Is it Creative to make a Scene, or Just Bad Form?

Posted on by David Gelber

The extraordinary thing about Characters of Love is not the ingredients – a virgin, an absent father, an unreliable lover and a sprinkling of nervous breakdowns – but the way in which Susie Boyt combines them. Having abandoned her as a baby, Nell’s psychiatrist father reappears on her tenth birthday, presents her with ‘the sort […]

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Why Will and Marcus Hit it Off so Well

Posted on by David Gelber

This novel will sell by the bucket. To few authors of the last decade can we apply – the phrase ‘Publishing Sensation’ with quite the same confidence as we can to Nick Hornby. Even people who simply don’t buy books have at least one Hornby title on their shelves, underneath the football programmes or next […]

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Portia’s Problem

Posted on by David Gelber

Portia the Canadian daughter of an English father, comes to London to satisfy a curiosity and a craving. She is twenty-seven, and works for the Toronto Herald; she has never got over her father’s suicide, when she was fourteen, and remains more or less at war with her mother. She has had lovers in plenty, […]

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A Day Too Long

Posted on by David Gelber

This is a strange, hybrid book, or a publisher’s folly, whichever you prefer. Instead of translating all of Ivan Klima’s most recent Nineties collection, Intimate Conversations, his publishers have mysteriously opted to translate half of it and bulk out the volume with stories from a previously untranslated Sixties collection entitled Lovers for a Day. Unfortunately, […]

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Feminist Fiction?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Clive Sinclair, interviewing writer Emily Prager at the ICA, fell off his chair when she mentioned castration. How would he have copied with the heroine of Jill Miller’s comic novel Happy as a Dead Cat, who ‘dreamed [she’d] cut off twenty penises and fed them to a pack of wild dogs.’ Of course it is […]

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Whiffs of Wilde

Posted on by David Gelber

The best way to enjoy Mozart & The Wolf Gang is to avoid making any attempt to categorise it. In essence, it is about musical aesthetics. Burgess begins with a conversation in heaven between Beethoven and Mendelssohn who are shortly joined by Prokofiev and Bliss (composers who share centenary celebrations with Mozart in 1991) and […]

Sheer Pleasure

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

When I read novels as good as these two, whether it be by chance, or the happy whim of the Editor, I thank God for the public libraries. It is only through these institutions that I shall be able to lay hands on the ten or so earlier novels which both these unfamiliar (to me […]

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Back to Nature

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Elizabeth and her German Garden became something of a cult when it was published in 1898, reprinting 21 times by the following year. There was much speculation about the identity and sex of its author (in the new Virago edition Elizabeth Jane Howard has written a lively summary of her biography), but even with the […]

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Mothers & Daughters

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The relationship between mother and daughter is probably the most insidious, powerful, elaborate and devastating connection known to woman. (It can, of course, alternatively be the most powerful, elaborate, rewarding and positive relationship, but either there is far less of that about, or novelists find it harder or less interesting to deal with.) Fathers and […]

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Double Trouble

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Hard Luck describes the comic, frequently unhappy adventures of identical twins, Richard and Tom, from their birth in Macmillan’s Fifties to adolescence in the more affluent and progressive Seventies. The tone might be lighthearted but times are indeed hard for Richard , who narrates the story, and Tom. Their father, who initially appears in the […]

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Not So Magical Mystery Tour

Posted on by David Gelber

On page 130 of Paul Auster’s latest novel, we’re suddenly presented with a diagram representing a construction made out of thin air. Over a lake is a staircase, which the novel’s hero ascends, leading to a platform, which he walks along only to come down the stairs at the other side, presumably at the risk […]

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They Are All Cameras

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A fashionable method of dramatising a novel in recent years has been to assemble as few actors as possible, preferably two, and divide all the characters of Bleak House or War and Peace between them, fire the starting pistol and see how quickly they can convey the entire story without props and without confusing the […]

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Playing God

Posted on by David Gelber

It is like a homecoming. We open the door on a galère of amusingly daffy and improbably named characters whose lives will intertwine for 472 pages: Iris Murdoch scorns readers who find length a deterrent. The time is the present, the place a damp, oldfangled London where the sound of rain is heard outside the […]

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Politically Incorrect

Posted on by David Gelber

The days are long gone when philosophers in the Anglo-Saxon tradition could airily dismiss Heidegger’s magisterial Being and Time as based on a mistake of language. His central importance in twentieth-century thought is now unquestioned. Sartrean existentialism, the philosophical hermeneutics of Gadamer and the deconstructionism of Derrida all have acknowledged roots in the work of […]

It’s The Same The Whole World Over

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

London in the thirties. Soho. A sleazy maze of noisy smoke-filled bars, oily red plush cinemas and quirky tea houses. This is the world of Patrick Hamilton’s trilogy: The Midnight Bell, The Siege of Pleasure and The Plains of Cement. The books were written by Hamilton in his middle and late twenties and were published […]

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How all the Isms Became Wasms

Posted on by David Gelber

A little over two years ago on a cold Sunday morning I stood with a group of journalists at a gap in the Berlin Wall and watched thousands of East Germans file through to the West for the first time in their lives. I clearly remember our conversation that morning. Everyone agreed that communism in […]

What a Coincidence

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The Paradise Motel is Eric McCormack’s first novel. He has already been compared with, amongst others, J L Borges and Bruce Chatwin on account of his extravagant imagination and his deep affection for the bizarre. But his stories, which he says, with typical understatement, ‘dabble… in the slightly alien areas of everyday life’ are told […]

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Man and Superman

Posted on by Tom Fleming

If you’re among those who think David Mamet is America’s most original living playwright, this short entertaining book of speeches and essays is one you must buy – if only to get a closer look into the mind of the author of such dark, fiercely intelligent plays as American Buffalo and Glengarry Glenn Ross. It’s […]


Posted on by David Gelber

Georg Lukac’s fan-club has been dwindling steadily over the past decade. Spurned by liberals as a Stalinist hack, he has also drawn increasing flak from an oedipal Left which, weaned on his writings, has now sought to oust him. Theoretically, Lukács has been denounced as an Hegelian humanist in Marxist clothing, a latter-day Quixote who […]

Not Much Comfort

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Joseph Connolly’s latest novel focuses on – a disparate group of people staying at an English seaside resort for their summer holiday. They range from the unlikeable to the odious. There are several couples: wealthy Elizabeth and Howard; impoverished Dotty and Brian; Lulu and her madly jealous husband John – all occupying different places on […]

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