The idealisation of the natural world is as old as the city, to the corrupting influence of which a return to pastoral life is always presented as a cure. But the increasing modern appetite of metropolitan readers for books about walking around and discovering yourself in nature is the literary equivalent of the rise of the north London "farmers' market". Both feed on nostalgie de la boue – the French term for a kind of rustic-fancying inverted snobbery, which literally means "nostalgia for the mud". In the case of the urban consumer of nature writing, of course, the mud is to be hosed off one's mental Range Rover immediately one lifts one's eyes from the page and gives silent thanks for the civilised appurtenances of hot yoga and flat whites. Much of the pastoral literary genre has long been a solidly bourgeois form of escapism. But nature is today also the arena for an oddly sublimated politics, and recent nature writing reflects some … [Read more...] about Is our love of nature writing bourgeois escapism?
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a brand as successful and limited as the Jane Austen industry must be in want of diversification. (It is a further truth that anyone writing about Austen must begin with a variant of that sentence.) Even the relentless adaptations machine, which seems to produce remakes of her best-known novels while the previous remake is still in post-production, finds itself necessarily constrained by the fact that Austen wrote only six complete books, of which one – Pride and Prejudice – is by far the best known. While the public appetite for Austen remains unsated, she herself remains stubbornly unable to produce any more in the series. For an enterprising publisher, therefore, there was really only one solution: give Austen's characters a new lease of life by splicing them with another, equally popular genre. Literary-horror "mash-ups" are probably the strangest trend to have landed in our bookshops this year, led by the phenomenon of Seth … [Read more...] about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Carrie Brownstein, the creator and star of Portlandia, will complete an unfinished screenplay by the late film-maker Nora Ephron for a movie in which an American woman finds herself transported back to the time of Jane Austen, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Lost in Austen was left incomplete when Ephron – the three-time Oscar-nominated writer of When Harry Met Sally, and writer-director of Sleepless in Seattle and Julie and Julia – died in 2012. The film's producer is the Oscar-winning British director Sam Mendes, who said of Brownstein: "Carrie is smart and funny and original, and the project is very lucky to have her." Brownstein, previously a guitarist and singer with the indie-rock band Sleater Kinney, is a musician, writer and actor; Portlandia, her US satirical sketch series, has won several awards. She is making her feature film debut as screenwriter on the project. Lost in Austen centres on a Brooklyn woman named Amanda who is transported back in time to the … [Read more...] about Carrie Brownstein to complete Nora Ephron’s Lost in Austen script
In central Riga, people are laying flowers beneath the Freedom Monument. It's a green statue of a woman holding three gold stars on top of a 42-metre stone pillar at the end of a broad, busy street. One woman explains to me that it's the 65th anniversary of the day in 1949 when 42,000 Latvians were deported to Siberia by the Soviet government. She still remembers hiding underground and finding the neighbours' house empty the next day. "Only the dog was left," she says. In Riga, Latvia's capital city, the past is alive – and complicated. The road that the monument stands on is now called Brivibas bulvaris (Freedom Boulevard), but its previous names – Alexander, Hitler and Lenin – are a clue to the city's history of rule by foreign powers. It was founded in 1201 as a base for crusading German knights, and for three centuries it thrived as one of the Baltic ports in the Hanseatic League. In turn, Riga then became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and then the … [Read more...] about Riga, a city revelling in its culture
Holden could have built Australia's answer to the legendary E-Type Jaguar or even its very own Lamborghini competitor during the 1960s. Back when General Motors Down Under was Australia's premier car company, Holden had developed the Torana GTR-X and the even more exotic Hurricane, with a unique, one-piece door that also opened the roof. In a decade when one in three Australian cars sold was a Holden, with the Kingswood the top-seller, the Australian arm of the American multinational designed some sexy concepts that were meant to go into production. The beautiful Torana GTR-X almost did in 1969 in an era when the E-Type Jaguar was still being made in England, and 48 years before Holden stopped making cars in Australia. Holden could have built Australia's answer to the legendary E-Type Jaguar or even its very own Lamborghini competitor during the 1960s (Holden Hurricane concept from 1969 pictured) A new book, Kings of the Road: 50 Cars That Drove Australia, said the two-door coupe, … [Read more...] about ‘It might have saved the Australian car industry’: Why Holden didn’t build supercars that could have rivalled the E-Type Jaguar and Lamborghini – and how it missed the SUV revolution