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Penguin Books launched the first blog from a mainstream publisher on Monday 31st July. Having led the way in bringing publishing into the digital age with its award-winning podcasts, Penguin's blog is a destination where an editor will post the latest news from the company: new acquisitions, sneak previews from works in progress of some of Penguin's best-loved authors, industry gossip and advice on how to get published. The blog will give readers a glimpse into the editor's office, offering insight into the day-to-day running of the company and how books are made. The first blogger will be Venetia Butterfield, Publisher of Viking, the hardback imprint which counts Will Self, Nick Hornby, Jonathan Coe, Claire Tomalin, Jeremy Paxman and Rageh Omaar amongst its authors.
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26. Design your own Pride & Prejudice cover

If you know a love story that's worthy of the Penguin Classics livery - download our template from here and show us on facebook by tagging it @Penguin Books. 

 

P+P

 P+PCompleted

 

If you're in need of inspiration, have a look at here.

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27. It's been 200 years of Pride and Prejudice!

Despite being 200 years old today, the story of Pride and Prejudice resonates as strongly as it ever did. To those who believe that love will prevail, the love affair between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy has become an archetype for everything a romance could be. To mark the anniversary, here are some classic covers of Jane Austen’s most famous work.

C1 p&p 1938 517
1938

 

P&p EL72 1972  519
1972

 

P&p 043 72 1986   520
1986

 

P&p 1995 02 3821 518
1995

 

Pride and Prejudice [Penguin Classics] [2006]
2006

 

Pride and Prejudice [Penguin Classics] [2008]
2008

 

Pride and Prejudice [Classics Deluxe edition] [2009]
2009

 

Pride and Prejudice [Penguin Classics] [2012] 2
2012

 

Pride and Prejudice [Penguin Classics] [2012] 3
2012

 

Pride and Prejudice [Penguin Classics] [2012]
2012

 

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28. Dickens - Done! (the final part)

That's it. FINISHED!! We have finally Done Dickens. Over the past year-and-a-bit the tireless trio of Becky, Sam and I (with a few other hardy readers joining us occasionally) have braved 16 novels, countless late nights and over 10,000 pages to finish our mammoth quest to read all his novels. To be honest, I'm exhausted. It's just magazines until Christmas now. Or maybe just drooling in front of the television.

Our final novel was The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which Dickens died halfway through writing - leaving its mystery (who caused the disappearance of Edwin one stormy Christmas Eve?) unsolved. I was relieved to discover, however, that the culprit is so obvious a claxon almost sounds every time he appears, and that Dickens told practically everyone he knew the ending anyway. Phew. The joys in this book come from it feeling both reassuringly like Dickens's earlier novels in its pastoral setting and manageable number of characters, yet also rather experimental and modern with its Agatha Christie-like structure, its racy opening scene in a drug den, and the respectable choirmaster-slash-sexually obsessed, opium-addicted maniac, John Jasper. 

We were very satisfied by Edwin Drood, but also left very, very sad that Dickens was cut short in his prime. There's no sign of a dropping off in talent. Instead his novels seemed to be getting darker, weirder and more experimental every time, and each one was utterly different from every other. He could have gone on to write a dozen more masterpieces. But we'll never know what came next.

I remember saying when I read our first novel, The Pickwick Papers, that I felt I was going to make a friend for life, and I did. Dickens is like the loudest, funniest person in the room at a party. True, he might get drunk and maudlin and go on a bit, but he's really the only one you want to talk to. I'd defend him to anyone.

Why? Firstly he is HILARIOUS. I genuinely didn't realise how funny his writing would be. Whether it's Betsey Trotwood and her donkey fixation, the Fat Boy in Pickwick storing food in his mouth overnight or, of course, cheeky cockney Sam Weller, Dickens creates characters of comic genius. Secondly, no-one does dialogue like Dickens. Apparently he used to practice his characters' verbal tics in front of a mirror, and you can always tell. Whenever I read a piece of dialogue by another writer now, it just blends into one voice. Thirdly, there is no such thing as a bad Dickens novel. Even the ones we liked less (step forward, Oliver Twist), had a hundred times more invention, imagination, memorable characters, scenes, descriptions, speeches and pure fun than most other books of the time - and today. I could go on all day but you might fall asleep, so instead I'll finish with the novels in order of our favourites.

Behold, our festive Dickens hit parade!

1. David Copperfield is our top book. Moving, memorable, hilarious perfection, with more great characters than most other writers could create in their whole career.

2. Dombey and Son. We can't understand why this gripping, heartbreaking story of a dysfunctional family isn't more loved or popular.

3. Great Expectations. I wanted this at number 2, but Becky and Sam overruled me. Still, we all loved its elegiac, grown-up sadness and fairytale beauty.

4. A Christmas Carol. A story so perfect it feels as though it's always existed, and couldn't possibly have popped out of one person's head.

5. A Tale of Two Cities. A rollicking, blood-soaked weep-fest.

6. Nicholas Nickleby. We'd put this above the Big Beasts for its theatrical exuberance.

7. Little Dorrit. Now on to the serious ones. Best last line ever.

8. Our Mutual Friend. Perplexing, murky, haunting, utterly dark.

9. Bleak House. Also grimly brilliant, but I didn't take it to my heart as much as some others.

10. The Pickwick Papers. Such a drunken joy that I nearly put it above the big famous novels, but then remembered that it doesn't really have a story.

11. The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Such promising weirdness.

12. Hard Times. Too short! (but still has some great baddies).

13. Barnaby Rudge. The thrilling mob violence almost makes up for the parts where not much happens.

14. Martin Chuzzlewit. Frustratingly excellent in parts.

15. Oliver Twist. Becky wanted this at the bottom, but I thought Nancy's murder saved it.

16. The Old Curiosity Shop. Thank goodness for Quilp.


Thanks Dickens, it's been a blast.

Louise Willder, Copywriter

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29. On the road at the Istanbul Book Fair

Sitting in a café in Istanbul, eating baklava and drinking coffee whilst reading Orhan Pamuk. I am, as a tourist, distinctly unimaginative. But that is how I chose to spend my days off, having spent three days meeting publishers and visiting the İstanbul Kitap Fuarı, or Istanbul Book Fair, on my very first sales trip.

Before leaving, I was fairly convinced that no amount of preparation would be enough. Reading profiles, looking at past submissions and trying to become fluent enough in Turkish to be able to understand publisher’s websites (Google translate only goes so far) somehow didn’t seem enough. It turns out however that one of the greatest pleasures when meeting foreign publishers is not wowing them with what you do know, but rather admitting what you don’t. This gives the publishers – the obvious experts in the field – the chance to tell you about their market. And the picture painted by the Turkish editors I met was a refreshingly positive one.

The Turkish market is growing. According to some, it has quadrupled in the last five or six years. New publishing companies are springing up and building their lists. Book shops with floor to ceiling shelves, wooden floors and a healthy supply of interested customers are open until late. The number of foreign publishers visiting the yearly book fair in Istanbul is growing and grants are on offer from the Turkish government to help agencies cover the cost of making more international trips.

There is also however a fair amount of trepidation. While publishers such as CAN, Siren, Yapı Kredi and Everest are producing literary fiction, historical romance remains the most popular genre by far. One editor speaks of a disparity between what editors will buy and what sells, suggesting that not everything in the book shops is to the public’s taste. There also appears to be a lack of a Young Adult market, although Twilight and before that Harry Potter managed to overcome the competition from video games and other media to go on to sell well.  Time will tell how the new publishers will fair. As one editor from an established house put it, ‘we’re all in the same boat.'

