Author Archives: Frank Brinkley

Lack of Money Poisoned his Soul at First

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

For a writer, failure can be as slippery a notion to define as success. Everybody knows about the millionaire authors with seven–digit sales whose low self–esteem causes them to bristle at bad reviews in Denmark. Less visible are the legion of fledgling scribblers who see their stories published in little magazines as placing them on […]

Not Recommended

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Like most people of my approximate age and general outlook, I fell upon a book called Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when it appeared in 1971 and devoured it at a single sitting. These were early days in university and people hobbled around campus with Lord of the Rings in their smelly bags. Hunter […]

Bloody and For Real

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Night Train in Martin Amis’s pocket thriller is suicide itself- ‘speeding your way to darkness’ – and the book begins with the death of golden girl Jennifer Rockwell, daughter of a top cop, discovered naked in her apartment with three bullet wounds to her head, a towels swathed like a turban about the wounds, […]

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Did he Introduce the Grey Squirrel?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Not since Giles St Aubyn snatched the papers of Edward VII ‘s private secretary, Francis Knollys, from under the nose of the Royal Archives more than twenty years ago has any biographer added appreciably to the story of Edward’s long apprenticeship and shorter reign. Professor Stanley Weintraub has nevertheless been bold enough to write yet […]

Bible Amply Fleshed

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The story of Sarah and Abraham in the Old Testament might seem familiar to anyone brought up on Bible stories, but Jenny Diski makes it convincingly strange and new. She takes the bare bones of the story so laconically related in the original version, and clothes them with ample flesh. Writers have been fascinated by […]

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He was Happy to Be Dissected Mercilessly

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At eighty-five, Saul Bellow is the Grand Old Man of American Letters. A recent Sunday Times poll of his peers established him as ‘greatest living novelist’, while an even more imposing US survey identified him as one of the hundred most important people in the world. He has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the […]

Twentieth-Century Elizabethan

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Thom Gunn started out as a member of the Movement, that 1950s collection of like-minded British poets, but he looks now like a consistent outsider. When he left England and went to America, he detached himself from one poetic community without, it seems, quite attaching himself to another

How One Man Escaped the Embrace of the Nazis

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At one point in Defining Hitler its author asks the reader the rhetorical question: why bother to read this book? For many writers this would be a merited act of authorial self-destruction. In Haffner’s case the answer is mercifully kind: his book simply cannot be put aside. As a memoir of life in Germany during […]

She is a Dab Hand at Making Cookies

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Negotiating With The Dead is a tidied-up transcript of the Empson Lectures that Margaret Atwood delivered two years ago at Cambridge. ‘Negotiating with the Dead’ actually refers to the last lecture only; ‘A Writer on Writing’ is what the whole sequence is actually about. In these six substantial pieces, Atwood roams over all the things […]

Now It Can Be Told

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Mary Wollstonecraft turns out to have been the kind of person that gives women a bad name. A moaner, manipulative, and bossy as hell, she managed to annoy pretty much everyone with whom she came into contact. The evidence has always been there, but it is only now, after twenty-five years of ‘Girls’ Own’ history […]

Full of Prickles

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Stoyo Petkanov, the central character of Julian Barnes’s new novella, is a satirical creation of genius. Three parts Todor Zhivkov, the ghastly former ruler of Bulgaria, to one part Alf Garnett, he is the deposed communist boss of a (nameless) Soviet satellite state. Imprisoned by his reform-minded successors, he is about to be put on […]

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Thank You for Not Interrupting

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I have bought a second-hand Fairway Silver. It is not as smart as a new Fairway Bronze Driver Executive Plus, but I console myself that it is half the price and easier to describe. Both my Fairway and the BDEP are fitted with a Nissan 2.7 diesel engine. Compared with the old tractors, the new […]

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A Book of Quite Startling Banality

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘The most horrible thing he could imagine as a boy was to feel an ice-cold hand laid upon his face in a pitch dark room when alone at night; or to awaken in semi-darkness and see an evil face gazing close into his own; and these fancies had so haunted him that he would often […]

Narzullo Akhunjonov, Nurullo Raufkhon & Bobomurod Abdullaev

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I’ve written in these pages many times about human rights violations in Uzbekistan. Free expression is severely restricted, thousands of people are imprisoned on politically motivated charges, human rights defenders and independent journalists are frequently subjected to harassment and intimidation, including beatings and smear campaigns, and torture is endemic. Uzbekistan’s authoritarian ruler Islam Karimov died […]

Collision Course

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Those familiar with Graeme Macrae Burnet’s previous, Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, His Bloody Project, apparently a historical account of a real murder, will know of the author’s fondness for literary games. This, his third novel, also engages with the meanings of fiction, returning us to the provincial milieu of Saint Louis in France and the borderline […]

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Mommy Issues

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It is fifty years since the publication of Paul Theroux’s first novel, Waldo. Astonishingly prolific, he has published thirty further novels, plus almost twenty works of non-fiction, including a volume of criticism on V S Naipaul. Now aged seventy-six, he shows no signs of slowing down. At over 500 pages, his latest novel is a […]

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Giving Up the Ghost

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At the end of Richard Flanagan’s new novel, the protagonist, a failed novelist called Kif Kehlmann, reflects that experience is the ‘most illusory of art’s myths, the nonsense that we must go beyond ourselves to discover the world’, when in fact ‘all the time it’s only by going within ourselves that we discover the truth […]

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Death of an Actor

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Flying to Chicago on her honeymoon, Eve Swift worries she’s made the wrong choice. Will the marriage work? Is Jim really the right husband for her? After all, he’s writing a book about the benefits of anxiety. The benefits! But it was anxiety that wrecked her budding acting career (‘It was all The Show Must […]

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