Estate of Flux

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This impassioned bulletin from the Muslim communities of south London comes in a rush of sociopolitical urgency. Ishaq, Marwane and Shams – respectively, the clever one, the laid-back one and the hard-pressed chancer – are Muslim lads uneasily connected to one another by their upbringing on a squalid housing estate. At times, the dank London […]

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Pericles Remastered

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Having tackled Ariadne on Naxos and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in his short-story collection The Pier Falls (2016), Mark Haddon in his latest book looks back once again, this time to the story of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. But this is not, it should be said, a straightforward retelling or updating of the […]

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Going to the Wall

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The latest great American road story is written by a Mexican woman about one of the most terrible sources of Western shame of our age – the detaining and dehumanising of young children who cross borders in search of safety. The figure we know to be the biggest villain in this sorry saga is not […]

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The Play’s The Thing

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Polyphony requires balance: lines of melody that interweave, supporting each other one moment, competing for dominance the next. In her new novel, Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo employs these qualities to wonderful effect, composing a compelling work of individual voices in counterpoint. We begin with Amma, walking towards the National Theatre, where her play The […]

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Baby Factory

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In her debut novel, The Farm, Joanne Ramos sets up the intriguing premise of monetising surrogacy by connecting needy immigrants with high-net-worth individuals who desire a child but are unable to have one or unwilling to do the heavy lifting. The titular ‘farm’ is Golden Oaks, brainchild of businesswoman Mae Yu, who sources suitable ‘hosts’ […]

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Alter Ego

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Like every unhappy family, the Alters can at least claim a little distinctiveness. All three are in fact so distinct as to be practically estranged from one another when we first meet them in Andrew Ridker’s debut novel. Arthur Alter, a small-time academic, and his two adult children, Ethan and Maggie, by turns idiosyncratic and […]

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Little & Large

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When I was a child my older brother had a Benetton T-shirt that was adorned with images of various species of fish and carried the message ‘If this pollution continues we will grow legs and join you.’ I was reminded of this portentous garment while reading the title story of Salt Slow, Julia Armfield’s debut […]

In Love & War

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Towards the close of White Shadow, Roy Jacobsen observes, with his distinctive blend of irony and imaginative sympathy for how individuals, groups and even whole communities feel and think: God’s love for those on the coast is not as great as for those on the mainland and in the towns; for protracted periods He forgets […]

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Flesh Dance

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should’ would have been good advice for Victor Frankenstein to take before assembling an offcuts homunculus that led him to the ends of the earth. It might have been even

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Heirs of Boccaccio

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 1928, Laura Riding and Robert Graves published their excoriating polemic A Pamphlet Against Anthologies, which tore strips off modern publishers for their venal offerings of smorgasbord anthologies for easy consumption by the reading masses. These grubby volumes, they sneered, turned high art into ‘a commodity destined for instructional, narcotic, patriotic, religious, humorous and other […]

Going French

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I was in my mid-twenties and just beginning work on my first book when I was invited to dinner with some older and very distinguished writers. I was excited, and a little curious as to why they would possibly be interested in me. Then an email arrived naming the restaurant. My stomach lurched at the words. […]

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The Flâneur’s Manifesto

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Over the past few years, countless reflections on the ‘post-work future’ have been published. Most of these come from political theorists and economists, whether it’s liberals demanding a universal basic income to soften the impact of automation or leftists anticipating an immanent transition to ‘fully automated luxury communism’. Yet the psychological consequences of a society […]

From Shanghai to Surrey

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The story that apparently inspired Barclay Price to write this book is of a Chinese man called William Macao who arrived in Britain in or around 1775 as a servant. Thanks to benign employers, he was educated, converted to the Scottish Church and regularly promoted in the government’s excise department. He married a Scotswoman and […]

O Blubber Mine

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Why do we in the West have such an intense aversion to fat? Was fatness really celebrated as a sign of health, prosperity, status and beauty at some point in the distant past? Christopher Forth explores these questions in his lively, ambitious book Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life. Taking a longue […]

Fine Figures

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Nima Arkani-Hamed, a theoretical physicist born in Houston to Iranian parents and now based at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, was trying to name a new concept when he met the novelist Ian McEwan in London’s Science Museum. McEwan suggested ‘the aleph’; Arkani-Hamed instead went for ‘amplituhedron’. That ungainly mouthful serves as the climax to […]

Class Acts

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen in 1980. When she was six, she and her mother went to live in Canterbury. When she was seven, they moved to Airdrie, when she was eight, to North Shields, when she was nine, to Hetton le Hole, and when she was eleven, to Coatbridge. At thirteen she was […]

In Search of Lost Time

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann asks, ‘Can one … narrate time, time itself? … A story which read “Time passed, it ran on, the time flowed onward” and so forth – no one in his senses could consider that a narrative.’ Yet we are time-bound, as are fictional characters, and Mann decides that he […]

A Very Azeri Upbringing

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘We all know families that are poor but “respectable”. Mine, in contrast, was extremely rich but not “respectable” at all.’ Born in 1905 in the ancient desert city of Baku, Banine (full name Umm-el-Banine Assadullayeva) was the fourth daughter of an Azeri oil baron, and thus a member of an exotic, semi-Russified oligarch class that […]

Roberto Saviano

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I first wrote about Italian author and journalist Roberto Saviano in these pages in December 2008. He had been living under police protection for two years after publishing Gomorrah, a gritty denunciation of the Naples mafia. In that year, Saviano was forced to leave Italy when the mobsters he had exposed in the book threatened to […]

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