The ebook market in Turkey is still small but people appear confident that it will grow here as it has done elsewhere. The despondency of one non-fiction editor who told me that this meant that in ten years we’d all be out of the job was tempered only by his editor/translator colleague chiming in that he’d been hoping to retire to a small place by the coast anyway.

Lots of the people I’ve met seem to have come to publishing after working somewhere else first. Working in a bank, for the government or as a translator, the effect is one of perspective –publishing doesn’t feel like an isolated industry but rather part of the country’s identity, its history and its language. Academics edit, editors translate, banks own publishing houses and literary agents study for Masters Degrees in their spare time. A history editor happily translated my name into Ottoman Turkish, whilst chain smoking and discussing which of our titles might work for their list.

If Turkish publishers are all in the same boat, then it certainly seems that the waters they’re sailing on are calmer than our own, for the time being at least. While publishers in the UK nervously watch to see whether arrows will be green or red, pointing upwards or downwards, talk in Turkey is of growth. Visiting a new publisher in an office consisting of five chairs and three desks and discussing their vision for their list gives the impression that something exciting is going on; long may it continue.

 

Ansa Khan Khattak
Penguin Rights Executive

 

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30. Doing Dickens – Part 15

I've always wanted to say "We're gonna have to pull an all-nighter!" in the manner of a 70s journalist breaking Watergate whilst eating Chinese food from cartons. Staying up until 3am to finish Our Mutual Friend, the second-to-last novel in our Dickens marathon, almost felt as good.

 

This is a long, murky devil of a book, but I'm glad I persevered. Our Mutual Friend is dark, fantastical, mysterious, uneven, often frustrating, but I loved it. This story of a fortune made from 'dust heaps' (according to the notes, mountains of waste!) has the weird humour that the Big Monsters Bleak House and Little Dorrit sometimes lacked, but with all their grimy atmosphere and obsession with money. It has fantastic melodrama, murders, doubles, disguises, sexual obsession, disappearances, blackmail and con artists. It has a psychologically fascinating villain in repressed schoolteacher Bradley Headstone, possessed by lust, grinding his fists against walls until they bleed. And it has the dark, swirling Thames, which runs through the story and sucks everyone into its power.

 

Best of all are the women. Yes, the familiar creepy father/daughter relationships are still here, yet I felt something had shifted. The women are interesting and (mostly) non-saintly. They are stronger than their fathers; they make their own livings, they change and develop, and the central heroines Bella and Lizzie both, in different ways, save the men they marry. Jenny Wren, a crippled doll's dressmaker of childlike appearance, is a strange presence, but also has a sharp brain, seeing through the 'tricks and manners' of the men around her.

 

I don’t think the upper-class characters in the novel work so well, but perhaps that's because it's the weak, the humble and the odd that really interest Dickens. Please, please don't be put off by the gargantuan size of Our Mutual Friend, and give this strange and brilliant book a try.

 

Next time, we shall be wearing black armbands for our very last Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood...  

Louise Willder, Copywriter

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31. All dressed up!

Chicagotardis1So now we’re into the final day of the Chicago TARDIS convention and last night was the Masquerade in which all the fans who love the costuming element of Doctor Who strutted their funky stuff, to the adoration of the crowds.

Judging then took place with guest fashionistas Ian McNeice (who played Winston Churchill in the series) and Simon Fisher-Becker (who played Dorium Maldovar) deliberating alongside “cosplay” experts from fandom to award certificates of merit.

Chicagotardis4As usual, I was amazed by the levels of creativity on show for not only do cosplayers make precise replicas of onscreen attire, they also make wild departures from the televised versions to adapt costumes, creating a sub-genre called “Fem”.

In this category, women will take the costumes worn by men (and especially the Doctor himself) and tweak them into feminine outfits of dresses and corsets. There was even a Fem Dalek ballerina and a TARDIS ballroom gown.

Chicagotardis2And it’s not just the grown-ups; children love to play dressing up and younger Doctor Who fans are no exception.

To me, these costumed fans are an excellent example of what the show is all about. Because, no matter what anyone might tell you, Doctor Who is not a children’s show. It’s a family show that everyone can enjoy.

Chicagotardis3And these guys really do wear their (two) hearts on their (meticulously-crafted) sleeves!

Richard Dinnick

 

Chicagotardis5Richard Dinnick is a writer of TV, comics and books who has contributed to the Doctor Who and Moshi Monsters ranges that Penguin publishes including: Doctor Who: Alien Adventures, The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Sticker Book coming next year. You can follow him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/richarddinnick) or find out more by visiting his website (www.richarddinnick.com).

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32. The Con is on!

Having survived the madness of the Black Friday sales, the Doctor Who convention Chicago TARDIS is now in full swing.  But what, you may well ask yourselves, happens at a Doctor Who convention?

For the uninitiated, a Doctor Who convention is the mutated offspring of a television chat show and a fancy dress party with renegade DNA elements of a stag or hen party. The stars of the show along with us lesser mortals are interviewed on stage or sit on panels discussing the finer points of writing, or acting, or the rich history of the TV programme itself.  One panel even asks is Doctor Who is a religion (well, enquiring minds want to know)!

A8exl-DCYAAErkB.jpg largeAnd of course there is the dealers’ room (pictured, right) where every possible merchandising opportunity has had a Police Box slapped on it – from t-shirts to teacups and posters to coasters – along with the more usual DVDs, books, comics and action figures.

The several hundred fans attending the “con” mingle and chat, queue for autographs, watch the aforementioned panels and interviews, view their favourite episodes on the big screen and compete for the most outlandish or intricate costume. I will be blogging about the costume pageant tomorrow with a few images of this amazing spectacle, but the most important aspects of these conventions is the camaraderie, the sincere friendships that people – professionals and fans alike – make.

These things are great fun and a wonderful way to meet one’s readers, listeners and viewers. And, as you’ll see tomorrow, the creativity of the professionals is equaled by that of the “cosplayers” who go to such extraordinary lengths to make their costumes the best and most accurate.

There is such a lovely atmosphere at these US conventions. Everyone is upbeat and out for a good time. The cliché of the reclusive, awkward Doctor Who fan is blown away by the gregarious gathering of people here.

Because, in the end, that’s what we’re really here  for: to meet up with old friends and maybe make a few new ones along the way. Although, it does helps if you know your Hath from your Eldrad…

Richard Dinnick

 

Richard Dinnick is a writer of TV, comics and books who has contributed to the Doctor Who and Moshi Monsters ranges that Penguin publishes including: Doctor Who: Alien Adventures, The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Sticker Book coming next year. You can follow him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/richarddinnick) or find out more by visiting his website (www.richarddinnick.com).

 

 

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33. Black Friday for the Doctor

A8aZZ7dCQAAUsyG.jpg largeEvery November for the last few decades, Doctor Who fans have gathered in Chicago to celebrate the world's longest-running Science Fiction TV show. The current incarnation of the event is called Chicago TARDIS and coincides with both the broadcast of the first episode on 23rd November 1963 and the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

This year the convention is marking the 7th Doctor' era with main man Sylvester McCoy (about to appear on the big screen as Radagast the Brown in Peter Jackson's new version of The Hobbit) and the lovely Sophie Aldred who played his companion, Ace (now voicing Tree Fu Tom, the hugely successful computer animated series on CBeebies).

