Date Archives July 2011

Booker longlist

Here are the 13 longlisted books for this year’s Man Booker Prize: Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending (Jonathan Cape – Random House) Sebastian Barry On Canaan’s Side (Faber) Carol Birch Jamrach’s Menagerie (Canongate Books) Patrick deWitt The Sisters Brothers (Granta) Esi Edugyan Half Blood Blues (Serpent’s Tail – Profile) Yvvette Edwards A Cupboard Full of Coats (Oneworld) Alan Hollinghurst The Stranger’s Child (Picador – Pan Macmillan) Stephen Kelman Pigeon English (Bloomsbury) Patrick McGuinness The Last Hundred Days (Seren Books) A.D. Miller Snowdrops (Atlantic) Alison Pick Far to Go… Read More

Apocalypse

I like it when fiction writers have something to say about the world. I mean the real world, beyond the world of books. Junot Diaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, wrote an excellent article in the Boston Review recently about natural disasters, focusing particularly on the earthquake in Haiti. It’s rare to read something fresh about an event like that. Somehow the loss of so much life seems to render us incapable of producing anything but platitudes. Junot Diaz, though, provides something fresh. His argument is… Read More

The ingredients of fiction

Writing fiction is not really about making stuff up. It’s more about making sense of what you already have stored somewhere in your memory or subconscious, dusting it off, ordering it and making it intelligible to the rest of the world. The hope is that the things you write about will also resonate with other people, not by teaching them something new, but by helping them to see in a new way the things they already know. What that means for the process of writing is that things often take… Read More

“Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell

Homage to Catalonia is many books in one. It is a piece of journalism – Orwell initially went to Spain in the 1930s to report on the Spanish Civil War. It is also a war memoir, because Orwell was immediately convinced that enlisting in the fight against fascism rather than merely writing about it was the only honourable course of action. In some places it also feels like a history text book, with its intricate descriptions of the in-fighting between various acronym-laden political groupings and the background to the various… Read More

Giveaway: “The World’s Wife” by Carol Ann Duffy

I picked up a free copy of this in New Beacon Books – there was a stack of them left over from World Book Night earlier this year. It says inside the back cover that I’m supposed to pass it on to someone else to read and enjoy, so if you’d like a copy, please leave a comment on this post. I’ll select the winner randomly, and am happy to send the book anywhere, worldwide. It’s a collection of poems all on the same theme of overturning male-centred history, literature… Read More

And the winner is…

I had an interesting experience tonight at the launch of Alex Wheatle’s new book Brenton Brown at Brixton Library. There was a speech by the author, a Q&A, then an excellent reading by the actress Adjoa Andoh, and then a raffle for two CDs of Alex’s music and a copy of the book. And for once, I won! Nice experience to hear my number called out, and can’t wait to listen to the music. The book sounds great from the reading as well – it’s a continuation of a fascinating… Read More

“Too Loud a Solitude” by Bohumil Hrabal

The narrator of Too Loud a Solitude is an idiot. His boss despises him, others laugh at him. He drinks beer all day, and works in a cellar compacting wastepaper. He has been compacting wastepaper in the same cellar with the same hydraulic press for 35 years, and has picked out classics of world literature from the garbage, amassing a library which towers over him as he sleeps, always threatening to crush him. Other times he leaves the books in the compacter, but arranges them carefully so that each bale… Read More