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Posts Tagged ‘The Guardian

Writer and creator of The Wire back on the beat

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David Simon, creator of The Wire

David Simon, creator of The Wire

Celebrated creator of the much loved hit US police drama The Wire (The Guardian’s live blog on all five series) has returned to his journalistic roots to investigate crime in Baltimore, the setting of the HBO series.

Writer and journalist David Simon was reportedly unhappy with the Baltimore Sun‘s coverage of a police shooting which reported that “one old police reporter [Simon] lost his mind and began making calls” following a handful of unsatisfactory stories.

You would have thought the Baltimore police would have learnt it’s lesson after five series of The Wire but Simon was denied the face sheet of the shooting report.

David Simon said: “I tried to explain the Maryland statutes to the shift commander, but so long had it been since a reporter had demanded a public document that he stared at me as if I were an emissary from some lost and utterly alien world. Which is, sadly enough, exactly true.”

Have a look see what Charlie Brooker thinks of The Wire below:

Discussion:
Has the Wire inspired anyone to try their hand at screenplay writing? Does anyone enjoy writing about crime, and why? Let us know what you think of The Wire.

Words: Dean Samways

Literature, Interrupted

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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

The offending article: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

A school in America has committed a cardinal sin of the literary world by tearing out pages of a classic piece of modern literature because it contained sexually explicit material.

Susanna Kaysen’s bestselling memoir Girl, Interrupted, which was made into a major motion picture starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, was judged inappropriate for students by the senior staff at New Rochelle High School, New York.

The story tells of the writer’s time in a psychiatric hospital. The incriminating scene is believed to be one in which a girl is encouraged to engage in oral sex, thus acting against hospital policy regarding sexual intercourse.

The pages were initially removed from the set texts in 2001. A member of staff teaching a 10th grade course in mental health and conformity decided the sexual content was not appropriate for pupils between 15 and 16 years of age.

The term ‘censorship’ was only used this year when the bowdlerised versions were used to teach 12th grade film students. When the amendments to the literature were made public there was widespread criticism from organisations, which promote and protect the freedom of expression and local residents alike.

Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression said: “This is a very glaring instance of censorship.”

“No kid reading that book is going to not notice that pages have been pulled out,” said Rebecca Zeidel, programme director of the Kids’ Right to Read project, a joint initiative between the ABFFE and the National Coalition Against Censorship. Zeidel is currently working on a formal response to the school on the issue.

Angry residents of New Rochelle have voiced their concerns on a local message board, describing the school’s actions as ‘a blatant attempt to keep US teenagers in the dark, something US schools appear to be notorious for’, and an act, which ‘takes us back to the Dark Ages’.

The local education board said it had not been told about the alteration and it has since instructed the school to replace the vandalised books.

Cindy Babcock Deutsch, president of the board, told guardian.co.uk: “Censorship is wrong and will not be allowed by the school district.”

In a statement Richard Organisciak, superintendent of schools, said the district would carry out a review of policy and practices on book selection following the upset.

“I certainly understand that the word ‘censorship’ can arouse strong public feelings, and is an issue to which public schools must be sensitive.

“At the same time, I think many people will agree that some material should not be endorsed, or made mandatory, in school curricula. I hope we can all recognise the context, namely, how do we expose students to a wide range of ideas, often provocative or disturbing, without exposing them to materials for which they may not be ready, or which their parents may find highly objectionable?”

The more alarming thing about this story is that it is not a unique occurrence.

“While this is a very glaring instance of censorship, we have hundreds of censorship challenges in schools every year,” said Finan.

Zeidel said the majority of censorship cases were on a local level rather than national: “It’s in red states and blue states [Republican and Democrat] – all over the country. To date there have been 45 titles in 15 states challenged this year, not including Girl, Interrupted… In most cases most books are challenged by a parent or student who will complain about a book.”

But she pointed out that a ban or the distribution of altered texts may have the opposite effect. “Booksellers will frequently see a rise in sales when a book is banned because people want to read it – they want to know why it’s banned.”

A sign of Middle American fear or actual concern for child wealth?

Watch the trailer to the Girl, Interrupted film below:

Discussion:
Should this kind of censorship be accepted? Can you think of any instances where this sort of thing is justified? No? Neither do we.

Words: Dean Samways

On The Road in Birmingham

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The manuscript scroll of On The Road by Jack Kerouac (BBC)

The manuscript scroll of On The Road by Jack Kerouac (BBC)

The scroll manuscript of On The Road, dubbed one of the most important pieces of literature of modern times, is now on show in Birmingham. Jack Kerouac’s genre defining novel was typed out furiously on 120ft of tracing paper so he didn’t have to stop, with only the power of coffee keeping him going. Now 50 years after the book was published in the UK the Barber Institute in Birmingham is showing one of the world’s most valuable and celebrated manuscripts.