Of course, most people in the UK will be familiar with the concept of Thanksgiving from US films and TV, but one thing I never knew about until I came for the first time last year is the mysterious shopping event known as Black Friday.

Every year many retailers in the USA slash prices by huge margins and open their doors at midnight on Thursday 22nd November and let the punters who have often been queuing around the block and in their hundreds storm the aisles.

This is nothing like our own rather tame January sales or the myriad mid-season sales that litter the high streets of the UK like Autumn leaves. No. There is a feeling of Mardi Gras to a Black Friday event. Last year I donned a Viking helmet to wait in a freezing line of jovial, upbeat Americans and enter into the merchandising madness, running up and this year was no different. Except for the headgear.

That's not to say this was any less crazy, with those who had waited patiently at the front of the line coming away with shopping trolleys full of electronic goods (huge LCD TVs being the highest badge of honour).  Later arrivals then strip the shelves of lesser  but still impressive bargains like a plague of locusts on retail therapy.

It's fun and frenetic and everyone has a good time (pictured above are the queues at Target, Westin, circa 11pm last night). The closest I can think of an equivalent in the UK is the pictures we used to see of Harrods Sale in which hundreds of bepearled ladies would vie for the finest furs and crash crockery into baskets in a peculiarly British frenzy of bargain hunting. Only, Black Friday seems so much more good natured.

This morning the Doctor Who convention begins in earnest and I'll be bringing you edited highlights as the weekend progresses. And if you think black Friday looks and sounds strangely eccentric, then you ain't seen nothing yet! Wait for the Doctor Who costume pageant on Saturday night...




Richard Dinnick

Richard Dinnick is a writer of TV, comics and books who has contributed to the Doctor Who and Moshi Monsters ranges that Penguin publishes including: Doctor Who: Alien Adventures, The 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Sticker Book coming next year. You can follow him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/richarddinnick) or find out more by visiting his website (www.richarddinnick.com).

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34. Doing Dickens – Part 14

I've finally discovered a greater pleasure than reading Dickens – and that's re-reading Dickens. Great Expectations, the 14th in our epic Dickens readathon, was, shamefully, the only one of his books I'd read properly before (at school), and visiting it again was an unalloyed joy. George Orwell said that once Dickens has described something you see it for the rest of your life, and here the images of Pip looking at the little graves of his family, the lawyer Jaggers obsessively washing his hands, Wemmick posting his dinner into his letter-box mouth, were just like flashback.

Yet there were surprises too. I'd forgotten just how quickly the hero Pip goes bad, becoming an unbearable, snobbish idiot even before his life is changed by coming into money. In fact, he's a complete tool for pretty much most of the book. Yet the changes in his character are turned into something so psychologically true, so gripping, and rendered with such unbearable honesty that it's car-crash compelling. When Pip describes his shame as his childhood protector Joe comes to visit him in his new life as a London gentleman ('If I could have kept him away by paying money, I certainly would have'), it's like a stab through the heart.

I'd also forgotten just how dark, mysterious, ghostly, weird and violent the novel is. Dickens describes how the feelings of guilt and fear that accompany childhood trauma (in this case an escaped prisoner threatening to eat your heart and liver) can taint your entire life and warp everything that comes afterwards. It's such a haunted book. Perhaps I still love David Copperfield slightly more, but it's very close. This book is like David Copperfield's sad, dark, grown-up and heartbreaking shadow. I cried like a baby at the end. What more can I say?

Next time, the last Big Beast and the second-to-last novel in our list – Our Mutual Friend

Louise Willder, Copywriter

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35. Doing Dickens - Part 13

Crying while reading Dickens's novels is getting to be a regular thing with me. Maybe it's because I know we're getting near to the end of our mission to read all his novels, or maybe it's because number 13, A Tale of Two Cities, is such and exciting and moving yarn. For sheer storytelling brio, this is up there with the best.

You may well know the set-up: two men, one woman, blood on the streets of revolutionary Paris and, of course, LA GUILLOTINE (as well as terrible family secrets, baby-killing aristocrats and lashings of revenge).

The set pieces are sensational: a cask of wine breaks and everyone laps it up from the streets, mothers squeezing it from handkerchiefs into babies' mouths. The murderous crowd sharpen their weapons on a huge grinder, whipping themselves up into a frenzy of bloodlust. So much blood is spilt that it poisons the water supply (apparently this is true!). There's even a fantastic bitch fight between the devilish knitter Madame Defarge and a doughty Englishwoman. As if these treats aren't enough, A Tale of Two Cities also features one of my favourite heroes, the lawyer Sydney Carton: worn-down, world-weary, drunk, despairing, tortured by what he could have been, made noble by unrequited love.

If you took away the boring bits from Barnaby Rudge, Dickens’s other historical novel (also featuring plentiful mob violence) you might come near this for excitement, but not for the emotional intensity of Carton’s heartbreaking story.
 
As Becky says:

I loved A Tale of Two Cities. Sydney Carton, the dissolute lawyer, is one of my favourite Dickens characters (along with David Copperfield from David Copperfield and the horse from The Old Curiosity Shop). Not all the characters in this book have that much depth, but who cares when there is such an excellent narrative arc, and so much galloping, and so many rivers of blood. A great adventure story, but also a book that should be read by anyone who's planning on starting a revolution to overthrow an evil dictatorship, just to make sure they've thought it through.

Next time, there will definitely be more weeping as we move on to Great Expectations. I'm filling up at the thought of it.

Louise Willder, Copywriter

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36. The Anna Karenina Challenge: Part 2

“Each of us has skeletons in his soul, as the English say.”

Hello fellow challengers. Well, if you’re anything like us, you’ll have had a busy few weeks, and reluctantly experienced a little bit of a lull in your reading because of it. But don’t worry – we set ourselves plenty of time for this challenge precisely to allow for a set back or two.

So a quick look at what’s been happening up to now (we’re only up to page 250 but what we have managed to read has been eventful to say the least!)…

Kitty’s health has been failing since her humiliating rejection by Vronsky, and she is advised to go abroad to recover.

Meanwhile, in Saint Petersburg, Vronsky continues to pursue Anna, who, despite an initial attempt to reject him, eventually gives in to his attention. The narrative jumps forward a few months, to a point at which their relationship has been consummated, and Anna is pregnant with Vronsky’s child.

When Vronsky falls from his horse during a race, Anna is unable to hide her distress and when Karenin reminds her of the impropriety of paying too much attention to Vronsky in public, which is fast becoming the subject of gossip, Anna confesses all.

Recounting it like this, it seems pretty simple, doesn’t it: Anna and Vronksy have committed adultery and done a terrible thing? But what’s struck us most in these last few chapters is that morality for Tolstoy isn’t that clear cut...

His narration is such that at no point amid all of the gossip, guilt and lying around their affair is judgment passed on any one character. In fact the narrative, which shifts from character to character in attention and focus, seems engineered precisely to generate opposing views - even Anna herself describes the sensation of loving Vronsky as a “criminal joy”.

Linked to this is the idea of emotional self-knowledge, the conflict between inner and outer lives - something we picked up on at the very beginning of the novel, and something that’s kept coming up since.

Anna and Levin represent the extremes of self-knowledge. Vronksy explains their predicament with absolute resignation: “Whatever our fate is or will be, we have made it.” As a result of this they seem (whether we consider it shameful or not) very public with their affair - so much so that when Vronsky falls from his horse during his race, the strength of Anna’s feelings for him make it physically impossible for her to hide her horror.

