Helen Macdonald has opened her soul, and unlike most of us, is able to articulate its pain and its healing with a beautiful and haunting power.
“if our secrets define us, as opposed to the face we show the world: then the painting was the secret that raised me above the surface of life and enabled me to know who I am. And it’s there: in my notebooks, every page, even though it’s not. Dream and magic, magic and delirium. The […]
Minor spoilers regarding early part of novel ahead… I’ve not personally overdosed on zombie movies/games/books/TV shows/tee shirts etc. but because the rest of the world has, I’ve got a second-hand kind of weariness of it, so much so I have tried to avoid it. I’ve done the odd George Romero, loved Shaun of the Dead […]
I’d been putting off trying to articulate my thoughts on Adam Tooze’s masterful analysis of global history from 1916-1931, The Deluge, because, being so ignorant about that era, I wasn’t sure what I could say other than ‘read it, it’ll educate ya’, for fear of drawing incorrect or misleading conclusions from this densely detailed and […]
This post contains Game of Thrones spoilers, for, well, almost all of it, along with the movie adaptation of The Mist and the opening of the Mayor of Casterbridge, oh and possibly King Lear. Yep, I think that’s it.
I was captivated by the gorgeous artwork when it first popped up in my Steam shop window. A quick scan of some reviews was enough for me to buy it. Then, as I’ve been rather busy, I shelved it until now. After ten minutes I was utterly immersed. The Banner Saga, by the Texas based […]
This book has no right to be a debut. It’s exhilarating, a tour de force. The Quantum Thief is a heist thriller the threads of which are woven into a sinuous and densely realised future. It’s a challenging read, I’ll admit hard to follow in places, as Hannu Rajaniemi displaces the awesome intelligence and agency […]
I recently read, back to back, Ben Aaranovitch’s Rivers of London and Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, the latter a long overdue read for me as a fantasy author. It was because of their similarities that I’m writing about (and recommending them) together.
It had been a long time since I listened to The KLF’s ‘Chill Out’ album. I was trying to drown out one of the many satirical teenage comedies on Nick Jr. my daughter loves in order to get a redraft of my novel finished. It’s a beautiful album, but hearing it after so many years made […]
I’ve read a lot of complaints over Peter Jackson taking a short book and making a trilogy out of it merely to screw us all for extra cash. Bullshit. Well, mostly. I don’t doubt it makes Time Warner a heap more money and I don’t doubt that to get all the big stars on board […]
Here, by Richard McGuire, is no less than the zenith of the graphic novel as an art form. It is one of the most profound things I’ve read.
News coverage of Isis and Gaza recently has reminded me of Henry Fonda. Specifically, the Henry Fonda thought experiment in Judith Jarvis Thomson’s landmark (and quite brilliant) paper ‘A Defense of Abortion’.1 For Thomson it’s a quite ghastly aside, the rejection of which (proximity to a moral issue has a bearing on one’s moral feeling) […]
Hopefully all China Miéville’s novels are as original and engaging as this one. The City & The City is on one level a standard ‘detective investigating death of girl uncovers big conspiracy’ story, but Miéville has decided to weave the tale into a quite unique milieu.
How do you know what to believe? The internet has fragmented the ancient institutions that have shaped and disseminated knowledge and it has democratized facts in a way never before seen in human history. When deciding what to believe, and by corollary what moral and practical courses of action derive from those beliefs, anyone with […]
If the horror genre is a journey, then House* of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, is its destination. I say this not only because it is an attempt to get at the fundament of what is horrifying, but also because the nature of the attempt is an audacious, remarkably intelligent and emotionally satisfying weaving of […]
Hearing that I hadn’t read any of Gabriel García Márquez’s work, when his death was announced, a friend kindly bought me this, as he had Wolf Hall. Clearly, he knows what’s good for me. This twentieth century classic in the magical realist tradition was my first foray into the realm, unless Calvino’s If On A […]
Ricky Gervais’s new series of Derek has once again divided viewers and critics. The show is a sentimental ‘mockumentary’ following, principally, four characters in a nursing home for the elderly. I loved the first series, the final episode being as moving as the christmas special of The Office. Many of the criticisms stem from a […]
Replay, by Ken Grimwood, tackles the classic ‘What if…’ scenario: “What if I could live my life over again?” It treads a path between the wonderful Star Trek episode ‘The Inner Light’ and Groundhog Day. Jeff, the book’s protagonist, is going to ‘replay’ his life more than once, unlike Picard; but unlike Phil Connors, he’s […]
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, is a masterpiece. It is one of the best books I will ever read. I know this because I’ve lost count of the times I’ve paused over a page, muttered ‘Fuck off’ at the sheer and dazzling quality and control of the form and the narrative, and then carried on reading, […]
As someone learning the craft of writing, and leaving it rather late to do so, I need to read widely, and read writing of good quality so that I may learn from it. It was inevitable I would become a neurotic reader. Anyone with a passion for books has or will come to the realisation […]
So, I’ve popped my Haruki Murakami cherry, having heard from a number of different sources about this writer and his cult following and magical prose. Norwegian Wood is a story, set in Japan, of a teenage boy, Toru Watanabe, in love with a girl, Naoko, who we learn is schizophrenic and with whom he shares […]
In the UK in the last ten to fifteen years, there has been an explosion in the amount of us buying coffee while we’re out and about. With this boom, its headline acts being the big chains like Starbucks, Costas, Nero etc. the word ‘barista’ has reached the common lexicon, rarely confused now with the legal […]
Writers have a problem. It’s harder than it ever was to get published. It’s also easier than it ever was to get published.
“How is it that we have created so much mental and emotional suffering despite levels of wealth unprecedented in human history?” (The Spirit Level) It’s not the sort of thing you can sort out in a blog entry, but there’s any number of things that don’t seem to add up when I think about British […]
I’m stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a post-apocalyptic ruin, watching a man called Hannibal slowly lead a handful of worn-out looking former slaves and a diseased, mutated Brahmin bull to the headless statue of the former president. On the back of the bull are some supplies and the stone head of Abraham […]
Well, it’s my blog, I can do a ‘my favourite things’ if I want to. What prompted it was this year’s christmas Radio Times. For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed sitting down with it and reading through, picking out all the old films I’d like to watch, you know, ‘Meet Me in […]
If our homes express who we are, what of the home where all of your literature and music is invisible to the casual eye; no trace of the stories and music that move you and define you represented alongside whatever art or furniture or decor you’ve put together to create a place that is special […]
There’s an iron nail in my left knee the first half mile away from my front door, down the slope past the school, dozing in the silence of its lie-in on a bright Saturday morning. The nail, where my iliotibial band sticks itself to my knee, warms and melts away as I turn onto the […]
I talked in my last blog-post about the pleasure I get from hard-working prose. Good writing comes from the choices you make with the words you commit to the page. In this blog-post I’m going to look at two scenes from my book Snakewood and explain what I was trying to achieve with them. I […]
What would you say constitutes great writing? For a practising writer like me, good writing isn’t just about what is enjoyable to read, but also about the choices a writer makes when they select words to convey their message. I thought I’d try to articulate what great writing looks like to me, using an author […]