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LITERATURE

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Christopher Hitchens' wit and warmth remembered as New York pays tribute. "Little Keith" called him a suffering auto-contrarian and likened him to Houdini; Graydon Carter said he was a "bit of a scallywag" but an editor's dream; and the doctor who treated him for the cancer of the oesophagus that killed him said he was a "pioneer at the frontier".

Christopher Hitchens' wit and warmth remembered as New York pays tribute

Toni Morrison: 'I want to feel what I feel. Even if it's not happiness' I first met Toni Morrison about 15 years ago, to talk about her seventh novel, Paradise, an encounter I remember largely for its number of terrifying pauses.

Toni Morrison: 'I want to feel what I feel. Even if it's not happiness'

Morrison, in her late 60s then, was at the height of her powers, a Nobel laureate with a famously low tolerance for journalists and critics, and a personal style as distinctive as her prose: silver dreadlocks, sharp, unwavering eye contact and a manner of speech – when she did speak – that, to her annoyance, people were wont to call poetry. Now she sits in her publisher's office in New York, the city laid out beneath her. She looks as grand as ever, but there have been changes. Literally, the wrong use of the word. The Today programme on Radio 4 had a fascinating debate on the misuse of the word literally.

Literally, the wrong use of the word

You can hear the whole thing here and it's well worth a listen. It seems to have been prompted by this prime example from the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, on Saturday, when he said: It makes people so incredibly angry when you are getting up early in the morning, working really hard to try and do the right thing for your family and for your community, you are paying your taxes and then you see people literally in a different galaxy who are paying extraordinarily low rates of tax.

One guest on Radio 4 pointed out that that is quite a long way for someone to go just for a tax avoidance scheme. Among the other examples quoted on the Today programme was the TV celebrity Ulrika Jonsson, when talking about the Swedish system of child custody after divorce, said that they "literally will split the child in half to live one week with the mother ... " @dangerhere suggested: @GromKath suggested: 12.10pm: A Point of View: Mourning the loss of the written word.

3 February 2012Last updated at 18:42 The modernist writer Virginia Woolf called letter writing "the humane art, which owes its origins in the love of friends".

A Point of View: Mourning the loss of the written word

In our frenetic world of electronic communication, we must remember to write with thought and consideration, says historian Lisa Jardine. In these days of email, texts and instant messaging, I am not alone, I feel sure, in mourning the demise of the old-fashioned handwritten letter. Exchanges of letters capture nuances of shared thought and feeling to which their electronic replacements simply cannot do justice. Will Self's book, Cock and Bull. These two postmodern stories from 1993 have remained under my radar until now.

Will Self's book, Cock and Bull

Will Self writes irony and challenges gender roles along the way with immaculately timed black humour. Winged with Death - a review. Winged With Death by John Baker, Flambard Press (2009) ISBN 978-1906601027, 291pp £8.98 ‘It was 1972 and I was eighteen years old.

Winged with Death - a review

I had jumped ship and watched while she sailed away.’ The narrator’s account of his decade in Uruguay gets off to a running start. A young man in a remote country is a recipe for picaresque adventures, and Montevideo is seething with political violence and sweating with the tango. On his very first day young Frederick runs into Tupamaros member Julio, gets a job washing dishes, and accepts the name Ramon Bolio. Ramon is in the privileged position of being able to mingle at all levels of society. There is something unsettling about this young Ramon – a man with no fixed beliefs who is so easily able to cast aside his English habits. The French women who defied the Nazis and survived Auschwitz. A flabby mass of clichés. Soon Chandler was let go; his drafts largely discarded.

A flabby mass of clichés

He wrote the following angry letter to Hitchcock some time later, after reading the final script. (Source: The Raymond Chandler Papers (2000); Image: A Certain Cinema.) Letters of Note. Christopher Hitchens quotes: the writer's most memorable bons mots. "The four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobster, anal sex and picnics.

Christopher Hitchens quotes: the writer's most memorable bons mots

" – the New Yorker, 2006 "[George W Bush] is lucky to be governor of Texas. Reflections of a working writer and reader. Haruki Murakami: How a Japanese writer conquered the world. 17 October 2011Last updated at 12:26 By Stephanie Hegarty BBC World Service.

Haruki Murakami: How a Japanese writer conquered the world

POETRY

Haruki Murakami: 'I took a gamble and survived' 1Q84, Haruki Murakami's new novel, is 1,000 pages long and is published in three volumes.

Haruki Murakami: 'I took a gamble and survived'

It took the author three years to write and it is possible, on an 11-hour flight from New York to Honolulu, to get through about half of it. Murakami looks crestfallen on receipt of this news – the ratio of writing to reading time is never very encouraging for a writer – and yet if anything tests a novel's power to transport, it is reading it at the back of economy on a full flight over long haul. For those 11 hours, you disappear wholly into Murakami world.