Literary Essays

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    A riotous collection of memoirs which explores the absurd hilarity of modern life and creates a wickedly incisive portrait of an all-too-familiar world. It takes Sedaris from his humiliating bout with obsessive behaviour in 'A Plague of Tics' to the title story, where he is finally forced to face his naked self in the company of lunatics. At this soulful and moving moment, he brushes cigarette ashes from his pubic hair and wonders what it all means. This remarkable journey into his own life follows a path of self- effacement and a lifelong search for identity leaving himself both under suspicion and over dressed.
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    "A Room of One's Own", based on a lecture given at Girton College Cambridge, is one of the great feminist polemics. Woolf's blazing polemic on female creativity, the role of the writer, and the silent fate of Shakespeare's imaginary sister remains a powerful reminder of a woman's need for financial independence and intellectual freedom.
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    A searing account of George Orwell's observations of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire in the 1930s, "The Road to Wigan Pier" is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, cramped slum housing, dangerous mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unemployment are written with unblinking honesty, fury and great humanity. It crystallized the ideas that would be found in Orwell's later works and novels, and remains a powerful portrait of poverty, injustice and class divisions in Britain.
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    This collection of Vera Brittain's poetry and prose, some of it never published before, commemorates the men she loved - fiance, brother and two close friends - who served and died in the First World War. It draws on her experiences as a VAD nurse in London, Malta, and France, and illustrates her growing conviction of the wickedness of all war. Illustrated with many extraordinary photographs from Brittain's own albums, and edited with a new introduction by Mark Bostridge, BECAUSE YOU DIED is an elegy to men who lost their lives in a bloody conflict, and a beautiful volume of remembrance to mark the anniversary of the Armistice.
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    From his early days Wodehouse adored cricket and references to the game run like a golden thread though his writings. He not only wrote about this glorious British pastime, but also played it well, appearing six times at Lords, where his first captain was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Illustrated with wonderful drawings and contemporary score-sheets, "Wodehouse at the Wicket" is the first ever compendium of Wodehouse's writings on cricket. Edited by cricket historian Murray Hedgcock, this delightful book also contains fascinating facts about Wodehouse's cricketing career and how it is reflected in his work. This is the perfect gift for Wodehouse readers and fans of all things cricket.
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    How did George Eliot's love life affect her prose? Why did Kafka write at three in the morning? In what ways is Barack Obama like Eliza Doolittle? Can you be over-dressed for the Oscars? What is Italian Feminism? If Roland Barthes killed the Author, can Nabokov revive him? What does 'soulful' mean? Is Date Movie the worst film ever made? A collection of essays that brims over with personality and warmth, "Changing My Mind" is journalism at its most expansive, intelligent and funny - a gift to readers and writers both. Within its covers an essay is more than a column of opinions: it's a space in which to think freely.
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    A hilarious collection of the many articles written by Stephen Fry for magazines, newspapers and radio. It includes selected wireless essays of Donald Trefusis, the ageing professor of philology brought to life in Fry's novel "The Liar", and the best of Fry's weekly column for the Daily Telegraph.
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    Complete collection of Tolkien's essays, including two on Beowulf, which span three decades beginning six years before The Hobbit to five years after The Lord of the Rings. The seven 'essays' by J.R.R. Tolkien assembled in this new paperback edition were with one exception delivered as general lectures on particular occasions; and while they mostly arose out of Tolkien's work in medieval literature, they are accessible to all. Two of them are concerned with Beowulf, including the well-known lecture whose title is taken for this book, and one with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, given in the University of Glasgow in 1953. Also included in this volume is the lecture English and Welsh; the Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford in 1959; and a paper on Invented Languages delivered in 1931, with exemplification from poems in the Elvish tongues. Most famous of all is On Fairy-Stories, a discussion of the nature of fairy-tales and fantasy, which gives insight into Tolkien's approach to the whole genre. The pieces in this collection cover a period of nearly thirty years, beginning six years before the publication of The Hobbit, with a unique 'academic' lecture on his invention (calling it A Secret Vice) and concluding with his farewell to professorship, five years after the publication of The Lord of the Rings.
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    Chuck Palahniuk's world has been, well, different from yours and mine. The pieces that comprise "Non-Fiction" prove just how different, in ways both highly entertaining and deeply unsettling. Encounters with alternative culture heroes Marilyn Manson and Juliette Lewis; the peculiar wages of fame attendant on the big budget film production of the movie Fight Club; life as an assembly-line drive train installer by day, hospice volunteer driver by night; the really peculiar lives of submariners; the really violent world of college wrestlers; the underground world of anabolic steroid gobblers; the harrowing circumstances of his father's murder and the trial of his killer - each essay or vignette offers a unique facet of existence as lived in and/or observed by one of America's most flagrantly daring and original literary talents.
