Teresa Barnard, lecturer in English at the University of Derby, is reading Murmurations: An Anthology of Uncanny Stories about Birds (Two Ravens Press, 2011), edited by Nicholas Royle. "Taking its central theme from Freud's essay on the uncanny, specifically the image of the Sandman's children with their little hooked beaks, this collection exploits our uneasy relationship with the unheimlich nature of birds. The narratives build up a sense of fear as familiar songbirds turn sinister and, ultimately, deadly. The combination of new and previously published stories culminates with the welcome return of the most menacing of all, Daphne du Maurier's The Birds."
Woody Caan, professorial fellow at the Royal Society for Public Health, is reading Helen Roberts' What Works in Reducing Inequalities in Child Health? (Policy Press, 2012). "Times Higher Education often discusses widening university participation for disadvantaged young people. However, the largest social determinants of inequality act long before the age of 18. Roberts' review not only identifies the factors that prevent children thriving, both in early years and at school, but it also offers interventions to overcome such disadvantages. The outstanding chapter addresses supporting forgotten children: those in care."
Paul Greatrix, registrar, University of Nottingham, is reading Michael Nath's La Rochelle (Route, 2010). "A really entertaining dark and comedic literary debut from this University of Westminster academic. Mark embarks on a week-long bender with his best friend Ian as they mutually mourn and then fret over the latter's vanished girlfriend. Strange drunken encounters ensue, followed by a surreal jaunt to Devon inspired by an encounter with a psychic. Nothing is quite what it seems and all the characters reveal unexpected motivations and histories. Sharp and erudite."
Peter Hill, adjunct professor of fine art at RMIT University, Melbourne, is reading Anthony White's Lucio Fontana: Between Utopia and Kitsch (MIT Press, 2011). "There is a long history of artists destroying their own artworks. Michael Landy famously trashed all his possessions, Joan Miro set fire to many of his paintings, and Jean Tinguely created self-destructive sculptures. Argentine-Italian Lucio Fontana first came to European attention through his series of slashed canvases. Then he took on New York. This beautifully illustrated book takes us through his whole career. Highly recommended."
Kerstin Hoge, university lecturer in German linguistics, University of Oxford, has been reading Elanor Dymott's Every Contact Leaves a Trace (Jonathan Cape, 2012). "Murder mysteries and Oxbridge novels alike need to move skilfully to avoid hackneyed ground, and Oxbridge murder mysteries face a double challenge. Dymott uses the cliches of Oxford life to reflect on the loss of promise, judgement and love, resulting in a magnificently rich, potent novel that lays bare the melancholy of lives irredeemably fragmented."
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