Between the Covers 14/05/2013

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

One of the greatest living Scotsmen, Alasdair Gray, is writing a new book for Canongate laying out his "vision for an independent Scotland".

He says that the book, which will be published next summer well before the referendum, will describe "the situation in Scotland we have at the moment, the situation we will have when we get more independence, what is wrong with the current situation and what is hopeful about it". Last year, Gray wrote a controversial essay which complained about the appointments of so many English figures to senior positions in the Scottish arts, but he offers a get-out clause to people who do not have such deeply held beliefs. "I've nothing against people who regard themselves as apolitical or unpolitical," he told The Scotsman. "In the Greek democracy such people were called idiots, that is people without ideas about how they should be ruled …. There are people who think 'I don't know how things are going. I don't think anything I say matters, and therefore I'm not going to vote or take part in any debate.' That seems to me quite sensible, if you really are an idiot, that is, one without ideas."


One wonders what Gray would make of the latest move by Amazon, which seems to have plenty of ideas so it, at least, can't be called idiotic (though it can and has been called much else). Last week, the internet giant caved in to demands to publish a book in Cornish which it had been refusing to publish on its Kindle Direct platform. However, it is still refusing to support Welsh-language books. "With books available in languages such as Galician, Catalan and Basque the situation does seem bizarre," the managing director of the Welsh publisher Y Lolfa told


As Margaret Thatcher has just reminded us, there's nothing like dying to really boost the sales of your back catalogue. Following his moving announcement that he has been diagnosed with terminal gall bladder cancer, Iain Banks has also seen a sales spike, with copies of all his books shifting 40 per cent more than usual according to The Bookseller. Thatcher may have done slightly more for the high street with a week-on-week sales increase of 860 per cent for the second volume of her memoir Path to Power, but news of Banks's illness met with a much more sympathetic response. Banks's brilliant novel The Wasp Factory has one of the most gripping openings in modern literature: "I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped. I already knew something was going to happen; the Factory told me." Thatcher's The Downing Street Years begins: "'Ayes, 311. Noes, 310.' Even before the figures were announced by the tellers, we on the Opposition benches knew that Jim Callaghan's Labour government had lost its motion of confidence and would have to call a general election."


Charles Moore's official biography of the Great British icon Margaret Thatcher will finally be released on 23 April, which happens to be St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday. How odd that the title uses the American spelling: "The Authorized Biography".