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    This volume seeks to expose the hollowness of condemnation divorced from understanding in relation to the Bulger murder trial. People have almost become desensitized to random murder. It is often explained away by madness, sexual fantasy or rejection. One murder in recent times reduced every person to silence: the abduction and beating to death of a helpless infant by two ten-year-old boys. How and why did two innocent boys kill another? Is childhood innocence a myth? And what punishment could fit such a crime, assuming that children are fit to stand trial for murder? Blake Morrison went to the trial in Preston, and discovered a sad ritual of condemnation with two bewildered children at the centre. He looked for possible explanations in the boys' families, their dreary environment, their fantasies, their exposure to violent films. He evokes the worst feats of parents through candid and raw memories of his relations with his own children, and delves into his own childhood to reveal the worst thing he has ever done, to show how easy it is to go along with cruelty. Blake Morrison is the author of two collections of poetry, "Dark Glasses" and "The Ballad of the Yorkshire Ripper", and is co-editor of "The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry". His memoir, "And When Did You Last See Your Father?" won the Waterstone's/Esquire Award for non-fiction and the J.R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography in 1993.
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    "It might be thought the height of poor taste to ascribe good fortune to a healthy man with a young family struck down at the age of sixty by an incurable degenerative disorder from which he must shortly die. But there is more than one sort of luck. To fall prey to a motor neuron disease is surely to have offended the Gods at some point, and there is nothing more to be said. But if you must suffer thus, better to have a well-stocked head..." (Tony Judt). In 2008, historian Tony Judt learnt that he was suffering from a disease that would eventually trap his extraordinary mind in a declining and immobile body. At night, sleepless in his motionless state, he revisited the past in an effort to keep himself sane, and his dictated essays form a memoir unlike any you have read before. Each one charts some experience or remembrance of the past through the sieve of Tony Judt's prodigious mind. His youthful love of a particular London bus route evolves into a reflection on public civility and interwar urban planning. Memories of the 1968 student riots of Paris meander through the divergent sex politics of Europe, before concluding that his generation 'was a revolutionary generation, but missed the revolution'. A series of roadtrips across America lead not just to an appreciation of American history, but to an eventual acquisition of citizenship. Foods and trains and long-lost smells all compete for Judt's attention; but for us, he has forged his reflections into an elegant arc of analysis. All as simply and beautifully arranged as a Swiss chalet - a reassuring refuge deep in the mountains of memory.
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    'The only four things that interested me were: reading books, going to the movies, tap-dancing and drawing pictures. Then one day I started writing ...' Truman Capote began writing at the age of eight, and never looked back. "A Capote Reader" contains much of the author's published work: his brilliant and prolific oeuvre of fiction, travel sketches, portraits, reportage and essays. It includes all twelve of his celebrated short stories, together with "The Grass Harp" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's". There are vivid sketches of places from Tangiers to Brooklyn, and fascinating insights into the lives of his contemporaries, from Jane Bowles and Cecil Beaton to Marilyn Monroe and Tennessee Williams. Generous space is devoted to reportage including 'The Muses Are Heard', on his trip to Communist Europe in the 1950s with the cast of Porgy and Bess. In all, "A Capote Reader" demonstrates the chameleon talents of one of America's most versatile and gifted writers.
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    The Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, also called the Age of Reason, was so named for an intellectual movement that shook the foundations of Western civilization. In championing radical ideas such as individual liberty and an empirical appraisal of the universe through rational inquiry and natural experience, Enlightenment philosophers in Europe and America planted the seeds for modern liberalism, cultural humanism, science and technology, and laissez-faire Capitalism. This volume brings together works from this era, with more than 100 selections from a range of sources. It includes examples by Kant, Diderot, Voltaire, Newton, Rousseau, Locke, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, and Paine that demonstrate the pervasive impact of Enlightenment views on philosophy and epistemology as well as on political, social, and economic institutions.
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    Domesday Book has been described as 'the most valuable piece of antiquity possessed by any nation.' (David Hume) But a complete translation has never been available before at an affordable price. Penguin's edition will change that. Compiled in a matter of months in 1086 at the behest of William the Conqueror, Domesday quickly established itself as document of immense legal importance. It was last consulted for legal precedent in 1982. It is also the most remarkable portrait of England in thelate eleventh century. The publication of a complete translation of Great and Little Domesday is already being eagerly anticipated by historians. There are advance quotes from Norman Davies, Michael Wood, Roy Strong and Antonia Fraser.
