May 7, 2014
In association with the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Jonathan Meades will be reading from An Encyclopedia…
4 books about the unquiet mind, brought to you by us at 4th Estate.
‘Where is my mind, Where is my mind’
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
When I read this for the first time as an angsty, kohl-eyed teen, Sylvia Plath was my idol. Her words hit me like bullets, every paragraph a stifled scream – and I found all that simmering discontent rather poetic. Reading it again as an adult, I broke through that beautiful surface to encounter the stifling tenets that make up Esther Greenwood’s life – impossible expectations of women, crippling institutional health systems and a punishing psyche – you’ll leave this book choking for air.
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
Who really is mad? The woman in the attic, or the man who locked her up in there? In this prelude to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, the ghoulish Bertha is rescued from her thankless role as the governess’s tormentor and is made instead a creature of flesh and blood, as well as the victim of Rochester’s delusions. Wide Sargasso Sea is a masterpiece of post-colonial literature, and a harrowing exploration of madness and femininity.
Maggie O’Farrell, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
A book about a madness that wasn’t. Edinburgh in the 1930s, and the Lennox family are worried about their daughter Esme. A headstrong, outspoken and unruly child, she rarely does what she’s told and is oblivious to social conventions. Flash to the modern day, and a young woman called Iris receives a disturbing phone call about a great-aunt she never knew existed. Veering from the unsettling to the outright sinister, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is about the demonization of eccentricity, and the shackling of the unconventional.
J. D. Salinger, Franny & Zooey
In a fancy lunch room Franny’s boyfriend Lane is self-indulgently musing on the idea of getting his college paper published. Franny isn’t really listening, nor is she eating; she’s smoking, sweating and feeling faint. She’s more interested in the book she’s taken to carrying, The Way of a Pilgrim and internalizing the Jesus Prayer. In their family apartment her brother Zooey is tasked with getting to the bottom of Franny’s emotional breakdown. A short story and novella brought together in one book, in these exquisite set pieces Salinger once again revisits the inimitable Glass family, the child prodigies now dealing with the pressure of their enquiring and unquiet minds.
To usher in the weekend, 4th Estate bring you our top picks from the web this week. These are the things that we’ve been viewing, reading and sharing in the office, and now we’re sharing them with you. As ever, we hope you enjoy our selections.
An old favourite, there’s always an excuse to look at awesome people hanging out together. This week we’ve paused to say ‘wait, is that Obama, Bruce Springsteen AND Jay-Z‘? and ‘How interesting, Jon Hamm is wearing a bright green onesie‘.
He taught us to be enchanted and fearful in equal measure by refusing to ‘cater to the bullshit of innocence’. The Believer interviews the wild thing that was Maurice Sendak.
The Gangnam Style single has been viewed over 780 million times on YouTube. This Gangnam Style-inspired video was organised by the sculptor Anish Kapoor in solidarity with Ai Weiwei. Dance and sing along in support of Amnesty International and the freedom of speech.
‘I want to make a modest proposal. I want to propose the foundation of a National Paper Museum.’ And so begins Ian Sansom’s Guardian feature on the power and beauty of paper. Written to celebrate the release of his book Paper: An Elegy this article will make you turn off your laptop and dust off your writing set.
At the end of the day, sometimes you’ve got to think outside the box. In this Prospect article, Hephzibah Anderson praises the well-chosen cliché.
To celebrate the start of your weekend, here are five online things we’ve been reading and listening to this week. A selection of the best from the web, chosen by us for you.
‘I look the way a depressed person looks, if one were not trying to look that way.’ Raymond Carver opens up his heart and mind in his very own OkCupid profile.
A riverboat moored on the top of a building, next to the River Thames. Inside it, authors complete residencies and record podcasts based on their very unusual surroundings, while musicians perform from within it. Go visit A Room for London now.
Based on interviews of leading journalists conducted by leading journalists, this play investigates the crisis in print media today. First performed in empty office blocks in Glasgow and London, Enquirer has now been adapted for radio. Tune in to hear anecdotes, facts and passionate opinion from the front line of the newspaper industry.
It’s not quite here yet, but we’re already stocking up on our blankets and mulled wine in preparation for its arrival. In this audio interview for Prospero, Adam Gopnick ushers in the chilly winter period and discusses the aesthetics of the season of winter.
In this post from Letters of Note, President Obama replies to ten-year-old Sophia Bailey-Klugh who seeks advice on how to deal with her classmates teasing her about her two dads, who love each other. Yes we were impressed by Obama’s response, but we liked Sophia’s letter even more. Here is a writer who shows real promise.
Here are the five online things that are essential reading, watching and sharing this week. Chosen for you by us at 4th Estate.
The Moby Dick Big Read is Philip Hoare’s leviathan challenge. He’s taken Moby Dick, the great unread American novel, and is enlisting well-known voices to read it out chapter by chapter and artists to illustrate the passages. With performances from Tilda Swinton, David Cameron and Will Self, tube journeys will never be the same again.
Sing along with all your favourite American feminists in this video recorded to encourage women to vote in the US presidential election. Watch as young women as diverse as Lena Dunham, Karen Elson and Miranda July sing Leslie Gore’s ‘You Don’t Own Me’ with a passion that was surely responsible for Obama’s re-election.
In honour of Hurricane Sandy, N+1 have reposted this essay from Chad Harbach on the post-catastrophic novel. In ‘The End, The End, The End’, Harbach investigates and is frustrated by many of the post-apocalyptic novels offered by writers today.
On Secret Self-Help: in this short blog piece the author Sheila Heti picks the books that have helped her, however unintentionally. By doing so she hopes to confront the unfashionable genre of self-help books with, she argues, the aim of all authors: to write with the hope of helping readers and themselves.
‘It’s one of the worst TV shows ever made, and I seriously do not mean that as an insult.’ Even if you won’t admit it, we’ve all seen One Tree Hill. Now meet the homeowner who cowered upstairs while a camera crew filmed in ‘Peyton’s house’, his house. ‘Peyton’s Place’ is taken from John Jeremiah Sullivan’s excellent book of essays, Pulphead.