Cover Stories: Princess Diana; Dylan Thomas; Rod Liddle; Right to Read Week

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The Independent Culture

As Paul Burrell, the world's most famous butler, again emerges from below stairs, HarperCollins has paid a six-figure sum for the only book authorised by the estate of the late Princess of Wales and the Memorial Trust. Diana: The Portrait is being put together with the help of the Spencer family, who are contributing letters and memorabilia as well as reminiscences. Diana's sister, Lady Sarah, is writing an introduction and Nelson Mandela a foreword. The book, which will be the royal equivalent of the Beatles' Anthology, will feature more than 100 previously unpublished photos, as well as new interviews. All proceeds will go to the Diana Memorial Fund.

November is the 50h anniversary of the death of Dylan Thomas. At the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, a two-week festival, 27 October to 9 November, will commemorate the poet's achievement. There's a reissue of Sir George Martin's 1988 recording of Under Milk Wood, which the producer will talk about, while Roger McGough and Brian Patten read from Thomas's work. Archbishop Rowan Williams will read from his own poetry, and Ralph McTell will perform a tribute. And there's the premiere of Jen Wilson's Jazz Suite, a setting of Thomas poems. Details: or

The former Today editor Rod Liddle has cleared up the confusion about whether his new book, Too Beautiful for You, is a novel or a collection of stories. "The publisher told me short stories don't sell, so we'd call it a novel," he said at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. "But if I bought that book and thought I was buying a novel, I'd probably stab the author." Meanwhile, Hilary Mantel's memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, which describes her father's disappearance, has had startling effects. Two weeks ago, she revealed at Cheltenham, "I opened a letter, which read: 'It's your step-sister who writes'." A reader had pieced together her family history with Mantel's: "My father died six years ago, but by writing that book I have acquired two step-brothers and four step-sisters."

This week is Right to Read Week, an RNIB endeavour to highlight the fact that Britain's two million blind and visually impaired citizens are denied many books available to the rest of us. So it's great news that the RNIB has begun recording all 100 books in the BBC's Big Read extravaganza. The announcement follows the charity's release, funded by the Booker Foundation, of audio versions of this year's Booker shortlist. Each day, the charity sends out 13,000 books. More information from the RNIB helpline on 0845 766 9999, or