In the news
Look out for the Big Shift Pledges in the Wodehouse Library.
We’ll be adding all the pledges to the noticeboard by the printer in the Reference Section so you can see who is setting themselves a Small Step, Big Stride or Giant Leap target for next week’s Sustrans Big Shift challenge to travel between school and home more actively and sustainably.
Harper Lee sent the literary universe into a spin on Tuesday after she announced she would be releasing a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird this summer – 55 years after her debut.
The novel, Go Set a Watchman, was written by Lee before To Kill a Mockingbird, but is set some 20 years later. It features Lee’s beloved character Scout as an adult, returning to her home town of Maycomb from New York to visit Atticus, her lawyer father, along with many of the characters from Lee’s debut. In a statement attributed to her by her publisher, Lee said that Go Set a Watchman was completed in the mid-1950s, but she believed the original manuscript had been lost.
At Foyles booksellers in London, Jonathan Ruppin described the news as being “as big as it gets for new fiction”. “We can close the book on the bestselling novel of 2015 right now. At Foyles today, we’re absolutely fizzing with excitement and frenzied speculation: it’s the only topic of conversation,” said the bookseller, adding that even though To Kill a Mockingbird has long been acknowledged as a classic, it “is a book that still surprises new readers with its power. Its story is arresting and profound, its characters vivid and entirely convincing, so the prospect of a follow-up, after all these years, is giddyingly thrilling”.
However, Dr Ian Patterson at Cambridge University was underwhelmed by the news. “I can’t but imagine it must be of historical interest rather than anything else, at this point,” he said. “It will doubtless be eagerly read by fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, but that’s a soggy sentimental liberal novel if ever there was one. I’m always dubious of attempts to close the gap between fiction and reality, as in wanting to know what happens to characters outside a novel’s confines – Tom Jones with Alzheimer’s, Mr Darcy’s daughters or, as here, Scout grown up. I expect it will garner lots of short-term interest on those grounds, and on the grounds of being another novel by a one-novel writer.”
Alison Flood/Paul Lewis; The Guardian, Tuesday 3rd February 2015
John Lydon, also known as Johnny Rotten, has implored the UK to value its libraries and urged everyone to show their support on National Libraries Day, Saturday 7 February.
Lydon has recorded an audio message to mark the annual national celebration of libraries and library staff. In it he credits libraries and librarians for his recovery from memory loss after contracting meningitis as an eight year old.
The recording will be available to listen to from Saturday 7 February via the National Libraries Day website.
Details of nationwide events are posted to the National Libraries Day online event map and people can show their support in person by joining a local event or by simply visiting their library during National Libraries Day week. Supporters can also share stories, messages and library ‘shelfies’ online and on social media.
First introduced in 2012, National Libraries Day is designed to say a collective thank-you to librarians and library staff everywhere and to raise awareness of the valued services they offer. Last year thousands of people took part in over 600 events and many public figures including well-known authors, illustrators, MPs and musicians sent messages of support.
The question of just how free our speech is, or should be, has become a matter of debate following the terrorist attacks in France last week.
Article 19, a charity that promotes the right to free expression, acknowledges that freedom of speech is not absolute and can be limited when it conflicts with other rights as defined by International Law. These exceptions are:
- the rights or reputations of others
- national security
- public order
- public health
But how these exceptions are interpreted varies from country to country:
In the UK it is an offence to say or write anything that includes ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour intending or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress or cause a breach of the peace’ [Article 10 of the European Convention].
In Thailand it is a crime, punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment, to criticize, insult, or threaten the king, queen, royal heir apparent, or regent.
In India any speech or expression which brings contempt towards government is punishable by imprisonment of three years to life
Holocaust denial, as well as denial of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, are illegal in Switzerland. Holocaust denial is also illegal in Germany.
In the UAE it is a crime to use a computer network to ‘damage the national unity or social peace’.
Blasphemy against all religion is illegal in Sudan, Indonesia and in the Philippines, where it is also a criminal offence to ‘sell, give away, or exhibit films, prints, engravings, sculpture or literature which are offensive to morals’.
