Author Archives: David Gelber

History of Idleness

Posted on by David Gelber

The authors refer to the ‘beaching season’, and it is with us. A towel hits the sand, we go horizontal, we roast for two weeks. As self-confessed beach bums, Lena Lencek and Gideon Bosker pay homage to the ritual; as academics, their account is keenly researched and tightly chronological – with its roots in mythology, […]

First Among Sequels

Posted on by David Gelber

Book collectors become fixated on ‘firsts’: the first edition, an author’s first book, the first book on a particular subject. Collectors of 20th-century books are especially focused on first editions and call their quarry ‘modern firsts’. The collector of early printed books has a different field of attention. Many firsts were established in the earliest […]

One Fish Town

Posted on by David Gelber

Big Running in Newfoundland has been all but emptied of its inhabitants. Townsfolk have left this one-time fishing village to seek work further west, where the land is more populated and jobs ‘helping power the whole country’ are readily available. The Connor family is close to all that remains on this island of ‘always-there wind […]

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Game, Set & Love Match

Posted on by David Gelber

When the Essingers, a middle-class family from Texas with four very different grown-up children, converge on New York for a long weekend, family tensions inevitably resurface. This is the basic plot of Ben Markovits’s sophisticated and engrossing eighth novel, yet there is so much more going on too. On one level, the Essingers’ story is […]

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Altered State

Posted on by David Gelber

For a collection so bound together by a location, or the notion of one, Lauren Groff’s latest book achieves a gorgeous universality. Successor to the seismically popular Fates and Furies, Florida – to which state Groff moved over a decade ago – is an astute short-story collection about human experience at the hems of a […]

Dutch Treat

Posted on by David Gelber

Joseph O’Neill’s agent and publisher must hope with some fervency that he will, one of these days, write another book like Netherland (2008), his novel of émigré cricketers in post-9/11 New York. Writing in the New Yorker, James Wood called Netherland ‘exquisitely written’ and ‘a large fictional achievement’. It was the making of O’Neill’s reputation: […]

Band on the Run

Posted on by David Gelber

‘And then suddenly there was this thing called pop music.’ Thus speaks Garth Dangerfield, lead singer of the Helium Kids, as he looks back on his career in a band that appeared on Top of the Pops twenty-seven times, had half a dozen number one singles and was ‘only marginally less successful than the Beatles […]

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Schrödinger’s Plot

Posted on by David Gelber

Why write? We might counter this question with a further question: ‘Why do anything (except to earn enough money to survive)?’ or – with thanks to Albert Camus – ‘Why live when you just die in the end anyway?’ Nonetheless, the question ‘Why write?’ is pertinent enough for those who do write, or would like […]

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The Librarian Cometh

Posted on by David Gelber

Lydia Davis taught herself Norwegian in order to read his books. Haruki Murakami translated him into Japanese. Karl Ove Knausgaard reveres him. Awarded the Norwegian Critics Prize for Literature an unprecedented three times, Dag Solstad has amassed quite the following at home and abroad. Five of his eighteen novels have now been translated into English, […]

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Redemption Songs

Posted on by David Gelber

Here are two things to know about Jaxie Clackton, the unstoppable teenage hero of Tim Winton’s new novel. He once bashed a sackful of kittens to death but, at heart, he’s a decent boy. That’s the paradox central to The Shepherd’s Hut, an exhilarating and surprisingly uplifting exploration of what its author calls ‘toxic masculinity’, […]

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Bars to Entry

Posted on by David Gelber

What does it mean to be a prisoner in the land of the free? This is the question Rachel Kushner asks us to consider in her third novel, The Mars Room, a bleak and bitter interrogation of the socioeconomic structures, invisible but tyrannical, that regulate contemporary America. The belief that everyone born under the Stars and Stripes has the freedom to choose their own path underpins the American Dream. But through the story of Romy Hall

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Night on the Town

Posted on by David Gelber

Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight tells the compelling tale of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel and his sister, Rachel. Abandoned by their parents at the close of the Second World War, they are left in the custody of The Moth, a taciturn, inscrutable man who moves into the family home. With The Moth comes an eccentric cast of acquaintances, including […]

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Daphne Caruana Galizia

Posted on by David Gelber

To mark World Press Freedom Day last month, PEN and other international organisations sought to focus their attention once more on the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. A prominent investigative journalist and blogger, Caruana Galizia was assassinated on 16 October last year after leaving her home in Bidnija, Malta, in a targeted car bomb […]

Petrel Head

Posted on by David Gelber

Very early in his career as a seabird biologist, Michael Brooke discovered the truth about puffins: ‘They are horrible to handle. The beak is strong and sharp, as are the claws. It is all but impossible to hold them in a way that leaves one’s hand safe from biting beak and scratching claws.’ So much […]

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Posted on by David Gelber

Among much else, Graham Hoyland is a mountaineer. As such he has no doubt spent many vivid waking moments wondering if that little flake of ice will support his weight as he swings out over the abyss. His approach to matters of fact is, as a consequence, robustly practical. The first 169 pages of his […]

Terrible Work If You Can Get It

Posted on by David Gelber

David Graeber has written a book about a problem that, as he puts it, ‘most people don’t even acknowledge to exist’. The problem is that of ‘bullshit jobs’, which Graeber defines as ‘a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence’. Bullshit jobs […]

Just So Stories

Posted on by David Gelber

In one episode of the adult cartoon Rick and Morty, drunken scientist, Rick, derides his grandson, Morty, for imagining that he can put up shelves using his ‘sad, naked caveman eyeball’ and a ‘bubble of air’ – that is, using a spirit level. He decides to demonstrate ‘true level’, and uses a variety of arcane […]

Poles Apart

Posted on by David Gelber

Many people, envisaging the future of this planet, see a dark, dysfunctional world in which humans have destroyed the environment and superheated the climate. Others regard technology, along with the constant ability of humans to innovate, as a panacea that will cure every ill. It seems our future will resemble either Blade Runner or Star […]

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