Bookseller Briefing 20/17 – week ending 19 May

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McEwan: Brexit has stirred the lowest human impulses

Author Ian McEwan last week likened the UK to “a depressed teenage self-harmer” in a speech to remain supporters in Westminster on Brexit. Not mincing his words, he said the EU referendum had stirred in the nation “the lowest human impulses, from the small-minded to the mean-spirited to the murderous”.

According to the Guardian, during a two-day Convention on Brexit and the Political Crash, McEwan gave an impassioned speech in which he said: “This country, like a depressed teenage self-harmer, takes out a razor to scour a forearm and now contemplates its own throat.

“Truly, Brexit has stirred something not heroic or celebratory or generous in the nation, but instead has coaxed into the light from some dark, damp places the lowest human impulses, from the small-minded to the mean-spirited to the murderous.”

He also said that the result of the referendum, if it were held a mere few years in the future, could have been quite different. Taking into account the change in composition of voters after 1.5m “oldsters” die off, he said: “A gang of angry old men, irritable even in victory, are shaping the future of the country against the inclinations of its youth. By 2019 the country could be in a receptive mood: 2.5 million over-18-year-olds, freshly franchised and mostly remainers; 1.5 million oldsters, mostly Brexiters, freshly in their graves.”

Admitting he himself was a “denialist”, he went on: “I belong to the smallest, saddest, most pessimist faction: I am a denialist. Almost a year on, I am still shaking my head in disbelief. I know it’s not helpful, but I don’t accept this near mystical, emotionally charged decision. How can it be that in a one-off vote, a third of the electorate have determined the fate of the nation for the next half-century?”

The comments follow a comparison, according to some Spanish media reports, that McEwan in March drew between Brexit and Nazi Germany. El Confidencial reported McEwan said: “Brexit has been a real disaster, and I feel bad because we are a parliamentary democracy and I don’t like these decisions adopted by plebiscite which remind me of the Third Reich.”

The Handmaid’s Tale to air on Channel 4 this month

The TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (Vintage) will be shown in the UK on Channel 4 this month after the channel acquired rights to the drama series.

The series, which launched in the US at the end of April, stars Elizabeth Moss as Offred and Joseph Fiennes as the Commander, while Atwood herself has appeared in a cameo role.

The novel, first published in 1986, stormed the charts following the election of Donald Trump as US president, alongside other dystopian classics including George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (Signet) which reached the overall number one spot in the US in February.

According to Vintage, sales across all its editions of the novel, across home and export, are up 345% for the period November 2016 – May 2017 compared to the same period last year, and lifetime sales across UK and export editions have now passed 1 million. Meanwhile the US edition has topped the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks in a row since the series started on Hulu on 26th April 2017.

Vintage will publish a film tie-in edition to coincide with the TV release in the UK, complete with a new introduction by Atwood.

Amazon’s Prime Reading comes to the UK

Amazon has launched Prime Reading in the UK for the first time.

Launched in October last year in the US, the service provides a rotating selection of more than 1,000 Kindle books, magazines, short works, comics, children’s books and other material. It sits alongside other services exclusively for Prime members – which costs around £79 annually – including Audible Channels and a streaming service providing access to exclusive audiobooks and original audio series.

Other reading benefits include Kindle First (which provides one free book a month) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library benefits which allows the loan of one book each month.

Titles highlighted in the Prime Reading launch offering include the Man Booker Prize shortlisted The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling, The Angels of Lovely Lane by Nadine Dorrie, as well as non-fiction and short-form content including Kindle Singles by Susan Hill and Howard Jacobson and works from authors such as Gloria Steinem.

Alessio Santarelli, Amazon’s EU Kindle Content Director, said: “Prime members will love the range of books now available to them on any device, with everything from psychological thrillers, to business books, the latest travel guides and bestselling fiction.”



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