Posts Tagged ‘faber finds’

Tom Wintringham is pictured here crouched below the banner toward the left of frame.

On this day 75 years ago General Francisco Franco descended on the Spanish protectorate of Morocco, there to assume direction of an armed uprising begun in Spain two days previous: a revolt of conservative nationalists against the Popular Front government of Spain’s Second Republic. So began a bitter, bloody three-year civil war, itself an overture to an international conflict, as Mussolini and Hitler took Franco’s side and the Soviet Union that of the Republic. Franco’s victory and subsequent long dictatorship did not settle the matter; nor did his death in 1975 and Spain’s return to democracy. A civil war makes for fissures that will not heal within a hundred years; Spain is still haunted. (The BBC today reported on the ongoing controversy over what is to be done by the Zapatero government in respect of the Valley of the Fallen in Madrid, Franco’s colossal and divisive tribute to his victory.)
For the Left ‘Spain’ remains a great cause, a courageously principled fight against fascism and on behalf of a government that championed the poor – a cause impaired only by the virulent internal dispute between Stalinist and Trotskyist/anarchist ideologies (as explored in sympathy with the latter faction in Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and in the 1995 Jim Allen/Ken Loach film Land and Freedom.) On the Right, meanwhile, you will often hear that Franco was ‘authoritarian’ rather than fascist, that ultimately he ‘saved’ Spain from Hitler, and indeed Stalin, and so on.
What is indisputable is that legions of men and women from Europe, the US and Australia journeyed to Spain to join the Republican struggle against what these volunteers saw without question as a rising fascism. These were the International Brigades. A pioneering figure among them was Tom Wintringham (1898-1949), Grimsby-born soldier, poet, journalist, Marxist and keen military theorist. In 1936 Wintringham was despatched to Spain by the Daily Worker as a journalist to cover the war, but his passions and interests were quickly inflamed: he had ideas for how the Republican volunteers should be marshalled, and he was instrumental in the formation of the International Brigades. He would command the British Battalion in the bloody Battle of Jarama in February 1937, at which he was wounded. In 1939 he committed to paper an account of what he saw and did and learned in the struggle. This was English Captain, and Faber Finds is pleased and proud to reissue the book this week, 75 years after the Spanish Civil War began.
English Captain is available to order here. If you wish a little more background information on Wintringham, do look at and listen to the videos below from a tribute event held at Grimsby in 2007, the first a general survey of the life, the second a few comments on the poetry and the Spanish Civil War by Wintringham’s biographer Hugh Purcell


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This from today’s Bookseller, the author Benedicte Page:

Faber has a new typographic look and some new July titles for its print-on-demand and e-book imprint Faber Finds.
Two “seminal” music books of the 1980s, Dave Rimmer’s Like Punk Never Happened and Fred Vermorel’s Starlust, will launch this week, alongside the late poet Ian Hamilton’s appreciation of Paul Gascoigne, Gazza Agonistes. Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Strangers in a Bag and Trevor Wilson’s The Downfall of the Liberal Party 1914-1935 are also among the newly revived titles.
Faber Finds now includes over 900 books, with John Carey’s John Donne, J R Leavis’ The Great Tradition and Simon Heffer’s Like the Roman among its bestsellers.
Imprint editor Richard T Kelly promised to continue to develop a list that he called “a reliable source of great reading matter; but also a list that can innovate and surprise.”
The Faber Finds blog, encouraging readers to suggest new titles for the imprint, is being relaunched at http://www.faberfindsblog.co.uk. The imprint will launch locally in the Australian market in September, through Faber’s partnership with Allen & Unwin.
Faber Finds launched in 2008 and republishes books and authors who have fallen out of print.

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Finds has a brand new skin for its July titles, forthcoming this week and offering a refreshed range of subject matter along with a handsome redesign of the imprint’s covers (and dedicated copy for each title.) Fictional treasures amid the July selections include Stranger With a Bag, short stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner, hailed by Sarah Waters as ‘one of the most talented and well-respected British authors of the twentieth century’; Emma Tennant’s feminist gothic tales Faustine and Two Women of London; and the incredibly rare early Patrick Hamilton novel Twopence Coloured. Among the non-fiction offerings are Trevor Wilson’s timely The Downfall of the Liberal Party 1914-1935; Correlli Barnett’s The Audit of War, anatomising Britain’s decline as a world power; and Tom Wintringham’s searing Spanish Civil War memoir English Captain (on the 75th anniversary of the generals’ coup.) Pop culture also makes its presence felt on the Finds list through two seminal works of the mid-1980s: Dave Rimmer’s Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop, and Fred Vermorel’s brilliantly lubricious Starlust: The Secret Fantasies of Fans. And the literary dimensions of football are represented by Gazza Agonistes, a terribly funny and deeply felt appreciation of Paul Gascoigne by the late poet and Spurs fan Ian Hamilton. The list is completed by memoirs from two of the great neglected geniuses of twentieth century English letters: Maiden Voyage by Denton Welch and Apostate by Forrest Reid. In the week ahead please do look out for more on this page for each of these brilliant titles.

