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  Francis Cugat’s striking cover illustration ‘Celestial Eyes’, commissioned for the 1925 edition of The Great Gatsby, is probably one of the most iconic images in literary design history. The haunting eyes, painted in gouache, peering out of a deep blue background, float ominously above bright red lips and a glowing cityscape. Each eye features … Continue readings

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  EDITOR’S CHOICE   The phenomenon that is Dolly Parton, playing Glastonbury 2014. A sight, I’m sure, many people never thought they would see. Amazing woman. You just have to grin. And sing.     See also: Dolly Parton, ‘The Not-so-invisible Woman’ … 100 great women in words’  

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  GEORGETTE HEYER is one of my favourite writers. At the drop of a hat, I retreat back to the safety and comfort of her books, particularly Frederica, Venetia or These Old Shades. Like Sayers‘ and Ellison‘s books, Heyer’s have been republished and repackaged in many formats with many different covers, some great, some not. … Continue readings

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Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man is one of the most influential pieces of 20th-century literature, as well as being a masterpiece in its own right. Since its original publication, it has been reprinted, translated, repackaged and reformatted countless times in striking editions, with just as striking jackets. For me, though, the first Random House book, published … Continue readings

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  A rare bit of footage featuring an interview on Arlene Francis’s ‘Home’ with Charles Eames (with Ray in the background). In it, he discusses their various chairs and introduces the Eames Lounge Chair for Herman Miller. Ray is very much treated as ‘Mrs Eames’, Charles’s ‘helper’. Oh, you wouldn’t get away with that today. … Continue readings

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  Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe is famous for his interest in food and all things to do with his stomach. There’s even a Nero Wolfe Cookbook (Rex Stout; 1987), made up of recipes mentioned in Rex Stout’s novels. In this clip from the first episode of the 2001–2 TV adaptation, Nero and Fritz debate the … Continue readings

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  New Zealand-born Len Lye was an experimental animator and sculptor. He is known primarily for a series of innovative films produced in the 1930s and 40s, the earlier while working with John Grierson’s much acclaimed GPO Film Unit. A Colour Box (1935) was particularly influential – wonderful Norman McLaren took up animation full time … Continue readings

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  Night Mail, the GPO Film Unit’s 1936 documentary, seemingly had everything going for it from the start – from its directors Harry Watt and Basil Wright, narrators John Grierson and Stuart Legg to the poem that WH Auden wrote especially for it and the music score composed by a 23-year-old Benjamin Britten. The GPO … Continue readings

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  I love old Penguin books. I have an abiding passion for them: I love the look of them, the feel of them, the size of them – and, of course, most of all I love the authors Penguin, in particular under Allen Lane, chose to publish. It’s thus no surprise that my first ‘Book … Continue readings

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Lovely Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling play and sing ‘The Water’. One of our favourite songs of recent times.  

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  EDITOR’S CHOICE As well as one of our favourite books ever, Harper Lee’s magnificent To Kill a Mockingbird was made into a film in 1962. Starring Gregory Peck as protagonist Atticus Finch, the film was critically acclaimed on its release and was a box office success. It ranks no 25 in the American Film … Continue readings

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  Musician Charlotte Church’s controversial speech on the status and representation of women in the music industry, October 2013. The third John Peel Lecture 2013.