The exhibition’s curator Professor Dick Ellis has admitted there was a lot of competition getting the scroll, which ironically has spent most of its life on the road.

“We’re very excited indeed,” he said. “This is an iconic manuscript. It is a record of the huge effort Kerouac put into composing it. It was 20 days of typing 6,500 words a day, flat out, in spontaneous composition. He wanted to record things with the most possible accuracy using the spontaneous technique. His typewriter became a compositional instrument.

Truman Capote once accused Kerouac of typing rather than writing; I would say he was learning the ability of using the typewriter like a jazz instrument, like a saxophone. He also had an incredible memory. And he had great speed at typing, he became a lightning typist. He came to be able to use a typewriter in a way that has not been seen before or since. Kerouac said he wrote fast because the road was fast.”

Of the total 120ft of printed text around a fifth will be on show in a specially built cabinet. Although visitors may have to tilt the heads slightly to read parts of the script, Ellis believes that it will help give visitor an insight into what Kerouac was all about. The scroll was bought by Jim Irasy owner of American football team Indianapolis Colts and is currently on a worldwide tour of museums and galleries. The scroll will be on show in Birmingham until 28 January.

The Guardian yesterday produced a quality blog post discussing whether or not Kerouac would be able to cope with modern day writing tools such as Word. Have a read here.

Listen to Kerouac read from On The Road accompanied by pretty pictures of the man himself below:

Discussion:
Who will be going to Birmingham to see this amazing artifact of modern literature? Does anyone know of any other quirky ways of writing a novel? Would anyone consider writing a book by hand these days and if so, why?

Words: Seamus Swords

Books of 2008 – The Scribbler Readers’ Poll

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Is Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk your book of the year?

Is Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk your book of the year?

As the 2008 slowly eases through its final chilly days and colder nights we wanted to ask you the question that has been on our lips since starting this humble blog.

What have been your books of 2008? As you hopefully saw earlier today, The Guardian has asked public figures but now we are asking you, the Great British fiction fan.

This year has been a healthy one for releases of great fiction but which have particularly enchanted you? Have there been any that have prompted moments of deep thought, a revelation, a tear, a smile, a giggle, a spell of nausea or, more interestingly, a great deal of self-reflection?

We’ve listed 2008’s most notable new novels (disclaimer: it’s not necessarily what we’ve enjoyed) to provide you with some inspiration. It’s out hope that this feature will generate lots of debate and discussion not only about the books of the year but also what makes a good piece of fiction. Uses the comments box accordingly.

So, come on then, what will it be?

The year in literature:

Watch Chuck Palahniuk interview the protagonist of his book Snuff, porn priestess Cassie Wright below:

Discussion:
Come on then? What was your favourite book of 2008 and why? Why that book and not another? We want a full blown discussion going on.

Words: Dean Samways

Popular figures on books they just couldn’t put down this year

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The Guardian website yesterday published a very interesting article about the favourite books of some of Britain’s top public figures and literature critics.

To celebrate the final month of the year the piece talks to journalists, politicians, broadcasters, military types and many more who, collectively, make a very diverse and colourful cross-section of society. The chosen novels also throw up some intriguing results.

We’ve selected the best celebrity top books for your reading pleasure. To see the entire list click here.

Richard Curtis with fellow bookworm Stephen Fry (BBC)

Richard Curtis with fellow bookworm Stephen Fry (BBC)

Richard Curtis – Film director

“Now that Kurt Vonnegut has smoked his last cigarette, John le Carré is my favourite living author. A Most Wanted Man (Hodder & Stoughton) is full of classic le Carré delights – the plots that sneak up on you, the wonderful, compromised Englishmen, the richness of the writing, strangely allied to the feeling that he is just recording documentary fact. When I first started reading le Carré, his middle-aged British men reminded me of my schoolmasters and my father’s friends – now they’ve turned into me.”

Alistair Darling – Chancellor of the Exchequer

“The book I’ve enjoyed most this year is Ian McEwan‘s On Chesil Beach (Vintage). It’s a thoroughly evocative novel from one of the best writers of his generation. Reading it was a great escape from the Treasury.”