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Art for a Mary Shelley t-shirt available from the ThinkGeek webstore

It is a fine time for Finds to be returning Miranda Seymour’s greatly praised Mary Shelley to print. On first publication in 2001 the book was hailed by the FT’s reviewer as “the most dazzling biography of a female writer to have come my way for an entire decade.” And 2011 has already proved to be a year of passionately renewed interest in The Woman Who Wrote Frankenstein – her life, her legend and enigma retain all their powers to enthrall. Danny Boyle’s new staging of Shelley’s most famous novel has been a huge success for the National Theatre (your correspondent wrote on the subject for the Guardian back in February) and the fascination of readers with the ‘tangled lives’ of the circle of Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley has been evinced yet again by the great reception afforded to Daisy Hay’s Young Romantics.
Merely to know that Mary Shelley completed Frankenstein when not quite 19 is to be aware this was no ordinary young woman. But Mary’s exceptionality began with her parentage: her father was the radical novelist/thinker William Godwin, her mother the intrepid proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft who died of septicaemia 12 days after giving birth to her – a grievous inheritance for any child.
Wollstonecraft’s life is rather better known than her writing – partly because the widower Godwin wrote an impassioned memoir of her, including details of her unmarried motherhood and various love affairs which aroused a deal of public disapproval. Mary certainly read her father’s memoir, and her mother’s books, including the famous Vindication of the Rights of Woman. How far had the apple fallen from the tree? Well, in describing Wollstonecraft as ‘feminist’ one intends to say above all that she was a model of self-reliance and that her passionate concern was with how the potential of her sex could be freed by education. And young Mary did indeed get the benefit of a good, advanced education, though her father was in other ways an unhelpfully remote figure. Still, it may be that no small part of the appeal to Mary of Godwin’s protégé Percy Bysshe Shelley was the aura Shelley exuded of a readiness to live out the ideals of Mary’s parents.
Of course, the romance of Mary and Shelley proved to be no giddy jaunt, much less a seamless union of minds. Clearly Percy Bysshe offered her good editorial advice in the writing of Frankenstein, the fame of which would enable her to eclipse his literary star for a while. But the fact remains that of Mary’s five pregnancies with Shelley only one child survived into adulthood. She suffered profound depressions, and grew to build up resilient defences against the outside world. In the end she would outlive all the luminaries of the ‘Pisa circle’: a lone mother, Shelley’s flame-keeper, author of many volumes though none to rival her hideous progeny Frankenstein. In Mary Shelley we may say there was a sort of ungovernable daring but also, over time and perforce, a driving need for social ‘respectability’. And these dual forces are twinned to a degree in her work.

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Francis King, who died on Sunday July 3 aged 88, was among the leading English novelists of our time. “In a career that extended into its seventh decade,” DJ Taylor asserted in an obituary notice for the Independent, ‘[King] wrote at least half a dozen novels that deserve a place in the late 20th-century canon.’ Finds is proud to be the publisher of no fewer than eight of King’s unfailingly excellent novels (including A Domestic Animal, which was longlisted for the retrospective 1970 Booker Prize.)
A Domestic Animal, for all its accomplishment, was a work that caused King no small measure of pain both through its inspiration and its reception, as he discussed feelingly in a contribution to the Finds website. He did not make things easy for himself; and Ion Trewin’s obituary for the Guardian reflects interestingly on why King’s achievements are perhaps not as widely known as they ought to be:
‘If, commercially, [King] failed to reach the top rung of the fiction ladder he blamed himself. “I have never wished to be identified with only one type of fiction,” he wrote in 1976. “Perhaps this has harmed me in popular esteem; the public tends to like its novelists to write the same novel over and over again.” One further explanation for his lack of commercial popularity was what King himself recognised as his “profound, if resigned, pessimism about the world”. Others identified melancholy in his work.’
King was for 25 years one of the Sunday Telegraph‘s principal book reviewers, and for 10 years its theatre critic. The Telegraph‘s obituary proposes that King was committed to giving his readers a less comfortable literary experience than the more run-of-the-mill entertainer:
‘[King’s] 28 novels show a recurring fascination with the louche and the bizarre, which he would sometimes introduce casually, but with shocking effect, in the course of an otherwise urbanely careful narrative.’
One testament to the high regard in which King was held by his friends is evinced by how many of them have made small but significant contributions to these obituaries. Jonathan Fryer adds a supplement to the Guardian obituary (and also composed an In Memoriam at his own blog.) Maureen Duffy also made an addition to the Guardian obit in respect of King’s role in lobbying for a Public Lending Right for British authors. And Julian Machin contributed a postscript to the Independent notice, relating King’s enthusiasm for E.M. Forster, and noting his posthumous awarding of the Royal Society of Literature’s Benson Medal.
On the Finds list alongside A Domestic Animal you will also find the following works by Francis King:
The Widow (1957)
The Custom House (1961)
Act of Darkness (1983)
Voices in an Empty Room (1984)
The Woman Who Was God (1988)
Punishments (1989)
The One and Only (1994)
Here at Finds we join in the sadness at Francis King’s passing, and we commend these and indeed all of his novels to any discerning reader in search of the best in fiction.