In fact, it’s the public nature of their affair seems to bother Karenin more than Anna’s adultery itself, and Tolstoy’s portrayal of him is very much as her cold, restrained counterpart; “not a man, [but] a machine” – someone who believes that “Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that might have lain unnoticed” and who finds his own feelings “illogical” and “senseless.”

When Anna does confess, we feel that surely it’s is a truth he can’t ignore? But his response is only that she must maintain the status quo until he can find a suitable solution, ensuring that her admission, her attempts at truth (which is fast becoming the currency of morality in the novel), change nothing about her situation. Meanwhile we see Karenin, whose conscience is theoretically clear of any social wrong, as guilty of a preference for deceit.

That’s quite a cliff hanger to end on so we’re dying to read on! Expect more from us next week and until then happy reading.

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37. Doing Dickens – Part 12

Well knock me down with a weighty tome, we are officially three-quarters of the way through our mammoth attempt to read all of Dickens! I can’t quite believe so many words have gone into my brain. Our latest is the ironically-titled ‘Little’ Dorrit, a monster at 860 pages. It’s the third in Dickens’s ‘condition of England’ novels (after Bleak House and Hard Times) and, in our group’s view, easily the best.

Set partly in the notorious Marshalsea debtors’ prison (which, fact fans, you can still go and see the remains of), the story of pint-sized Amy Dorrit, her imprisoned father and their family’s rapidly changing fortunes has all the darkness, dirt, mystery, meatiness and obsession with money of Bleak House, but combined with the humour and memorable characters of earlier novels. It’s gone straight into my top five so far. These are just some of the reasons why:

• It has proper, complicated, psychologically damaged characters with rich interior lives. Arthur Clenham, ostensibly the hero, seems indelibly scarred by his miserable upbringing. Amy, while unfeasibly good and wise (and whose childlike appearance is somewhat icky), had a serenity that made her very moving to me. Even Flora Finching, Arthur’s ex, once a coquettish beauty and now a faded embarrassment, could have been grotesque, but is portrayed with subtlety and humanity.

• It made me snort with laughter on several occasions, particularly at Mrs Plornish of Bleeding Heart Yard, who convinces herself she can speak Italian in the same way I ‘spoke’ Danish after watching The Killing.

• It has one of the strangest, most unnerving and ambiguous chapters I’ve read in Dickens’s novels – ‘The History of a Self Tormentor’, where an emotionally disturbed woman tells us how she got that way.

• It has an utterly fantastic death scene. I won’t give too much away, but the description of a body in a bath, the ‘white marble veined with red’, is surpassed only by the murder of Nancy in Oliver Twist.

• It has one of the loveliest, most moving last lines of a book, ever. I defy you to read it and not get choked up.

Next, we race on to the blood-stained streets of revolutionary Paris and A Tale of Two Cities

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38. What is the city but the people?

In 2012, as the world’s gaze turned on London for the Olympic year, the British Museum explored this capital city from a slightly different viewpoint – by trying to get inside the heads of the people who lived here over 400 years ago.

In Shakespeare’s Restless World, a series presented on BBC Radio 4 earlier this year and now accompanied by the book (released 27th September), we explored the stories of 20 objects – some grand, some everyday things – that help us imagine what the world looked like to the groundlings inside the Globe theatre around 1600.

9781846146756H

I talked to Shakespeare scholars, historians and experts on the fascinating issues these 20 objects raised – everything from exploration and discovery abroad to entertainment, monarchy and even the deadly threat of plague closer to home.

As well as objects from the British Museum, many are from collections across the UK. I have travelled across Britain to get a closer look at what these objects, such as a fork found on the site of the Rose Theatre, a book of royal murder plots, and sunken treasure from Morocco, can reveal to us about daily life, national politics and global economics at the turn of the 16th century.

Throughout the book, there is something else that allows us to picture these turbulent times so vividly: the works of William Shakespeare himself. In the chapters, we delve into his plots and characters, his speeches and soliloquies, to seek glimpses of the uncertain times in which he lived.

Right now, the British Museum is presenting a major exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world, bringing together a vast and eclectic array of Elizabethan and Jacobean objects, including the 20 featured in the radio series and book. This exhibition provides a unique insight into the emerging role of London as a world city four hundred years ago, interpreted through the innovative perspective of Shakespeare’s plays. Featured alongside these objects are digital media and performance created in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

 

Neil MacGregor

Director of the British Museum
Author of Shakespeare’s Restless World
(accompanying the BBC Radio 4 series - Shakespeare’s Restless World)

 

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39. As scene on screen

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!

If you missed out on a trip to Shakespeare’s ‘wooden O’ this summer, you’ll be pleased to learn that its unique swelling scenes can now be yours to behold from the comfort of your local cinema, as the brand new Globe on Screen season begins this week. Cinemas across the UK, Australia, New Zealand and America will be screening three plays originally staged at the Globe during 'The Word is God' 2011 theatre season, including All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, and Doctor Faustus. Last week, the Penguin Classics team was treated to a sneak preview of some of the upcoming shows and how they’ll look on screen.

 

We spent a fascinating hour discussing the uniqueness of the Globe experience with some of the actors, directors and the team at the Globe, and the fantastic opportunity this new season represents for a new worldwide audience to get a taste of that magic usually contained to a sunny (or not so) spot on London’s Bankside. Ross MacGibbon, Screen Director of The Taming of the Shrew – which was recently filmed for a future Globe on Screen season -  talked us through the long, careful process of editing and fine-tuning that takes place after the plays are recorded live, and Charles Edwards, who played Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (which begins showing in UK cinemas on 10th October) admitted to being a little nervous but ultimately excited to see how his performance would translate to the big screen. We also discussed with that play’s director, Jeremy Herrin, the potentially discomfiting idea of a theatrical experience, usually such an intimate, singular moment in time, being immortalized forever on film and broadcast around the world – it’s this frisson and conversation between a live and mutable thing, a play, and something recorded, a film, that makes this season so brave and exciting.

The sea9781846146756Lson is the perfect compliment to another tribute to Shakespeare’s time and experience currently gracing London – the wonderful new British Museum exhibition ‘Shakespeare: Staging the World’.

Like the Globe on Screen season, this exhibition celebrates the pivotal role of the playhouse as a window to the world, and offers a unique view of London as it was around 400 years ago. And we can’t recommend the beautiful accompanying book highly enough: Shakespeare's Restless World (out this week).

All’s Well That Ends Well kicks off the Globe on Screen season on September 26, and you can find your nearest venue here: onscreen.shakespearesglobe.com.

 

 

Rose Goddard
Classics Editorial

 

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40. Wanted: a loving home for an orphaned short story opening

You may already know Five Dials, a (mainly monthly) literary magazine published by Hamish Hamilton, one of Penguin's imprints. If you don't, you probably should - the magazine is free and promotes work from both emerging and established talents.  Over the years it has featured a diverse collection of literary fiction and non-fiction from the likes of Zadie Smith, Hari Kunzru and Noam Chomsky, amongst many others.

The Five Dials team is going to start guest blogging here on The Penguin Blog - all their posts will be in the FiveDials category (we're literal minded in many ways...) so you can easily find them in the future.  And here's the first.

*****

At Five Dials, we rarely know what's going to happen when we start putting together an issue. While assembling our 25th issue, which you can download here, we were offered the chance to hold a contest. Actually, it might be a stretch to call it a contest. It's more like we became, albeit briefly, a literary orphanage trying to find safe homes for lost children. The children, in this case, are a collection of beginnings by Vancouver-based short story writer Zsuzsi Gartner.


