"When I read Céline I thought, 'Wow, you can do this, you can do anything!' That was a turning point, because it showed me you just have to follow your heart." Antti Tuomainen
Finding stories in America's heartland

Finding stories in America’s heartland

Ideas come to writers in myriad ways. Anything is game, be it a newspaper article, an overheard conversation or a story passed down through a family for generations. The more open-ended the better, as it gives the writer more room to develop the story in their way. Novels may be...
Wonders beyond words

Wonders beyond words

A conversation with Todd Haynes, Brian Selznick, Oakes Fegley and Jaden Michael. Todd Haynes’ latest film Wonderstruck is adapted from Brian Selznick’s part-graphic, part-prose children’s novel about a mysterious connection in New York City between two deaf children set 50 years apart. In 1927 Rose (Millicent Simmonds) is the estranged...
A splendid shiny car

A splendid shiny car

The boy had to be silent again. Daddy said, with a frown as always: “Don’t talk so loudly.” “He can talk,” interjected his mother, “but you have to be quiet and don’t boom in your deep bass.” But what’s the use of talking alone, thought the boy, if Daddy isn’t...
Lily Bailey: OCD and me

Lily Bailey: OCD and me

As a child and teenager, London-born Lily Bailey suffered from severe obsessive compulsive disorder. From as early as she can remember, there was always a second voice in her head, filling her brain with intrusive, uncomfortable thoughts convincing her she was a bad person liable to bring only pain, grief...
Tough love

Tough love

Joe felt something behind him. It was the presence of life and the coming of violence, and that anticipation, that sensitivity, enabled him to turn in time and catch the blackjack on his shoulder, which was better than taking it on the back of his head. Also, it was his...
To watch over them

To watch over them

The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds. The doctor said he didn’t suffer. The broken body, surrounded by toys, was put inside a grey bag, which they zipped shut. The little girl was still alive when the ambulance arrived. She’d fought like a wild animal. They found...
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Teenage heaven

Teenage heaven

In 2003, the big haze lingered. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome had broken out in Guangdong the year before and coughed and hacked its way around the region. People had died from it. Everyone was afraid of getting infected. Some wore stupid-looking hospital masks but Szu and I would rather have been caught dead than join...
Living on the edge

Living on the edge

In Natasha Carthew’s raw, uncompromising and intensely lyrical first adult novel All Rivers Run Free, we encounter a brittle young woman called Ia Pendilly, who lives with her brutal common-law husband in a caravan on the Cornish coast. When Ia finds an abandoned waif washed up on the shore, she makes a precarious break for...
Answers without questions

Answers without questions

The Dictionary of Animal Languages is a single-voice narrative that moves concurrently on two planes of being; it stretches itself over dual dimensions of time and space, and lays claim on a bifocal understanding of the self. Not a dichotomised self, but a fully alert, almost live-wire vivid, split consciousness, whose strands interlace ineluctably, creating...
We need to talk about nanny

We need to talk about nanny

My ex-husband and I moved from Berkeley, California to Kensington in 1994. I was the proverbial deer in headlights, having not a clue how the world functioned beyond the scope of my somewhat limited life experience. The word naïve doesn’t really cut it, as I was too naïve to notice my own naïvety. In truth,...
Recapturing infinity in the present

Recapturing infinity in the present

“Am I the same person?” asks Fela Rosenbloom, whose narrative of her early life in Łódź, and her internment in no fewer than six German labour and concentration camps, prefaces her husband’s longer, very different account of the 20th century. Miracles Do Happen is a joint memoir of war, Jewish life, community and identity, survival...
Not alone

Not alone

In the playground, fads come and go consistently, without apparent supervision, like waves on a beach. We had Pokémon, we had Furbies; we had aliens encased in strange plastic eggs. Then at some point, when we were five, imaginary friends took off as a craze. People would save spaces at the lunch table for someone...
Beyond imagining

Beyond imagining

Willa Cather in Death Comes for The Archbishop was able to create imaginary conversations and actions that gave her main character (based on Father Jean Marie Latour) and story depth and motivation, metaphors and textures, a sense of fullness and believability, that may not have been accessible to her had she wrote the book as...
Crying wolf

Crying wolf

Millennial moments are full of auguries and momentum, real promise or sly illusions. They trick us into a sense of tabula rasa, into an exalted feeling of weightlessness from the past and its responsibilities, its phantoms and nightmares, but also from the effort to match and sustain its legacy of greatness and wisdom. It is...
Glimpses of unfamiliar France

Glimpses of unfamiliar France

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan is the title of an idiosyncratic account of Japan as a country, as a philosophy, as a world and way of life, as the seductive Other seen through Western eyes. It was written by a rather remarkable man, Lefkadio Hearn (who became Koizumi Yakumo), now mostly forgotten. It is an intimate...
The Grand Casino Estoril

The Grand Casino Estoril

He opened his eyes to darkness. He was lying on his back among the crumpled sheets and crushed scattered pillows. He did not know whether it was the church bells that woke him up or the blackbird singing in the laurel bush under his window. He did not even know what time of day it...