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Issue 50 / December 2012

April 2012 Update

Is it spring yet? According to the Met Office the present chills have always been more likely around Easter than at Christmas, so you may as well polish off the last of the chocolate eggs (or restock at bargain prices) and snuggle up with a good book until the sun returns.

2012 struggles to burst into life, and we're transfixed by another historic anniversary as the world goes Titanictastic. Can it really be a hundred years since Kate and Leo got it together? Probably. In other shipwreck news, Charlotte Rogan's debut novel The Lifeboat puts that age-old philosophical quandary of "What's the right thing to do?" firmly at the heart of the story.

This year's London Book Fair is less than a week away, and they've teamed up with the British Council to shine the light on China. One of the participants is bestselling author and internet fiction pioneer Anni Baobei, who offers an intriguing take on Chinese chick lit for Western readers.

The internet is credited with increasing book reading, if this chart in The Atlantic is to be taken at face value. The internet is also linked to an explosion in creative writing programmes, which suggests that the writing workshop today is as much about cathartic therapy as literary imaginings.

In the last month, the New York Times playfully considered the book of the future, and Chip Kidd made designing physical book jackets for Knopf look simple in his TED Talk. Book designers, he says, are interpreters and translators. "Much is to be gained by ebooks: ease, convenience, portability. But something is definitely lost - tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingyness."

This packed issue of thingyness-oriented writing is rich with debuts, as well as contributions from established authors Tim Lott, Anuradha Roy, Johanna Skibsrud and Greg Baxter. Our cruellest month contains the fresh and new, and also plugs the pleasure of rereading old favourites. John Niven found The World According to Garp an inspiration, while Anna Raverat will send you scuttling to Stevie Smith's Novel on Yellow Paper - but beware the undercurrents of uncertainty in her novel Signs of Life don't drag you under. Fellow first-fictioners Justin Torres and Elanor Dymott are also there for you should you come up for air.

And that, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. Enjoy the plunge.

Farhana Gani, April 2012

Wednesday, 11 April, 2012

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