A while ago, we implored Zsuzsi to send in a new story for the issue. Instead, she offered up something better, both for us and for you. Below this introduction you'll find a list of beginnings to Zsuzsi stories - and, trust me, 'Zsuzsi stories' are a genre unto themselves. The scenarios come from her imagination - there's no doubt about that - but the middles and flourishes and endings will have to come from yours. These are, after all, orphans, and they deserve a good life somewhere in the world, even if it's far from their place of origin. Zsuzsi included her mailing address at the end of the fragments. I've been told she's off email these days, so aspiring writers will have to send a postcard instead. Get in there fast. Each beginning can only be adopted once. Zsuzsi even mentioned she'll send back adoption certificates to each lucky parent. The caveat: we'd like to see the resulting stories. Send Zsuzsi a postcard telling her which beginning you've chosen, write the thing, and send it to us. Who knows? We may include it in our next short fiction issue, nestled amidst names like Frank O'Connor and Lydia Davis and D.W. Wilson.


Eleven Orphaned Short Story Openings (circa 1996-2012) Looking for a Loving Home

 1) The Time I Tried: Then there was the time I tried to get my life made into a television series but failed. Everything ordinary happened to be in great demand. “Let’s hear what the ordinary people have to say,” that anchorman, the one everyone trusted, would say.

 

2) Karl: You would think they’d talk about money all the time. That’s what you’d think. All the time, endlessly, like a broken record, non-stop, ad naseum, infinitus spiritus amen. But they don’t. They talk about anything but. You have to make them sometimes. Get them to confront the incredible magnitude of their good fortune. Shove their faces into the enormity of it. But gently.

That’s Karl’s job.

 

3) Sperm Donor: The first time he saw the child he was startled that the boy looked nothing like him. My son.

 

4) Corner Office: Things were supposed to be different with Corner Office, brudder. Just wait ‘til Corner Office, I kept telling Twyla as her tears dripped onto the suction line offa l’il Felix’s shunt (every-so-often the generator goes and then it’s DIY), everything thing will be better when I get to Corner Office. If you could see l’il Felix now, with his flappy hands and cruxifying smile, oh your heart would surely urk.

 

5) Chastity: Sometimes they appear in great bunches, streaming down the street like a circus parade. Sometimes just out of the corner of your eye, when you’re not thinking about anything much. The women and their wild beasts. Can’t they give it a rest?

The nuns are the worst.

 

6) The Third Sister I: The barbarians are chewing. Chew chew chew all summer long. Blood pools on their plates, just the way they like it. The mothers wear halter tops; the fathers take off their watches; we run barefoot in the street, a thick seam of tar bubbles in the centre of the road and sticks to our feet. There are no boys on this block, except for spindly Johnny Falconi who hides his shovel teeth behind his mother's orange curtains. Girls run rampant, no boy could survive here. We run low to the ground, knees bent, hands dragging like monkey paws so that they don't see us. They are the barbarians. We see them through their haze of cigarettes and BBQ smoke and choked laughter. We watch our backs.

 

7) After Almadovar: What grown man can say that he married his own mother, and that although heartbreak was involved, no-one disapproved?

 

8) St. Elizabeth of the Miracle of the Roses: Anastasia Nagy is on a rampage. The boy, honestly he’s just a boy, they’ve chosen to play Zoltan is horribly unsuitable. It’s like casting Macaulay Culkin to play Heathcliff. She claims she can see the peach fuzz still gleaming on his cheeks. She writes fire and they give her green fruit! She burns up the telephone lines and is truly inconsolable.

 

9) The BBQ Nun: She came to us from Kansas City with smoke in her habit, shorn hair glinting copper. She came with her guitar and her firm belief in penance and her expertise in all things eschatological, although the latter was more of a private preoccupation than a part of her duties at Sacred Heart. She came with her talk of judgement, but there was always a kind of smile on her face and she even made the idea of Hellfire seem like fun.

 

10) The Third Sister II: The third sister with her bare skull like a crystal ball, but milky blue. When Betty and Lydia want to touch it she makes them pay. Sometime in pennies, sometimes in blood.

 

11) Lawn Boy: They say that if a house is on fire and a woman has to choose between her child and another – her husband, her lover – she will choose the child.

What if I told you I would choose differently?

What do you think of me now?

 

 

For Adoption Papers Write to (and please specify which opening/s):

Zsuzsi Gartner

c/o 1424 Commercial Dr.
PO Box 21513 LITTLE ITALY

VANCOUVER, BC V5L 3X0/V5L 5G2

CANADA

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41. The Anna Karenina Challenge: Week 1

Well. One week in to our read-it-before-Christmas challenge and (*spoiler alert*) we’re 90 pages in. It might not seem like a lot, but bearing in mind that’s roughly 10% of the book done and dusted, and that we’ve achieved it with little more than a ten page session on the way to work each morning, we’re feeling pretty pleased. Surprisingly, this challenge we’ve set doesn’t actually feel much like a challenge at all; at no point has reading this frankly ginormous book felt like a chore. Ok, so you can’t pack lightly for a weekend away while you’re reading it, but your journey will be all the more interesting.


What’s more, you probably can’t have failed to notice that the film adaptation is now playing at a cinema near you, and conversations about whether it measures up to this treasured novel have already begun. Does it have the right cast? Are the key aspects of the plot emphasised? Even if you’ve seen it and you already know exactly what happens, now’s the time to get reading so you can draw your own conclusions and join the debate. If you haven’t here’s a link to the trailer to whet your whistle.


So, what have we made of the first 90 pages? Well, let’s start at the very beginning with the novel’s opening line:

    “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”


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To the unsuspecting reader, this ominous idea hits you square in the face. Which is precisely why it’s so brilliant. It cuts to the core of the novel’s critique (which is of the values of a very specific period in Russian society) and yet the making and breaking of families is universal enough to strike a chord with readers today. That’s probably why when you read it you can feel something happening; like you’re pulling the thread that causes everything to unravel. Virtual show of hands please: anyone else wish they’d written that?

You don’t even have time to digest this before Tolstoy picks you up and throws you into the confusion of unhappy family number one: the Oblonskys. Mother of five, Dascha Oblonsky, is distraught, having discovered her husband, Stepan, has been having an affair with their former governess. A fashionable man about town, and a liberal thinker who sees marriage as an institution in need of reform, Stepan can’t even deceive himself into feeling guilty about giving in to what he sees as an “infatuation” that is fundamentally at odds with his familial obligations:

“...there are two women: one insists only on her rights, and these rights are your love, which you cannot give her; and the other sacrifices everything for you and demands nothing. What are you to do? How to act? There’s a terrible drama here.”

Then there’s Levin, a great friend of Stepan’s despite their differences; Stepan a confident and good natured city-slicker, Levin an insecure country bumpkin and natural sceptic, in town with plans of proposing to Stepan’s sister-in-law Kitty. When we finally meet Kitty, it’s clear she has a great fondness for Levin, but that there are other forces at play: namely, social politics in the form of Kitty’s mother, who wants her to marry the eligible Vronsky - one of the gilded youth of Petersburg. To complicate matters, Moscow society is undergoing a shift:

“The French custom - for the parents to decide the children’s fate - was not accepted and was even condemned. The English custom - giving the girl complete freedom - was also not accepted and was impossible in Russian society.”

