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”
If you wanted to call a book ‘hard-hitting’, then Philip Roth’s “I Married a Communist” would be right up there. Not necessarily in the sense of the message it conveys – though that in itself is naked and raw – but in the unrelenting and merciless power of the language. At times you feel as… Read More “I Married a Communist”
Perhaps it is inevitable that a novel which relates the experiences of a man spending his life entirely ensconced in a Moscow hotel is somewhat episodic, at times reading more like a collection of little vignettes than anything else. If so, then the fact that Amor Towles’ “A Gentleman in Moscow” is c.450 pages long… Read More “A Gentleman in Moscow”
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”
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”
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”
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”
Perhaps it’s an inevitable question. Having just completed the first stage (on-screen) of a three-cycle review and proofreading activity, the default question I always ask myself – perhaps more subconsciously than not – is do I like what I’ve written? Reasonably short at c. 140 paperback pages and around 52k words, my next novel represents… Read More After the first review: do I like what I’ve written?
Very good. Quite simply, Christy Lefteri’s “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” is one of those books you should read; not just because it is well-written, but because of the subject matter. As an ex-NGO in a Greek refugee camp in Athens, filled with asylum seekers from various nations, Lefteri knows what she’s talking about – and… Read More “The Beekeeper of Aleppo”
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”
I am scheduled to be interviewed next week by the internet-based UK radio station, ‘Chat and Spin’. They regularly interview writers, musicians, artists and the like, a ten-minute slot which gives you a chance to talk about your work. Looking forward to it – even if it is live and not pre-recorded! The slot is… Read More Radio Interview next week!
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”
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”
On the 19th December I started work on something that – as is often the case – was no more than a vague notion, a few opening sentences. On Monday, just under four months later, I finished the first draft of a new, relatively small novel (c. 52k words, about 150 paperback pages). I have… Read More The result of four months’ work…
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”
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”
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”
This week – Monday 30th March to Friday 3rd April – Amazon are giving away free Kindle copies of my collection of short stories, “Secrets & Wisdom”. So today’s the last day! Recently I read one of the stories from this volume, “Welshman” (see the link below). Now you have the chance to get the… Read More Free e-book this week – last chance!
Kwame Dawes and John Kinsella’s “Tangling with the Epic” is probably, above all, ‘clever’. It is a dialogue between the two comprised entirely of Spenserian stanzas, batted backwards and forwards across a literary net. It is clever in the sense of its formulaic execution, of sticking to the brief. But for me it is also… Read More “Tangling with the Epic”
This week – Monday 30th March to Friday 3rd April – Amazon are giving away free Kindle copies of my collection of short stories, “Secrets & Wisdom”. Recently I read one of the stories from this volume, “Welshman” (see the link below). Now you have the chance to get the whole collection absolutely free! Partly… Read More Free e-book this week!