“Rules of Civility”

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”

“Solar Cruise”

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”

“The Journalist”

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”

“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”


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”


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”


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”


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”