Black Francis working on a graphic novel that sounds nuts

Though foundational indie rock heroes Pixies have seemingly been doing everything in their power of late to alienate long-term fans – parting ways with iconic, indispensable bassist Kim Deal in a Welsh branch of Caffè Nero, finding a somewhat agreeable replacement in The Muffs’ Kim Shattuck only to drop her unceremoniously after a couple of months, releasing their first new material in 22 years only for it to turn out pretty depressingly bad – acolytes of their still untouchable brand of weirdo sci-fi surf-rock pop-candy assault may perk up at the news that frontman Black Francis is working on a graphic novel that sounds very him.

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Book-ish events in NYC in December

As the holiday season picks up, New York does not forget the gift of words. Check out these bookish December events.

December 2: The Half King Reading Series
Featuring: Jeffrey Lewis, “The Inquisitor’s Diary”

Jeffrey Lewis is the author of Meritocracy: A Love Story, The Conference of the Birds, Theme Song for an Old Show, and Adam the King—four novels that comprise The Meritocracy Quartet, to be published as one volume in 2013 by Haus—and Berlin Cantata. He has twice been the recipient of the Independent Publishers Gold Medals for Literary Fiction and has won two Emmys and the Writers’ Guild Award for his work as a writer and producer on the critically acclaimed television series Hill Street Blues.

Where: The Half King, 505 w. 23rd Street
Time: 7pm
Price: Free

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Philip Jones to speak at final Galley Club event of year

The Galley Club – the not for profit London-based social organisation for those who work in publishing – holds its last event of the year this coming Wednesday, 4 December, in its usual venue of The George in Strand, with proceedings kicking off at 6.30pm. Its speaker this time round will be Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, giving a talk entitled “That Was The Year That Was – 2013 in retrospect and 2014 contemplated”. Entry is £5 for non-members, and a buffet and wine are included in the price.

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David Sedaris to tour England in 2014

Following another successful run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, ever-popular essayist David Sedaris has announced a 2014 tour of England with his show An Evening With David Sedaris (sadly not, as reported by some, the UK as a whole, with his only non-English date a night in Dublin). Beginning in Manchester on 25 March, the tour encompasses dates in Leamington Spa, Dublin, Cheltenham, Brighton, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle and a four night run at London’s Cadogan Hall before finishing up in Oxford on 12 April. If his Edinburgh engagements are anything to go by, Sedaris will read from his essays and stories, along with unpublished diary entries, and take questions from the audience.

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Trainspotting named best Scottish novel of past 50 years

As part of Book Week Scotland – which ran throughout last week from 25 November to 1 December – the Scottish Book Trust has revealed the final result of its public vote on the 10 best Scottish novels of the past 50 years, drawn from a previously released longlist. Whether due to the current resurgence of interest in all things Irvine Welsh or simply because of its indelible mark on the Scottish cultural landscape these past 20 years, Trainspotting claims the top spot, a triumph made no less welcome by its predictability and one that presumably prompts another sigh of relief for Rebel Inc.

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New tech company Saundz enters the world of English Language Teaching (ELT)

Sophie O’Rourke has a keen interest in ELT developments. Here she speaks to Milena Jerkov Bibic at Saundz, a high-tech pronunciation software for language learners, to find out how they are intending to help English Language Learners across the world. 

It is estimated that there are around 2 billion English language learners around the world currently trying to learn English. And of those who are being taught, in schools, on-line and with one to one tuition, very few students have access to native English-speaking teachers. And the one area of English language learning that becomes much more difficult to teach with a non-native speaking teacher is the pronunciation of sounds, phrases and words. There are many tools being developed by start-ups who are seeing the gaps in the market and identifying and creating programmes to reach large audiences. One of those new companies which is doing just this is American based They are interesting because they are using technology to fill a face to face skills gap at grass-roots level but are also building a community at the same time.

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Release date scheduled for new David Mitchell novel

Sceptre has announced that David Mitchell will publish his new novel on 4 September 2014. The Bone Clocks is Mitchell’s sixth novel, his first since 2010’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. A Dutch interview with Mitchell from earlier this year contained the assertion that The Sunken Garden – his 2013 collaboration with English National Opera – acts as ‘a kind of prologue’ to the novel.

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Literacy research: Is writing cool? [VIEWPOINT]

Tom ChalmersTom Chalmers is Managing Director at IPR License.

Is writing cool? Actually is the word cool cool? What exactly is cool anyway? Well not writing, at least according to 8-16 year old boys.

Recent research compiled in the report “Children and Young People’s Writing in 2012” by the National Literacy Trust suggested that one in five boys said they would be embarrassed if friends saw them write, compared to one in eight girls, and boys were less likely to say writing was “cool” (26.8% compared to 35.2%).

Out of the 35,000 8-16 year olds surveyed for the report, 8.6% of the boys said they didn’t enjoy writing, compared to 20.9% of girls. And while 32.6% of girls said they write outside of class on a daily basis, 30.2% of boys said they never or rarely did.

Now I’m certainly not having a go at the National Literary Trust but including the very 90’s word of cool is indicative of how publishing, writing and reading is reflected amongst the 8-16 age bracket. Maybe if words such as sick, dope, the shiz, nasty, or even awesome had been used percentages might have risen.

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Hide your empty pint glasses: Irvine Welsh revives Begbie

Once again firmly in the zeitgeist following the huge success of Filth, the cinematic adaptation of his 1998 novel of the same name, Irvine Welsh has revealed that he has revisited one of his most infamous characters for charity this festive season. “He Ain’t Lager” – a short story Welsh has written for the International Network of Street Papers (whose output includes The Big Issue) – sees the return of Francis (“Franco”) Begbie, the frequently violent, perpetually terrifying psychopath who first appeared in Welsh’s own debut, 1993’s Trainspotting, and was last seen (chronologically) emerging from a coma at the end of its 2002 sequel, Porno (although his most recent appearance in print was in Welsh’s 2012 Trainspotting prequel, Skagboys).

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