I wonder if that’s what ‘Life’ does, getting in the way, forcing us to take our eyes off the ball, allowing us to forget what’s important… In many respects it’s also the easy option, isn’t it? A kind of abdication. Knowing what matters to us, believing in it, keeping the faith – all of that… Read More Rediscovering what’s important?
“Thirteen Ways of Looking” is the novella headlining this collection where it is joined by three much shorter stories. Although the subject matter of each is different, they all share a number of characteristics like tone, voice and style. More importantly, they also have in common the fact that they are really well-written. I admit… Read More “Thirteen Ways of Looking”
Call me old-fashioned, but… I’m currently reading a novel – a proper novel, published by a reputable and global publishing company – in which a heinous crime has been committed: an instance of the 21st-century malaise of using ‘amount’ when one should use ‘number’. Who got it wrong? The author in the first place? Or… Read More Number vs. Amount: why is it so difficult?
We often encounter difficulty when trying to reconcile our memories of events with what actually happened. In the almost inevitable mis-match, our mind plays tricks on us, and what we have recently learned and how we have recently lived gets in the way and colours the past. Pressed to recall his own life, the challenge… Read More My latest novel – “A Pattern of Sorts” – published today!
There’s an interesting debate about cross-sex writing, isn’t there? It seems to me the popular wisdom is that a man can’t write as a woman, but a woman can write as a man. No. That’s too simplistic. Perhaps is should be qualified: it’s easier for a woman to write as a first-person male narrator than… Read More “Rules of Civility”
Not for me, I’m afraid. I managed about a third of Claire Crowther’s “Solar Cruise”. Perhaps the subject – being so scientific – doesn’t lend itself to poetry; but I’m sure it isn’t just words like ‘nucleus’ or ‘electron’ which put the breaks on the poetic. The layout of some of the pieces – you… Read More “Solar Cruise”
In many ways, Harry Matthews “The Journalist” is a remarkable achievement. Having said that, I suspect three-quarters of people who start to read the book may not make it all the way through to the end… “The Journalist” is not about someone who writes for newspapers or appears on television, but rather a man who… Read More “The Journalist”
My new novel, “A Pattern of Sorts”, is published early in August. We often encounter difficulty when trying to reconcile our memories of events with what actually happened. In the almost inevitable mis-match, our mind plays tricks on us, and what we have recently learned and how we have recently lived gets in the way… Read More A Pattern of Sorts
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”