Between The Covers: 13/03/2011

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books
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The Independent Culture

Wednesday would have been the 100th birthday of the author Sybille Bedford, who died in 2006 having been called "the finest woman writer of the 20th century" by Julia Neuberger.

Four of her books are still in print: A Legacy, Quicksands, A Visit to Don Otavio, and Jigsaw, and to celebrate her centenary Daunt Books is re-publishing her second novel, A Favourite of the Gods, in March. Ms Bedford was interviewed for this paper by Andrew Barrow to mark her 94th birthday, and she had lost none of her wit or love of wine. Her problem with the modern world was its attitude towards sex, she said – not so much in a moral sense, as a grammatical one. "Sex is not a noun like coffee," she grumbled.

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Those who can resist the official start of spring that is the Oxford-Cambridge boat race on Saturday 26 March might enjoy a gentler (or at least less drunken) classic: "Going on a Bear Hunt", a family event with Michael Rosen at the Museum of Childhood in London. A sneak preview of Rosen performing the children's poem can be found on YouTube, but to see it in person and have books signed by Rosen, turn up between 2.30pm and 3pm, or 3.30pm and 4pm. The museum sensibly warns: "Expect queues".

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Following Margaret Atwood's famous longpen invention, which enables her to sign books remotely using a video link and a robot hand, a company called Autography has come up with a way to have a book signed without having to commune with the author at all: they sign and dedicate the screen of their ebook reader with a special pen, and the message is transferred by the magic of Wi-Fi to the reader's ebook. The device is apparently "platform agnostic", meaning that it works on all ebook readers. For eReaders without Wi-Fi, "we can send the signed ebook via email with instructions on how to load it". If only they could come up with a device that would write the books as well...

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The BBC's Year of Books is, according to the bestseller charts, achieving the extraordinary feat of selling books. Sales of Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal and Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White rose more than 1,000 places on the same week last year, having both been mentioned in Sebastian Faulks's Faulks on Fiction series. George Eliot's Middlemarch and Virginia Woolf's Orlando climbed 10,000 places last year having been discussed on My Life in Books. Will this, and the strong audiences for both programmes, convince the BBC that every year should be a year of books? Here's hoping.

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Thanks to The Bookseller for confirmation that Vintage will publish the next in the Gormenghast series, written by Mervyn Peake and his wife Maeve Gilmore, in July, on the centenary of Peake's birth. The first three titles in the series, Titus Groan (1940), Gormenghast (1950) and Titus Alone (1959) are often thought of as a trilogy, but Peake intended to write more and had already written an introduction and brief outline of the new novel, Titus Awakes, when he died in 1968. It begins: "With every pace he drew away from Gormenghast mountain, and from everything that belonged to his home. That night, as Titus lay asleep in the tall barn, a nightmare held him." His wife, who died in 1983, completed it. The manuscript was found by their granddaughter early last year, and the book will be priced at £7.99.

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