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Latest news and features from, the world's leading liberal voice

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    Hackney-born actor in final talks over role in Jon Favreau's live-action/CGI take on Rudyard Kipling's 1894 fable

    Idris Elba is in final talks to provide the gruff yet mellifluous tones of the tiger Shere Khan in Disney's remake of classic animation The Jungle Book, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

    Iron Man director Jon Favreau's live-action/CGI take on Rudyard Kipling's 1894 fable is one of two competing versions proposed by Hollywood. Rival studio Warner Bros has tapped Oscar-winner Ron Howard to direct a separate project based on a screenplay by Harry Potter stalwart Steve Kloves.

    Disney is also said to be looking for a mixed-race actor to play Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves in the jungles of central India. The studio will focus on the Kipling story Mowgli's Brothers. Other fables by the writer, such as the story of heroic mongoose Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and the tale of elephant handler Toomai, are likely once again to be ignored.

    Disney's own 1967 animated musical, featuring the voice of George Sanders as Shere Khan, is the most famous on-screen incarnation of The Jungle Book. Lesser-known, live-action versions were also made in 1942 and 1994.

    Elba recently received excellent reviews for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in Justin Chadwick's Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The Hackney-born actor also has crime thriller No Good Deed and thriller The Gunman due in cinemas this year.© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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    "A certain amount of exaggeration is legitimate, even necessary, but exaggeration does not mean falsification."

    That was a quote by the editor of the Daily Express, RD Blumenfeld, at the dawn of popular journalism in the 20th century, well before the creation of red-top tabloids.

    It reminds us that the narrowly drawn and subjective justifications for sensationalism have enjoyed a long history. And it is just one of the gems to be mined in a book about two largely forgotten editors from Fleet Street's past, Blum & Taff: A tale of two editors*.

    Blumenfeld edited the Express for 27 years from 1902, notably encouraging a Canadian adventurer, Max Aitken, to buy the then ailing paper. Aitken was to become famous and influential when ennobled as Lord Beaverbrook.

    Taff was the nickname of the Welsh-born HA Gwynne, editor of the Morning Post for 26 years until it was absorbed into the Daily Telegraph in 1937.

    Neither man has been the subject of a biography so Dennis Griffiths has put that right with this lengthy tome. He tells how, for 40 years, the two men were close friends and near-neighbours in rural Essex.

    Prior to becoming editors, they earned their spurs as reporters. Blum reported on revolution in Haiti for Gordon Bennett Jr's New York Herald. Gwynne was a war correspondent who covered several conflicts in west Africa, the Greco-Turkish war and the Boer war for The Times and Reuters.

    Once they secured their editors' chairs they became hugely influential figures. Between them they knew every prime minister from Gladstone to Churchill.

    Both were friendly with Conan Doyle and Rider Haggard. Rudyard Kipling was a life-long friend of Gwynne's while Blum was close to HG Wells. Both were also on good terms with business moguls such as Gordon Selfridge.

    Aside from the mingling with celebrity, these men were also involved in the kinds of controversies that have a resonance today. It was, for example, Gwynne, who was responsible for publishing, in 1920, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-semitic hoax that purported to describe a Jewish plan for global domination.

    And Blumenfeld lent his paper's enthusiastic support to the illegal importation into Ireland of guns for the Ulster Volunteers in 1914.

    Griffiths, a prolific newspaper historian, has certainly rescued history with this book, illustrating that editors of a century ago who were desperate to win sales while obeying their proprietor's political wishes were little different from those of today.

    *Blum & Taff: A tale of two editors by Dennis Griffiths (Coranto Press, RRP £25)© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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    Hobbit actor to make directorial debut on one of two duelling Rudyard Kipling adaptations

    • Idris Elba to voice Shere Khan in Disney remake of The Jungle Book

    Andy Serkis will make his directorial debut on one of the two rival Jungle Book movies now being readied by Hollywood studios.

    Serkis takes over Warner Bros' version of the Rudyard Kipling stories, a project that had at an earlier stage seen directors Ron Howard and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu involved. The Warner Bros project is said to be "darker" than its rival, which is set up at Disney, and which would appear to be ahead in the race to reach cinemas. That film announced some time ago that Iron Man's Jon Favreau was its director, and more recently that Idris Elba was attached to voice the tiger Shere Khan.

