mesmerised by Tishani Doshi’s Small Days and Nights.

Books mentioned

Daniel Defoe - A Journal of the Plague Year; Robinson Crusoe; Moll Flanders
James Hannah - The A to Z of You and Me,
Jane Gardam - Crusoe’s Daughter
Tishani Doshi - Small Days and Nights
Samuel Pepys - The Diaries

Other links

Scott Walker theme tune
Backlisted Live at Gurnsey Literary Festival
Backlisted Live at Unbound Literary Festival a Second Home
Smith and Waugh Talk About Satire podcast
Secret Army: The Complete Series (DVD)

90. Charles Dickens - Great Expectations

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Joining John and Andy for this episode are the writer William Atkins whose first book, The Moor was shortlisted for the Thwaites Wainwright Prize and whose second The Immeasurable World: Jouneys in Desert Places won the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year  in 2018, both were published by Faber. He is a former editorial director of Macmillan, and his journalism has appeared in the Guardian and Granta. He is joined by Backlisted regular, Lissa Evans, writer, producer, director and author of three children’s book and five novels, including most recently, Old Baggage, published by Doubleday, and a book we can now happily call a no 1 bestseller. This is Lissa’s fouth appearance on Backlisted, a new record (she appeared previously on episodes 1 - J.L. Carr; 36 - Patrick Hamilton and 78 - Edith Wharton).

The book William and Lissa are talking about is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, first published in Dickens’ own periodical ‘All the Year Round’, from 1st December 1860 to 3rd August 1861, in 35 weekly instalments You also hear about Lanny by former Backlisted guest Max Porter (John’s favourite new novel of the year so far) and an intense and powerful reading by Andy from Ali Smith’s latest Spring.

Books mentioned:

Charles Dickens - Great Expectations (Norton Critical Edition - a rich collection of essays and critical texts)
William Atkins - The Moor; The Immeasurable World: Jouneys in Desert Places
Lissa Evans - Old Baggage
Ali Smith -Spring; Autumn; Winter
Max Porter - Lanny; Grief is the Thing with Feathers
George Saunders - Lincoln in the Bardo
Russell Hoban - Riddley Walker
Angus Wilson - The World of Charles Dickens
Alec Guiness - Blessings in Disguise
John Sutherland - Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?

Other links:

Dodson and Fogg by the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra
Great Expectations - David Lean (DVD)
Charles Dickens by George Orwell
’Charles Dickens’ by Horrible Histories
Howard Jacobson on Great Expectations in the Guardian (Jan, 2012)


89. Peter Guralnick - Last Train to Memphis / Careless Love

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Joining Andy and John on this episode are David Keenan, the novelist, one-time musician, and critic whose work, in particular for the The Wire, has introduced a wider audience to experimental rock, noise, folk, industrial and psychedelic music. He has also published books on England’s esoteric underground, tarot and two highly acclaimed novels, both published by Faber: the first, This Is Memorial Device, winner of the 2018 Collyer Bristow/London Magazine Prize and earlier this year, For The Good Times, described by Suzanne Moore as ‘Occult, transformative, difficult, fantastic’. He once claimed his favourite Beatle was Yoko. He is joined by Bethan Roberts, the author of five novels, including Mother Island (published by Chatto & Windus) which won a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2015 and her latest, Graceland, inspired by the relationship between Elvis and his mother Gladys, also published by Chatto in February, and which the Financial Times claimed ‘prompted the reader to burst into song’. Bethangrew up in a house filled with Elvis’s music and, according to her publisher, ‘first became captivated by the story of Elvis and Gladys as a girl, poring over her mother’s scrapbooks and annuals.’
In a rare departure form Backlisted tradition, David and Bethan are talking about two books, Peter Guralnick’s epic account of the life of Elvis Presley - Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love, published by Little Brown in 1994 and 1999 respectively. We’ll also hear how Andy has come to terms with Trollope through his 800 page ‘fluently written’ masterpiece, The Way We Live Now and John remembers the centenarian archaeologist and poet, Nancy Sandars. But mostly its Elvis, and Guralnick, and you even get our four favourite Elvis songs, Desert Island Discs style.

Book mentioned:

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88. Penelope Fitzgerald - Human Voices

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In this episode Andy and John  are joined by Georgina Morley, Non-Fiction Editorial Director at Picador but who cut her teeth as  Editorial Assistant to Peter Carson, then Editor in Chief of Penguin (where she learned more in two years than she had in three at university). After Penguin, she became a Commissioning Editor at Transworld, then joined Macmillan as Non-Fiction Editorial Director in 1994.  Her list focuses on serious non-fiction -   mostly history and historical biography with occasional forays into narrative non-fiction and memoir.  The authors she has worked with include Adam Hochschild, Michael Burleigh, Robert Service, David Olusoga, Roberto Saviano, Jon Krakauer, Jane Glover, Judith Mackrell and Catherine Nixey.  Most recently, she has worked with David Nott, the trauma surgeon whose book War Doctor is (a) a good deed in a naughty world and (b) seems to be doing quite well. She is joined by Lucy Scholes, a guest on two previous episodes (one on the joys of Barbara Comyns and the other on Anita Brookner). Lucy writes about books, film and art for the Financial Times, the NYR Daily, the New York TimesBook Review and Granta among other publications. She is the Managing Editor of the new literary magazine, The Second Shelf and writes a monthly column for the Paris Review about out-of-print and forgotten books that deserve not to be. The book under discussion is Penelope Fitzgerald’s Human Voices, her fourth novel, set in Broadcasting House during the Second World War. Before that, John extols the virtues of The Good Immigrant USA (edited by Nikesh Shukla & Chimene Suleyman) and Andy is impressed by Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall. 