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    Tacitus' "Annals of Imperial Rome" recount the major historical events from the years shortly before the death of Augustus up to the death of Nero in AD 68. With clarity and vivid intensity he describes the reign of terror under the corrupt Tiberius, the great fire of Rome during the time of Nero, and the wars, poisonings, scandals, conspiracies and murders that were part of imperial life. Despite his claim that the Annals were written objectively, Tacitus' account is sharply critical of the emperors' excesses and fearful for the future of Imperial Rome, while also filled with a longing for its past glories.
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    One of the masterpieces of classical literature, the "Histories" describes how a small and quarrelsome band of Greek city states united to repel the might of the Persian empire. But while this epic struggle forms the core of his work, Herodotus' natural curiosity frequently gives rise to colorful digressions - a description of the natural wonders of Egypt; an account of European lake-dwellers; and far-fetched accounts of dog-headed men and gold-digging ants. With its kaleidoscopic blend of fact and legend, the "Histories" offers a compelling Greek view of the world of the fifth century BC.
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    Through the tide of hormones surging within my body, and the little runnels of blood, and the sour tang of my breasts, I lay awake, listening, and thinking of breath and of water. I had broken my relationship with sleep. In this stunning collection, Jessica Friedmann navigates her journey through postpartum depression after the birth of her son. Drawing on critical theory, popular culture, and personal experience, her wide-ranging essays touch on class, race, gender, and sexuality, as well as motherhood, creativity, and mental illness. Occasionally confronting, but always powerfully moving and beautifully observed, Things That Helped charts Jessica's return into the world: a slow and complex process of reassembling what depression fractured, and sometimes broke.
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    'No one characteristic clasps us purely and universally in its embrace.' A selection of charming essays from a master of the genre exploring the contradictions inherent to human thought, words and actions. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions. Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592). Montaigne's works available in Penguin Classics are The Complete Essays, An Apology for Raymond Sebond, On Friendship, On Solitude and The Essays: A Selection
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    'No one characteristic clasps us purely and universally in its embrace.' A selection of charming essays from a master of the genre exploring the contradictions inherent to human thought, words and actions. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions. Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592). Montaigne's works available in Penguin Classics are The Complete Essays, An Apology for Raymond Sebond, On Friendship, On Solitude and The Essays: A Selection
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    'You shall have thousands of gold pieces; - thousands of thousands - millions - mountains of gold: where will you keep them?' Two of Ruskin's most powerful essays: 'Traffic' and 'The Roots of Honour' Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions. John Ruskin (1819-1900). Ruskin's Unto This Last and Other Writings is available in Penguin Classics.
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    Did you know that an invisible mountain is rising above the streets of the capital - and, at over 1,400 metres, it is Britain's highest peak? This ingenious new book is an account of the ascent of Mount London by a hardened team of writers, poets and urban cartographers, each one scaling a smaller mountain within the city - from Crystal Palace (112m) to Primrose Hill (78m) - until the accumulative climb exceeds the height of Ben Nevis. The essays and stories in Mount London unpeel London's history, geography and psychogeography, reimagining the city as mountainous terrain and exploring what it's like to move through the urban landscape. Ascents of London's natural peaks are offset by expeditions to the artificial mountains of the city - the Shard (306m), the chimneys of Battersea Power Station (103m) - and the search for 'ghost hills' in the back streets of Whitechapel and Finsbury. With contributions by Helen Mort, Joe Dunthorne, Sarah Butler, Inua Ellams, Bradley Garrett and many more, Mount London is a unique and visionary record of the vertical city.
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    Woolf's fine character studies of several authors, among them Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who 'seems not a man, but a swarm, a cloud, a buzz of words, darting this way and that, clustering, quivering and hanging suspended'. He is, Woolf adds,so complex, so eccentric, that we 'become dazed in the labyrinth of what we call Coleridge'. He was incapable of adopting requisite social modes, of suppressing his obsessive urge to talk, of pandering to the expectations of others. Woolf tries to capture a 'clear picture' of Coleridge but this metaphor is skewed and what she really reveals is a voice - mad and beautiful - never to be heard again:
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    'Is there some adventure out there that we are not having, some vividness, some wild pleasure, that we are not experiencing in our responsible, productive days?...We are bequeathed on earth one very short life, and it might be good, one of these days, to make sure that we are living it.' In this powerful, unified and vital work Katie Roiphe touches on everything from the romantic ambivalence of Jane Austen to the cast of Mad Men whilst delivering a collection of autobiographical pieces that are by turns, deeply moving, self-critical, razor-sharp, entertaining and unapologetic in their defence of 'messy lives'. "Brilliant and unflinching, on everything from divorce to Mad Men to sex to the food we eat. Every sentence is an eye-opener". (India Knight).