"The mind is a fascinating thing, and that also plays to the supernatural. Is it real or isn’t it? Does anyone really know?" S.J.I. Holliday
Contexts
Black is the badge of hell

Black is the badge of hell

“Black is the badge of hell / the hue of dungeons and the school of night,” laments Ferdinand, King of Navarre in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour Lost. Some versions of the text offer scowl, style or suit instead of school, and one is tempted to think that Stephen Greenblatt would have boldly and keenly pressed for...
The genius of too much and too little

The genius of too much and too little

“They call them sculptures because they’re made of marble or iron or wood, but they’re really yarns, brief stories from the past that got stuck in your throat, pills that wouldn’t quite go down; you blurt them, mumble them, ruminate over them. And then they show them in Paris.” Whether narratives of an inner life,...
Unlocking vanishing voices

Unlocking vanishing voices

Travelling through Burma (Myanmar) in the mid-1990s, Jan-Philipp Sendker, a young German journalist for Stern and other publications, is given as a parting gift a tattered old book, carefully restored by a local bookseller who has spent many days sticking small pieces of paper over its hole-ridden pages, and retracing by hand the obliterated printed...
Hauntings on the home front

Hauntings on the home front

If my recent reading list is anything to go by, crime novels that touch on the paranormal are growing in popularity. Often set in houses that evoke an atmosphere of fear and dread, many of these storylines have elements found in Gothic horror. The reader is left to decide whether the house is truly haunted...
A red sun setting over ruins

A red sun setting over ruins

Modern Greek literature is often viewed with relative suspicion when translated or transposed for the foreign reader beyond its borders; it is deemed perhaps too local and of limited or specialist interest, too parochial and unmodern, or as a weak, nerveless attempt at emulating Western fads and already expired fashions. Greekness is inevitably dominated by...
Shadows and elevations

Shadows and elevations

With his camera and notebook, Jack London circles Hawksmoor’s Christ Church. He does not look up at the portico, the threatening mass of columns, ledges and alcoves. The Mayan dagger of the steeple. He does not step beyond the defensive railings. He stays outside. A photograph from distance, in which men are sprawled, sick or...
Unflinching and unforgettable

Unflinching and unforgettable

Catriona Ward’s superbly crafted, atmospheric new novel Little Eve continues to expand her oeuvre as one of the most interesting writers in Britain today. Following on from her stunning gothic debut Rawblood (winner of the Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, and shortlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award), Little...
Phenomenal women

Phenomenal women

In Summer 2017, I decided I wanted to read an anthology of poetry by women that would cover writers from the ancient world to today. I had edited several anthologies myself, but the remit had always been to include the ‘greatest hits’. I had become uncomfortably aware how few female poets featured in most general...
Great expectations untold

Great expectations untold

In 1949 an Australian man is travelling around Europe – a Europe that has only recently emerged from the cataclysmic shock of WWII, and still very much bears the marks of unhealed, perhaps unhealable searing wounds. This man, Denison Deasey, carries with him an aura of mystery and of multiform tragedy, of fate eluded and...
Independent voices

Independent voices

Commissioning editors once held sway at the large publishing companies. They were respected for their knowledge and idiosyncratic flair in spotting potential new literary talent. The advent of digital and Amazon, and the subsequent focus on financial performance have constrained the more experimental natures of big publishers, leaving the field open to independents. Daring, risk-taking...