Blasphemy against the Roman Catholic church is illegal in Malta.
Blasphemy against Islam is illegal in many countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In some countries it is punishable by death.
In Israel it is a civil offence to publicly call for a boycott against Israel. In a survey of Israelis conducted in 2014, the Israeli Democracy Institute found that 46% of Israelis believe that ‘harsh, public criticism’ of Israel should be outlawed.
In May 2008, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, called for the media to practise ‘voluntary self-censorship’, adding that ‘It is not a moral or media sin to respect prophets’.
If so, then read a book – but make sure it’s a good one.
Researchers at the New School for Social Research in New York have conducted a series of experiments, which they believe prove that, “reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions.”
The experiments involved 1,000 people who read an extract of either popular fiction or literary fiction. The participants’ ‘theory of mind’ scores were then calculated, and the scores were found to be consistently higher for those who had read the literary fiction. According to the psychologists who led this research, David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano, this result is thought to be because great writers “turn you into the writer… the incompleteness of the characters turns your mind to trying to understand the minds of others.” It is the ‘writerly’ writers that create this effect, rather than the ‘readerly’ writers, who are more likely to produce adventure novels, romance and thrillers.
For the full report of this research in The Guardian see
This week’s Observer Magazine featured a very unusual art offer.
The piece describes how, this spring, the award-winning Scottish artist Katie Paterson was given permission to plant 1,000 trees on Norwegian land just outside Oslo. As the trees grow, a secret anthology of stories will be created. Each year, the trust will ask a different writer to contribute and so the anthology will increase, echoing the rings of the trees.
It is highly unlikely that any of us will ever read them, as the trees and stories will be held in trust until 2114. The stories, along with a printing press, will be kept in a special room in the Deichmanske public library.
One thousand certificates, beautiful artworks in themselves, will be printed over the next one hundred years and in 2114, whoever is holding a certificate will receive a copy of the anthology, printed using the printing press and paper created from the trees. One hundred stories, hidden away for a century, will be revealed.
This week The Guardian online are publishing love letters that top authors, as selected by the Scottish Book Trust, have written to the library or libraries that have been instrumental in their lives. Yesterday A L Kennedy focussed her admiration on three libraries that ‘opened the world’ to her, as well as providing a place of refuge. See below for the entirety of her letter. On Monday Alexander McCall Smith described his affection for the Innerpeffray Library and today Chris Riddell has provided a graphic account of his relationship with libraries and librarians. For these letters, and others published later in the week, see:
Thank you for being the first place I realised how beautiful books were, how many books there were and for teaching me that they should all be available to me, that I could learn whatever I wanted and go wherever I wanted to in my mind. Thank you for opening the world to me.
Thank you for being somewhere peaceful and familiar that I could go to when I needed to get away and my parents were fighting.
Thank you for being somewhere I could go to when I needed to revise for exams and was stressed and lonely.
Thank you for being somewhere I could learn about who I was and where I was from.
Thank you for helping me study when I’d made it to university, but couldn’t afford to buy all the books I needed – you had them all.
Thank you for being somewhere I could go that was warm and dry when I had my first job as a community arts worker. You were full of people taking shelter and being in books. In the space between the afternoon sessions and the evening sessions you loaned me all kinds of things to keep me cheerful and alive.
Thank you for teaching all of my friends who weren’t taken care of at school and who didn’t make it to a university. Thank you for letting them start at A and move on.
Thank you for giving my friends who were in prison a way on being free and staying free.
Thank you for being a place where I could go and chat with my friends who had kids.
Thank you for being there today at the bottom of my street with film shows some evenings and people having fun and being part of somewhere good and kids playing and finding out how wonderful you are – just the way I did.
Thank you for giving me a way to earn my living and a way to keep my heart alive and a way to wake up my mind and more paths into the world than I could ever have imagined. Thank you for being a palace for everyone and riches for everyone and dreams and adventures and peace and words for love.
I can’t thank you enough.