"I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That’s what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.” Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall
June 2015
Visiting hour

Visiting hour

The hospital room smelled of antiseptic cleaner, but it could not mask the odor of sickness. It was Michael’s eighty-fourth birthday. He did not feel like celebrating. He had just survived a week in the Intensive Care Unit after his kidneys, heart and lungs had failed. When he was moved out of the ICU, the...
Nell Zink takes flight

Nell Zink takes flight

I’d be prepared to put money on the fact that even if you haven’t read either of her novels – The Wallcreeper and Mislaid – you’ve still heard of Nell Zink. Having burst onto the literary scene last autumn with the publication of the former in the US (by the small independent publishing house Dorothy),...
Up in the clouds

Up in the clouds

Wednesday 27 May We are late taking off. The Airbus sits unmoving on the tarmac, the stale air tasting of dust and the faint, tantalising possibility of disaster, while outside the New York City evening is blackening to night. In London, it is one am: in seven hours or so, while this plane crests down...
Miracle at Hawk's Bay

Miracle at Hawk’s Bay

Matthew High. We knew it would be him. Even before Hannah turned him over, we just knew it. It was Annie who saw him from the road. “Look,” she said, and when she pointed at the dark shape out there in the shallow water, there was only one thought in all our heads – please...
Ink and incapability

Ink and incapability

I arrange my desk, in preparation for literary flight * I cull my notes for material, coming across odd things about the brevity of life and the cause of hair loss * One note leads to a discussion of out-of-body experiences with Jeeves, whom I mark as a likely candidate for having had such an experience * I type...
A monumental construction

A monumental construction

Maylis de Kerangal’s Birth of a Bridge by is a strikingly original contemporary myth and a thrilling investigation of post-modernity. The story is simple, absorbingly technical, full of tactile details and well-grounded practicalities. In a realistically imaginary city in California called Coca, a powerful mayor who has climbed to the summit of success from the...
The fifth wife

The fifth wife

Blessings sometimes travelled in pairs. And when they did, especially during a rainy season, there was a unanimous decision by the Gods to give way to them through the traffic of the living. They floated above the still moist beds of earth where cassava plants slept, bounced off the hard backs of restless tortoises in...
Valeria Luiselli: Pearls among junk

Valeria Luiselli: Pearls among junk

Valeria Luiselli’s second novel The Story of My Teeth is a fiercely intelligent, inventive and hilarious exploration of worth, value and creation in the worlds of art and literature. The narrator, Gustavo Sánchez Sánchez, is an enterprising auctioneer who will use his skills to sell anything – even his own teeth – at the highest...
Kitsune

Kitsune

“Goblin foxes are peculiarly dreaded in Izumo for three evil habits attributed to them… The third and worst is that of entering into people and taking diabolical possession of them and tormenting them into madness. This affliction is called kitsune-tsuki. “The favourite shape assumed by the goblin fox for the purpose of deluding mankind is that...
Jami Attenberg: How to be

Jami Attenberg: How to be

Jami Attenberg’s new novel Saint Mazie tells the fictionalised story of one of Manhattan’s real-life heroes of the early 20th century: Mazie Phillips-Gordon, the brassy, big-hearted proprietress of the Venice movie theatre in the Bowery who spent most of her adult life helping the homeless. In 1940 Joseph Mitchell profiled Mazie for the New Yorker – a...