“You have one body and one life to live and you only get this one shot – and that reality can drive you crazy.” Ottessa Moshfegh
Contexts
More than itself

More than itself

More than a poet, Rilke, one might argue, is a supreme embodiment of a Platonic idea of the artist, a sublime abstraction of the power of art and of words to haunt us and to grant us life. Even when alive, he was less a person than he was a persona, a complex yet intangible...
Let there be light

Let there be light

Tatyana Tolstaya lives a double life. A fiercely postmodern, vibrant writer of the here-and-now, an indulgently larger-than-life presence in Russian letters and culture at home and abroad, she is also a ghost – a rather hard-to-miss, palpably material ghost, but a ghost of Russian and Tolstoyan past, nonetheless. Her latest collection of short stories, Aetherial...
Passion and compassion

Passion and compassion

In the opening chapter of Regina Porter’s The Travelers, a small dozing girl drifts into the deep end of a pool whilst her grandfather is preoccupied. She doesn’t drown in the end, just as Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom’s granddaughter didn’t drown in John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest. Porter has nonetheless managed to compress a span of...
Outrages

Outrages

In her latest engagement with the classical tradition, a self-proclaimed radical rewriting of the story behind the Homeric epics, Natalie Haynes is openly outraged and angry. Indignant and righteous, she is a strong, vocal, almost virago-like warrior with a declaredly urgent, even vital cause: to resurrect and reinstate the ancient women in the attic, to...
White dreams

White dreams

In 1685, Louis XIV would sign the Edict of Fontainebleau, revoking an earlier royal decree that had accorded to any French Protestants who had survived the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre the freedom to practise their faith without persecution. The apparent reason given by the Sun King and his court was that the Huguenots were strong-headed,...
The view from below

The view from below

Robert Macfarlane’s Underland: A Deep Time Journey has its roots in three ‘surfacings’ that occurred in the spring and summer of 2010: the explosion of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, the Deep Water Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, and the entrapment of 33 miners at the San José copper and gold mine in northern...
Missing person

Missing person

One day ten years ago, during a summer of no rain, I sat in a rented room in the south of Xi’an listening to a man from my old village as he poured out his story. He stuttered so his story came out in fits and starts. Behind the bed curtain, his wife was sobbing...
New travels with myself and another

New travels with myself and another

Laura Beatty’s new book Lost Property, a nearly sublime hybrid between a novel and a philosophical essay, begins with an England in a state of utter crisis – social, humanitarian, political, cultural, a crisis of identity, values, place, purpose and meaning. Beatty’s heroine describes herself as tottering between being and non-being, reason and insanity. “At...
Docta puella

Docta puella

“This book is about a poet who disappeared, about a woman who pursued her career in a blaze of publicity, while leading a secret life that eventually destroyed her, and who left such a legacy of lies and evasion that her true story can only now be told,” writes Lucasta Miller in the preface of...
Coming in from the cold

Coming in from the cold

My father earned one of the highest security clearances attainable in the US Air Force. The true nature of his work was kept secret from myself, my siblings and my mother. In hindsight, it must have been difficult to come home in the evenings unable to discuss the events of the day. There must have...