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Serena Mackesy

Finds’ reissues of Lucy Carmichael and The Feast by Margaret Kennedy allow them to sit snugly alongside our existing editions of Kennedy’s The Midas Touch and The Fool of the Family. I am pleased to announce that her 1955 novel The Oracles will follow in Finds this August.
In preparing these publications I was delighted to discover that the novelist Serena Mackesy – author of Sunday Times bestseller The Temp (1999), Virtue (2000), Simply Heaven (2002) and Hold My Hand (2008) – is Kennedy’s maternal granddaughter. Serena has now very kindly written an appreciation of her grandmother’s work exclusively for Finds, which I’m delighted to reproduce below. I would also draw readers’ attentions to the serendipitous fact that a Kindle edition of Serena’s acclaimed Hold My Hand is newly available at Amazon, at a price that would tempt any sane person in search of guaranteed ‘goose bumps in the summer months’ (cf. Kirkus Review.)
But for the moment we proudly present ‘Mackesy On Kennedy’…:

An early bestseller can be both a blessing and curse on a writer’s career. Margaret Kennedy’s second novel, The Constant Nymph, became a phenomenon in the 1920s – a global bestseller which spawned stage plays starring the likes of Coward and Gielgud, as well as three big-business films – and, while this opened doors that might well have remained closed for years otherwise, she found herself under pressure, throughout her career, to repeat the formula.

Kennedy, however, was not a genre novelist by nature. Although The Fool of the Family is, indeed, a sequel to the Nymph, and also features moments of the same underplayed emotional devastation that made that novel such a success, it barely touches on the fortunes of the book’s central characters – the most important of whom, of course, died at its end. It follows, instead, the fortunes of the younger Sanger children, ill-equipped by their celebrated Bohemian upbringing for life in the ‘real’ world. Her portrait of the fear and drudgery of poverty is acute and moving – and was a great disappointment to the Bloomsbury group, who had adopted the Nymph as a working bible, rather missing the point of the satire within.

It was light-touch satire, and wry and incisive social observation, that formed the common threads that bind Kennedy’s novels together. And like many writers who make these techniques their stock-in-trade, she was a very serious individual. Nymph enthusiasts, buoyed up by fantasies of a gauze-clad free spirit romping on the seashore, were often surprised to find that the book had come from the typewriter of a bookish bluestocking. But this, of course, is the reason that her work was so strong, and so entertaining: she didn’t write memoir, but, rather, combined imagination, observation and a powerful flair for human psychology to create real, walking, talking individuals whose choices had profound, often disastrous, repercussions that often spread far beyond their social spheres.

She was a writer of wide human interests. As fascinated by the domestic as the powerful – mixing, herself, with the worlds of film (where she made much of her living, both as screenwriter and script doctor) and theatre and, via her law-lord husband, with those of government, academia and high society – she was the one standing in the corner taking notes, and identifying the pettiness, the assumptions and the irrationality that pervade most human decisions, from those of the billionaire to those of the overlooked housewife.

In The Midas Touch (the book she regarded as her best, and which was translated to film in the early Forties), a wealthy industrialist falls under the influence of a fraudulent psychic. The eponymous heroine of Lucy Carmichael has her beliefs about the world turned on her head as she recovers from a humiliating at-the-altar jilting. The Feast – my own favourite of her works – turns allegory into social comedy as a disparate group of holidaymakers while away their time in a Cornish hotel, unaware that several of them will meet a horrific death before the summer’s end. She remains a joy to read; fresh, clear, unexpected and, at the end, always profoundly moving.

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I hope to say a little more of some of these exceptional titles in due course; but let me first say quickly that as of now all are available to order in Finds:
Scenes of Childhood by Sylvia Townsend Warner
The Power of the Dead and The Phoenix Generation by Henry Williamson
Lucy Carmichael and The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
Mockery Gap and Innocent Birds by T.F. Powys
The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer
Marshal Pétain by Richard Griffiths
We Come Unseen: The Untold Story of Britain’s Cold War Submariners by Jim Ring
The Memsahibs: The Women of Victorian India by Pat Barr
The Great Violinists and The Great Cellists by Margaret Campbell
The Art of Happiness by John Cowper Powys

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