General Sir Mike Jackson – Soldier

“The British armed forces are much in the news and it is important that we understand what is being asked of our military. Lieutenant General Sir Hew Pike, one of my oldest comrades-in-arms, knows as much about the human dimension of soldiering as anyone I know, and in From the Front Line (Pen and Sword) he has put together a wonderful description of this human dimension as seen through the letters and diaries of the soldiers of his family over four generations.”

Andrew Marr chews the fat with PM Gordon Brown

Andrew Marr chews the fat with PM Gordon Brown (BBC)

Andrew Marr – Political journalist

“No question – the non-fiction book of the year is Richard Holmes‘s Age of Wonder (HarperCollins), not only beautifully written, but also kicking open a new perspective on the Romantic age, as scientific and artistic thinking began to diverge. But please let me also mention The Legend of Colton H Bryant (Simon & Schuster) by Alexandra Fuller, which is brilliant, moving and almost a new form – factually true fiction. And for fiction, a newcomer, Andrew Nicholl’s The Good Mayor (Black &White), a story of love, dreaming and loss, magical realism from Scotland. You will not be disappointed.”

David Miliband – Foreign Secretary

Counselor (HarperCollins) by the late Ted Sorensen, Kennedy‘s long-term adviser and speechwriter, is a reminder of the best instinct of American liberalism. Self-deprecating (which is touching), and in awe of everything JFK (which is less so), it shows how small-town America (in this case Lincoln, Nebraska) can produce people more like Michael Palin than Sarah Palin. Equality, hard graft and the frontier combine to produce something special. Barack Obama inherits its optimism.”

Michael Palin – Actor

“The surprise of the year was a modest gem of a book by Raja Shehadeh, called Palestinian Walks (Profile). Ostensibly a celebration of a lifetime spent walking the hills around Ramallah, Shehadeh’s book is also an elegy for a lost land, and an inventory of a natural environment that has been slowly whittled away by an ever-expanding Israeli state. Shehadeh’s love of his homeland and his naturalist’s eye make for a poetic little book that has big things to say.”

Jeremy Paxman with one of his larger books, we hope (BBC)

Jeremy Paxman with one of his larger books, we hope (BBC)

Jeremy Paxman – Television presenter

“I’d not expected to like Sebastian Barry‘s The Secret Scripture (Faber), of which I imagine the talkSPORT synopsis might be ‘an old woman inside an Irish loony bin tells her life story’. In fact, I found it mesmerising. It is a simultaneous narrative, in which a doctor attempts to discover why an elderly woman was committed to a Sligo asylum, while she confides her life story to a secret memoir, in which she tells, in intimate and moving detail, how the tides of modern Irish history washed against her life. Climate, countryside and a malignant Catholic priest are all brilliantly rendered. Barry’s prose is brisk and vivid and at times terribly moving.”

John Prescott (blog) – Politician

What Does China Think? (Fourth Estate) by Mark Leonard is an excellent analysis of the current debate under way in China regarding its future development. An especially important read for all of us concerned about finding global solutions to global problems.”

Kirsty Wark – Television presenter

Kate Summerscale‘s non-fiction whodunnit The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (Bloomsbury) reads like a thriller. She researched a famous murder in 1860, of a three-year-old boy in a country house whose inhabitants were siblings, parents, a governess and servants. But what gave this book such an edge was the author’s meticulous detailing, down to the weather on the day of the murder. Toni Morrison‘s latest novel A Mercy (Chatto) goes back to the 1680s and the chaotic beginnings of slavery. In her vivid story centring on one young slave, Florens, Morrison reveals the tragedy of slavery and how it also involved Native Americans and even whites.”

Vivienne Westwood – Fashion designer

“In The Road (Picador) by Cormac McCarthy – actually published last year – a man and his son are ‘on the road’ in a world where nothing lives except for a few human beings. The two must keep going to find food and to avoid groups of cannibals. This is a story of love so total that it shines like a beacon on our human resources for good. Though harrowing, it’s great literature.”

Toni Morrison also gets a special mention from President-elect Barack Obama as he and John McCain talk about their favourite books in a CBS interview below:

Discussion:
Later on today we will be posting a topic whereby you will be able to discuss your favourite reads of 2008 so be sure to come back for that, but right now let’s have some fun. What famous people would you like to think read what books? For example, the editor would like to think George W. Bush’s favourite book was Where The Wild Things Are (an easy one we know). Post your suggestions below and let’s all have a giggle.

Words: Dean Samways

Guardian and Observer clean up at music journalism awards

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Radioheads Thom Yorke on the cover of OMM which won best editor last night

Radiohead's Thom Yorke on the cover of OMM which won best editor last night

Newspapers The Guardian and The Observer stole the show at last night’s 2008 Record Of The Day Awards for Music Journalism and PR (phew) when they walked away with five gongs. The Word was named magazine of the year.