When Levin’s proposal does come, the pressure is too much for Kitty, and although she is overwhelmed with happiness, she refuses it, and with that we have the makings of unhappy family number two.

Ironically Vronsky, the only character so far who “had never known family life”, is at the centre of all this heartache, but we get the feeling that his relations with Kitty are little more than a young man naively going through the social motions, none of which matter any more when he meets Anna.

And it’s easy to see why. Anna appears bursting at the seams with passion, energy and feeling:

“It was as if a surplus of something so overflowed her being that it expressed itself beyond her will, now in the brightness of her glance, now in her smile.”

The animation that so clearly longs to burst out of her is evident in the way Tolstoy writes about her so that with her arrival the book seems to come alive, and we, like Vronsky, fall quickly under her spell, even though there is also “something terrible and cruel in her enchantment.”

At the end of these first 90 pages, we leave her dancing the mazurkha with Vronsky, who has asked her right in front of Kitty, at the very ball that was supposed to cement their engagement…

Cue unhappy family number three: the Karenins. And this is just the beginning!

More from us next week!

 

Dion Wilson
Marketing Assistant, Penguin Press

 

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42. A Clare Winner!

Clare 33


Earlier this week Viking held the much anticipated launch party for Clare Balding’s wonderful childhood memoir My Animals and Other Family at The Ivy.

It was a particularly busy day for Clare (it’s been a very, very busy year) as she was also spotted in the Olympic and Paralympic parade in front of our offices on the Strand (oh, and a few other sporting stars from the summer).

Penguin UK CEO Tom Weldon gave a warm and witty speech to say how much we appreciated it when an author does their bit to up their profile just before their book is published. But he added that the reason we took on the book was that Clare's a real writer. It's a magical, moving book that will be read for decades to come.

Fingers crossed that the book is a massive bestseller when it's released today. She certainly deserves it; there was a LOT of love in the room for her as you can see below.

 

Claire 1 copy

Anneka Rice, Clare Balding, Jennifer Saunders and Penny Smith

 

Clare 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arlene Phillips, Clare Balding and Andrew Lloyd Webber

 

Alice Berry
Online Editor and Unofficial Party Paparazzo

 

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43. Interning at Penguin: Hear from Marissa, editorial with Hamish Hamilton

Hamish Hamilton's influence on my literary education began some ten years ago – specifically when I was in my early teens and just beginning to develop an appetite for short fiction. Hamish Hamilton was the first UK publisher of a group of authors who, to me, best exemplified the form at the time: Truman Capote, J.D. Salinger, Haruki Murakami and subsequently, Dave Eggers. Where many publishers would have shied away from the short story (“There’s precious little economic incentive to write one,” lamented Lawrence Block), Hamish Hamilton seemed to me a loud and proud patron of it. Today, the imprint is still home to some of the boldest and most prolific names in literature -- Zadie Smith, Paul Murray, Lydia Davis and Helon Habila, just to name some of my favourites. Founded in 1931, Hamish enjoys a long and established heritage that has managed to translate seamlessly into an intrepid spirit of multiculturalism and innovation – perhaps most directly manifested in its literary magazine Five Dials, the “heartbreaking PDF of staggering genius” that I first came across while trying out laptops in one of Tokyo’s electronic mega-malls, of all places.

It had always been clear to me that Penguin presented the ideal environment for one looking to learn the ropes of publishing, and this is why I feel incredibly fortunate to have been selected as the Helen Fraser Diversity Fellow for 2012 -- Penguin's third since the programme's inception, and the first non-UK citizen to take on the role.
 
While working on my application for the 2012 fellowship, I was able to spend more time at Penguin after my initial internship placement at Viking, interning with Fig Tree and then moving on to an eight-week temp cover with the adult mono production team. In addition to equipping me with basic editorial skills, these roles steered away from the uni-mandated style of academic analysis and conditioned me to start approaching the book as a product instead. Which authors share a similar target demographic? Can something as simple as a font switch alter the tone of a book, or differentiate a celebrity biography from a work of literary non-fiction? These were only some of the questions I was encouraged to ask (plus I’m now able to identify the paper stock used in different editions of a book, which I still maintain is as cool a party trick as any other). All this helped strengthen my application, and I'm grateful to everyone who took time from their busy schedules to give me advice and share their experiences.

The fellowship runs from July to December, and I kick-started my first week on the placement with a sunny weekend in St. Germans, Cornwall, assisting the Hamish Hamilton team with our stage at the Port Eliot Festival -- certainly not your typical work schedule. Some of the more generic jobs within the office include sorting through mail, making sure our book data is kept as up-to-date as possible and organizing author quote sheets – small but fundamental tasks that ensure our day-to-day operations run as smoothly as possible before we turn our attention to the more glamorous side of things (like when John Banville stops by for an interview with Five Dials).

5D3
5D4

While my favourite assignments are still largely editorial-based -- reporting on submissions from agents or pitching ideas for Five Dials -- the fellowship has been imperative in debunking the myth that the be-all-and-end-all for aspiring editors is knowing how to whip a manuscript into the best possible shape. There are a dozen other factors to consider simultaneously, and many of these occur beyond the pages of a book. The fellowship presents a wonderful opportunity to really delve into the minutiae of such processes. This could be anything from studying the buying patterns of online retailers to working with production to decide what type of paper finish goes on the book jacket. Needless to say, there’s quite a bit of spontaneity and variety from publishing one book to the next.

With the economy still picking up the pace, it has become more crucial than ever to take into account consumer patterns and developments in both the UK and the international scene. It just so happens that the upcoming Hamish Hamilton titles I'm most looking forward to are translations -- Javier Marías’ The Infatuations (which had many of us making a beeline for his other beautiful re-issues from Penguin Modern Classics), three novels from the cult Argentine author César Aira and Sam Taylor's translation of The Victoria System by Eric Reinhardt. I'm also very excited to be present during the release of Zadie Smith's much-anticipated NW next month, as well as forthcoming issues of Five Dials that are due to be launched in Berlin, Cork and with a bit of luck, Tokyo. If you haven’t seen our latest ‘B’ issue (dispatched from the Edinburgh Book Festival by American essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan), here it is: http://fivedials.com/files/fivedials_no24.pdf
 
The highlight of my time here so far has been talking to people from various departments about the work they do and how it relates to the editorial process, and applying the ideas I have picked up from these interactions to my duties at Hamish. Everyone has been so generous with their time, and I’m confident that when the fellowship ends, I will be ready to embark on my first ‘real’ editorial job armed with a strong foundational knowledge of the book trade as a whole.

 

Marissa Chen
Helen Fraser Diversity Fellow, 2012

 

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44. Doing Dickens – Part 11

I never thought I’d say that a Dickens novel was too short, but: Dickens, Hard Times is too short! You have disappointed me. The eleventh book in our epic quest to read all his novels, it felt like a mere pamphlet at 288 pages, and I missed the richness and depth of other works.

There are still many joys, especially the self-made businessman Mr Bounderby, who says all the things piggy rich tax-dodgers come out with today: I’ve made it all by myself, why can’t everyone else? Why do all my selfish workers want to be ‘fed on turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon’? Etc etc. The fact-obsessed school owner Gradgrind was a pertinent reminder of what happens when education becomes micro-managed; the lisping circus master Sleary was a pleasure; the put-upon weaver Stephen Blackpool (with his scarily accurate alcoholic wife) broke my heart and, in fact, the lack of happy endings all round made the novel a surprising change from the norm. There was so much here, but I felt a frustrating lack of development of ideas and characters.

