The Light of Amsterdam, By David Park

Love is "the price that had to be paid for bringing a child into the world," according to one character in David Park's new novel. Here, love is not an unalloyed joy, or a great benefit which happens to carry baggage. It is indivisible, negative as well as positive. Parents suffer unrequited love for their children, a wife tortures herself with fear of her husband's adultery, and a single mother finds that the past is not dead; it is not even past. Like Park's earlier novels The Big Snow and The Truth Commissioner, The Light of Amsterdam tells separate stories which touch and cross. Alan, Karen and Marion don't know one another, though their names seem to chime along with their stories. They are all middle-aged, living in Belfast, and travelling to Amsterdam in December 2005.

Album: Bonnie Raitt, Slipstream (Redwing/Proper)

On her first album in seven years, Bonnie Raitt divides her efforts between fiery slide-guitar blues recorded with her own band, and a handful of tracks recorded with producer Joe Henry's bespoke band of specialist players including expressive drummer Jay Bellerose and omni-talented guitarist Bill Frisell.

Festival Guide 2012: Ones to watch

"Oh yeah, all right/ Take it easy, baby/ make it last all night."

Album: Justin Townes Earle, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (Bloodshot)

You have to applaud the restlessness and drive of a talent such as JTE's. At its best (see Harlem River Blues), the results are a beguiling blend of demon-driven countryfied rock-gospel and Earle could easily have stuck in that groove/rut.

The Saturday Quiz answers

1. "Home-Thoughts, From Abroad", by Robert Browning.

Cultural Life: A. L. Kennedy, novelist

Books I've just finished Russell Banks's Lost Memory Of Skin, which has its flaws, but the man can really write and he's passionate about social justice in America. He chose his country's most marginalised group [sex offenders] as his focus and continued with courage, for which he has my thanks. I've also been reading Daniel Simpson's A Rough Guide to the Dark Side – it's all about why he left The New York Times and the jaw-dropping realities of modern journalism. Great, funny, passionate stuff.

Cultural Life: A. L. Kennedy, novelist

Books: I've just finished Russell Banks's Lost Memory Of Skin, which has its flaws, but the man can really write and he's passionate about social justice in America. He chose his country's most marginalised group [sex offenders] as his focus and continued with courage, for which he has my thanks. I've also been reading Daniel Simpson's A Rough Guide to the Dark Side – it's all about why he left The New York Times and the jaw-dropping realities of modern journalism. Great, funny, passionate stuff.

Album: Butch Walker And The Black Widows, Butch Walker And The Black Widows (Lojinx)

As either producer or writer, Butch Walker has been the backroom talent behind a number of hits for Pink, Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne (for which, thanks a million, Butch).

Emmy The Great and Tim Wheeler, Bush Hall, London (3/5)

The Christmas album still stutters on in mainstream America for the likes of Beyonce (who recorded one with Destiny’s Child) and Justin Bieber.

Album: Danny and the Champions of the World, Hearts & Arrows (Southern Crossroads)

With Hearts & Arrows, Danny Wilson's band graduates from being country-rock manqués obsessed with Neil Young and The Byrds to a more eclectic outfit now looking, in the opening "Ghosts In The Wire" and ebullient "Soul In The City", to take on the muscular heartland rock'n'roll yearning of Bruce Springsteen.

More man, music, and mystique

The singer's 70th birthday has inspired a fresh collective outpouring from the world's foremost Dylanologists

Album: Thea Gilmore, John Wesley Harding (Fullfill)

Thea Gilmore's 70th birthday tribute takes the form of re-recording her favourite Dylan album in its entirety, triggered by her acclaimed 2002 cover of "I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine", which sustains its solemnity despite the inclusion of congas.

Bob Dylan: Writings 1968-2010, By Greil Marcus

So here it is, the big one. America's top (or at any rate longest-lasting) rock critic on America's top (or at any rate longest-lasting) rock star. Except that it isn't. Anyone expecting something similar to, say, Harold Bloom on Shakespeare is going to be disappointed.

Album: Bob Dylan, The Original Mono Recordings (Columbia)

This mono set of the first eight Dylan albums offers a prescient reminder of what can be lost in the pursuit of cutting-edge technology.

Album: Bruce Springsteen, The Collection 1973-1984 (Sony)

You probably know this already, but for those of us who've previously suffered a blind spot on matters of the Boss, this is a timely reminder of just how good his first seven albums, collected here, are.

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