"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
Author Archive
Written in my soul

Written in my soul

Like most avid readers, I was pleased to see British national treasure Kashuo Ishiguro win the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. Pleased, but a little disappointed. Ishiguro is worthy, to be sure, but in a way he was too worthy. After the lather the Nobel committee worked the literary world into last year by giving...
Watching the river flow

Watching the river flow

The creative process is a funny thing, but when I’m in the middle of it I don’t do much laughing. As an idea gestates in my mind, hour upon hour of writing time can flit by with my skull hitting the desk more frequently than my fingertips hit the keyboard. Trying out a new genre...
Saunders in the zone

Saunders in the zone

If you want to succeed in art, you need to be constantly scanning the horizon for inspiration. For me, by and large, this comes more in the form of life experience than from direct artistic influence. A bit of happenstance, a string of tiny coincidences in my day-to-day activities, is apt to set my gears...
A wonder to behold

A wonder to behold

Imbolo Mbue made headlines in the publishing world a couple years ago, when Random House snapped up her debut novel The Longings of Jende Jonga with a million-dollar pre-emptive bid. Mbue, a former market researcher left unemployed after the 2008 crash, had written the story of an African immigrant (like her, a native of Cameroon...
In defence of book learning

In defence of book learning

Running for President in 1952, Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson came up with a peculiar rallying cry. “Eggheads of the world, unite!” he declared in a stump speech. “You have nothing to lose but your yolks!” These days, of course, such a bad pun wouldn’t make it out of a Democratic Party focus group alive, but...
Write Christmas

Write Christmas

The season has come for making merry; it’s time to think of the books that prop open my heart so the Christmas spirit can get in. The book that opens it wider than any other is one that I read to my Miss Marie without fail each December, Emma Chichester Clark’s Just for You, Blue...
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...
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 Taliban prison cell. It’s 2007,...
Gavin Extence: An occupied mind

Gavin Extence: An occupied mind

The set-up for Gavin Extence’s The Empathy Problem is as bleak as they come: Gabriel Vaughn, a hotshot hedge fund executive with a heart of stone, is given only months to live when he learns that he has an inoperable brain tumour. The tumour happens to be located in the part of his brain that...
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 of the Twelve Best New...