Posts tagged london

Beauty? No, thanks

As a side note to my post last week on the cafes I have killed, I wanted to add one more thing about writing locations. It struck me that in a country with so much beauty, I  have latched onto the ugliest locations in which to do my writing. It seems that beauty doesn’t really work for me, at least while I’m writing. It’s wonderful to look at, wonderful to get inspiration from, but it seems I prefer to get that inspiration before I sit down to write. When I’m… Read More

“Saturday” by Ian McEwan

Not my favourite McEwan – that is Atonement by a long way. This was OK, a more meditative book, full of long meandering passages from the head of Henry Perowne, a successful neurosurgeon living in Marylebone with his successful wife and talented blues-musician son, awaiting the return from France of his beautiful and talented and successful daughter. A man so ridiculously successful, in fact, that you just know something really bad is going to happen to him. He’s got a big metaphorical “KICK ME” sign taped to his back from… Read More

“Brick Lane” by Monica Ali

Not sure what to write about this. I enjoyed the story and it was well-written, but to me nothing special. Hated the ending – don’t worry, I won’t give it away, but the last line just sounded so corny I was quite shocked. The book as a whole is not simplistic, but the ending made it seem that way. I think maybe this is one of those cases where the hype was so massive that the reality is bound to disappoint. It was an interesting depiction of a woman who… Read More

“Incendiary” by Chris Cleave

A well-written, poignant look at terrorism, both cause and effect. [Warning: spoilers further down, don’t read on if you don’t want to know the ending] The effect comes first – a British woman suffers the loss of her husband and son when a suicide bomber kills a thousand people by detonating a bomb in the middle of the crowd at an Arsenal game. She writes a letter to Osama bin Laden, and this book is the result. It’s calm, moving, never melodramatic. The woman’s loss is tempered by guilt –… Read More

“The Buddha of Suburbia” by Hanif Kureishi

I grew up in Beckenham, the exact part of London suburbia in which this novel is set. To my knowledge it’s the only time a novel has ever been set in Beckenham – in fact, it’s probably the only time a novel has even mentioned Beckenham in passing. So I very much enjoyed the opening chapters of the book, narrated by the teenaged Karim and telling of his father who becomes the ‘Buddha of Suburbia’. I loved the way that the father is presumed to know the secrets of ‘Eastern’… Read More

Pigeon-feeding inflation

The cost of feeding the birds has gone up a lot. It only cost Mary Poppins tuppence a bag, but in Trafalgar Square today it’ll cost you £500, according to an aggressively-worded sign that confronted me as I left the National Gallery the other day. Now I’m sure there are sensible, practical reasons for this rule. I’m sure that the pigeons spread all kinds of terrible diseases, and that the government had to spend millions of pounds cleaning all the shit off Nelson’s hat. But the thing is, I’m not… Read More

Art at the Barbican

I went to the Barbican recently for two exhibitions – Radical Nature and the Free Art Fair. I liked the first more than the second. The Free Art Fair was a great idea: have am exhibition at the Barbican and give away the work at the end through a random draw. It was ruined, though, by someone’s idea to have a children’s music event in the same space. Young children banging on drums and clashing cymbals made it impossible to enjoy the event or even to look at the art… Read More

Why the London Evening Standard is dying

A few weeks ago, I walked past an Evening Standard vendor, and glanced at the headline: “WORLD’S FIRST AIDS VACCINE”. This was big news – a massive scientific breakthrough that could save millions of lives. My response was to shake my head and keep walking. People think the Standard’s circulation is plummeting because of the internet, or the freesheets. It’s not true. The paper is dying because of crimes against journalism, committed over many, many years. As it turns out, that AIDS headline was true – there had been a… Read More

London, Glamour and Grime

I’ve been asked to judge a short story contest run by the London Bridge Festival. Entry is free, word limit is 1,000 words and the theme is “London, Glamour and Grime”. More details and entry requirements available here.