 

Books mentioned:

Penelope Fitzgerald – Human VoicesThe Beginning of SpringOffshoreThe Blue FlowerAt FreddiesThe Bookshop; The Golden Child'; A House of Air (contains ‘Curriculum Vitae’)
Nikesh Shukla & Chimene Suleyman – The Good Immigrant USA
Sarah Moss – Ghost Wall
Hermione Lee – Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life
Penelope Fitzgerald – So I Have Thought of You: Selected Letters
Dan Brown – The Da Vinci Code
Muriel Spark – Memento Mori

Other links:

Penelope Fitzgerald on Mastermind (2018)
Penelope Fitzgerald on Meridian (1998)
Jeffrey Archer on Penelope Fitzgerald on A Good Read (2018)
Barneys, Books & Bust-ups: 50 years of the Booker Prize (BBC)

87. Bruce Chatwin - Utz

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John and Andy are joined by Jonathan Wilson, sports writer and author of eleven books, including Inverting the Pyramid, a history of football tactics that was named Football Book of the Year in 2009. His most recent book is The Barcelona Legacy: Guardiola, Mourinho and the Fight for Football's Soul published by Blink in 2018 and which is appearing in paperback in April. Jonathan is also the editor of The Blizzard, a quarterly journal of football writing. He is joined by Rachael Kerr, a publisher an editor who has worked for Cape, Picador, Harvill and Unbound. Rachael has previously appeared on the Charles Sprawson and D.H. Lawrence episodes of Backlisted. She is also married to John. The book that Jonathan and Rachael are here to talk about is Utz, the last novel and penultimate book by Bruce Chatwin, first published in 1988 by Jonathan Cape. The discussion also discloses Andy’s bafflement at Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat and John’s admiration for Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions.

Books mentioned:

Bruce Chatwin - Utz; The Songlines; On the Black Hill; The Viceroy of Ouidah; What Am I Doing Here; In Patagonia
Valeria Luiselli - Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions; Faces in the Crowd
Elizabeth Smart - By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept
Jonathan Wilson - Inverting the Pyramid; The Barcelona Legacy: Guardiola, Mourinho and the Fight for Football's Soul
Nicholas Shakespeare - Bruce Chatwin
Nicholas Shakespeare & Elizabeth Chatwin (eds) - Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin
Susannah Clapp - With Chatwin
Jonathan Chatwin - Anywhere Out of the World: The Work of Bruce Chatwin
Penelope Fitzgerald - The Beginning of Spring
Peter Carey - Oscar & Lucinda
David Lodge - Nice Work
Marina Warner - The Lost Father

Other links:

‘Remembering Bruce Chatwin’ (BBC World Service 1991)
BBC Radio 4 Adaptation of Utz
Blake Morrison’s Guardian review of Under the Sun (2010)
Susannah Clapp remembers Chatwin in the Guardian (2017)

86. Rebecca West - The Return of the Soldier

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In this episode of Backlisted John and Andy welcome back Alice Jolly, novelist, playwright and memoirist, who has won both the Royal Society of Literature’s V. S. Pritchett Memorial Prize for short stories and the PEN/ Ackerley Prize for non-fiction for Dead Babies & Seaside Towns, and whose latest book, Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile, was John’s favourite novel of last year. Alice first appeared on Backlisted in February 2016 to discuss Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire. She is joined by Amanda Craig, writer and critic and author of seven novels including A Vicious Circle and most recently the brilliant state of the nation novel, The Lie of the Land, published by Little Brown in 2017 and serialised that year as a Radio 4 ‘Book at Bedtime’. The book that Alice & Amanda have chosen to here talk about is The Return of the Soldier, the first novel by Rebecca West, first published in 1918, when she was 24. The discussion beforehand includes John’s passionate admiration for Julia Blackburn’s latest book Time Song: In Search of Doggerland and Andy’s report back on finally tracking down a copy of cult author Alexander Baron’s second Harryboy Boas novel, Strip Jack Naked.

Books mentioned:

Rebecca West - The Return of the Soldier, The Fountain Overflows, This Real Night, Cousin Rosamund, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, The Meaning of Treason, St Augustine
Alice Jolly - Dead Babies & Seaside Towns, Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile
Amanda Craig - A Vicious Circle, The Lie of the Land
Julian Blackburn - Time Song: In Search of Doggerland
Alexander Baron - Strip Jack Naked
Chris Sullivan - Rebel, Rebel: The Mavericks that Made the Modern World
Sarah Moss - Ghost Wall
Tara Westover - Educated
Sofka Zinovieff - Putney
Sayaka Murata - Convenience Store Woman
Lissa Evans - Old Baggage
Alan Bennett - Smut: Two Unseemly Stories
Alan Hollinghurst - The Swimming Pool Library
Tim Krabbé - The Rider
L.P. Hartley - The Go-Between
J.L. Carr - A Month in the Country
Leo Tolstoy - War and Peace

Other links:

Rebecca West interviewed by Ludovic Kennedy in 1976
Rebecca West interviewed by Marina Warner in The Paris Review (1983)
The Return of the Soldier movie (1982) on YouTube
Andy Miller & Alex Preston at the Faversham Literary Festival - 24 Feb 2019
Rachel Malik’s blog on class in The Return of the Soldier