"It used to be that books told you how to be... with Saint Mazie I was interested in showing the right way. I want people to see compassion as a possibility and that’s why I was attracted to her." – Jami Attenberg
Visiting hour

Visiting hour

The hospital room smelled of antiseptic cleaner, but it could not mask the odor of sickness. It was Michael’s eighty-fourth birthday. He did not feel like celebrating. He had just survived a week in the Intensive Care Unit after his kidneys, heart and lungs had failed. When he was moved...
Nell Zink takes flight

Nell Zink takes flight

I’d be prepared to put money on the fact that even if you haven’t read either of her novels – The Wallcreeper and Mislaid – you’ve still heard of Nell Zink. Having burst onto the literary scene last autumn with the publication of the former in the US (by the...
Up in the clouds

Up in the clouds

Wednesday 27 May We are late taking off. The Airbus sits unmoving on the tarmac, the stale air tasting of dust and the faint, tantalising possibility of disaster, while outside the New York City evening is blackening to night. In London, it is one am: in seven hours or so,...
Miracle at Hawk's Bay

Miracle at Hawk’s Bay

Matthew High. We knew it would be him. Even before Hannah turned him over, we just knew it. It was Annie who saw him from the road. “Look,” she said, and when she pointed at the dark shape out there in the shallow water, there was only one thought in...
The fifth wife

The fifth wife

Blessings sometimes travelled in pairs. And when they did, especially during a rainy season, there was a unanimous decision by the Gods to give way to them through the traffic of the living. They floated above the still moist beds of earth where cassava plants slept, bounced off the hard...
Valeria Luiselli: Pearls among junk

Valeria Luiselli: Pearls among junk

Valeria Luiselli’s second novel The Story of My Teeth is a fiercely intelligent, inventive and hilarious exploration of worth, value and creation in the worlds of art and literature. The narrator, Gustavo Sánchez Sánchez, is an enterprising auctioneer who will use his skills to sell anything – even his own...
Kitsune

Kitsune

“Goblin foxes are peculiarly dreaded in Izumo for three evil habits attributed to them… The third and worst is that of entering into people and taking diabolical possession of them and tormenting them into madness. This affliction is called kitsune-tsuki. “The favourite shape assumed by the goblin fox for the purpose...
Jami Attenberg: How to be

Jami Attenberg: How to be

Jami Attenberg’s new novel Saint Mazie tells the fictionalised story of one of Manhattan’s real-life heroes of the early 20th century: Mazie Phillips-Gordon, the brassy, big-hearted proprietress of the Venice movie theatre in the Bowery who spent most of her adult life helping the homeless. In 1940 Joseph Mitchell profiled Mazie for...
Sunny Singh: Among the ruins

Sunny Singh: Among the ruins

Sunny Singh’s new novel Hotel Arcadia plunges readers into the midst of a terror attack in a 5-star hotel in an unnamed city. War photographer Sam, known for her haunting portraits of the recently dead, has picked the wrong place to wind down after her latest assignment, but can’t resist...
Shouting at a river

Shouting at a river

Standing over a bassinet in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the early hours of Christmas Eve, 2002, I contemplated what the hell my first act as a father should be. My Miss Marie had been dragged into the world, with suction, only a few minutes before, and after flunking...
Latest entries
Riding the dragon

Riding the dragon

How a routine ‘meet the parents’ made me write my first novel (and get mixed up with a whole village). “Who lives in that house?” I asked my boyfriend the first time he took me to his parents’ village. The house behind the fence wasn’t especially dark or remarkably mysterious. There was no ivy on...
Ink and incapability

Ink and incapability

I arrange my desk, in preparation for literary flight * I cull my notes for material, coming across odd things about the brevity of life and the cause of hair loss * One note leads to a discussion of out-of-body experiences with Jeeves, whom I mark as a likely candidate for having had such an experience * I type...
A monumental construction

A monumental construction

Maylis de Kerangal’s Birth of a Bridge by is a strikingly original contemporary myth and a thrilling investigation of post-modernity. The story is simple, absorbingly technical, full of tactile details and well-grounded practicalities. In a realistically imaginary city in California called Coca, a powerful mayor who has climbed to the summit of success from the...
Adventures in improvising

Adventures in improvising

The single rule in contemporary comic improv sketches, is, Yes, and… If your partner starts a sketch saying, Hey, I just met a green-skinned alien!, you must build on that premise; for example play the skincare guru and ask, Dry, normal, or oily? To scoff and say You’re nuts! There’s no such thing! is to...
Sign here

Sign here

Ricky Gervais, Charles Dickens and Washington Irving probably don’t have much in common except for their mutual loathing of autograph hunters, or as they are described in the US autograph hounds. In his stand-up tour Science, Gervais said they are the “bane of my life”, Dickens reportedly referred to them as a “nuisance” and Irving...
It's all about you

It’s all about you

Kate Griffin won the 2012 Faber/Stylist Magazine Crime Fiction writing competition. Her entry was the basis for her debut novel Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders, shortlisted for the 2014 CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger. The second in the series, Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill Fortune, is published by Faber & Faber on...
All-seeing I

All-seeing I

Omniscient narrators are an endangered species. Once they flourished, roaming freely over the lush grasslands of 19th-century fiction. Now, when I look at my bookshelves, it seems that less than 10% of contemporary fiction is narrated omnisciently. A simple experiment: take a look at your own shelves and ask yourself who’s doing the talking. Count...
The day the music died

The day the music died

When Tamsin Jarvis was twelve, she saw her father kissing another woman. The whole family was up in Manchester to hear him conduct a celebration of British music at the Bridgewater Hall. It was a treat, at the end of the concert, for Tamsin to go to his dressing room all by herself. Her mother...
Capturing the silence

Capturing the silence

I never deliberately set out to write a silent character. I know it sounds like a writerly cliché – “they just walked into my head like that”, and so on – but in Lily’s case it’s completely true. That’s just the way she was, and it never seemed particularly unusual to me. So when I...
Chigozie Obioma: Tangled lines

Chigozie Obioma: Tangled lines

Told from the point of view of Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, Chigozie Obioma’s powerful debut The Fishermen is the story of a childhood in 1990s Nigeria. When their father has to travel to a distant city for work, the boys take advantage of his absence to skip school and go fishing. At the...