Five things we loved this week
1. Johnny Five Is alive!
Hollywood certainly has a lot to answer for when it comes to humanity's fear of robots - but so too does Mary Shelley. Isaac Asimov named the fear of artificial humans the ‘Frankenstein complex’, after all. In the presense of an advanced robot, people tend to need reassurance, which explains why scientists are using novels to teach artificial Intelligence machines human behaviour and empathy. That’s right – lots of ‘Johnny Five’-style robots are whizzing through pages as we speak, processing the finer points of Jane Austen and The Little House on the Prairie. Although, let’s hope no one gives them Frankenstein to read. Or In Cold Blood. Oh, Or The Shining…
2. Colour your own TARDIS
The Doctor Who: Travels in Time Colouring Book is available for pre-order now. If it is anything like its predecessor, Doctor Who: The Colouring Book, copies of the book will materialise suddenly, as though out of nowhere. Oddly, a huge number of them will seem to spill from an old-fashioned, dark blue police box (that we could have sworn was not there a second before), and, in each shop, copies will fly off the shelves. Colouring is everybody’s favourite new, incredibly relaxing, pastime; as you colour, you will find your worries melt away and you will drift off, as though, perhaps, to another dimension. Other notable additions to the world of colouring books are: the Harry Potter Colouring Book, Sherlock: The Mind Palace The Official Colouring Book and the official A Game Of Thrones Colouring Book.
3. Too Naked For the Nazis (is a book title!)
Want to read a list comprising seven of the strangest book titles you have ever seen? Good, so does The Bookseller, which is why it ‘hosts’ The Diagram Prize. Now in its 38th year, The Diagram Prize is awarded to the book with the oddest title, published in the last year and nominated by the public. I would say more, but I think the list speaks for itself – so here are the seven titles on the 2016 shortlist: Reading the Liver: Papyrological Texts on Ancient Greek Extispicy, an academic study on sacrificial sheep; Too Naked for the Nazis, a biography of a musical hall troupe; Paper Folding with Children, a craft book that appears to assume children are extremely flexible; Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space: A Consideration of Cult; Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers; Soviet Bus Stops; and last but not least Reading from Behind: A Cultural History of the Anus.
4. Free tickets? Aye Write!
At the Aye Write! Festival speakers come from an array of backgrounds to discuss all things literary and political too, the whole thing characterised by fiery wit and a thirst for debate. The festival runs from March 10th – 20th and is held at the iconic Mitchell library in Glasgow. As well as the usual wide variety of fiction and non-fiction events, this year, Aye Write! has a new strand of programming for comics, gaming and 'unsettling fiction' called Aye Con which will feature Christopher Brookmyre, Kirsty Strain and Metaphrog amongst many others. To top it off, the organisers are giving away 300 free tickets for Aye Write! events to deprived local residents. Not bad, ay?
5. Remember the dear departed
This week saw the commemoration of two great literary figures, Harper Lee and Umberto Eco; two writers remembered in two very different styles by fans, friends and family. On Tuesday, hundreds of Eco’s followers gathered at Sforza Castle in Milan to pay homage to the great and gregarious orator, brilliant lecturer and award-winner author. Crowds cheered when his coffin, decorated with white roses, was carried to the 15th century citadel and laid in state, while musicians played Arcangelo Corelli’s sonata La Follia, his favourite piece of baroque music . It was a beautiful, warm outpouring of affection for the great man.
In contrast, but according to the writer’s wishes, Harper Lee’s funeral was a quiet, private affair. It was a modest service attended only by a few dozen of those closest to her. The eulogy was a speech by her old friend Wayne Flynt entitled ‘Atticus Inside Ourselves’. Lee is, of course, remembered in monuments and tributes all over her home town of Monroeville. Two very different authors, remembered in styles that befitted their personalities; both will be equally and greatly missed.