What’s Been On My Mind This Week

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1. It’s been a wonderful week for literature. Not only was the winner of the Nobel Prize announced (this year it was awarded to French writer Patrick Modiano), but the winner of the Polari First Book Award, the shortlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize and the longlist for the Green Carnation Prize were all announced.

2. Also in book news, apparently Amazon is about to open its first bricks-and-mortar store, in a prime location opposite the Empire State Building in New York.

3. There was also an interesting article in Salon on the role of the editor, and how vital they really are in this digital age (of course, as an editor, I will admit to a certain bias on this topic).

4. Japanese writer Haruki Murakami was one of the favourites to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, so this week there was a flurry of new articles about him, including this interview in the Paris Review. A new short story by Murakami, Scheherazade, was also published in the New Yorker.

5. Talking of Nobel Prizes, Malala Yousafzai was announced as the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

6. While it might have been a good week for literature, it hasn’t been a particularly good one for the Conservative, Labour, or Liberal Democratic parties, as UKIP are celebrating winning their first seat in the House of Commons. Douglas Carswell, the Tory defector, won the Clacton by-election with a massive 60% of the vote. UKIP also came within 617 votes of defeating Labour in the Greater Manchester seat of Heywood & Middleton. There’s an article in the Independent on Carswell and his stance on issues such as human rights, homosexuality and immigration. Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, claimed that his party was ‘the most national of all political parties,’ and accused the others of being ‘out of touch’. Owen Jones, a political journalist writing for the Guardian, was interviewed on BBC news, and he said the political elite is ‘in decline’, and that, in the North in particular, the Conservatives are ‘a bit less popular than cholera.’

7. The Financial Times published its Special Report on ‘Executive Diversity’ this week. It in the paper examines Hollywood’s slow embrace of change, uncovers the bullying of LGBT employees that still exists in the workplace and its Top 100 lists of LGBT allies and those who are ‘out and proud’ in the business world.

8. Also in LGBT news, the front cover of the Economist this week features the headline ‘The Gay Divide’. The ‘Briefing’ section of the magazine looks at marriage equality in America and why it is still politically useful in many countries to attack the gay community. There is also a leading article that examines the progress in equal rights in some countries compared to the many places around the world where it is still illegal to be homosexual. Urbanisation, tolerance and a greater visibility of gay people will be the main things that help counteract the situation in these countries, the article argues.

9. There was an interesting article in the Guardian this week about a new documentary, OUT in the Line-Up, which looks at how difficult it is to be out in the professional surfing community.

10. Earlier this week, scholar, feminist and activist bell hooks sat down with actress and transgender campaigner Laverne Cox to talk about race, gender, feminism, femininity and much more. There’s a brief summary of their discussion here, and a video of the whole (long) talk here.

11. Speaking of women and feminism, Staya Naddella (the CEO of Microsoft) has been in the news this week for saying that women shouldn’t ask for a raise, but instead should trust in the system to reward them with the right level of pay. After coming under attack for his comments, he later took to Twitter to acknowledge the gender pay gap, not just in the technology industry but across workforces in general.

12. Having read Andrew Solomon’s amazing book, Far From The Tree, earlier this year, it was good to see this article in the New Statesman about schizophrenia. It’s a disease I know very little about, but Solomon has an excellent chapter on it in his book, and, it’s clear that something needs to be done: it’s shocking to discover that, in 2014, sufferers in the UK have the same life expectancy as someone living in 1930s Britain.

13. There was an article in the Economist this week on ’24-hour London’. Some tubes are due to run all through the night from next year, and it will be interesting to see what further developments take place in the future. While it might be good for local businesses and the economy, having a city that never sleeps also has its downside, with a potential rise in crime and traffic throughout the night.

14. Last weekend I went to the Fun Palace that was taking place at Brockwell Lido in Brixton. Fun Palaces was conceived in 1961 as ‘a university of the streets’: a temporary and moveable home to the arts and sciences that would appeal to both adults and children. I’m going to write elsewhere about the Brockwell Lido Fun Palace, but in the meantime there was a wonderful doodle in Exeunt magazine that I think captures the spirit of the project brilliantly.

15. Those of you who regularly follow this blog (and my Twitter feed) will probably know that I’m something of a foodie and love discovering new restaurants in London. I can’t believe I wasn’t aware of brilliant London-based food blog Rocket and Squash already, but I’m delighted to have come across it now! I love how the site is set out (it looks really clean and inviting), the food photography is brilliant, and, in addition to what you can expect on a standard food blog (e.g. restaurant reviews, recipes etc.), the author (Edward Smith) also reviews all the food supplements in the weekend press, which I think makes his blog stand out amongst the crowd.

16. This week I’ve been reading Scottish writer Kirsty Logan‘s debut collection of short stories, The Rental Heart. Described as ‘twenty tales of lust and loss’, featuring ‘clockwork hearts, lascivious queens, paper men, island circuses, and a flooded world,’ the stories in The Rental Heart are a refreshing, modern (and often queer) twist on stories, themes and characters we recognise from more traditional fairytales.

17. This week I’ve been listening to Hozier, the self-titled debut album from Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne. The opening track, ‘Take Me To Church‘, explores both Ireland’s relationship with Catholicism as well as Russia’s criminalisation of homosexual activity. Hozier-Byrne isn’t afraid to tackle big ideas in his music: he also explores spirituality, love and relationships and the bittersweet nature of youth. These emotionally complex themes, combined with Hozier’s old-soul voice, and simple, Blues-inspired music, make this a stunning debut album.

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Categories: On My Mind . . .

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