Caspar Llewellyn-Smith, editor of Observer Music Monthly bagged the editor of the year award for the second consecutive year. The Guardian was celebrated for it’s music content winning best music coverage in a national newspaper and best podcast. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis was named record reviews writer of the year and The Observer’s Kitty Empire won the 2008 live reviews writer award.

Other winners included Dog Day Press (best independent PR company) and Polydor (best in-house PR department).

The highlight of the eveing came when legendary British music journalism Jon Savage was honoured when he received the outstanding contribution to music journalism award.

Representing the artdesks up and down the country was Pennie Smith who picked up the outstanding contribution to music photography award.

MBC PR co-founder Barbara Charone won the outstanding contribution to music PR awards and

The awards took place at Conway Hall, London.

The full list of the 2008 Record of the Day Award winners is as follows:

  • Live Reviews Writer of the Year: Kitty Empire – The Observer
  • Best PR campaign for a breakthrough UK Act: Tony Linkin at Coalition PR for Glasvegas
  • Best PR campaign for an established UK Act: Lewis Jamieson at Hall Or Nothing PR for Elbow
  • Record Reviews Writer of the Year: Alexis Petridis – The Guardian
  • Best Music Coverage in a Newspaper: The Guardian
  • Business and Technology Writer of the Year: Ben Cardew – Music Week
  • Best PR campaign for an established non-UK Act: James Hopkins at Columbia Records for Kings of Leon
  • Best PR Campaign for a Breakthrough Non-UK Act: Ash Collins at Toast PR for MGMT
  • Best Podcast: Guardian Music Weekly
  • Best Editor: Caspar Llewellyn Smith – Observer Music Monthly
  • Best Independent PR Company: Dog Day Press
  • Best Independent PR individual: Nathan Beazer at Dog Day Press
  • Best Digital Publication: NME.COM
  • Best in-house PR person: Andy Prevezer at Warner Bros Records
  • Best In-House PR department: Polydor Records
  • Artist and Music Features – Writer of The Year: Simon Cosyns and Jacqui Swift – The Sun, Something for the Weekend
  • Breaking Music Writer: Paul Lester
  • Magazine of the Year: The Word
  • Best Blog: 20 Jazz Funk Greats
  • Best Online PR: Scruffy Bird
  • Outstanding contribution to music journalism: Jon Savage
  • Outstanding contribution to PR: Barbara Charone – MBC PR
  • Outstanding contribution to music photography: Pennie Smith

That classic image of The Clash's Paul Simonon captured by Pennie Smith

If you’re into your music journalism you’ll know who this guy is below (he’s the legendary Beatnik muso Lester Bangs for any of you who don’t):

Discussion:
Are you thinking of a career in music journalism? Are you already writing music pieces? Want you share them? Leave a comment with your experience in the music journalism world here (the editor is a freelancer for Drowned in Sound when it suits him so he’ll be keen to chat on the subject)

Words: Dean Samways

Tennessee Williams – A portrait by a playwright

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 Tennessee Williams scaring the pigeons in Jackson Square, New Orleans © Christopher R. Harris, All Rights Reserved

Tennessee Williams scaring the pigeons in Jackson Square, New Orleans © Christopher R. Harris, All Rights Reserved

The much-celebrated playwright Tennessee Williams having a series of paintings exhibited alongside friend Michael Garady.

Speaking to The Guardian this week Garady explained that painting was a passion for Williams: “he treated it like a second profession.”

According to Michael, Tennessee started painting in the 60s when his career as a playwright took a dip.

He presented six different paintings to Garady. These pieces are now going to be exhibited in public for the first time.

Garady also told the newspaper stories of the pairs’ painting adventures.

“There’s a self-portrait and one of me bare-chested. I said, ‘I don’t like taking off my shirt, Tennessee.’ He said, ‘Oh go on, I want to learn anatomy.’ I said, ‘All right but put the fire on – it’s mighty cold’.

“So there I sat like a complete dolt with my shirt off, but I loved the portrait. It’s a little bit of history for me.

“He did it in pencil, with an oil wash – diluting the oil paint in turpentine and spreading it over a canvas-type paper. It came out like a watercolour.’

For the diary:
The exhibition will take place at the Saint Giles Street Gallery in Norwich until 27 November 2008.

Have a listen to some of the most engaging dialogue ever written by anyone in Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ starring the late great Marlon Brando:

Words: Seamus Swords