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WILL WE BE BEWITCHED, BODY AND SOUL? by Nicola Hoban Book lovers around the world are preparing themselves as a much-loved classical series is being taken and transformed from its nineteenth century form into the prose of the twenty-first century. The Austen Project set out to pair six contemporary authors with the six Jane Austen novels: Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. The aim of each novelist is to take their assigned tale and, following the basis of the plot, put a new spin on it and make it unique in a modern…

The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first book in JK Rowling’s new detective series, was itself the centre of a mystery. Released to positive reviews under the pen-name of Robert Galbraith, the book’s real author was revealed by a Twitter user who then deleted their account. A forensic linguist analysed the text to prove the claim. The tweeter, later revealed to be a friend of Rowling’s solicitor, created hype that caused sales of the book to soar by over 500,000%. Bookstores unprepared to deal with demand were left without stock for days. The book became a number one best seller immediately. But…

This coming October 27th, 2013 would have been Dylan Thomas’ 99th birthday, or as the very man himself would call it, his “99th year to Heaven”. Born in Swansea, Glamorgan and a pupil of the local grammar school where his father was the headmaster, Thomas was a contributor and later editor of the school newspaper. He carried his wordsmith abilities over the threshold into the adult world: he left school at the age of 16 to work for the South Wales Daily Post. His poem Before I knocked is about a child in utero and is not the only Thomas…

Will Self: Kafka’s biggest fan. You may know Will Self as a Grumpy Old Man, a BBC panellist, a writer, journalist or as a critic. He is the author of nine novels including ‘The Book of Dave’, centred around an unwell taxi driver and seven short story collections, notably ‘Grey Area’. Self is also quite possibly the biggest ever fan of Franz Kafka (1883-1924) and BBC Space is currently feeding his insatiable appetite for the Prague writer. The programme ‘Will Self’s Prague Journey’ is currently available on the BBC Space website, and it follows Self as he traces Kafka’s footsteps…

In September 2013, United States Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey will enter a second term of Laureateship. On 19th June, 2013, Seren’s Culture Editor went to see her address a mainly American audience at London’s Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall. Composers start with chords and songwriters with an idea. In her poetry construction, Natasha Trethewey starts with a point in history and with “an historic al question that I will then attempt to answer through my poems.” Trethewey explains that she chooses to answer her self-set historical questions in order to “make peace with our own personal past and our country’s…

Wystan Hugh Auden was a northern English poet born in 1907.Though he was born English he later became an American citizen. Amusingly, this is the direct mirror image of a contemporary, ‘British’ poet also known by his first two initials: T.S. Eliot was conversely born American and later gained British citizenship. Auden led something of a nomadic existence. Born in York (pictured), he spent a childhood in Birmingham between terms of boarding education in Surrey.  He spent his adulthood in America and died on mainland Europe, in Vienna. As a poet and thinker, he wrote of and was plagued by…

Teesside novelist Pat Barker (a female ‘Pat’) is perhaps best known for her Regeneration Trilogy, which is set in the First World War and follows the lives of men deeply affected by shellshock. For a reader who follows Barker, her first novel, Union Street, can be regarded as an overture to this author’s strong ability to write in a mesmerisingly addictive style to achieve graphic and horrific accounts of real events. Union Street is, like Regeneration, firmly rooted in historical events. The novel set in the North East (and in an unspecified town, possibly in Durham or York) at the…

When autumn arrives, the crunchy red leaves underfoot sombrely remind me it will not be long until I have a red poppy displayed upon my person. Wilfred Owen is a key figure in World War One poetry. He is primarily associated with fighting on frontlines and writing cerebral poetry inspired thereby. But he also spent a lot of time in Edinburgh; he was treated for shellshock in Craiglockhart psychiatric hospital alongside Siegfried Sassoon, who was suffering the same condition. The novel Regeneration by Pat Barker is based upon this particular one of Owen’s life experiences and so too is the…

