“There is something in the self-loathing that comes from writing that helps the job along, that also feeds the writing.” DBC Pierre
Colson Whitehead: Making it

Colson Whitehead: Making it

Colson Whitehead has just won the National Book Award for fiction for his bold and provocative novel The Underground Railroad, a nightmarish historical saga about a slave girl called Cora who’s on the run from the horrors of life on a Georgia plantation. Giving literal life to the metaphor for...
A night in the barn

A night in the barn

David Hare’s The Red Barn, his latest sell-out play at the National Theatre, is a bold adaptation of Maigret creator Georges Simenon’s hitherto obscure novel Le Main, which is also now released by Penguin Classics in a new translation. In the depth of winter in 1950s Connecticut, Donald and Ingrid...
Remembering

Remembering

Austin Wright’s sleeper hit Tony & Susan, first published in 1993, received high praise from a new generation of readers and reviewers when it was re-released by Atlantic Books in 2010. Now it’s coming to a cinema near you in Tom Ford’s gripping adaptation Nocturnal Animals, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and...
Waves of joy and doubt

Waves of joy and doubt

During the Second World War Astrid Lindgren, creator of Pippi Longstocking, was an aspiring writer living in Stockholm with her family, working in a top secret job at the Swedish Mail Censorship Office. Horrified and fascinated as world events unfolded, she kept a meticulous diary full of newspaper clippings (and...
Cristina Sánchez-Andrade: Flickers

Cristina Sánchez-Andrade: Flickers

The Winterlings is the first of Spanish author Cristina Sánchez-Andrade’s novels to be published in the UK, and it makes for an intoxicating introduction to her work. It’s a tale of two sisters hiding a dark secret, and magic and enchantment in all forms, from village superstitions to the glamour...
Boom or bust

Boom or bust

A hundred pages into Jay McInerney’s new novel Bright, Precious Days, Russell Calloway treats himself and a co-worker to lunch. As the editor-in-chief of a small New York publishing house, Russell has just initiated a pre-emptive bid on a hot prospect: the harrowing memoir of a journalist who recently escaped from a...
Latest entries
Swarm

Swarm

Caterpillars? Easy, thinks Katya. Even these, thick-clustered, obscuring a tree from bole to crown and shivering their orange hairs. Caterpillars she can deal with. Still, it’s a strange sight, this writhing tree: a tree in mortification. Particularly here, where the perfect lawn slopes down to the grand white house below, between clipped flowerbeds flecked with...
Still exploring

Still exploring

Robert Olen Butler’s latest novel Perfume River is a poignant examination of an ageing couple and a wider family fractured by the lingering fallout of the Vietnam War. After three historical novels featuring WWI correspondent Christopher Marlowe Cobb, he returns to contemporary fiction with trademark tenderness and suspense. Here are some notes from his workspace....
Enchanted by the mystery of books

Enchanted by the mystery of books

Ana Pérez Galván, the tranquil force behind Hispabooks, has an unwavering dream: to publish new writing from every corner of Spain in English translation, and to change readers’ perceptions of Spanish literature as eternally oscillating between the two monumental poles of Cervantes and Lorca; to revise our view of Spain as being only the realistic...
The noise of ice: Antarctica

The noise of ice: Antarctica

MEN WANTED for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton expedition advertisement, 1900 One day, in a bookshop in London, I stumbled across a book about Shackleton. I was struck by his character, and his spirit of...
Human rights and wrongs

Human rights and wrongs

The Old Familiar Faces are unhappily gathered at a once-elegant four-star golf resort and conference centre to which tourists no longer come. In the reception area and in their workshop room, the Jacaranda room on the second floor, banners proclaim the theme of their workshop: “Assessing, Analysing and Evaluating the Impact of Political Violence on...
Maps and the 20th century: drawing the line

Maps and the 20th century: drawing the line

From questions of war and peace to understanding the movements of people, nature and even the financial markets, the new exhibition at the British Library, Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line, explores how maps have become increasingly present in daily life. The exhibition looks at the spectacular advances in the technology of mapping...
Electoral collage

Electoral collage

There is a form of mass hysteria sweeping the American populace at this moment. It’s something a bit like the Rage Virus, although those infected mostly stop short of physical violence and settle for just calling each other names and then blocking each other on Facebook. Watching it from across the Atlantic, I’d be terrified...
Delusions of a terrorised conscience

Delusions of a terrorised conscience

“I desire to be humbled before God. It was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time. I did not do it out of anger, malice, or ill-will,” stated Ann Putnam in 1706. When only twelve or so, she had been one of the principle witnesses and accusers in the notorious...
Miriam Elia begs to differ

Miriam Elia begs to differ

Artist and satirist Miriam Elia’s Ladybird-style spoof We go to the gallery was one of the self-made hits of 2015. It attracted both the ire and the opportunism of publishing giants Penguin, who own the copyright in the original, long-overlooked series, and tried to quash Miriam’s work while rushing out their own adult Ladybirds. Now,...