    As a first timer, Serkis may be a risky choice for a big budget family movie, but the actor and CG motion capture specialist won plaudits for his second unit direction on Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, which included putting together the celebrated barrel sequence in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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    Just So Stories was the first book that Michael Morpurgo loved as a child. As a writer for children himself, he marvels at the inventiveness and ingenuity of the stories

    My copy of Just So Stories, in its brick-red cover with the Elephant's Child straining away with all his might to escape the jaws of the Crocodile on the banks of "the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River", the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake in close attendance, was the first book I truly loved. My mother was an actress, who had performed in rep all over the country, including a season or two at Stratford. But by the time I was born, my mother had stopped acting to become a full-time mother. So my elder brother Pieter and I were for a while, for that critical time when reading to children in bed is so important, the only audience she had. She just had to open the book and she would become by turns every character inside those pages: she was Rudyard Kipling telling the tale; she was the Camel acquiring his hump, the Rhinoceros getting his skin, the Elephant's Child growing his trunk by Crocodile means and she was the Cat that Walked by Himself.

    She played the whole orchestra, every instrument from the kettle-drum to the piccolo; she was the conductor and the composer. And because all these stories are "told" as opposed to "written" (although the writing is sublime; it is what makes the stories feel so wonderfully "told") every one of them felt personal, and as if newly invented by my mother each time she told them to us. She made the words (how Kipling loves to play with the sounds and rhythms of words) sing on the air, and she made them laugh too. The poetry of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear both also great favourites of my mother for our bedside reading had the same effect on me. But compared even with them, Kipling was always the master of laughing words.

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    Scholar unearths trove of unpublished work by poet voted Britain's favourite

    Kipling scholars are celebrating the publication of lost poems by the author whose exhortations in "If" to "keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you" are regularly voted the nation's favourite poem. Discovered by the American scholar Thomas Pinney in an array of hiding places including family papers, the archive of a former head of the Cunard Line and during renovations at a Manhattan house, more than 50 previously unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling will be released for the first time next month.

    The collection includes several poems dating from the first world war, which Kipling initially supported, helping his son John to gain a commission in the Irish Guards.

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    A letter by the author has surfaced in which he writes that 'it is extremely possible I have helped myself promiscuously'

    A letter in which Rudyard Kipling admits that "it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously" from other stories when writing The Jungle Book has been put up for sale.

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    Kipling was no plagiarist. Creative originality takes many forms, and many forms can be remade from originals

    Shocked headlines have reported that a newly discovered letter by Rudyard Kipling"admits plagiarising" parts of "Law of the Jungle", which appears in The Jungle Book. Actually, the letter as quoted admits nothing of the kind. Kipling is evidently responding to a reader, and although we don't know what question was asked, we can infer that Kipling found it somewhat asinine from the dismissive tone of his reply. "A little of it is bodily taken from (Southern) Esquimaux rules for the division of spoils. In fact, it is extremely possible that I have helped myself promiscuously but at present cannot remember from whose stories I have stolen." Given that "Law of the Jungle" offers mock-epic commandments governing wolves' behaviour, we might not think it strange that Kipling declined to produce his anthropological evidence for Wolf Council ordinances.

    But even if he had, it would not constitute plagiarism. The fact is that most writers are magpies, borrowing and reworking source material from wherever they find it. Shakespeare's reliance on various older chronicles for his characters and plots is a commonplace, and it would be ludicrous to suggest that in Paradise Lost Milton was "plagiarising" the story of Genesis. When Amy Heckerling updated and reworked Emma into her 1995 film Clueless, she was not plagiarising Jane Austen, she was creating an imaginary conversation with a classic novel. If I'd opened this piece by writing, "To steal or not to steal, that is the question," the only literary misconduct of which I would be guilty is cliche, not "plagiary", to use the word's older form.

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    Studio to return Rudyard Kipling's tale to big screen at same time as Warner Bros plans rival adaptation

    Disney is planning a live-action take on The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling's iconic collection of fables that inspired the classic animation of the same name.

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    A trove of 2,500 photographs taken by Christina Broom, the UK's first female press photographer, is on show at museum

    The grinning young officer with the thick spectacles is called Jack, and it was because of his terrible eyesight that his father had to pull strings to get him into the army and out to the western front. A year after the image was taken he was dead at the Battle of Loos.

    The father in question was Rudyard Kipling who, as is well known, was racked with guilt over the death, writing about it in his poem My Boy Jack.

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    In Kipling's classic boy's own spy story, an orphan in British India must make a choice between east and west

    Robert McCrum introduces the series

    Kim, Kipling's extraordinarily topical masterpiece, has one of the most brilliant openings in this series: "He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Ghar the Wonder Horse, as the natives call the Lahore museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that 'fire-breathing dragon', hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze piece is always first of the conqueror's loot."

