Posts tagged featured

Review of All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

The first thing to say about this book is that the prose is just stunning. It had me hooked from the first lines: Another sheep, mangled and bled out, her innards not yet crusting and the vapours rising from her like a steamed pudding. Crows, their beaks shining, strutting and rasping, and when I waved my stick they flew to the trees and watched, flaring out their wings, singing, if you could call it that. I shoved my boot in Dog’s face to stop him from taking a string of… Read More

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner: Review

I think I have a problem with over-hyped books. Although the hype is never true, I always end up believing it, and come to a book with ridiculously high expectations that can never be satisfied. A similar thing happened a few years ago with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. As I wrote then: I quite liked this book. I think that, perhaps, if I had come upon it by chance in a neglected corner of a bookshop and read it without any preconceptions, I would… Read More

Review of The Pimlico Kid by Barry Walsh

Writing about Indian Magic recently reminded me of another book set in the 1960s, one I read a while ago and wanted to write about, but never got around to. That book is The Pimlico Kid by Barry Walsh, a beautifully written tale about a dramatic childhood summer in 1960s London. Billy Driscoll starts the summer as a boy, peeping over a neighbour’s garden wall with his friend Rooksy, watching the beautiful Madge Smith hang out her washing. By the end of the summer, he’s experienced love, excitement, danger, a couple of… Read More

Indian Magic by Balraj Khanna

Lately I’ve been reading quite a few books with complex structures and experimental elements. In the middle of all that, it was good to read Indian Magic, a simple enough story told in a traditional, chronological narrative. We start with Ravi arriving in England from India in the early 1960s, and follow him through various adventures and misadventures as he adapts to his new home. The author, Balraj Khanna, arrived in England in the same year as his character, Ravi, and it’s tempting to wonder how many of the events… Read More

The Chocolate Shop Perverts by Ernest Alanki

Outsiders make great literary characters. Their otherness makes them naturally interesting characters, and it’s also fascinating to see “normal” people and social conventions through their eyes, shining a fresh light on things that usually seem very familiar. Also, don’t we all feel like outsiders sometimes? I know I do, and always have. And I’ve sometimes been surprised to hear people who I thought were very gregarious and well-adjusted admit to feeling the same thing, at least on occasions. So literary outsiders give us someone to root for, and perhaps in a perverse… Read More

Pardon my appearance…

New year, new website. I’m giving the design and layout a long-overdue overhaul, as well as making the site a bit more friendly for those of you using mobiles and tablets. So things may look a little strange while I work on it, but should look better soon!

Review of Glow by Ned Beauman

Glow is a wonderfully inventive book, with some beautiful writing. Unlike Beauman’s previous two books, this one has a contemporary setting, and it’s very contemporary, taking on things like corporate globalisation, drug culture and surveillance. The plot is entirely implausible, but that’s part of the fun of it. Beauman seems to delight in setting up his complicated scenario involving a rare drug called glow, disappearances in the Burmese immigrant community of south London, an evil corporation, a pirate radio station foxes exhibiting strange behaviour patterns, and much, much more. He succeeds,… Read More

London Fiction: a Reading List

A couple of years ago I was involved in a panel event on London fiction. As part of my preparation I decided to put together a list of novels that are set in London and shed some interesting light on the city. Here’s what I came up with: Londonstani by Gautam Malkani The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon Brick Lane by Monica Ali Brixton Rock by Alex Wheatle (also The Dirty South and others) Last Orders by Graham Swift The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi Incendiary by Chris Cleave Mother London by Michael Moorcock… Read More

Under the Tripoli Sky by Kamal Ben Hameda

Peirene Press is known for publishing contemporary European literature in translation, but its latest offering takes us a little further afield, to Tripoli in the 1960s. Author Kamal Ben Hameda lives in Holland and writes in French, but this novella is set squarely in the Libya of his youth. As a child growing up in England in the 1980s, the only time I ever heard about Libya was in news stories about Colonel Gaddafi. These days the news stories are different, but still it’s a country I know very little about beyond… Read More