Mohammed Ismael Rasool & Can Dündar

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In recent weeks, Turkey has witnessed another major crackdown on free expression. On 27 August, British journalist Jake Hanrahan and cameraman Philip Pendlebury were arrested while reporting from southeastern Turkey along with two other colleagues. They were working for the international news organisation VICE News. One colleague was later released but Hanrahan, Pendlebury and their […]

Stages of Life

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Past centres on four adult siblings and their families as they gather at their late grandparents’ country house for the summer. It opens with one sibling worrying whether strangers might think she is the mother or lover of the young man beside her. Tessa Hadley approaches this broad theme – where we stand in […]

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Trouble in Zimbabwe

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The slender period these two novels cover is that part of Zimbabwean history most known to the Western world: what Petina Gappah calls ‘the invasions’ of white-owned farms. C B George’s titular Rex Nhongo (the nom de guerre of General Solomon Mujuru) was murdered on his ‘reformed’ farm, while the death of Gappah’s character Lloyd […]

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Second Chances

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Jeanette Winterson’s retelling of The Winter’s Tale is the first in a series of novels from the Hogarth Press to be published around the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death. Next year will bring Anne Tyler’s Taming of the Shrew and Margaret Atwood’s Tempest, and further ahead there are versions of Hamlet by Gillian Flynn and King […]

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Grand Designs

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Jonathan Lee likes to build his fiction around catastrophe. His second novel, Joy, told the story of Joy Stephens, a brilliant young lawyer who falls forty feet on to a marble floor while at work in an office in London’s Square Mile, transforming the lives of those closest to her. His most recent, High Dive, […]

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Soul Tenancies

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In retrospect, the clues were always there – that remarkable central sequence of Cloud Atlas narrated entirely in an invented future tongue; the moment when The Bone Clocks mutates from the story of a lovelorn adolescent girl into something nightmarishly strange – but the truth is now undeniable. With the publication of his seventh novel, […]

All You Need Is an Island

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 1967, an island off the west coast of Ireland was put up for sale in a newspaper advertisement. John Lennon sent The Beatles’ trusted assistant, Alistair Taylor, to the auction on his behalf. Taylor secured Dorinish for Lennon for the sum of £1,550. The island offered some of the best pasture in Clew Bay […]

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A Shot in the Arm

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Smile Jamaica Concert, scheduled for 5 December 1976, was intended as a celebration of Jamaican unity: in the National Heroes Park in Kingston, the most famous living Jamaican, Bob Marley, would offer an alternative vision of a country badly damaged, at that time, by political resentment and gangland strife. Two decades after independence, Jamaica […]

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‘A Meaningful Life’

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction is in a dystopian decline. In The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), there is plenty to object to – the mangled prose, for starters. But at least that novel holds together as a diverting though implausible ‘what-if’, in which fundamentalism and soaring infertility rates force the protagonist, Offred, to become a handmaid – […]

Life Studies

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The debate continues to rage (if that is the right verb) about autobiographical fiction. It began, apparently, with the publication of My Struggle by the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard, in which a first-person narrator describes the life and times of a man called Karl Ove Knausgaard. The enterprise was hailed as revolutionary; ‘fiction’ was […]

Love & Privatisation

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In his memoir, Istanbul, Orhan Pamuk recalls a game he would play as a solitary child: sitting at his mother’s dressing mirror, he would adjust its wings until they reflected each other and he could see ‘thousands of Orhans shimmering in the deep, cold, glass-coloured infinity’. First came the shock of

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By Hook or by Crook

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Readers of a certain age and sensibility will be appalled by the message of this book. John Seabrook takes us on a lucid and well-researched tour of the places where modern hits are created and finds whey-faced nerds bent over mysterious digital boxes flashing coloured squares while they cobble together irresistible pop sounds from the […]

Liquid Cathedrals

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

William Finnegan makes slowcoach Donna Tartt look like Usain Bolt. He once took eight years to write a single article for the New Yorker, thus blowing her ten for The Goldfinch right out of the water. His book Barbarian Days took him almost an entire lifetime to write (he is now over sixty and still […]

Social Scientist

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This is the second volume of Richard Dawkins’s autobiography, carrying the story on from the 1976 publication of his bestselling The Selfish Gene, the point at which the first volume ends. Dawkins has several personae and all of them are on display here. The Dawkins who appears most briefly is the superb science journalist of […]

What Tycho Brahe Saw

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

As 1665 drew to a close, many people were anxious about the following year, which would be burdened with the digits 666, the ominous Number of the Beast. Even though London was indeed devastated by the Great Fire in 1666, John Dryden chose to celebrate the year with his poem ‘Annus Mirabilis’. Thanks to God’s […]

Oh What a Feeling

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This is a cultural history of emotions structured in the form of an encyclopaedia of 150 entries, each of which contains a definition and, sometimes, a miniature story. It begins with Abhiman, a Sanskrit term for ‘the pain and anger caused when someone we love, or expect kind treatment from, hurts us’, and ends with […]

In Search of the Pig-Headed Princess

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I’m not sure what stands out for you when you think of the late 1990s – DeLillo’s Underworld? The dot-com bubble? Titanic? – but for me it’s two things: working (somewhat reluctantly) in New Age publishing and going (not at all reluctantly) to raves. It isn’t a period I think about very much now, but […]

Dangerous Minds

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Thomas Quick was, for a time, Sweden’s most notorious serial killer. He was convicted of eight murders but confessed to many more, producing a list of almost forty victims. By his own account he murdered children and adults, including a Dutch couple sleeping in a tent in northern Sweden, but was never able to pinpoint […]

Fighting Trauma

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On 31 October 1914, a twenty-year-old British soldier was attempting to pick his way through a barbed-wire entanglement when he suddenly found himself in the impact area of a German artillery barrage. The shells exploded so close to him that his haversack was torn away from his body, but when the shelling had subsided and […]

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