    "He" is Kimball O'Hara ("Kim"), an imperial orphan scavenging a hand-to-mouth existence in the India of the British Raj at the end of the 19th century. The "Great Game" (Anglo-Russian rivalry in central Asia, including the territory now known as AfPak), is afoot, with memories of the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-81) still vivid. Some passages of the novel, indeed, could almost have been written last year. Kipling's Kim is so untamed and sunburned that very few see him as white, or even know that his father was a sergeant in the Mavericks and that his mother was a poor Irish girl carried off by cholera. So Kim represents the meeting of east and west, one of Kipling's obsessions, whose ethnic duality will be exploited in the covert war between Britain and Russia that provides the backdrop to this novel.

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  • 05/17/14--10:30: The rules
  • An etiquette guide to holding your nerve

    Rudyard Kipling famously advised keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. This is easier said than done when everyone has good reason to be losing their heads, especially when that reason is indeed you. This is likely to be the case if you are supposed to be in charge, since your failure to inspire anything but panic in your followers suggests you have been promoted beyond your natural level of competence.

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    Neel Sethi is to star in CGI-heavy adaptation that will also feature Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba

    Andy Serkis to direct rival Jungle Book movie

    Disney has cast a 10-year-old New Yorker as Mowgli in the studio's remake of The Jungle Book.

    Neel Sethi, who has no previous professional acting experience, will be the only actor to appear on-screen in the mixed live-action and animation movie. The other animals in the Indian jungle will be created in CGI. Sethi was picked from thousands of children who auditioned in the US, Canada and the UK.

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    Cumberbatch is to voice the purring baddie in Serkiss version of The Jungle Book, which competes with Jon Favreaus alternate take, in which Elba plays Mowglis arch-enemy

    Benedict Cumberbatch will voice the villainous tiger Shere Khan in Andy Serkiss version of the Jungle Book, one of two competing takes on the iconic Rudyard Kipling tale being put together in Hollywood.

    Serkis is making his directing debut on Warner Bross reimagination of Kiplings 1894 fable, which will arrive in cinemas on 21 October 2016. A separate version from Disney, with Jon Favreau in charge of the cameras and Idris Elba lined up to voice Shere Khan, is due 12 months earlier.

    Shere Khan, a nefarious man-eating tiger who views Kiplings hero Mowgli as his lifelong enemy, was voiced by George Sanders in Disneys animated 1967 musical version of The Jungle Book, thus far the most famous incarnation. Both new films appear to be based largely on the chapter Mowgli and his Brothers in Kiplings book, which has traditionally been used as the source material for a number of Hollywood adaptations over the years.

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    Actors will voice Bagheera and Kaa in Andy Serkis's directorial debut, alongside Naomie Harris and Benedict Cumberbatch

    When Hollywood powerhouse Disney cast Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Idris Elba and Ben Kingsley in its forthcoming remake of The Jungle Book, not to mention Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o and Avengers star Scarlett Johansson, the studio most likely expected the makers of a proposed rival version to blink and down tools. Now it appears the studio may have not quite realised who they were dealing with, after Britain's Andy Serkis named a cavalcade of A-list stars, including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Naomie Harris and Benedict Cumberbatch, on his team for the upcoming The Jungle Book: Origins, which is being backed by rival firm Warner Bros.

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    It is October 1909 and Rudyard Kipling, Britains first author to win the Nobel prize, is writing to his son, who is away at public school. Setting pen to paper at Batemans, his home in Burwash, Sussex, Kipling said: Dear old man. It has been a gay and hectic week. When I left my fathers house on Tuesday at 10am it was raining awfully, and it never stopped for an instant all the way.

    One hundred and twenty-eight miles of motoring in a downpour that wetted  everything to the skin. The motor came back to Batemans one solid clot of mud. Well! That was only the beginning of the  fun! I had an idea we should have a bit of a flood in the valley but I had no notion we should have the worst flood since 1852!

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    To celebrate Book Week Scotland, the creator of Katie Morag shares the books that made their mark on her when she was growing up

    Being a war baby (born in 1939) there were not many children’s books in my early childhood years. The Bible, several, some translated by my paternal missionary grandfather into Congolese dialects, were always to the fore. Add to that a strong Scottish Presbyterian and national ethic, total ignorance of the classics of Potter (Beatrix) and Eeyore et al, and this is what makes this list somewhat strange and bizarre. Maybe sad.

