Date Archives September 2012

Off-key stories hit the mark

I was excited to meet Courttia Newland at Bim Literary Festival here in Barbados earlier this year. He’s a British writer, but was here because his mother is Barbadian. I’d read his debut novel The Scholar when it first came out, which I now realise is a long time ago (like, last millennium). Had always planned to try another of his books but never got around to it, so I was happy to pick up this collection of “twelve macabre short stories”, and get it signed. First of all I… Read More

Tabucchi Week: Pereira Maintains

Whadda you mean, “What’s Tabucchi Week?” It’s a week of readings, reviews and blog posts about Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi, organised by Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. This is my contribution, a review of Tabucchi’s short and delightful novel Pereira Maintains. The most striking thing about Pereira Maintains is the narrative voice. It’s narrated in the third person, but the two words from the title, “Pereira maintains”, occur regularly throughout the book to qualify what we’ve just been told. For example: In Praca de Alegria there was no sense of being in… Read More

On the wall at Foyles

An interesting thing happened to me this week. I ended up being featured in a photography exhibition at Foyles bookshop in central London. Before you ask – no, I haven’t suddenly developed a talent for the visual arts. I remain, as I always have been, pretty much visually illiterate. It’s actually one of my short stories that’s being hung on the wall, or at least an extract from it. It’s part of the photography/writing collaboration that I’ve written about on here before. The literary art book, Still, is being launched… Read More

The blurb has landed

Ah, things are really rolling now. After the mysterious appearance of a listing for my next novel on Amazon recently, now a blurb has appeared in my email inbox. It’s quite strange and in some ways depressing to see several years of work reduced to a blurb, but I think they did a good job of making it sound interesting. What do you think? For Jeff Brennan, juggling multiple identities is nothing new. In his online life he has dozens of different personalities and switches easily between them. In his… Read More

Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe

The premise of this book is delightful: a novella in 51 short chapters, describing the life of famous 17th-century Chinese painter Bada Shanren, partly through his paintings themselves, which are reproduced in the book. The writing in places was quite beautiful, but as a novella it didn’t really work for me. I’ll attempt to explain why. Part of it, I think, is the difficulty of describing art in words. I had a similar problem with the descriptions of jazz in the Booker-shortlisted Half Blood Blues last year – I wrote then, “No… Read More

Ten years ago: A Call for Peace

When Terry Rockefeller heard that the World Trade Center had collapsed, she had no idea her younger sister Laura was inside. All she knew was that Laura was working in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday before coming to visit her in Boston on Thursday. As a freelance conference hostess, Laura could have been assigned to any hotel or restaurant in New York. Rockefeller had been leaving angry messages on her sister’s answering machine all day, wanting to find out where Laura was and if her travel plans would be affected. Then a little before 5 p.m., she got the call. Laura had been working at Windows on the World, on the top floor of the north tower.

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The importance of staring out of the window

What does a writing day consist of? The image that comes to mind is of someone pounding away on a typewriter with a fixed, manic expression, surrounded by a mess of coffee and cigarettes and balled up sheets of paper. The reality, in my experience, is somewhat different. First, here’s what Martin Amis had to say about it in a recent interview on Goodreads: Being alone in my study is working, whatever I’m doing, even if I’m just throwing darts into the wall. It’s communing with your conscious mind and hoping… Read More

New stuff

I’ve been adding a few new features on the site recently, and thought I’d highlight them for you. First, I’ve added a list of all the books I’ve reviewed on the site. You’ll see that it’s listed A-Z by author, and that I have a few gaps. If you have a recommendations of a good book to read by an author whose surname begins with N, Q, U, X, Y or Z, please let me know! There’s also an archive page now – I’ve been blogging since the beginning of… Read More

As if by magic…

A sharp-eyed Amazon-watcher just emailed to let me know that my next book, A Virtual Love, has been listed and is available for pre-order. Now don’t worry, this isn’t a sales pitch – I wouldn’t ask you to go and order a book about which there’s no information, not even a cover photo. I just mention it because it’s interesting how the listing of the book online makes it feel more real for me. The thing hasn’t even been edited yet, and it’ll be six months at least before it… Read More