“Road Trip”

Sometimes volumes of poetry that focus on a single theme or issue seem to sacrifice the quality of the writing in favour of ‘the cause’. Marvin Thompson’s “Road Trip” is rooted in both place – Wales – and subject – being black in an essentially white environment – and succeeds by never making that sacrifice.… Read More “Road Trip”

“Rendang”

In spite of myself I actually liked Will Harris’ “Rendang”. ‘In spite of myself’? Well, there’s a lot in this volume which I would challenge as being poetry; perhaps it’s prose poetry at best. Yet there is much that is poetic (if that’s not paradoxical), and the lyric quality of the pieces – thoughtful, reminiscence,… Read More “Rendang”

“Tenth of December”

Perhaps to start with a caution. Even though “Tenth of December” is a collection of short stories, you are going to have to work at them. This is partly because of their gritty realism, and partly because of remarkably fluid style George Saunders chooses to write them in. Often you find a mixture of real… Read More “Tenth of December”

“Desire”

I can’t quite decide whether or not I should recommend this small Vintage ‘mini’ as a suitable introduction to the work of Haruki Murakami. The stories in “Desire” are more or less typical of his style and – interestingly – they give each of his major into-English translators a run-out too. (Through experience, I’ve found… Read More “Desire”

“The Porpoise”

If you’re expecting ‘weird’ right off the bat because “The Porpoise” is written by Mark Haddon (the legacy, perhaps, of “The Curious Incident…”) then the beginning lulls you into something of a false sense of security. Okay, the subject matter is undeniably dark, but the beginning feels like a straightforward narrative. But when the story… Read More “The Porpoise”

“Split”

If you asked me to find a single phrase to describe Juana Adcock’s “Split” I confess I would struggle. ‘It depends’ seems such a lame response… But it does. It depends, for example, on whether I’ve just read “The Task of the Translator” or “The Overburden”: one I liked, the second I did not. And… Read More “Split”

“Machines Like Me”

I confess to being slightly confused and ambivalent about Ian McEwan’s “Machines Like Me”. It seemed to vary between being good, and not so; between generating empathy for its characters, and then nothing at all. The only constant perhaps was my distaste for the android / synthetic human, Adam. But perhaps that was the point.… Read More “Machines Like Me”

“Dreams”

Okay, it’s my own fault. I should have read it at University nearly forty years ago when I was supposed to. But I thought “Hey, more chance of understanding it now”. “Dreams” is from the Vintage ‘mini’ series and contains two of Freud’s most famous essays: “On Dreams” (1901) and “Typical Dreams” (from The Interpretation… Read More “Dreams”

“Amsterdam”

Normally I would argue that a Booker Prize winning novel (or even finalist) would be a pretty decent yardstick for the oeuvre of an author, a good place to start. But having read “On Chesil Beach” and “Black Dogs”, I have to say Ian McEwan’s “Amsterdam” is far from that. Indeed, had I read “Amsterdam”… Read More “Amsterdam”

“Black Dogs”

Whether some elements of the central post-war event re-told at the end of Ian McEwan’s “Black Dogs” have any basis in reality is potentially irrelevant – and if you’ve read the book, you’ll probably have a good idea of the specific element I’m talking about! True or false, it doesn’t diminish the power of the… Read More “Black Dogs”

“Here We Are”

Ever since I read Graham Swift’s wonderful “Waterland” I’ve been completely hooked; his writing is something I can always reliably turn to. There are a few authors in that bracket for me – Murakami certainly, Julian Barnes, Donna Tartt, Swift himself – with a few others ‘coming up on the rails’: Ishiguro, Ali Smith, McEwan.… Read More “Here We Are”