In the Media, May 2016, Part Three

In the media is a fortnightly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous fortnight and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as as traditional media are likely and the categories used are a guide, not definitives.

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Books in translation have been having a moment following Han Kang and translator Deborah Smith winning the Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian. They wrote, ‘It is fascinating to ponder the possibili­ties of language‘ for The Guardian; Charles Montgomery wrote, ‘The Triumph of Han Kang and the Rise of Women’s Writing in Korea‘ in The Los Angeles Review of Books; Sophie Hughes wrote, ‘On the Joyful Tears of a Translator‘ on Literary Hub. Judith Vonberg writes, ‘Translated fiction is not a genre. Why do bookshops tell us it is?‘ in The New Statesman and Anjali Enjeti asks, ‘Do Americans Hate Foreign Fiction‘ on Literary Hub

‘The abiding memory of my childhood is being unwelcome wherever we went’… Nina Stibbe.

The best of the rest:

On or about books/writers/language:

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Personal essays/memoir:

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Feminism:

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Society and Politics:

Film, Television, Music, Art, Fashion and Sport:

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The interviews/profiles:

Tracey Thorn photographed by Suki Dhanda for the Observer New Review

The regular columnists:

In the Media: 8th March 2015

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

It’s International Women’s Day today and, as you might expect, there have been a number of articles written about and with regards to it. Verso Books published a reading list; in the New Statesman, Stella Creasy said, ‘On International Women’s Day, let’s ask men why progress towards equality is so slow‘; One Book Lane ran a series, ‘The #WonderWomen you need to read about this International Women’s Day‘; Rebecca Winson wrote, ‘We mustn’t forget the revolutionary roots of International Women’s Day‘ in the New Statesman; Somayra Ismailjee, wrote ‘Self-Love Amidst Marginalisation‘ on Media Diversified; Cathy on 746Books wrote, ‘Putting Irish Women Writers Back in the Picture‘ with links to the articles the Irish Times have been running for the past fortnight and their celebratory poster which you can download; Harriet Minter wrote, ‘No need for International Women’s Day? What world do you live in?‘ in The Guardian; Emily Thornberry declared, ‘We Need a New Equal Pay Act‘ in the New Statesman, and Lucy Mangan says, ‘Women take more than enough shit‘ in Stylist.

The Harper Lee story continues, Connor Sheets of AL.com wrote to her and got a response, ‘Harper Lee appears to be fully lucid: She just told me to ‘go away’ via snail mail‘.

And an absolute joy of a series in Vogue: for the whole of March, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie does ‘Today I’m Wearing‘.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction/poetry to read:

Or some non-fiction:

The lists:

The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

Chances are you’ve already heard about this debut novel. Signed while still a student at Oxford University, Samantha Shannon’s debut – the first of a seven part series – arrives with a hefty marketing and publicity budget. Film rights have already been sold to Andy Serkis’ film company. So does it live up to the hype?

I like to imagine there were more of us in the beginning. Not many, I suppose. But more than there are now.

We are the minority the world does not accept.

Paige Mahoney is a dreamwalker, one of the race of clairvoyants which Scion, ‘a republic built to destroy the sickness’, is determined to wipe out. Groups of clairvoyants have banded together though, living in London under mime-lords and queens who’ve formed the Unnatural Assembly and make their living through criminal activity.

Paige works for a mime-lord named Jaxon Hall, based under Seven Dials, Covent Garden. As we meet her, she’s being pushed to see just what her particular brand of clairvoyance allows her to do. By the end of the first chapter, it’s enabled her to accidentally kill an underguard from the Night Vigilance Division. And then we’re off.

A visit to Paige’s father – who, to add to the tension, is not only unaware that Paige is clairvoyant but also works in the scientific research division of Scion – ends with her being captured by the NVD. However, she wakes up, not in the Tower, where she expects to be put to death, but in what used to be Oxford.

Everyone had heard about the lost city of Oxford. It was part of the Scion school curriculum. Fires had destroyed the university in the autumn of 1859. What remained was classified as Type A Restricted Sector. No one was allowed to set foot in their for fear of some indefinable contamination. Scion had just wiped it from the maps.

But not only has someone been allowed to set foot in the former city of Oxford, an entire race has gained permission to create Sheol I.

 

The race is the Rephaim.

‘When the corporeal world becomes overpopulated with drifting spirits, they cause deep rifts in the æther. When these rifts become too wide, the ethereal threshold breaks.

‘When Earth broke its threshold, it became exposed to a higher dimension called Netherworld, where we reside. Now we have come here…You humans have made many mistakes. You packed your fertile earth with corpses, burdened it with drifting spirits. Now it belongs to the Rephaim.’

However, the Rephaim might be good news for the clairvoyants; they keep them in their employ to destroy ‘the Emin’, creatures who live in the woods surrounding Oxford. This is offered as an alternative to spending their lives in fear of being caught and killed by Scion.

Paige finds herself under the keeper Arcturus, Warden of the Mesarthim and blood-consort. It is highly unusual for him to keep a human and it focuses attention on Paige and her power.

A lot of questions are posed in the opening four chapters of The Bone Season: what do the Rephaim actually want? What does Arcturus want with Paige? Will Paige escape? Are Jaxon and the gang looking for her? What’s happened to Paige’s father? The unraveling of these questions makes this a page-turner of a book. It’s definitely plot driven and there are twists and turns in every chapter. However, on occasion, the twists weren’t as smooth as they might be, the writing not quite keeping pace with the ideas, sometimes meaning there was too much going on and at least one thread from the opening of the novel wasn’t returned to before the end.

It can be difficult to judge the first book in a series without the rest available to see where the plot goes. It could be argued that each individual book should also work as a stand alone but then what makes you desperate to read the next book in the series? It’s a difficult balance to get, particularly for a debut novelist.

So does The Bone Season live up to the hype? At this point, I have to say no. However, the first book shows a promising debut novelist, who is aware of the elements that make a gripping read and will no doubt produce a great book in the future.

As for the follow-up to The Bone Season – will I be reading it? Definitely, there’s a fair few loose ends whose outcome I have to know.

Thanks to Bloomsbury for the review copy.