"As a writer, your job is to hand the moral arithmetic to the reader… to make the arithmetic but not to do the maths, as they say, but to set out the moral possibilities – hopefully in a beautiful way." – Andrew O'Hagan
Keeping the Moomins above water

Keeping the Moomins above water

As Moomins on the Riviera arrives in UK cinemas, I catch up with Sophia Jansson, niece of Moomins creator Tove Jansson and head of the Moomin Characters company, to discuss the genesis of the film and her aunt’s wider legacy. The hand-drawn film is made by Hanna Hemilä’s Handle Productions...
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...
A tenor of old Ireland

A tenor of old Ireland

Some years ago I found myself living in New York City. I was there because my wife worked as a development officer for a large and well-known Irish institution, and there were bountiful potential funds in the Irish-American community. We attended many functions and dinners, and I got to meet...
Diving into Wonderland

Diving into Wonderland

Something is stirring underground at London’s Waterloo, as two immersive shows share a lovingly created Wonderland to mark the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. I sit down with co-directors Oliver Lansley and James Seager from theatre group Les Enfants Terribles and producer Emma Brünjes to peer down the rabbit-hole....
Living with authoritis

Living with authoritis

I’m a bit of a recluse. It comes with the job of writing books. I live with my husband and our two middle-school children in a canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains in southern California. Between school drop-off and pick-up I’m a novelist. I sit alone in my pajamas with...
The Pandora paradox

The Pandora paradox

Throughout our convoluted histories, stories have had a way of reappearing under different forms and guises; we can never be certain of when a story was told for the first time, only that it will be not the last. Before the first chronicle of travel there must have been an...
Made-up worlds (and a worldie maid)

Made-up worlds (and a worldie maid)

It’s a bit ridiculous to choose only ten examples of how world mythology has inspired popular culture, as the examples range into the thousands across books, films, TV, comics, games, music, fashion, and more. Any Top 10 can only be an intensely personal one, so that’s what I’ve chosen: ten...
Amerika's box

Amerika’s box

The decision to change their five-year-old daughter’s name was a bold one for Ahmed and Fatma to make. Kuwait was, after all, a country tangled in red tape. But like most of their fellow citizens in the year 1991, Ahmed and Fatma wanted to commemorate their nation’s gratitude to America....
Christopher Bollen: Distraction games

Christopher Bollen: Distraction games

Christopher Bollen’s second novel Orient takes its title from the name of the small hamlet on the tip of the North Fork of Long Island. His story begins as summer draws to a close. Mills Chevern, a 19-year-old foster-home kid-turned-drifter who hails from California is taken pity on by Orient...
The mindful writer

The mindful writer

So you want to be a writer? According to popular mythology, all you need to do is hole up for a weekend or three, drink copious amounts of coffee and/or smoke a lot of cigarettes and put pen to paper. Words of genius will instantly pour out of you. After...
Pablo

Pablo

An award-winning graphic biography of one of the world’s best-loved artists, Pablo follows Picasso’s artistic career from his origins in penury to the advent of modern art. In early 20th-century Paris, 19-year-old Pablo Picasso finds himself living amongst the bohemians of Montmartre. Impoverished and in a turbulent relationship with his...
Enter Radar

Enter Radar

The birth of such an extremely dark baby (described as “blacker than the blackest black” by an overeager Star-Ledger reporter) to two white parents was Jersey gossip that could not be kept quiet for long. The news of the birth must have been leaked by one of the orderlies, or...
Andrew O'Hagan: Friendly fire

Andrew O’Hagan: Friendly fire

I have tea with Andrew O’Hagan one morning at his house in Primrose Hill. We start talking about Seamus Heaney, a great friend of O’Hagan’s who died two years ago. I ask if he misses Heaney. “Oh, every day. He had this brilliant tendency to take you under his wing,...
Ghosts that don't say boo

Ghosts that don’t say boo

My new novel A Reunion of Ghosts tells the story of three suicidal sisters whose great grandfather played a role in mass killings in both World Wars. Given such dark subjects, readers tend to express pleasant surprise upon finding that the novel is laced with humor. This reaction makes me...
Alice Stevenson: Look around you

Alice Stevenson: Look around you

Artist Alice Stevenson has spent many years exploring all corners of London on foot, observing hidden delights and finding inspiration in unlikely places. Ways to Walk in London is her enchanting tribute to the city, combining sparkling insights and gorgeous illustrations to capture places and moments of beauty, contemplation and...
Latest entries
On the cusp of wherever

On the cusp of wherever

I am on a beach holiday and it is raining. Still, we sit out, under the umbrellas, because we’re told that it will pass, and there is nothing else to do, and the children are swimming regardless. The rain has delighted them, but I am cold. Everyone around me holds a book, or device. In...
Leaving it all behind

Leaving it all behind

Rickard Velily’s first job in New York was as a reporter for a small local newspaper. He did not stay long in the job because it was apparent that the other people who worked in the newspaper were doing so as a sort of retirement project. He felt guilty spending time with them when, after...
Making friends with Alice

Making friends with Alice

The children’s production of Alice in Wonderland at The Vaults Waterloo was Wonder-landiful. I loved every single second of it even though bits of it was scary, including the cheshire cat who had big green eyes. I loved it when you sit on the floor and look up at the cieling, it really felt like you falling!...
High life and dirty boulevards

High life and dirty boulevards

The films in this list may range widely in style and subject, from brooding dramas to spectacular action movies, from French New Wave masterpieces to slightly dated 80s thrillers; some are French productions while others are American movies filmed in Paris, but one thing is true of all of them: they couldn’t have been set...
Mrs Engels and me

Mrs Engels and me

Before writing my first novel, I had some very clear ideas about the kind of book it wasn’t going to be. It wasn’t going to be a) extensively researched (because ‘research destroys art’), b) set in the distant past (because ‘now’ is what’s interesting), or c) about The Woman Behind The Man (because that’s beyond...
Out of the cellar

Out of the cellar

I wish I could say that The Woman who Fed the Dogs is the hardest novel I have ever written, but the opposite is true. It is the most distressful, but that’s a different matter. The novel is conceived as a monologue and tries to imagine what might have gone on in the mind of...
So I'm a writer now?

So I’m a writer now?

Lots of writers seem to really hate writing. For them, sitting down in front of the computer or typewriter or notepad and forcing out their daily word count is like pulling teeth, except rather than simply pulling them out through their mouth, they’re having to pull them down, back through their gums, to be extracted...
The birthday present

The birthday present

The world’s a weird place. Sorry to state the obvious, but it really is. And it’s a lot to take in when you stop to think about it. Luckily, life is generally constructed in such a way that your world starts small and sensible and gradually gets larger and weirder. There’s a gradient, a logical,...
A legacy like no other

A legacy like no other

Shakespeare has mattered ever since his name first appeared in print in 1593 with his erotic and entertaining poem ‘Venus and Adonis’. He was 29 years old. For much of the poem the goddess of love is naked and begging for sex before Adonis, but he resists her advances. ‘Venus and Adonis’ was a sensation...
Origins

Origins

I really loved the piece of land I grew up on. I spent so much time alone there, looking at the things around me, that sometimes I thought I myself was one of the trees that grew there. I didn’t rule out the possibility that my head might sprout leaves or that mangoes might grow...