"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
December 2013
Amy Tan among the courtesans

Amy Tan among the courtesans

Amy Tan’s latest novel, The Valley of Amazement, is a sweeping saga spanning fifty years and two continents, at its heart examining the inner workings of Shanghai’s courtesan houses in the aftermath of the collapse of China’s imperial dynasty when the New Republic opened the gates to international trade – and universal chicanery. In territory...
Joyce Carol Oates: 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?'

Joyce Carol Oates: ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’

Anyone who doubts a short story’s capacity to pack a powerful punch hasn’t yet read the much anthologised and analysed short story by Joyce Carol Oates ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’. Set in the mid-1960s, it is a tale that can be read as a crime story, an allegory, a snapshot of...
Katherine Mansfield: ‘Bliss’

Katherine Mansfield: ‘Bliss’

“What can you do if you are thirty and, turning the corner of your own street, you are overcome, suddenly by a feeling of bliss – absolute bliss! – as though you’d suddenly swallowed a bright piece of that late afternoon sun and it burned in your bosom, sending out a little shower of sparks...
Elizabeth Jane Howard backwards

Elizabeth Jane Howard backwards

I had worried that meeting Elizabeth Jane Howard might be a slightly melancholy experience. Whilst her novels have sold in their millions and she counts Hilary Mantel among her fans, she has never quite received the acclaim she deserves. In spite of this and the fact that at 90 she is now quite frail, there...
Suzanne Berne behind the picket fence

Suzanne Berne behind the picket fence

Suzanne Berne won the 1997 Orange Prize for Fiction with her debut, A Crime in the Neighborhood, the shocking story of a young boy’s molestation and murder in a Washington suburb in the 1970s. With her latest novel, The Dogs of Littlefield, she’s back in the suburbs again, this time in Massachusetts. A poised study...
Fatima Bhutto borders on empathy

Fatima Bhutto borders on empathy

Fatima Bhutto’s mesmerising and impassioned debut novel The Shadow of the Crescent Moon focuses on the impossible but urgent choices facing five young people living in the tribal areas on the Pakistan border with Afghanistan, where communities are under constant threat from brutal Taliban foot soldiers and American drone strikes – and the vagaries of...
Raymond Carver: 'Cathedral'

Raymond Carver: ‘Cathedral’

“I knew that story was different from anything I’d ever written… and all of the stories after that seemed to be fuller somehow and much more generous and maybe more affirmative… Somehow I had found another direction I wanted to move toward. And I moved. And quickly.” This is Raymond Carver and he is referring...
Lorrie Moore: ‘Community Life’

Lorrie Moore: ‘Community Life’

As with most anything in life, from parents to food to clothes, I’d had plenty of experience with short stories before I really knew what they were. We read them in school (another thing experienced before it’s understood): these one- to forty-page things of fiction, usually in a photocopied packet, or an anthology containing other...
Herman Melville: ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’

Herman Melville: ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’

I’m not sure if Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener’ is a very long short story or a very short novella, but I’ve always thought of it as a story and, ever since I first read it for my English and American Literature degree in 1991, it has been my favourite short story. It contains three...
Alice Munro: ‘Menesteung’

Alice Munro: ‘Menesteung’

One of the reasons to write about the past, it seems to me, is to try to save someone or something from obscurity, or as Alice Munro says in ‘Menesteung’, from her collection Friend of My Youth: “to rescue one thing from the rubbish,” to “see a trickle in time.” This is that kind of...