Colvin in her own words and 'Moby Dick' for listeners
Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude. All books available from Exclusives
IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK
On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin, by Marie Colvin (HarperPress) R215
CHARLIZE Theron reportedly wants to make a movie about Colvin, the London Sunday Times war correspondent who was killed in Syria in February. Until then, this is the best way to get to know her: an anthology put together after her death. Her accounts of the horrors she witnessed, filed under extraordinary pressures, were lucid, courageous, insightful and charged with moral rage.
MATTHEW Parris, a former diplomat and Tory MP, has earned a name for himself by trawling through Foreign Office despatches freed up by the UK's Freedom on Information Act, and compiling them into anthologies that are equal parts wit, venom and analysis. Parting Shots, for example, bundled together reports drawn up by ambassadors after leaving their posts. These offered personal, frank and not altogether flattering views of host nations and the customs of their peoples.
Now comes a sequel, The Spanish Ambassador's Suitcase: Stories from the Diplomatic Bag (Viking), which continues in much the same vein. Here is an extract, a despatch, dated April 6 1943, from Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, British ambassador to Moscow, to Lord Pembroke of the Foreign Office in London: "My Dear Reggie, In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustafa Kunt.
"We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that."
If only Wikileaks were as diverting.
HERMAN Melville's Moby Dick is not only the great American novel but also the great unread American novel. A sprawling beast of a book, its power as a metaphorical crusade that, in the words of one scholar, "even now is a shorthand for overweening ambition and delusion", is perhaps the very reason we keep it at arm's length. That or laziness.
Now you can have it read to you. Leviathan author Philip Hoare has put together a project in which each of Moby Dick's 135 chapters will be available online, a new one narrated each day, free at www.mobydickbigread.com.
THE BOTTOM LINE
"We don't make music - it makes us. Which is maybe the point of this whole book." - How Music Works, by David Byrne (McSweeney's)