It seems lots of people are deserting WordPress for Substack, lured by the notion of creating ‘newsletters’ that people will pay to receive. That and knowing they’ll be rubbing virtual shoulders with famous names and literary goliaths – and the fact that Substack is currently ‘free’. So is it a good move? It’s tempting, of… Read More Substack: Nirvana or the Emperor’s New Clothes?
It was partly because I liked Richard Powers’ “The Overstory” so much that I tried as hard as I could to get through “Galatea 2.2” – but I simply couldn’t finish it, and gave up about a third of the way through. It has been a while since I last had to admit defeat like… Read More “Galatea 2.2”
It is easy to see why David Diop’s relentlessly dark “At Night All Blood Is Black” won the 2021 International Booker Prize. The novel is suitably dark and brooding, an examination of one man’s decline into madness as he and his French compatriots fight in the trenches of World War One. Alfa’s Senegalese roots permeates… Read More “At Night All Blood Is Black”
The Binding of the Sea would the tide never stop coming in inching ever higher as the months passed there were only two roads out each burdened with over-familiarity all novelty quagmire-sunk as if the peninsula had capitulated and the sea invaded the land going further afield they sought pubs in out-of-the-way locations explorers for… Read More The Binding of the Sea
I went for a run first thing this morning. Nothing too dramatic. A gentle jog to test out my aching left achilles’ tendon. Or is it the calf muscle? And I was reminded – inevitably – how my running used to be… My best ever time for 10k was a little over 46 minutes; I… Read More Holding on or letting go? The Worthwhile Life: 2
How do you know if you have lived a ‘worthwhile’ life? When you look back on how you have spent the time gifted you, how do you judge if it has been time ‘well-spent’, ‘worthy’, ‘good’, virtuous’, ‘positive’…? You pick the adjective because the supply is almost endless! Which ones you choose will depend on… Read More Has it been a worthwhile life..?
Elsewhere I have observed how – to my palette at least – some books have not aged well in terms of their writing style. In the case of Alain-Fournier’s “Le Grand Meaulnes” I find a novel that has not travelled well both in terms of style and plot. Indeed, I was most struck by how… Read More “Le Grand Meaulnes”
Having already read three novels by Colum McCann, perhaps one of the best compliments I can pay “Songdogs” is to say that it simply doesn’t read like a debut novel. It is inevitable that in many first novels Authors are finding their feet, only growing into themselves and establishing their voice and presence as they… Read More “Songdogs”
Like many thousands of other young people in the UK, today my son has received his A-level exam grades and had it confirmed that he is going off to the university of his choice. I am – of course – proud of him. Thinking back to my own time at university, the thing for which… Read More “Call me Ishmael….”
If you were to ask me what I like best about writing prose then the answer is simple: making people. There is nothing quite like that feeling of giving life to a previously non-existent character, of forming them, building their history, giving them emotions, ambitions, plans. For each and every one of them the potential… Read More Why I love making people…
“By no means a conventional crime story” – according to the blurb on my copy of Olga Tokarczuk’s “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”. Let’s face it, a conventional crime story is the last thing you’d expect to emerge from the slightly surreal worlds of the Nobel Prize winning Tokarczuk. And in… Read More “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”
If Max Porter’s “The Death of Francis Bacon” is intended to represent the ravings of a dying man, then job done. Tick. The danger – from a reader’s perspective, however – is that you’re not entirely sure exactly what’s going on. There is a balance to be struck, of course, a tightrope to be walked,… Read More “The Death of Francis Bacon”
There is an immediacy about childhood. We are impatient, fickle; we want today’s new thing, an ice cream, to go to the park. And we always want them now. For young children, tomorrow simply doesn’t exist. Then things change. School does that to us. It introduces us to “school days”, “weekends”, “holidays”; eventually it becomes… Read More Short-term, long-term, short-term; the Shifting Horizons of our lives
The final instalment of Ali Smith’s quartet, “Summer”, is lorded on the front cover of my copy as ‘a tour de force’ – and for once the publishers are not wrong. In many ways “Summer” is an extraordinary achievement: stylistically inventive, politically astute and opinionated, accomplished in the depiction of character and relationships… Yes, it… Read More “Summer”
It would be a little disingenuous for me to say that I’ve no idea why I chose to read Anne Tyler’s “Redhead by the Side of the Road”. I chose it because the front cover boasted Booker long-listing; the back cover made it sound interesting; and it was on the ‘buy-one-get-one-half-price’ table at Waterstones. There.… Read More “Redhead by the Side of the Road”
Ocean Vuong’s novel, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”, pulls few punches. The subject matter almost demands it does not: homosexuality, the Vietnam war, being a post-war Vietnamese resident in the US, old age, love and death. Not a cocktail of subjects which lends itself to kid gloves perhaps. And given that cocktail, there could be… Read More “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”
With the exception of a couple of short stints in Europe and the Far East, I have lived in the UK all my life. This is where my – extended – family lives, and is home to the vast majority of my friends and ex-work colleagues. Two weeks ago I published my latest novel, On… Read More Home is (not) where the sales are…
If you’re like me, there will be music you listen to which reflects your mood – particularly at the extremes. Right now The Cure’s “Galore” is blasting out of my stereo, one of my ‘go to’ albums when I’m in a really good mood. Today the weather’s great, I went for a run first thing,… Read More Music: the barometer of your Happy Place?
Whether conventional or not, I’d just like to recognise those people who have bought my latest novel, “On Parliament Hill”, in the last week. So, “Thank you”. It means a lot to me. When you don’t have some massive publishing behemoth behind you driving publicity, working with bookshops etc., your readers – inevitably in smaller… Read More Is it acceptable to say ‘Thank You’?
Kevin Barry’s “Night Boat to Tangier” is, in many ways, an exceptional book. The first thing that hits you is the style in which it is written: unconventional; short, punchy sentences; lacking much of the traditional format of a novel. To be honest, this can be off-putting. For example, initially I was annoyed by the… Read More “Night Boat to Tangier”