Shortly before 1818, a group of Romantic poets and writers travelled from Britain to Geneva. The party included Mary Wollstonecraft Goodwin (later Mary Shelley), Percy Bysshe Shelley (later the husband of Mary) and Lord Byron. Finding themselves in the Swiss Alps and thick snow, what better way to spend an evening in such an idyllic setting than…a disgusting novel-writing competition?! Yes. The Romantics decided to hold a competition to see who could compose the most grotesque and repugnant work. Under Byron’s and Percy Shelley’s view that a woman may not up to the job of writing morbidly, Mary Shelley unabashedly…

Please note the time of going to press: February 2012. The Brontës- a sisterhood of gothic writers.   The daughters of a solemn Irish reverend, the three sisters grew up at the family home based in Haworth, Yorkshire, although the extended family remained on the Emerald Isle. The Brontës wrote in a time before women could vote and many worked as scullery maids who would be fortunate to earn £6 a year. The educated trio of sisters attended a school for the children of less wealthy clergy members and their love and ability for writing began as a childhood game.…

2012 was Charles Dickens bicentenary year. This year, following heavy renovation, his house has been reopened, fulfilling great expectations. Museum: The Charles Dickens Museum. The museumised house Charles Dickens once inhabited. Where?: 48, Doughty Street, Camden Town, London. WC 1N 2LX. Getting there: The nearest underground station is Russell Square (Piccadilly Line), although Chancery Lane (Central Line) also provides a direct walk to the museum. Entry Fee: £6 concessions, £8 non-concessions. Charles Dickens lived at number 48 Doughty Street from 1837 until 1839. There, he wrote ‘The Adventures of Oliver Twist’ and ‘The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby’, which…

Why The Great Gatsby is my favourite romance novel Now,  I’m not an avid reader of romance novels but The Great Gatsby is probably my all time favourite book, and it just so happens to be a love story. Gatsby is probably the ultimate romantic hero – handsome, mysterious and fabulously wealthy (not that that matters, honest). All the characters are flawed, even Gatsby. And if you somehow manage to get past the self-centered and annoying Daisy Buchanan, you’ll probably struggle to forgive her obnoxious, racist, adulterous husband, Tom Buchanan. He also hits women. He’s the perfect antithesis to Gatsby and…

Published in 1847, Wuthering Heights is Emily Bronte’s only novel. Despite initially receiving mixed reviews – with critics describing it as a “strange, inartistic story”, it has since risen to classic status. The story opens with Mr Lockwood visiting Wuthering Heights, a depreciated manor house in Yorkshire. Due to bad weather, he was forced to stay the night, where he begins to discover more about the history of the area. The reader is introduced to Cathy and Heathcliff, former lovers, before following their tumultuous relationship through the years. As a reader, I was fifteen when I first encountered the novel. Assuming…

The Name of the Wind is an epic fantasy, which has you hooked from start to finish. We hear of the protagonist, Kvothe’s, many legendary titles and deeds, only to learn that in reality most of these deeds were accidental, yet they make him into more of a hero. His sharp wit and intellect has you amazed from the beginning, with such determination that he is set apart from the usual heroes who just ‘magically slay the dragon’ as we see the harsh truths of how he achieves these deeds. As with any hero, he has a fatal flaw; his…

On The Road is an important book for a number of reasons. It is credited with beginning, or at least catalysing, the American road-story genre. Much like other books of the same movement, On The Road is important because it was so shocking and graphic for its time. Kerouac spoke explicitly about drugs, sex and “bum” life. These are all themes that were central to the “Beat” movement that the book belongs to. The story is reality thinly veiled with pseudonyms. Sal Paradise (Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassidy) spend their days chasing women, drinking excessively and hitching rides across…

If you’re looking for something great to read this Christmas or just a good stocking filler, Cecilia Ahern’s seasonal novel; The Gift is one to look out for. The story is set in the run up to Christmas and follows three main characters, Lou Suffern, a high-flying businessman who ignores his wife and two young children opting instead for a bigger office and an affair with his secretary. Gabe, the guardian angel; an ominous homeless man who is definitely not everything he seems to be, and an exasperated policeman dealing with a young boy on Christmas Eve who has stolen his mother’s…