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Archive for April, 2011

Memorial to journalist Jessie White on the facade of her former home in Lendinara, Italy

The excellent Bookslut site recently ran a fine review-essay by Jenny McPhee examining two new books from female American journalists who have reported from Afghanistan: Kim Barker’s The Taliban Shuffle and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. McPhee astutely opens her piece with reference to a title of great pertinence to this subject-area and one we are proud to offer in Faber Finds:

Anne Sebba’s Battling for News: Women Reporters from the Risorgimento to Tiananmen Square (1994) is a compendium of vignettes profiling dozens of female journalists over the past 150 years. An excellent addition to herstory, Sebba’s book covers all nature of journalist, notably the long tradition of the female war correspondent, beginning with Jessie White, who commenced her life-long career in 1860 embedded within the ranks of Garibaldi’s Red Shirts, and ending with BBC journalist Katie Adie’s coverage of the 1986 U.S. bombing of Tripoli and the 1989 student revolt in Tiananmen Square. In story after story of intrepid women risking all in pursuit of the news, Sebba describes the systematic prejudice they encountered and their heroic battles to overcome myriad barriers in order to do their job.
In 1898, novelist Arnold Bennett wrote in Journalism for Women: A Practical Guide: “Is there any sexual reason why a woman should be a less accomplished journalist than a man? I can find none…” Yet as Sebba shows in the years since Bennett’s statement, the issue of a woman’s suitability for the profession has been constantly debated: During a war, are women a distraction to the soldiers and therefore dangerous? Are women emotionally biased, less objective, more partisan? Are they oriented more towards people rather than facts and statistics?

BTW the Independent‘s formidable political correspondent John Rentoul administers a justly celebrated slack/cheap-journalism-watch series entitled ‘Questions To Which The Answer Is No’, and I would say that familiar and chauvinist little troika that rounds off the Bookslut quotation could probably be admitted in toto...

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Here is a roll-call of the most recently reissued titles in Finds, now available to order from our site and on Amazon:
The Deer Cry Pavilion: A Story of Westerners in Japan 1868-1905 by Pat Barr
The pavilion in question, the Rokumeikan, became a symbol of Japan’s westernisation during the Meiji period of the late 1800s/early 1900s: designed by English architect Josiah Conder for the housing of government guests and the hosting of grand parties. The Rokumeikan made for one sort of lightning-rod amid the rush of foreigners into newly-‘enlightened’ Japan, but Pat Barr tells the tales of umpteen others in this richly fascinating study.
The Double Bond – Primo Levi: A Biography by Carole Angier
The anguished life of Primo Levi is explored with uncommon acuity in this powerful biography which was lauded on first publication in the Independent (Lesley Chamberlain) and Guardian (Blake Morrison).
Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origin of His Evil by Ron Rosenbaum
The meditative work that, inter alia, inspired Norman Mailer’s final novel The Castle in the Forest – Mailer saying of Rosenbaum’s work that it “stimulated the hell out of me, absolutely knocked me out…”
“Personal without being self-indulgent, erudite without being pedantic, written with passion and a moral engagement worthy of its momentous subject, ‘Explaining Hitler’ is an exemplary work of intellectual journalism, an idiosyncratic classic.” Gary Kamiya, Salon.
Science in History: Volume 4, The Social Sciences by J. D. Bernal
The concluding volume of Bernal’s exceptional survey.
The East End: Four Centuries of London Life by Alan Palmer
Palmer’s homage to a vanished quarter of the capital.
Erskine Childers by Jim Ring
Authoritative study of the prominent Irish nationalist and author of Riddle of the Sands.
Queen Victoria by Giles St Aubyn
Masterly biography of the great British monarch.
Essays on Russian and East European Music by Gerald Abraham
A set of essays including the first publication of “The Opera of Stanislaw Moniuszko”.
Follow My Black Plume by Geoffrey Trease
Rip-roaring fiction for young readers, about an English lad getting caught up in Giuseppe Garibaldi’s fight for Italian independence.
The Innocent Moon by Henry Williamson
Volume 9 of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight
The Greater Trumps by Charles Williams
Another of Williams’ unsettling supernatural fictions, this one deriving its threat from the Tarot.
The Killing of Sally Keemer by Christopher Lee
The second of Lee’s ‘Bath Detective’ series
Da Silva Da Silva’s Cultivated Wilderness and Genesis of the Clowns by Wilson Harris
A fictional diptych from the great Guyanan novelist

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Portrait of Tolstoy by Ivan N. Kramskoy

God bless BBC TV programmes about writers! I say this with some measure of regret for the passing of ITV’s South Bank Show, which in my youth was an absolutely indispensable medium for getting major living writers out in front of such a captive audience as was available late on Sunday nights. The BBC used to have a wealth of outlets and strands under which good writers and their books could be featured and celebrated – that wealth has, of course, receded alongside the very notion of ‘the captive audience’… But in this light we must give thanks for the 2-part BBC Imagine devoted to Tolstoy which aired over consecutive Sundays just past. Dovegreyreader, whose excellent ‘Team Tolstoy’ group-read of War and Peace continues here, has written approvingly of the BBC documentaries here, and she also serves up a nicely wry take on their presenter, Alan Yentob, who does indeed seem always to land on his feet when it comes to a nice gig.
Dovegreyreader also points out – as was pointed out to me by my predecessor in this parish, John Seaton – that it is the Faber Finds edition of Tolstoy’s Diaries Volume 1 1847-1894 (prepared by R.F. Christian) from which Yentob reads in the first programme. You can see for yourself if you summon it up on BBC IPlayer and fast-forward to just before the 26:00 minute-mark
Jay Parini, author of The Last Station which conveyed Tolstoy to movie audiences a couple of years ago, pays the following tribute to Tolstoy’s diaries and letters: “R. F. Christian ranks among the great Tolstoy scholars of the past century, and his translations of Tolstoy’s diaries and letters are peerless. I would go nowhere else for the very best versions of Tolstoy.”
And, happily, interested readers now need look no further than Finds! You will find details and ordering info on both volumes of both the Letters and Diaries by following links from here.

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