Between the covers

What’s really going on in the world of books

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The Independent Culture

Stand by for a clash of literary titans at the Oxford Literary Festival on Saturday, as Paul Blezard and Rachel Johnson share a stage for the first time since she abruptly sacked him on camera during the TV documentary The Lady and the Revamp. Blezard had been the literary editor of The Lady magazine when Johnson was brought in as editor, and his sacking was one of the more awkward moments caught by the Channel 4 cameras.

Johnson’s story of her time there, A Diary of The Lady: My First Year as Editor, was published in 2011, and now Blezard has written a fictionalised account called Saving Grace, which will be released by the crowd-funding website unbound.co.uk. The pair will appear together on Saturday at the Sheldonian Theatre, but Between the Covers is told that talk of a rapprochement is premature. It’s more a case of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, says Blezard, who nonetheless hopes that the hour will pass without either participant strangling the other.

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London’s new St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is fast establishing itself as a top literary hangout, with Monday’s Folio Prize ceremony (gothic splendour, “street food”-style canapés) swiftly followed by news that David Nicholls will give the first reading anywhere in the world from his new novel, Us (Hodder & Stoughton, 30 Sept 2014) at Damian Barr’s Literary Salon to be held at the hotel on 14 April. Nicholls is a salonista of some standing, having promoted his best-selling novel One Day there, in 2010, by appearing in the “Story of My Life” slot. The book that changed his life was not Tess of the D’Urbervilles or Great Expectations – both of which he has adapted for the screen – but Origami 4: the Art of Paper Folding by Robert Harbin, about which he spoke for 20 minutes while constructing a tiny, paper bird. What might he do this time?

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A new iPhone app called Rooster will offer subscribers fiction in serial form, just like in the old days. For $4.99 a month, you get a chunk each day of one classic and one contemporary novel (starting with Billy Budd by Herman Melville, and I Was Here by Rachel Kadish), which its developers hope will “serve as literary gateway drugs”. And, “if you can’t wait for the next day’s instalment, click a button to have it delivered immediately”. To be fair, you couldn’t do that with Dickens.

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