The best book writing and journalism from around the web in Jan 2020

At penguin.co.uk, we love great writing about books almost as much as great books.

Here are four great articles from the literary world that have caught our eye this week.

1. 'Classics for the People’, Aeon, Edith Hall

The concept of a ‘classical’ education emerged in the late 17th century for the benefit of the aristocracy who could afford to learn Greek and Latin. But as historian Edith Hall points out, a series of daring working-class autodidacts – as well as translations by writers like Alexander Pope – helped wrestle the ancient myths back into the hands of ordinary people. 

2. 'Raymond Antrobus: ‘In some ways, poetry is my first language', Guardian, Anita Sethi

‘My dad had a really deep voice[...] being able to lie on his chest and feel his vibrations as he would read the story, there was a dimension of comfort and closeness in that.’ Poet Raymond Antrobus, who was born deaf, picked up numerous awards in 2019. Here he talks movingly about his origins as a writer.

3. 'Who’s – Dead McCarthy' Irish Times, Kevin Barry

Fans of Irish novelist Kevin Barry may be able to identify his new short story by its opening line: ‘You’d see him coming on O’Connell Street – the hanging jaws, the woeful trudge, the load.’ In any case, you won’t be disappointed by this fine new work published in the Irish Times.

4. 'Turning a new page – the rise of #Merky Books', Guardian, Kieran Yates

As part of Stormzy’s takeover of their weekend magazine last month, the Guardian profiled the rapper's imprint #Merky Books (full disclosure: part of Penguin Random House) which in addition to a range of exciting new voices, was recently confirmed to be publishing Noughts and Crosses author Malorie Blackman's life story. 

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