Luckily, Charles Dickens read my mind and made his next novel, Little Dorrit, a far more sensible 860 pages. Here are more thoughts:

‘It's never a great idea to publish a book with 'Hard' in the title. I thought I'd be in for a boring read, but my long held assumptions were wrong; it's a great story and if anything it's over far too quickly. Even the setting, grimy old Coketown, potentially quite oppressive, is described with Dickens usual energy and wit so that you can hear the rattling of the looms and taste the coal dust. My favourite character is probably Merrylegs the circus dog. To summarise this novel: Down with equations! Hurrah for horseback balancing tricks! Worth reading if you are a busy professional who does not have time to tackle any of Dickens's 900 page-ers.’ Becky

Hard Times is so very much shorter than most of the other Dickens books we've read (110k to Copperfield's 382k), and it surprised me now much I noticed and mourned that brevity. This Dickens felt much more like a short story, with characters lightly sketched rather than fully drawn, and with now-familiar archetypes populating the grim scenes of a northern industrial town, Coketown. Really, Dickens, it was too short, and I could tell that you'd just bashed this one out. C- for effort. Having said all that, of course his weakest efforts are, still, leagues ahead of most other novels. And as ever, the dialogue is a masterclass in dialect and character, the children and villains are utterly believable and the family relations are all so recognisable. Plus it's got a charming circus ringmaster with a lisp! And one of the most blackly comic family reunions I have ever, ever read. So, considering its shortness and its almost comically bleak ending, I give Hard Times a better-than-The-Old-Curiosity-Shop 6.9/10.’  Sam

Louise Willder, Copywriter

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45. CEO Tom Weldon introduces Penguin's internship schemes

I am extremely proud to introduce the internship schemes that run across Penguin. From the Penguin Internship Scheme which was newly-launched for 2012 to the positive-action traineeships like the Pearson Diversity Summer Internship Programme and the Helen Fraser Fellowship, there are a wide range of opportunities to get involved with the company and start your career in publishing.

These programmes exist to try and open up the prospect of a career in publishing to as wide a group of people as possible. As we all know, getting into publishing can be incredibly tough and so the premise behind our programmes is to give our interns a meaningful, paid experience at Penguin and a proper introduction to the publishing world. Each manager who hosts an intern has to come up with a project for the person to get stuck into during their time here – i.e. on our internship schemes you won’t be confined to the photocopier!

But don’t take my word for it – some of our current interns have kindly agreed to write for the Penguin Blog so you can see first-hand what life is like for an intern at Penguin. 

 

Tomw

 

 

 

 

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46. Interning at Penguin: Hear from Nadia, designer with Special Sales

Recently I’ve found myself leaving the house earlier and earlier in the morning; I never thought I’d have a job that I couldn’t wait to get to, and Designer with Special Sales at Penguin Books is it.

The simple fact is that everyone at 80 Strand says hello in the morning, and I get smiles from people in the corridor (sometimes having no idea who they are or what they do). I don’t know where that impression of ‘people in London are so miserable’ came from; learning from my simple life up North, I even started talking to people on public transport! And found that anyone will chat back.

This, and the fact that I really love what I’ve been doing. Sitting on InDesign all day is a dream job; I play around with existing book covers and make actual books, I’ve designed a presentation, which will continue to be used in the future; I’ve amended book covers that have actually gone to print, and brought profit into Penguin. It’s all very exciting.

Machines3D
What I have really loved over the past two months is the fact that I’m treated like a part of the team. Jobs come in quickly in Special Sales, sometimes with tight deadlines, and I do them and so contribute to the team. I get invited to all the meetings, and all the (paid-for) breakfasts and lunches. And drinks and dinners. This has been a great opportunity to get to know people outside of work, and experience the world of publishing with Penguin. I’ve been doing a Masters degree in Publishing in Edinburgh, and the Scottish publishing industry – though I’ve always known it was small – is like another world. Although feeling like a tiny fish in a massive pond for a while, I’ve liked getting to know the structure of Penguin and where I fit in.

As I knew I was moving to London for two months from Edinburgh, I brought a couple of books with me. I now have three massive piles sitting on my desk, and scattered all over the floor. Walking up the corridor on Floor 7, a telltale crowd give away the fact that things have been added to the pulp shelf. The pulp shelves often harbour some rare find, or a book that ‘I’ve been meaning to read’. Going along to sales meetings has also meant getting to see new releases that won’t be on the shelves until Spring 2013, and just when I’m getting excited about something (like Emily McKay’s The Farm) I get given a proof copy. Being a book-lover and hoarder, that’s another thing I love: the books that are around the office, piled on desks and spilling out of bookshelves, being proudly displayed as a top seller. I love the shouts of excitement (and the celebratory prosecco) coming from sales when a book is at number 4 in the Amazon charts.

Most importantly, this internship has reaffirmed the fact that publishing is what I want to do, and Penguin is where I want to be.

 

Nadia Suchdev
Pearson Diversity Summer Internship Programme

 

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47. The Penguin Essentials: Part 2.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, goes the adage. All well and true, but how wonderful is a book with a cover as lovely and enticing as its insides? And how great is it when you choose a book based – don’t judge, everyone does it – on its irresistible cover and find that, in doing so, you have accidentally stumbled across a writer destined to be a favourite for ever? That’s how I first came to read The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, and I will be forever grateful to the designer of the edition I idly picked up for introducing me to the addictive pleasures of hard boiled crime.

Which brings me to the Penguin Essentials, Mark Two (featuring, I’m happy to say, The Thin Man). What are the Penguin Essentials? Exactly what they say on the tin, that is to say, truly essential books. But what does that mean, I hear you ask, and what are the criteria for choosing these ‘essential’ titles? Well. These are books that have stood the test of time, that are still read and loved today, that will change the way you look at things, and linger in your mind long after you’ve turned the final page, redesigned with beautiful, unexpected new covers.

Essentials
www.penguin.co.uk/essentials


Richard Bravery and the Penguin General Art department did a fantastic job with the first set of Penguin Essentials last year and they have really pulled out the stops with our second Essentials collection. From In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s chilling reconstruction of the brutal murder of a Kansas family to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark’s tale of a schoolmistress no-one will ever forget, there is a book here to appeal to everyone – with covers to die for, by a diverse and exciting group of artists, illustrators, and designers.

For obsessive hoarders like me, these are beautiful editions (and, ahem, affordable pieces of original art) that are crying out to be added to your bookshelf. And, for readers coming to these books for the first time, the Essentials offer the enviable chance to discover a whole bunch of new favourite books, with covers as wonderful and intriguing as their contents.

 

Sophie Missing
Assistant Editor, Fig Tree

 

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48. Interning at Penguin: Hear from Kalle, Penguin Press social media intern

There are three things that I’ve learnt which I believe you should know about Penguin. Or actually four, but the last one isn’t out until November.

Number one, the people here are daring. This is what I’m Thinking, Fast and Slow as I make my way through the suited crowds on the Strand and into the Penguin Towers. Everyone on this street might look like a penguin, but it is my t-shirt clad self who’s actually one (or as I see it, won). In my generation, publishing is not the most popular career or the safest either. But it’s incredibly rewarding. That saying about dead fish swimming with the current? Applicable to penguins too. It takes guts to go down this path, to not follow the crowds to investment banking. And that’s why people here are driven by unusual Paper Promises: exceptional books.

