"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
Isabella Beeton and beating impostor syndrome

Isabella Beeton and beating impostor syndrome

Ah, impostor syndrome – pernicious underminer of talented people everywhere. No matter how brilliant your marks are, no matter what professional coups you pull off, deep down inside you believe all compliments are lies, and that you are only one mistake from being ‘found out’. Infuriatingly, it’s the talentless meatheads lacking an iota of charisma...
The speculative birth of a princess

The speculative birth of a princess

The Princesse de Clèves, a historical novel about the Court of Henri II, seems to have been conceived early in the year 1671. Many French critics think that, on the evidence of her letters to the Abbé Ménage and of her earlier novels, the Princesse de Montpensier and Zayde, Madame de Lafayette must have had...
I-land

I-land

As a small child, I did not really have a very strong sense of being on an island. Maybe that is because I was born in the city of Kingston, which back then was a busy bustling metropolis, where something exciting was always happening. Kingston was no sleepy island outpost when I was growing up...
Uncertain regard

Uncertain regard

There is a point in his novel The Distance Between Us at which Renato Cisneros describes his father’s obsession with watching the TV news, and his own ineffectual attempts as a child to compete for his attention. In passing, he speculates that his entire subsequent career as a journalist and TV presenter could be seen...
Wondering at the world

Wondering at the world

“We are confused about happiness. Almost everyone believes that they want to be happy, which usually means a lasting psychological state of contentment,” writes Edith Hall in Aristotle’s Way, pointing out however that most of our everyday expressions of happiness are ephemeral, if not outright trivial and insubstantial, unsustaining, and eventually even fundamentally disappointing. In...
The land where Saturn reigned

The land where Saturn reigned

“Each man is in his Spectre’s power” – these are words by William Blake that Marcello Fois deliberately places as the inscription over the gates of heaven or hell that was Sardinia as a private space of memory and genealogy, and as a very public constituent part of Italian society and history, a microcosm to...
Illustrations for a life unlived

Illustrations for a life unlived

“When I was twelve, other people thought I was a prodigy who dazzled and disturbed… by the time I was twenty, I’d learned to deride the facility of my hands as if it were a weakness.” Daniele Mallarico, who speaks these words, is a renegade Neapolitan, an old man on the edge of the precipice...
Blood and feathers

Blood and feathers

Early in Tommy Orange’s impressive debut novel There There, young aspiring filmmaker Dene Oxendene gives an oral presentation to a panel of judges considering his pet project for a grant. Laying out his vision for a documentary about the lives and culture of the modern-day Urban Indian (the term used for Native Americans living in...
With love and squalor

With love and squalor

Anna Maria Ortese’s Evening Descends Upon the Hills is a book that, Atlas-like, seems to bear on its shoulders the weight of the most overwhelming human sorrow – but also the burden of humanity’s “small, wretched acts of violence, an abyss of voices and events, tiny terrible gestures”, the unspeakable social stains and realities to...
Glimmers of destiny

Glimmers of destiny

In Mircea Eliade’s Gaudeamus, yet another precocious, pernicious, prescient adolescent, full of a sense of predestination and the promise of literary greatness, marches out into the world to audaciously forge life’s meaning in the smithy of his soul. In a narrative where Goethe’s Teutonic Young Werther and Wilhelm Meister meet a more Central European Stephen...