Best of 2016: Staff Picks - Part Two

Oxford Writers' HouseFeatures2016DecemberBest of 2016: Staff Picks - Part Two

To pitch an article, please log in/create account

Best of 2016: Staff Picks - Part Two

2016 is drawing quickly to a close! In our second installment, we hear from our incoming Director, Asiyla Radwan, our new Events Director, Beulah Sprague-Davies, and our Publications Director, Theophilus Kwek, about their favourites of the year. 

 

Asiyla Radwan – Director
Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan Mcguire

 

In Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire combines whimsy and magic, a keen insight into human character and the trials and delights of growing up.

In Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire combines whimsy and magic, a keen insight into human character and the trials and delights of growing up. 

What happened after Alice returned from Wonderland? How did Susan feel about forgetting Narnia? Did Sarah ever miss the Goblin King? Was Persephone content living her life in halves?

Every Heart a Doorway takes the classic tenets of Portal Fantasy with a fresh take on the genre, a touching, heart-rending meditation on what it might mean to find a world that resonates with your entire soul, only to be ripped away from it and thrown back into the dullness of this world. Well-crafted and tightly written, Mcguire paints in a few deft strokes, a bold cast of characters, and tantalizing snippets of the worlds they would call their own.

Nancy Whitman is the newest addition to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, a boarding school ran by a Portal world returnee, and run for the many girls (and few boys) who fell, tripped, slipped and broke the veil between worlds and ended up back in our one. Battling depression and dissatisfaction, each student is waiting and hoping they’ll find the door back to their ‘real’ lives, until a murder shatters the relative tranquillity of the school and forces an unlikely group of students to forge a friendship and solve the mystery.

Seanan McGuire has captured the isolation, conflict and darkness of teenage years, the gradual understanding of self and identity and the bliss of finding a place in which to belong.

 


Beulah Sprague-Davies – Events Director  
Italian Folk-Tales, Selected and Retold by Italo Calvino 

 

Conceived as an Italian equivalent of Grimm’s Tales, they serve as a sobering reminder to writers that there is no new plot twist under the sun.

Collated, transcribed and translated by Italo Calvino in the 1950s, these two hundred some tales are, by turns (and often all-at-once), bloody, absurd and charming. Conceived as an Italian equivalent of Grimm’s Tales, they serve as a sobering reminder to writers that there is no new plot twist under the sun. Short enough to read as respite from reality on even the busiest of days, and easy to pick up when in between books, wherever you happen to read these, they’ll take you somewhere else!

Read Ursula Le Guin's take on the Italian Folktales here

"Essentially the book is to Italian literature what the Grimms' collection is to German literature. It is both the first and the standard. And its particular glory is that it was done not by a scholar-specialist but by a great writer of fiction."

 


Theophilus Kwek  Publications Director 
Otmoor, David Attwooll & Andrew Walton 

 

I love the fact that the book brims with light and friendship: here are two generous, dedicated artists exploring a landscape they love. 

I've read and reviewed a lot of poetry this year, but one of my favourites is a beautifully-produced pamphlet of poetry and visual art that has Oxford at its heart: Otmoorby Andrew Walton and the late David Attwooll.

The book takes its title from the wetland north-east of Oxford - part RSPB reserve, part Narnia - that, as the dust-jacket puts it, 'seems strangely wild and remote' even to its most ardent walkers, birdwatchers, residents, and advocates. Apart from the sensitive cross-genre collaboration (Walton's sketches and textures are not illustrations, but poems in themselves), I love the fact that the book brims with light and friendship: here are two generous, dedicated artists exploring a landscape they love. 

David - a tireless teacher, poet, publisher, and Chair of Liverpool University Press - died this August, not long after Otmoor was released. Many of us familiar with the Oxford writing scene will remember his warmth and wisdom, qualities that survive him in his poems. Ever attentive to the 'mysterious arithmetic' of David's world, Otmoor is a parting gift that defies measure - a lasting reminder of how words, like 'continents, fold / and drift, framing new maps, possible worlds.' 

 

 

 


Asiyla Radwan

Asiyla Radwan

Asiyla is an artist and designer studying Fine Art at Oxford University, she works across print and digital media. Her work has been exhibited around Oxfordshire and featured in the Jericho Arts Review. As a visiting artist and organiser, she has given creative workshops on film and practical design at independent arts festivals: Nine Worlds, Willowbrook Festival and VidUKon.

Beulah Sprague-Davies

Beulah Sprague-Davies

Beulah is a recent graduate of the University of East Anglia where she studied English Literature and Creative Writing. Having been involved with the establishment of an Automatic Writing society at the university she has pursued an interest in creative writing as a responsive medium.    

Theophilus Kwek

Theophilus Kwek

Theophilus is the author of three collections, They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue (2011), Circle Line (2013) - shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2014 - and Giving Ground (2016). He won the Jane Martin Prize in 2015 and the New Poets Prize in 2016, and was president of the Oxford University Poetry Society. He also works with Asymptote and The Oxford Culture Review.


This site uses cookies! We set cookies so you can manage your account and navigate the site. To accept cookies, just keep browsing. Click here to find out more.