Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Max Porter: ‘I love slang, I love hip-hop. I love the proper use of language’   Leave a comment

Max Porter, back with Lanny, an inventive take on the ‘missing child’ narrative and a meditation on Englishness.

A culture of lying, the outrageous failures of our political system, Westminster being so corrupt, so chaotic … ” Max Porter is talking about public life in the UK today, about which he finds almost everything “revolting”. Porter’s debut, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, a novella-cum-prose poem about a bereaved dad bringing up two boys, based on the death of his father when he was six, was one of the stand-out books of 2015. He was hailed as “a writer bursting with originality”, but he was reluctant to write a second novel without feeling the same sense of urgency. Now, four years later, this despair at the state of the nation, combined with his “obsessive” fears for the environment, has sent him back to his desk for Lanny, an inventive take on the “missing child” narrative and a meditation on Englishness, made strange by the otherworldliness that distinguished his earlier novel.

Porter didn’t want “just to write angry stuff about tabloid poisoning”, a straightforward anti-Brexit or eco-crisis novel. “This isn’t stuff I want to write about explicitly.” Instead, he hoped “to have a kind of philosophical reckoning” with all these issues. “The question was ‘How do I write about England?’”

His first attempts were “rather unhealthy, because various political feelings collapsed into the effort. It was not a nice place I was writing about”; and, despite all these anxieties, he longed “to write about how strange life is, and beautiful”. Indeed, such gloominess seems at odds with the ebullient novelist (not yet 40), who shrugs off his parka and begins talking with infectious passion about everything from poetry (“I’m never not thinking about Emily Dickinson”) to his worship of trees. He insists that he is not the whimsical, nature-loving Lanny at the heart of his new novel – “I’m a bit more worldly than that” – but his boyish enthusiasm does bring a blast of energy into the hush of Faber’s Bloomsbury offices. Starting out in a bookshop (he won the Bookseller of the Year award in 2009), he was, until recently, editorial director at Granta, where he looked after writers including Han Kang, Eleanor Catton and Rebecca Solnit. “Editing is wonderful, but you are soulmate, analyst, bloody torturer, exploiter all rolled into one,” he says. He wrote Lanny on his Fridays at home, by which time he was desperate not to have “other people’s words in [my] head”.

Read the full interview in The Guardian

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Posted February 23, 2019 by Peter Mathews in Uncategorized

The Cemetery in Barnes by Gabriel Josipovici   Leave a comment

This is a novel about a translator who moves from London to Paris after the death of his first wife and then to Wales with his second wife, from where the novel is narrated, sometimes through the translator’s imagination and sometimes via the guests invited to dinner parties in their cottage on the hills above Abergavenny. I admit that this doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise for a novel, but I have read it three times in quick succession with increasing pleasure and relief (an odd word to use in a review perhaps), so let me try to explain why.

The translator entertains friends with food, drink, music and stories and thoughts about his life and work, but he is often heckled by his wife, which leads to repartee especially enjoyed by the guests, fascinated by their relationship. Each monologue is framed by ‘he would say’ or ‘he used to say’, creating a subtle rhythm to and distance from his often uncanny and occasionally self-contradictory stories.

Read the full review on This Space

Posted February 22, 2019 by Peter Mathews in Uncategorized

Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley review – marriage under the microscope   Leave a comment

Tessa Hadley

Tessa Hadley’s great success as a novelist lies in the way she conforms to received ideas of good writing. Rather than trying to “make it new” by blurring the distinctions between fiction and autobiography, for instance, or following other recent trends of a broadly Sebaldian nature, she delivers clear narrative lines, creates strongly visualised characters who speak in coherent sentences, and concentrates on the familiarly recurring patterns of human experience. Love; time and its passing. Does this mean there’s too much conservatism in her work? Maybe, but generally she offsets this danger by examining her characters with an unusual degree of psychological subtlety. Her particular strength is to combine a deep excavation of human frailty with compassion for its effects.

Late in the Day, her seventh novel, is no exception. On its small and tightly worked canvas we encounter two couples living in London in their late middle age, as well as a small number of their children and hangers-on. They have known each other, in various configurations, most of their adult lives. And it’s the end of one of these lives that precipitates the drama. Zachary, a wealthy gallery owner, suddenly drops down dead, leaving his wife Lydia to be cared for by Alex, a primary school head, and his wife Christine, a moderately successful painter.

Read the full article at The Guardian

Posted February 22, 2019 by Peter Mathews in Uncategorized

Victory by James Lasdun review – two powerful novellas   Leave a comment

James Lasdun.

In the afterword to his four-story collection Different Seasons, Stephen King describes the heart-sinking moment when you realise that what you’ve written is a novella. He compares the form to “an anarchy-ridden literary banana republic” where no one in their right mind would want to end up. Fiction between 20,000 and 40,000 words long does seem to be the least appetising prospect of all for publishers. That’s a pity, of course. Give me great bantamweight work any day – think of Heart of Darkness, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Animal Farm – with its extraordinary power-to-size ratio, rather than the grandiose bloat of an interminable saga.

James Lasdun’s new book is actually two novellas, Feathered Glory and Afternoon of a Faun, and the headline act is clearly the second tale. Both explore uncomfortable corners of the male psyche with eerie clarity, but Afternoon of a Faun goes darker and further, with a timely and irresistibly unpleasant story that is sure to provoke passionate discussion…

Read the full article in The Guardian

Posted February 21, 2019 by Peter Mathews in Uncategorized