German Literature Month: The Weight of Things by Marianne Fritz

German Literature Month happens every November, and usually I remember about it some time in December. This year, though, I’m taking part for the second year in a row! After my review of Austerlitz last year, here are my thoughts on The Weight of Things by Austrian writer Marianne Fritz. There are some pretty horrible characters in The Weight of Things, from… Read More

October Reading Roundup

It’s been a busy couple of months for me, driving across Europe and along the Black Sea coast of Turkey, and now exploring Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Add in full-time freelance work and my continuing attempts to finish a novel, and it doesn’t leave much time for blogging. So I seem to have missed the September roundup, but I’ll go… Read More

The Good Life Elsewhere: A Dark Moldovan Comedy of Migration

To describe The Good Life Elsewhere by Moldovan writer Vladimir Lorchenkov as a comedy is slightly misleading. It’s certainly shot through with black humour and absurd situations as some Moldovan villagers go to ever more desperate lengths to escape their poverty and move to Italy. And yet, because of their poverty and their desperation, and because you know that, despite its absurdist exaggeration,… Read More

Read to Your Children. They’ll Thank You for It

It’s International Literacy Day today, and I’d like to talk about fostering a love of reading. Recent research by Egmont shows that reading for pleasure has huge benefits for children, and the best way to encourage them to do that is for parents to read aloud to their children. (Thanks to The Author magazine for alerting me to the Egmont… Read More

August Reading Roundup

How was your reading month? I had a good one, recovering from my slump in July and making some great discoveries. Here they are: The Troll Garden by Willa Cather Willa Cather is one of those authors whose work I’ve been meaning to read for so long that I’ve forgotten who made the initial recommendation. This short story collection was… Read More

What Would Radical Happiness Look Like?

How can you be happy when others are suffering? It’s a question that’s bothered me throughout my life. Part of the problem, I think, is that in Western societies, we have defined the pursuit of happiness as an individualistic endeavour. And so I lived for years in London and New York, doggedly pursuing happiness while stepping over the homeless people… Read More

July Reading Roundup

I’ve been overwhelmed with work and travel lately and have got out of the habit of blogging. But I’m going to return to my monthly reading roundups now, skipping over May and June and just picking up again in July. Our School Stories 2019: Tales inspired by Dulwich College and P.G. Wodehouse I read this one because I wrote one… Read More

Cultural Time Zones and the Global City

What is a cultural time zone? Think of tennis, says Melissa Tandiwe Myambo in a fascinating essay in New Left Review. On the international tennis circuit, all the courts and facilities must meet certain standards, with only minor local variations. “Thus, the tennis tour allows professional players to circulate globally while remaining inside a specific cultural time zone that is… Read More

See What I Did There?

Has anyone else noticed an annoying trend in contemporary writing? OK, there are probably several that spring to mind (“I was sat?”), but the one I’m thinking about today is “See what I did there?” You’re likely to encounter this phrase any time the writer has used a rather obvious pun, but it could appear after any piece of wordplay…. Read More