May 1st is an important day for workers the world over, not least because it's also Workers' Memorial Day. This year actress Maxine Peake will be reading a range of Chartist poetry at Manchester University. Details here.
Alan Sillitoe, the novelist and poet, has died today after a long battle with cancer. Sillitoe, author of the groundbreaking Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, (1958) won acclaim for his representation of working-class life. Story in the New Statesman, here.
Literary intrigue has certainly built up steam over the past week, concerning the scathing reviews of books written by rivals of Orlando Figes. Firstly Orlando Figes threatened to get his solicitors on the case when some pointed out that the Amazon username used to write the reviews 'Orlando Birkbeck' was that of Figes. Then he backtracked and said it was his wife, and now, it seems, it was him! Oh dear. It is surely human to do what he did, but to do it so stupidly? Goes to show that many esteemed academics have not an ounce of common sense! Story here.
The historian, Orlando Figes, has become embroiled in a literary fiasco involving malicious reviews posted on Amazon on rivals' works - on Friday evening it emerged that the party responsible for the reviews, going back years, was none other than Cambridge Academic, Dr Stephanie Palmer, or, as she is also known, Mrs. Orlando Figes! Story here.
I remember that this was one of the first interviews I did following the publication of A Clockwork Apple, back in 2008, but I've only just come across it! Like the picture, alas 'tis not me! Go to page 9 - the link won't take direct, for some reason!
OK, so it's long been known that Taylor-Coleridge was doped up to his eyeballs whilst writing Kubla Khan, but did you know that Elizabeth Barrett-Browning wrote 'Aurora Leigh' whilst also high on Laudanum? You do now...Lapham's Quarterly chart listing others, here.
Lives Like Loaded Guns – Emily Dickinson and Her Family’s Feuds – Lyndall Gordon, Virago. Review for Tribune Magazine.
That doyenne of gynocriticism, Elaine Showalter, declares that: "To compare any other American poet to (Emily) Dickinson is to understate her exceptional originality and uniqueness." Original and unique in her poetry Dickinson may well have been, but she could also be insufferable and suffocating to be around, particularly in her early relationship with her future sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert. However, Lyndall Gordon, presenting us with the first biography of Dickinson since 1974, conveys this beautifully. We are given not just Emily the scribbling eccentric woman, after whose death would be found 1,789 poems, (of which only around half a dozen were published in her lifetime), but certainly more than just ‘The Belle of Amherst’, a town which 'held out against the metropolitan tolerance of Boston'.
The reader is therefore treated to Emily as a poet in …