“As a writer you are trying to spin a magic spell, to convince the reader that something exists when it doesn’t. I find this exciting.” Julie Myerson
Idra Novey: Reckless passions

Idra Novey: Reckless passions

Idra Novey’s debut novel Ways to Disappear is a boisterously funny literary thriller in which noted experimental Brazilian author Beatriz Yagoda vanishes up a tree, pursued by her two grown children, her American translator Emma, an ex-publisher and a sleazy gun-wielding loan shark seeking payback on Beatriz’s online poker debts....
Jenn Ashworth: Into the dark

Jenn Ashworth: Into the dark

I wouldn’t have expected Jenn Ashworth to be nervous at this stage in her career. Perhaps a couple of novels ago she might have worried that the 2010 Betty Trask prize she’d snagged for her debut A Kind of Intimacy had been beginner’s luck. But her 2011 follow-up Cold Light landed her on the BBC Culture Show’s list...
Taking flight

Taking flight

Nature writing has experienced a resurgence in recent times, not least as a means of exploring a wide range of personal issues and experiences. This is reflected in this year’s shortlist for The Wainwright Prize, an award for exceptional books about the great British outdoors, named in honour of the...
Matteo Garrone: Bigger than life

Matteo Garrone: Bigger than life

Matteo Garrone’s latest film, Tale of Tales, is a flamboyantly grisly retelling of three little-known fairy tales collected in the seventeenth century by Neapolitan poet and courtier Giambattista Basile. From the 50 tales in the collection, which includes the earliest – and bawdiest – recorded versions of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty...
Elena Lappin: Secrets and lives

Elena Lappin: Secrets and lives

In Elena Lappin’s novel The Nose, her protagonist Natasha Kaplan, a young New Yorker in London editing an Anglo-Jewish magazine, discovers more than she’s bargained for when in the course of her new job she ends up uncovering secrets about her own family’s past. “I thought I had invented and...
Julie Myerson: Seeing the bad stuff

Julie Myerson: Seeing the bad stuff

The Stopped Heart is Julie Myerson’s ninth novel (she has also written one novella and four works of non-fiction). It may just be her best book yet as it manages to be both a page-turning thriller and a serious exploration of how abuse works. If that sounds off-putting, it shouldn’t...
Whit Stillman: All there

Whit Stillman: All there

You’d be forgiven for not exactly jumping with joy at the news that yet another Jane Austen adaptation has hit the big screen. This year alone has seen the release of both Burr Steer’s irreverent and rather dubious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the publication of Curtis Sittenfeld’s contemporary...
Blood well shed

Blood well shed

Early in his debut crime novel Clinch, Martin Holmén makes a play at our sympathy. Waiting for a business contact in the streets of 1930s Stockholm late one autumn evening, former boxer Harry Kvist spots a man beating a stray dog across the way. Kvist is quick to call the...
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...
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The art of violence

The art of violence

What an artist perishes in me, lamented Nero as he prepared to end his life before the rebelling senators had time to dispatch him. “He had indeed been an artist – he and his predecessors too” writes Tom Holland in the concluding pages of his sweeping survey of the Julio-Claudians, which delineates the rule of...
Acutely angled

Acutely angled

and I miss the tug of the rod, the crank of the reel, the stench of algae, the bob of my dinghy, the piney taste of gin, but I don’t miss tangling up tipsy in the fishing net and slipping into the lake’s murky blackness where I swear that two-hundred-pound monster sturgeon swam right by...
For the love of God, Marie!

For the love of God, Marie!

Sex, religion, gender, and differing paths to love are tackled head on in this sassy debut graphic novel by prize-winning author and illustrator Jade Sarson. Marie is a spirited young woman from a religious family who is taught to love everybody. A champion of the underdog, the bullied and the oppressed, Marie’s mission in life...
Testing a fantasy

Testing a fantasy

We all have that magic place — the place where we get to be the we that we don’t at home, the place where we should have been born, or moved by our parents if only they had the right judgement. For my mother, that place is London. My best explanation is that, as a...
The promise

The promise

In a crumbling park in the crumbling back end of Copacabana, a woman stopped under an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar. She was a round woman with a knob of grey hair pinned at the nape of her neck. After staring for a minute up into the tree, she bit into her...
Imaginary friends

Imaginary friends

I’ve always surrounded myself with books. As a child they weren’t just my respite and my escape, they were larger than my reality and they fuelled my passion for, and the expectation of, the unlikely. Nor were their authors my heroes in the current understanding of the role. I didn’t expect to meet them in...
Dolorosa

Dolorosa

It wasn’t an easy journey. From Santa Cruz, Monika had to take the main road for four hours to Concepción, and from there it was at least three more hours of ruinous dirt roads. She drove with the radio on. Her shoulders and neck ached – not even sleep could ease the tension. And to...
Love all

Love all

What is literature if not a way to frame our vision of the world? What is language if not a prism through which to think, explore, relate, question, resolve, civilise – or merely (and vitally) voice despair? And what is love if not the ultimate Socratic demon, fusing together human lives, welding experiences, yielding truths,...
Apparitions

Apparitions

One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years. A shepherd boy, awakened from his nap under a frangipani tree, peed in his shorts and screamed, and his four sheep ran off haphazardly in between stones and wooden grave markers as if a tiger had...
Worth watching

Worth watching

Woody Allen’s Manhattan begins with a montage of iconic New York City locations. Park Avenue, the 59th Street Bridge, the Staten Island Ferry; captured in sleek-as-silver Panavision black and white, a procession of these marvels dazzles the eye, while in our ear Allen’s voice agonises over the opening lines of a novel he’s writing. “Chapter...