"I’ve always written short stories, I’ve always been interested in the form being dictated by the concept, rather than the other way round." Jon McGregor
June/July 2014
Mr Cunningham's feelings for snow

Mr Cunningham’s feelings for snow

Michael Cunningham’s best-known work is the Pulitzer Prize-winning sensation The Hours, about three women whose lives intersect across the 20th century. His latest novel features another trio of characters, but this time their lives are more directly entwined. The Snow Queen opens in 2004 on a wintry New York day as Barratt Meeks, a 30-something...
Medusa myths

Medusa myths

When I was a child, my biology textbooks consigned hair to the erotic Little League: “A secondary sexual characteristic” was the dry definition. Now I’ve written a novel that rehabilitates hair to the sexual A-List. It started with the question “What if there were seven sisters with hair flowing to the ground?” This question is...
Joshua Ferris: Down in the mouth

Joshua Ferris: Down in the mouth

Joshua Ferris’s To Rise Again at a Decent Hour tells the story of Paul O’Rourke, a restless and anxious dentist in love with life but with no earthly idea of how to live it. A tangle of contradictions, he’s a Luddite with an iPhone (‘me-machine’) habit, and a God-fearing atheist whose troubled past and uncertain...
Challenger deep

Challenger deep

When the jellyfish came, we woke everyone up. They floated down on the ship like snow and even Lev came into the sail to press his face on the periscope. The glow was dim but we could see our arms and outlines and after a minute we stepped away from the glass to look at...
Siri Hustvedt unmasked

Siri Hustvedt unmasked

Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World is a sparkling tour de force examining ideas about perception and identity. Harriet ‘Harry’ Burden, an artist railing against the New York art establishment that she believes has overlooked her work, undertakes a unique and complicated experiment: hiding behind the fronts of three male artists who exhibit her work as...
So long, and thanks for all the towels

So long, and thanks for all the towels

On the Kindle, I carry around the books I have probably read more times in my life than any other: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and its four sequels. How splendid it is to have them on an electronic book “with a screen about three inches by four”, like the Guide itself. Douglas Adams...
Ove does his rounds

Ove does his rounds

It was five to six in the morning when Ove and the cat met for the first time. The cat instantly disliked Ove exceedingly. The feeling was very much reciprocated. Ove had, as usual, got up ten minutes earlier. He could not make head nor tail of people who overslept and blamed it on the...
Straight-talking Sadie Jones

Straight-talking Sadie Jones

There is no doubt that Sadie Jones is a generous-spirited woman. I get lost on my way to her house in Chiswick but when I arrive, flustered, instead of being cross that I’ve kept her waiting, she sweetly asks what kind of coffee I’d like, pointing at a complicated-looking machine. Coffee made, we settle down...
The rain

The rain

Three motorboats rushed across the water, their bows abreast. The sun shone and the boats they met waved and assumed they were having a race. In the middle boat, the broadest of the three, an old woman lay on a litter. The litter was made of an old red deckchair stretched out full length and...
Nicholson Baker's smokes and mirrors

Nicholson Baker’s smokes and mirrors

In Travelling Sprinkler, Nicholson Baker revisits floundering poet Paul Chowder, the protagonist of 2009’s The Anthologist, and finds him abidingly disengaged. Pining for ex-girlfriend Roz, he seeks solace in protest songs, political hand-wringing, garden implements and other passing distractions, including a desire to be taken seriously as a cigar aficionado. Through it all, he has...