Penguin blog

Which leads me to my second point: that the work at Penguin is groundbreaking. I’m reminded of this everyday as I walk down the corridor at Penguin Press. One of the most respected brands in publishing, it’s in this division that books are printed not because they’ll be successful, but because they’ll change the world. These are works that further knowledge, add to the public conversation and offer pioneering ideas. They’re Pathfinders; Where Good Ideas Come From; The Better Angels of Our Nature. The risks here aren’t really risks: when you publish a phenomenal book and it doesn’t sell very well, you will have still made a difference. And when The Black Swan eventually surfaces, you know the world will never be the same. Working here is like Moonwalking with Einstein, or rather, several of them: charting unknown territory; taking small steps for humanity; dancing instead of walking.

And that’s why, thirdly, the internships at Penguin are unlike any others. Work and fun here are not mutually exclusive, not in social media marketing. It’s all about disrupting platforms; outdoing your predecessors. That means you have to be as creative as you possibly can. Sometimes my ideas seem outrageous even to myself, but it’s often those insane concepts that end up making the cut. In my role as a social media intern, I’ve run several successful competitions on Facebook and Twitter, contemplated our strategy, reached out to influencers, put up a new Tumblr website (http://penguinpress.co.uk) and much, much more. Instead of coffee runs, I’ve been given responsibility and taught How to be an Explorer of the World, sitting in on meetings from Penguin Australia to the next Spanish bestseller.

Which, by the way, is phenomenal and the fourth thing you absolutely need to know about. Let’s go back in time to my third week here: I’m Feeling Lucky. I’ve just read the manuscript for one of the biggest titles this autumn and now I’m taking part in an exclusive meeting on its upcoming marketing campaign. They’re talking about how they’re going to make the author a celebrity in the UK. And not just talking; detailing exactly how that’s going to happen. ‘I’m so excited,’ one of the editors says with a smile on her face. She has no idea: I can barely sit still. I wonder if they can tell?

Weeks later, I’m asked to stay on as a freelancer in the company and help execute a digital marketing campaign for the book. I can hardly wait. And I promise, neither can you, in approximately 2-3 months.

So, the gist of it all? Don’t follow trends. Set them. That Spanish bestseller? The Yellow World by Albert Espinosa. Out? 1 November. Facebook? At www.facebook.com/theyellowworld My internship? The best ever. Your next job application? Addressed to Penguin Books UK, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL.

Kalle Mattila
Penguin Internship Scheme

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49. Take the Anna Karenina challenge

The average novel probably takes the average reader just a couple of weeks to read, (assuming you’re fitting it in around everything else you’ve got going on).

Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, at an admittedly hefty 829 pages, will undoubtedly take a lot longer, but then again, it most certainly isn’t your average novel…

To give you an idea of quite how brilliant it is, when the great American novelist William Faulkner was asked to name the three best novels ever written, he replied: ‘Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina, Anna Karenina.’ On top of that, the likes of Vladimir Nabokov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky have praised it as one of the most magical and perfect novels ever written.

    9780140449174H 9780141391892H               


In other words, it’s long because it’s a rich and complex masterpiece; a multi-layered tale of love and adultery set against the backdrop of high society in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. And with a lavish-looking film adaptation due out in September, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, with a screenplay by none other than Tom Stoppard and direction from Joe Wright (of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice fame), there’s never been a better time to start reading it.

So we’re setting you, and ourselves, the challenge of reading (or re-reading) this incredible book before Christmas.
 
Given that, on average, we read 200 words per minute, this 200,000 word novel should take you, the desperate-to-be-distracted commuter, approximately 1000 minutes to read. And given that there are around 5000 commuting minutes remaining until Christmas, we reckon this is easily achievable.

If we all add up the time we spend staring into space on the train every morning and evening, or even just steal an extra 20 minutes before bed, we’ll have devoured it in no time.

We’ll all be reading it here at Penguin HQ, blogging about our progress and reactions along the way, and we’d love you to get involved too - whether on your own, with your book group, or with friends – by letting us know how you’re getting on.

So, here we go. Watch this space for our first update next week, where we’ll be discussing our reactions to the opening, and the implications of that first line…

 

Dion Wilson
Marketing Assistant, Penguin Press

 

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50. Internationally acclaimed author, Michelle Paver, shares the inspiration behind her new series Gods and Warriors

Michelle Paver is the international bestselling author of Wolf Brother, and the first in her brand new series for Puffin, Gods and Warriors, publishes on 28th August. Read all about her inspirations, research and insights into the Mediterranean Bronze Age … 

A boy is on the run in the mountains.  His camp has just been attacked by mysterious warriors in black rawhide armour.  Now his dog is dead, his sister's missing, and he's running for his life.

This is where Gods_and_Warriors_9780141339269Hit all starts for the hero of my new five-book series, Gods and Warriors.  Like my previous series, Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, it takes place in prehistory; but this isn't Stone Age Scandinavia, it's the Mediterranean Bronze A ge.

I've loved this period since I was a child, when I pestered my mother to visit the mummified animals at the British Museum, and I devoured Roger Lancelyn Green's luminous retellings of the myths of Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. Gods and Warriors is my attempt to recreate the spectacular, exotic, magical world of the great Bronze Age civilizations: the Mycenaeans, the Minoans and of course the Ancient Egyptians. 

This was a time of enormous uncertainty, when survival depended on the vast, unpredictable forces of the wild: the sea, the sky, earthquakes, volcanoes.  It was a world in which the stranger you meet on the mountainside might just be a spirit in disguise, and the falcon circling overhead might be a messenger from the gods...

Over five books, Gods and Warriors will follow the story of Hylas, the Mycenaean outsider who starts life as a goatherd, but grows to be a hero.  It's also the story of Pirra, the daughter of the High Priestess of Keftiu (Crete), and her quest for freedom.  And it's the story of the three wild creatures who will become their best friends: a dolphin, a falcon and a lion.  (And as in Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, parts of each story will be told from the animal's point of view.)

I've been travelling to Greece and Egypt for decades, but to create the world of Gods and Warriors, I went back and tried to experience as much as I could of what Hylas, Pirra and their dolphin ally will experience in book one. 

In Greece I explored the Cretan ruins of Knossos and Phaestos, as well as lesser-known sites in the Peloponnese, including the hugely evocative Menelaion outside modern-day Sparta, and the eerie underground cave system at Vlychada.  I also spent several days wandering the Taygetos Mountains; and to get to know dolphins, I swam with a socialized one in Florida, and then with wild dolphins in the Azores.  That was an unforgettable experience which, more than anything else, helped me imagine what it's like to be a dolphin.

But I don't do this research in order to teach, or to show how painstaking I've been.  I do it to make the story real.  I want the reader - whether they're nine or ninety, boy or girl - to feel that they're right there, living the adventure alongside Hylas and Pirra.  And of course that means leaving out most of the research, and only including the odd startling detail which will bring it alive without slowing it down.

So as I said, Gods and Warriors is an adventure, and like Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, it's written mainly with children in mind.  However one of the things I'm enjoying about writing it (if this doesn't sound too pretentious) is that the great themes of fate and free will, hubris and nemesis, do seem to arise naturally from the Bronze Age world, and to cry out for dramatization.  And of course I'm also having quite a lot of fun being a dolphin, a falcon and a lion.

So that's Gods and Warriors.  I really hope you enjoy it.

Michelle Paver

www.michellepaver.com

 

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