Between the Covers 11/08/2013

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The Independent Culture

John Chancellor is holding a two-day sale of his books. The lifelong bibliophile, who founded Kew Books in 1973, is disposing of almost his entire library at bargain prices. The sale will take place at the West Pavilion of Stoke Park, in Stoke Bruern, Northamptonshire, over the weekend of 21 and 22 September. It is an eclectic collection, ranging from first edition novels by Dickens, to early Penguin paperbacks. There will also be works on history, science, botany, gardening, architecture, travel, art, and religion. Chancellor is the father of the actress Anna Chancellor, who is currently starring in Private Lives in the West End, opposite Toby Stephens. His brother Alexander used to edit The Spectator and The Independent's Saturday magazine. John has lived in New York, Puerto Rico and Germany. Of his life in books, he once modestly said: "I do have a certain reputation in the West Indies as being almost a distinguished bookseller."


All three of Roddy Doyle's "Barrytown Trilogy" novels were eventually turned into films. Now, 26 years later, the first instalment has been adapted for the stage. The Commitments, from 1987, has been rewritten by the author as a play, and will be staged in London in September. The director is Jamie Lloyd, who put on the recent Macbeth starring James McAvoy. It comes as Doyle returns to the series with a new novel called The Guts, which finds Jimmy Rabbitte Jnr in modern-day Dublin, after the economic crash. Doyle was among those speaking on the opening day of the Edinburgh International Books Festival yesterday, and says he plans to keep writing novels for ever. "The energy required for a novel – it might be called some sort of cousin of enthusiasm – I don't see why I won't have that into my seventies and eighties if I have my health," he said in a recent interview. "With a writer, if the worst happens and you can't do it, you can always just pretend you're still working."


Expect plenty of books on the First World War in the coming months, as publishers race to be first to mark the centenary of its outbreak next August. Among the heavyweight offerings from historians such as Max Hastings and Allan Mallinson, look out for a charming illustrated depiction of the war from the Maltese graphic novelist Joe Sacco. Sacco is best known for his illustrated works on more recent conflicts, such as the Bosnian and Israel-Palestine wars. For his new work, published by Jonathan Cape, he has taken the first day of the Somme and drawn it across 24 black-and-white plates, printed on a continuous sheet of heavyweight "accordion fold" paper. "I decided to depict the first day of the Battle of the Somme because that is the point where the common man could have no more illusions about the nature of modern warfare," he says. "In the interest of making the drawing compact, I referenced medieval art in other, stylistic ways, namely by dispensing with realistic perspective and proportion. Thus, a few inches in the drawing might represent a hundred yards or a mile of reality. However, I have tried to get the details – the field kitchens, the horse ambulances – right." At £20, The Great War is cheap for a mini-masterpiece.