“Portnoy’s Complaint”

Usually I really like Philip Roth’s work, but I’m afraid “Portnoy’s Complaint” didn’t quite hit the spot. Written as one huge monologue, the language used – relaxed, conversational – certainly fits the bill; and having been promised something explosively funny, there were undeniably ‘laugh out loud’ moments. Having said that, however, the book poses a… Read More “Portnoy’s Complaint”

Why you shouldn’t believe everything an Amazon page says about a book…

As a writer and Indie Publisher I am always grateful that my distributor and the Nielsen book registration service have direct feeds into major on-line retailers. This facility means that, as soon as a book is published, it usually appears on global websites within 24-48 hours. However, what appears is only as good as the… Read More Why you shouldn’t believe everything an Amazon page says about a book…

“About Grace”

I hesitated before deciding to read Anthony Doerr’s “About Grace”; the blurb on the back cover suggested a novel that explored some dark and difficult emotional territory. And it did. I expected pain, helplessness, a sense of loss – all of which the novel delivered. And some of it was beautifully rendered: Winkler’s panic early… Read More “About Grace”

“in the event”

John Birtwhistle’s latest collection of poetry, “in the event”, is an intriguing and eclectic mix; a real pic’n’mix of the traditional and modern, the poetic and the prosaic. It is a ‘something for everyone’ kind of book. Which, in a way, is both a strength and a weakness. There are ‘statement’ pieces – the more… Read More “in the event”

“Sag Harbor”

[Spoiler alert, from the start.] There’s a famous quote from Alfred Hitchcock which goes something like: “if you show the audience a gun in Act 1, it has to be fired in Act 3”. Nothing should be superfluous. So when, about mid-way through “Sag Harbor”, Colson Whitehead’s main character references that one day he’ll be… Read More “Sag Harbor”

“Paper Aeroplane”

As my first real foray into the work of Simon Armitage, our Poet Laureate, I had expected fireworks from “Paper Aeroplane”… Unfortunately I found it more ‘Sparkler’ than giant ‘Roman Candle’. Several things struck me about this volume, a collection culled from twenty-one of Armitage’s other books: There didn’t seem to be any consistent ‘voice’… Read More “Paper Aeroplane”

“Everyman”

It seems to me that Philip Roth sits squarely within a tradition of great story-telling. I can imagine being in a quiet room with him and then he leans over and says “Let me tell you about this guy I know…” His work is conversational, relaxed; it is unfussy, unpretentious. Yet none of this stops… Read More “Everyman”

“Men Without Women”

I have, in the not too distant past, been less than complimentary about Ernest Hemingway (To Have and Have Not). Undaunted, I decided to try “Men Without Women”, and I confess to be really pleased to have done so. The stories are lean and enigmatic. The medium seems to suit Hemingway’s somewhat ‘punchy’ style, and… Read More “Men Without Women”

“The Gallows Pole”

It’s my own fault. The cover was plain enough: ‘Winner of the Walter Scott Prize’; ‘Historical fiction at its best’. And I never read historical fiction. So what was I doing with a copy of Benjamin Myers’ “The Gallows Pole”? I mean, really? And early doors my initial fears appeared to be justified. Some the… Read More “The Gallows Pole”

“Black Car Burning”

Helen Mort’s “Black Car Burning” is, quite simply, a remarkable book. Rarely do you come across a novel that is so rooted in place. The work of Joyce, Forster’s “A Passage to India”… Sheffield permeates “Black Car Burning”. It is a character in it’s own right – quite literally. And it seeps into every page.… Read More “Black Car Burning”

Speed-dating

OK. Let’s get a couple of things clear up front… This post isn’t about speed-dating Actually I’ve never had any experience of speed-dating, so if you hear anything to the contrary they are just vile rumours So, speed-dating. The ‘topic’ – or at least the title of the topic – comes from a recent post… Read More Speed-dating

“Grand Union”

There is a tremendous degree of variety in Zadie Smith’s short story collection, “Grand Union”. Variations in style, theme, tempo. There is also (for me at least) considerable variation in terms of what one might euphemistically – and dangerously! – bracket as ‘accessibility’. Some of the writing is breathtaking; some less so. A number of… Read More “Grand Union”

“Lanny”

If you’re the kind of person who flicks through a few pages of a book before you decide to buy it, then you might be put off by Max Porter’s “Lanny”. The way one of the character’s contributions are printed is, shall we say, a little ‘esoteric’; the font is variable, and the words bend… Read More “Lanny”

“The Nickel Boys”

Simply stunning. Having read “The Underground Railroad”, I confess to being a little reticent about deciding to read Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys”. I wasn’t sure that it would be quite ‘me’. Perhaps I was nervous that – as a white, middle class Brit – the book wouldn’t resonate with me, that I’d fail to… Read More “The Nickel Boys”