Palimpsest: A Memoir
By Gore Vidal
This is a memoir of the first 40 years of Gore Vidal's life, ranging back and forth across a rich history. He spent his childhood in Washington DC, in the household of his grandfather, the blind senator from Oklahoma, T.P. Gore, and in the various domestic situations of his complicated and exasperating mother, Nina. Then come schooldays at St Albans and Exeter; the army; life as a literary wunderkind in New York, London, Rome and Paris in the '40s and '50s; sex in an age of promiscuity; and a campaign for Congress in 1960. His cast includes Tennessee Williams, the Kennedys, Eleanor Roosevelt, Truman Capote, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Christopher Isherwood, Jack Kerouac, Jane and Paul Bowles, Santayana, Anais Nin, Norman Mailer, Leonard Bernstein and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, among others.
Please Kill Me
By Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain
What Britain refined, America defined. Assembled by two key figures at the heart of the movement and told through the voices of musicians, artists, iconoclastic reporters and entrepreneurial groupies, Please Kill Me is the full decadent story of the American punk scene, through the early years of Andy Warhol's Factory to the New York underground of Max's Kansas City and later, its heyday at CBGB's, spiritual home to the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and Blondie. Please Kill Me goes backstage and behind apartment doors to chronicle the sex, drugs and power struggles that were the very fabric of the American punk community, to the time before piercing and tattoos became commonplace and when every concert, new band and fashion statement marked an absolute first. From Iggy Pop and Lou Reed to the Clash and the Sex Pistols (the first time around), McNeil and McCain document a time of glorious self-destruction and perverse innocence - possibly the last time so many will so much fun in the pursuit of excess.
The Pangs Of Love
By Jane Gardam
With her customary accuracy, Jane Gardam reveals the extraordinariness of ordinary people as she deals with the pangs of love- fulfilled or hopeless, sexual or spiritual, tortured or hilarious- in these eleven stories.Paraded here are ladies with a 'thing' about vicars, strange events happening in ornate downstairs lavatories (and in ornate upstairs ones), and the English abroad, desperate and dotty. The glum and impossible Edna haunts the supermarket- and dispenses an unlikely kiss of life. The younger sister of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid declares her sibling 'very silly' and turns her story on its tail, an old maid forms a curious liason with a tramp, and small moments of temptation fill hotel rooms as histories glance briefly off each other.
People Like Us
By Charles Jennings
Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta, polo at Cowdray Park, public schools, pheasant shooting - it's a wonderful life, being a member of the English aristocracy. But what is it like to live this wonderful life? And what does it feel like to be a regulation-issue, middle-class person, thrust into the centre of this mob and forced to survive? This is the position in which Charles Jennings found himself, in PEOPLE LIKE US: the suburban outsider trying to make sense of the closed, privileged, self-indulgent world of being born and raised to another way of life. From the great social functions of the Season, to private parties in Kensington, to almost anything to do with horses, PEOPLE LIKE US is fascinating, appalling, argumentative, mocking, envious and wickedly funny. You could call it invitation-only anthropology....
The Page Turner
By David Leavitt
At eighteen, Paul Porterfield aspires to play the piano at the world's great concert halls. So far the closest he has come has been to turn pages of sheet music for his idol, the dashing, temperamental Richard Kennington, a former piano prodigy on the cusp of middle age.Months later, while on holiday with his mother in Italy, Paul encounters Richard a second time. Their earlier attraction develops into an intense affair. As the innocence of first love becomes entangled with the quest for a more enduring happiness, Paul comes to realise that he cannot be a page turner all his life and that he has to confront his ambitions.With artful storytelling, shrewd perception and arch humour, THE PAGE TURNER testifies to the bittersweet truths of strained relationships and the resiliency of the human heart.
The Pilot's Wife
By Anita Shreve
An Oprah's Book Club selection, this gripping and powerfully wrought novel from the bestselling author of The Weight of Water is a stunning meditation on grief, betrayal and 'the ultimate unknowability of those closest to us' (Daily Telegraph) Who can guess what a woman will do when the unthinkable becomes her reality? Being married to a pilot has taught Kathryn Lyons to be ready for emergencies, but nothing has prepared her for the late-night knock on her door and the news of her husband's fatal crash. As Kathryn struggles through her grief, she is forced to confront disturbing rumours about the man she loved and the life that she took for granted. Torn between her impulse to protect her husband's memory and her desire to know the truth, Kathryn sets off to find out if she ever really knew the man who was her husband. In her determination to test the truth of her marriage, she faces shocking revelations about the secrets a man can keep and the actions a woman is willing to take.'Enthralling' -Anita Brookner, author of the Booker Prize-winning Hotel du Lac 'Compellingly told, brilliantly observed, lyrically written and when you get to the last page you simply want to run out and buy everything she's ever written' -Sunday Independent
Plain Tales From The Raj
By Charles Allen
The Raj was, for two hundred years, the jewel in the British imperial crown. Although founded on military expansionism and undoubted exploitation, it developed over the centuries into what has been called 'benign autocracy' - the government of many by few, with the active collaboration of most Indians in recognition of a desire for the advancement of their country.Charles Allen's classic oral history of the period that marked the end of British rule was first published a generation ago. Now reissued as the imperial century closes, this brilliantly insightful and bestselling collection of reminiscences illustrates the unique experience of British India: the sadness and luxury for some; the joy and deprivation for others.
