"The truth content of Bowie’s art is not compromised by its fakery. It is enabled by it.” Simon Critchley
Edelweiss on the Black Sea

Edelweiss on the Black Sea

How it warms the soul to discover – amid naked rock, amid eternal snow, beside a cold, dead glacier – a tiny velvety flower, an edelweiss. In this realm of icy death it alone is alive. It says, “Don’t believe in the horror that surrounds us both. Look – I’m...
Squinting at DeLillo

Squinting at DeLillo

“I thought, Is this the world as it truly looks? Is this the reality we haven’t learned how to see?” Artis Martineau, Zero K Those who came of age in the nineties will no doubt remember the Magic Eye craze. Many will recall the fraught minutes spent studying these seemingly-abstract...
Agatha

Agatha

In December 1926, Agatha Christie vanished, sending shockwaves through British society. As the authorities scoured the country for her, theories and suspicions abounded: it was murder, a hoax, suicide, a publicity stunt, revenge. When she was finally discovered ten days later, living under an assumed name in a hotel in...
Reading Europe

Reading Europe

Now in its eighth year, European Literature Night (ELN) returns with an expanded programme under the banner of the newly inaugurated European Literature Festival. Presented by EUNIC London, ELF is a six-week celebration of literature from across the continent, with more than 60 writers and poets from over 30 countries involved in...
Jonathan Tel: The great and the small

Jonathan Tel: The great and the small

Jonathan Tel has won the 2016 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for ‘The Human Phonograph’, in which a woman is reunited with her geologist husband at a remote Chinese nuclear base in Qinghai in the early years of the Cultural Revolution. It’s a flashback moment in a series of...
Riad Sattouf: Tykes and tyrants

Riad Sattouf: Tykes and tyrants

In The Arab of the Future, his first book to be published in English, bestselling French comics artist and former Charlie Hebdo contributor Riad Sattouf begins an epic five-volume graphic memoir about his formative years as the son of a volatile but vulnerable Syrian father and a forbearing French mother....
A seer is a liar

A seer is a liar

There is a view that some people call ‘narrative identity’. This is the idea that one’s life is a kind of story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Usually there is some early, defining, traumatic experience and a crisis or crises in the middle (sex, drugs, any form...
Garth Greenwell: Cruise control

Garth Greenwell: Cruise control

Writing in The Atlantic last year, Garth Greenwell hailed Hanya Yanagihara’s Man Booker shortlisted A Little Life as the great gay novel we’ve been waiting for. Regular Bookanista readers might recall my own obsession with Yanagihara’s novel last year. Like Greenwell I found radical potential in the models of adult...
Crushed

Crushed

How much was the thermometer worth? Five dollars? Ten? It wasn’t worth anything, but I reached into the industrial mixer to grab it, before the mixer, which I had just started, crushed the worthless thermometer. When I reached in, the mixer grabbed me, held my hand, and crushed it. The...
Dartmoor downpour

Dartmoor downpour

Julia Rochester’s debut novel The House at the Edge of the World is longlisted for both the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize for Fiction 2016. It’s a darkly comic and constantly surprising psychological mystery about comforts and destructive forces among close relatives. A recent family get-together...
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Fiction of the American underclasses

Fiction of the American underclasses

During Presidential election campaigns, the men and women who aspire to the White House pitch themselves as the Wizard of Oz (or are they Dorothy?) – who will lead all Americans to the Emerald City about which they dream – and the myth of America’s cultural identity as a land of opportunity and dreams shines...
All too human

All too human

The French have an unflinching predilection for narratives that penetrate the veils of the private, the personal, the intimate – the vital experience of the unsayable. With dogged perseverance they will read confessions, autobiographies and diaries of all kinds, monumental epistolary collections, and torrents of conscience worthy of many Niagara Falls. They are masters of...
Land of eternal spring

Land of eternal spring

I decided to write The Mastermind for two reasons. After publishing four novels set during different periods of Guatemala’s history, I wanted to see if I could write a book that dealt with an incident grounded in my birthplace’s contemporary reality. Secondly I was intrigued by the internationally reported 2009 Rodrigo Rosenberg case in which...
Twin Falls

Twin Falls

They leave the freeway and cut south through the desert. Soon the canyon comes into view, a great gray crack in the land. Crowds swarm on the far rim, and behind them a dome of trees cloisters a ranch house. The bulge of the launchpad stands at the far end of the crowd, a mound...
As Evel does

As Evel does

Americans love a confident scoundrel. We are willing – some large number of us are, anyway – to forgive myriad flaws, lies and crimes, so long as the offender is charismatic and self-assured. Perhaps this is true of people everywhere, but there is a particular strain of American rogue that populates the nation’s history to...
Knowing my place

Knowing my place

“Ketrin,” my mother-in-law said, “Come over here. You’re good at writing.” My heart started to beat a little quicker, and I felt beads of sweat popping on the back of my neck. I was ashamed. Why would a simple comment like that invoke such an immediate physical reaction? We were at Easter lunch in Naples,...
In praise of evanescence

In praise of evanescence

A sense of bemused confusion and intrigued curiosity is the audience’s first impression of David Zinn’s set for Annie Baker’s The Flick, currently at the National Theatre following a strong and successful season in New York, where it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. There are seats on either side of the space that ought...
Lisa Owens unravelled

Lisa Owens unravelled

“6pm on a Thursday, and while I may not have applied for any jobs, I have made myself eligible to win a Mini Cooper, two nights in Paris and seven in Miami, £500 of vouchers for a Scandinavian clothing brand, an enormous TV (which I plan to sell on), an espresso machine (which I’ll definitely...
A mirage of horrors

A mirage of horrors

“Our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man.” Primo Levi The question of how one writes, thinks or speaks about the holocaust and the ideologies and sociohistorical conditions that spawned it, is perhaps as vital now as it was in the direct aftermath of a period when the word ‘hell’...
An assignation

An assignation

The Tale of Tales by Giambattista Basile is the first authored collection of literary fairy tales in the Western European canon, predating the work of Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. An inspiration for storytellers from Shakespeare to Calvino, the long-overlooked 17th-century collection includes the oldest known written versions of some of...