    1. Chicks Own annual

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    The glorious Paddington film has got us hankering for more bears in books. The Book Doctor recommends great bears in children’s fiction, from Winne-the-Pooh to Rupert!

    We went on a family outing to see the film of Paddington and all – from grandparents down to a two year old – loved it! It made us wonder about other popular bears in children’s stories. Can you give us other good books about bears?

    Bears have long been very popular in children’s books. If you forget that they are actually very big and heavy and can be very fierce, they seem to be remarkably loveable! Part of their popularity may lie in the fact that they walk on two legs and not four which makes them seem closer to humans than some other animals.

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    Vivian French grew up in a world full of crazy stories, limericks, inaccurate nursery rhymes and dreadful poetry thanks to her inspirational father, who also introduced her to the genius of the Just So Stories – and that’s how she fell in love with writing her own

    Who, or what, inspired me? H’m… to be honest, I have a bit of a problem with the word “inspiration.” To me it smacks of unicorns and rainbows and tinkly silver bells, and lady authoresses (is that a word?) draped with gauzy veils gazing out at misty sunsets, and I’m not happy with that. I think of myself as someone who works with words, as against wood and glue and nails; it’s what I do - I’m no different from a carpenter.

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    From Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to JM Barrie’s Peter Pan to LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, the first lines of these Puffin classics are famous in their own right. But how many have you read and how many do you know?

    You can win a complete set of 20 re-issued Puffin classics with their gorgeous new covers by entering our giveaway comp. Details at the end of the gallery

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    Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

    Welcome to this week’s blog. Here’s a roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

    daylightsimulator shared:

    It’s taken me three weeks to get to page 174 of Elizabeth Bowen’s second world war novel In the Heat of the Day. Its endless ambiguity makes it the most putdownable book I’ve ever read. It’s impossible to read more than twenty pages without a kind of mental peasouper descending (the fog of war?). The phrase “or rather” seems to follow every observation or thought. There are more commas on one page than in Cormac McCarthy’s entire oeuvre. This doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it. On the contrary, it’s a treat to see how a writer can evoke and sustain a feeling of limitless opacity. I think this book was popular at the time it was published, but can imagine it would get little public interest today.

    It deserves all the plaudits it has received. It’s one of those occasions when a wildly experimental form just works. It’s written in short separated paragraphs; tiny vignettes, asides and quotes from other writers, depicting a relationship in crisis. It’s extraordinarily funny in places, and moving in others. Although it is so fragmentary, each seemingly random observation builds on the last, and it really does feel like you’ve read something wholly original.

    I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel just before Christmas, and Zweig went back on my reading list as a result. This is my first attempt at Zweig (and my first post on this blog!), and I’m really enjoying it. A faux pas by an Austrian cavalry officer leads to him becoming entangled with the local nobility.

    I’m interspersing this with The Global Minotaur (by the Greek finance minister Y Varouflakis) as well as the 80p Penguin little black classic of Circles of Hell (extract of Dante’s Inferno). I’d highly recommend The Global Minotaur. A book to make one think (whether or not you agree with Varouflakis!).

    I first picked the book up about three years ago, but gave up fairly quickly. This time I began it on the beach, which meant more time to persevere and I am so glad I did. Somewhere around page 200 the strands began to come together and it became one helluva good read. Yes, it’s a little wordy, but they’re really good words. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes long reads and doesn’t mind working a little bit for their entertainment!

    well, I've almost finished Lucy Hughes-Hallett's 'The Pike', a really fascinating account of the life Gabriele D'Annunzio, what a nutter! Also been dipping into H.V. Mortons 'A Traveller in Rome', so evocative, beautifully written. And as for the 1906 'Every Boys Book of British Natural History', well, it tells you how to build a camera for 14 shillings, then how to photograph wildlife with it, amazing!

    Sent via GuardianWitness

    There, amongst the shiny children’s books and DIY manuals, was an unexpected gem – Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, still a virgin with no stamps inside the cover. Joy. Just finished it and couldn’t do anything else but read it … Kids had defrosted and heated food, dishes remained unwashed, cats and dogs lost weight, husband turned into a reluctant au pair … Nothing came between me and sheets of Colorless. There is very little on this planet to compare to reading Murakami for the first time. [...] Burrowing into the mind of a Japanese 31 year old shy man and reading his thoughts, his paranoia and his hurt made me very happy. What strange creatures we are.

    Found the 1972 Turkish edition of Straw Dogs in my library

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