Date Archives April 2008

“Pandora in the Congo” by Albert Sanchez Pinol

I got this as a reviewing freebie from LibraryThing, which was good because with its title and retro cover of cartoonish man emerging from jungle, I would probably never have picked it up in a bookshop. In fact, it turns out to be a postmodern pastiche of African adventure novels, with a strong metafictional element (the narrator has been told the story by a suspected murderer awaiting trial, and all along he (and we the reader) have to work out whether to believe the increasingly implausible tale). Knowing all of… Read More

“Miracles” by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis sets out to prove by logical argument that miracles are possible. The clear-headed writing style helps to draw you in, he anticipates a lot of the criticisms people will have, and I just like the attempt to argue from a position of rigorous logic something which mostly just comes down to “you believe it or you don’t”. The trouble is that, in the end, it comes down to that anyway. The calm logic proceeds slowly from step to step, and I am with him all the way, until… Read More

Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Alexis Wright at Southbank Centre

I took a long time to write about it, but a week ago I went to see Ngugi wa Thiong’o in conversation with Alexis Wright at the Southbank Centre. It was great to see Ngugi, and to learn about Alexis Wright, an aboriginal writer who I had never heard of until now but would like to read in future. The event wasn’t very well organised, though, as it started late and wasted a lot of time on unnecessary introductions. The moderator/questioner, Ken Olende, also waffled a lot and didn’t control… Read More

Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and freedom of speech

I went to see Salman Rushdie in conversation with Lisa Appignanesi at the Southbank Centre last night. I have never been a particular Rushdie fan, so was pleasantly surprised by his wit, intelligence and affability. He was talking mostly about his new book the Enchantress of Florence, and made me want to read it. I was struck mostly, though, by a comment he made right at the end, when he was asked by a member of the audience for his stand on the recent Martin Amis controversy. His answer was… Read More

Edward Said – On Late Style

It’s good that Edward Said got far enough with the writing of this book to allow it to be published posthumously. It’s sad, though, that he was not able to finish it himself. The editors spliced together notes, lectures and essays into a book, without having to add any bridging paragraphs or explanations — all the words are Said’s. But the trouble is that it reads like a bunch of essays and lecture notes spliced together. There’s nothing really tying it all together, apart from the overall theme of ‘lateness’…. Read More