"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
Top tens
Tips for living

Tips for living

Britt-Marie is not judgemental, or fussy, or difficult. No matter how ill-mannered, thoughtless, impertinent or unkempt others may be. But she does expect things to be done in a certain way. She has lived a perfectly orderly life with her husband Kent in their rented apartment in Stockholm for the last forty years. But when...
Fiction of the American underclasses

Fiction of the American underclasses

During Presidential election campaigns, the men and women who aspire to the White House pitch themselves as the Wizard of Oz (or are they Dorothy?) – who will lead all Americans to the Emerald City about which they dream – and the myth of America’s cultural identity as a land of opportunity and dreams shines...
As Evel does

As Evel does

Americans love a confident scoundrel. We are willing – some large number of us are, anyway – to forgive myriad flaws, lies and crimes, so long as the offender is charismatic and self-assured. Perhaps this is true of people everywhere, but there is a particular strain of American rogue that populates the nation’s history to...
American road epics

American road epics

American stories are road stories. We are aware that others do road stories. We are aware that others did them before us. We read Dante, some of Cervantes, and we saw Mad Max twelve times. But no other people set such stock by their road narratives. Nobody churns out so many, or believes them so...
Transformers

Transformers

Years ago, when I was starting out as a writer, I met a literary agent. “What do you want to see happen to characters in a story?” I asked him. His reply was simple: “I want to see them changed.” In many ways, identity change is a central part of most stories. Through the experiences...
Other Africas

Other Africas

Most first-time visitors’ images of Africa are shaped by the safari experience, which is defined by its artificiality. Camping hundreds of miles from the nearest office block or high street, they learn every detail of an elephant’s sex life but catch only brief glimpses of how the locals live. Western reporters, in contrast, are drawn...
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...
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 of my personal favourites, taken...
Coming of age novels

Coming of age novels

These books have nothing and everything in common. They come from different times, different genders. Their stories are as diverse as the way they are told. Some were written for adults, some for young people. The windows they provide into adolescence are varied, each refracting something distinct. But then: there are the first loves, the...
Chekhov’s mongoose and the elusive orange

Chekhov’s mongoose and the elusive orange

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.” Charles Dickens, Hard Times (1854) We at QI have taken the opening lines of Dickens’s shortest novel to heart. Our latest book contains nothing but facts, facts, facts: 1,411 times over. The book covers a huge range of...