By Jane Rogers
Winner of the Writers' Guild Best Fiction Book Award, 1996The year is 1788, the place New South Wales. Marine Lieutenant William Dawes has arrived in the Antipodes to build an observatory, reform the convicts and understand the Aborigines. He is a good man who will be subject to many temptations.In England, now, a child is born. His mother knows he has extraordinary powers; his father knows he is a helpless cripple. Olla, defending and nurturing her miraculous son, emerges as one of the strangest and most compelling characters of contemporary fiction.Jane Rogers intertwines the powerful dramas of the first year of the convict-colony with these present-day lives to make a rich and gripping novel.
By John L. Casti
How did life on Earth get started? Can we duplicate human thought in a computing machine? How do children acquire language? Ten years ago, in PARADIGMS LOST, John L. Casti looked at the state of play with these and a handful of other eternal questions, outlining the competing answers on offer and describing the scientists who advocated them. In PARADIGMS REGAINED Casti recounts the huge leaps science has made since then, and how new theories and candidate answers have emerged for almost all the big questions. As we enter the twenty-first century, PARADIGMS REGAINED provides an excellent summary of what we understand about key scientific issues.
Playing Hard Ball
By E.T. Smith
PLAYING HARD BALL is a unique sports book, a cultural comparison of two national games - cricket, English in origin and American baseball - written from the viewpoint of a top-class practitioner of both codes. Ed Smith - the young Cambridge University and Kent batsman - has spent the winters since 1998 in Spring Training with the New York Mets baseball team. It has enabled Ed to contrast and compare arguably the two most iconic of sports from the inside. In fact, baseball had a thriving following in Britain until the Great War: Derby County's former stadium was called the Baseball Ground; Tottenham Hotspur was at first a baseball club. Apart from learning two very different techniques, Ed learned that the sports' ultimate heroes, the Babe and the Don - Babe Ruth and Don Bradman - might as well have come from different planets, whilst baseball's pristine Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is a far cry from the ramshackle cricket museum at Lord's. Ed Smith's PLAYING HARD BALL draws on these intriguing comparisons to paint a two-sided portrait of sports most illustrous 'hitting games'.
By Valerie Martin
Manon Gaudet is unhappily married to the owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation. She misses her family and longs for the vibrant lifestyle of her native New Orleans, but most of all, she longs to be free of the suffocating domestic situation. The tension revolves around Sarah, a slave girl who may have been given to Manon as a wedding present from her aunt, whose young son Walter is living proof of where Manon's husband's inclinations lie. This private drama is being played out against a brooding atmosphere of slave unrest and bloody uprisings. And if the attacks reach Manon's house, no one can be sure which way Sarah will turn . . .Beautifully written, PROPERTY is an intricately told tale of both individual stories and of a country in a time of change, where ownership is at once everything and nothing, and where belonging, by contrast, is all.
The Prophet Muhammad
By Barnaby Rogerson
The Prophet Muhammad is a hero for all mankind. In his lifetime he established a new religion, Islam; a new state, the first united Arabia; and a new literary language, the classical Arabic of the Qur'an, for the Qur'an is believed to be the word of God revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. A generation after his death he would be acknowledged as the founder of a world empire and a new civilisation. Any one of these achievements would have been more than enough to permanently establish his genius. To our early twenty-first century minds, what is all the more astonishing is that he also managed to stay true to himself and retained to his last days the humility, courtesy and humanity that he had learned as an orphan shepherd boy in central Arabia. If one looks for a parallel example from Christendom, you would have to combine the Emperor Constantine with St Francis and St Paul, an awesome prospect. Barnaby Rogerson's elegant biography not only looks directly at the life of the Prophet Muhammad, but beautifully evokes for western readers the Arabian world into which he was born in 570 AD.
Passing Under Heaven
By Justin Hill
In the last years of the Tang Dynasty, a beautiful girl is born in a fort along the Great Wall of China, and is set to become the most famous and celebrated courtesan of her age. Set in the 9th century, Passing Under Heaven tells the tragic love story of Lily, a Chinese poet and documents a time when Chinese women enjoyed a window of unprecedented personal freedom - including the freedom to fall in love. But when Lily pushes that freedom to its limits disaster ensues, leaving her child and husband to forever mourn her loss.Based on historical fact, Passing Under Heaven is more than the story of the end of a love affair, this book also chronicles the passing of the Chinese golden age into civil war and ruin.