The Man who had Time to Read Gurganus

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

First, some numbers. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is seven hundred and eighteen pages long. Each of these pages contains around five hundred and fifty words. Therefore by my calculations Allan Gurganus’s first novel is longer than either Moby Dick or Our Mutual Friend. It is ten times longer than Paul Sayer’s first novel, […]

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Greening the Grown-Ups

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The first thing to be said about William Wharton’s latest is that you cannot put it down. The second thing is that when you finally do put it down, you wonder if you have been seduced by a master storyteller back into that old magical world of childhood fantasy. Take out the sex at the […]

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Shaggy Dog Stories

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I really thought I was going to enjoy What He Really Wants is a Dog. It had a wryly humorous, colloquial title; seventeen stories of ‘lovers and liars, sorcery, sodomy, friendship, revenge and nostalgia’; a charming jacket illustration of a cat, and was described on the back as ‘wickedly perceptive’. I was disappointed. The story […]

Too Much Freedom?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

I have an idea that this tiny novel – and it is a multi-faceted true novel rather than a long short-story – will come to be seen as one of its distinguished author’s key works. In it the master theme of Bellow’s entire oeuvre, perhaps for the first time, surfaces openly. This theme, implicit in […]

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My Hero

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At a dinner party recently, the conversation turned to personal heroes. I chose Primo Levi – the Italian Jewish chemist turned writer who survived Auschwitz to immortalise it in his books, If This Is A Man and The Truce. He was a man of profound humanity, humility and erudition. Clearly a good man, his insatiable […]

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Poor Girl Makes Good

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the case of Vittoria Accoramboni: for the prosecution, John Webster, dramatist and contemporary of Shakespeare; for the defence, Robert Merle, novelist born in the early years of this century. Webster gave her a bad reputation and the lead part in The White Devil and Merle wishes to restore her character in his latest book […]

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Gunning for Billy

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Quien es?’ The last words of William Bonney, alias Billy the Kid, have obsessed many people. ‘Who is it?’ is a simple enough question to ask in a darkened room where you think a friend is sleeping, but really your death lies hidden and holding a Winchester which will spread your brains all over the […]

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Untranslatable

Posted on by David Gelber

Despite endless exposure, the French mystery remains intact: a language that, in its purest expressions, defies translation, and a ravenous intellectual passion from which Anglo-Saxons generally avert their gaze. Often repulsed, rarely encouraged, the British have had to satisfy their intense curiosity about the French as best they might- hence the variety of interpretations ranging […]

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Laced With Tension

Posted on by David Gelber

In Hollywood now, apparently, the talk is of ‘high-’ and ‘low-concepts’, a high-concept film consisting of a single, simple idea that can be summarised succinctly on the back of a cigarette packet. Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger as twins! Tom Hanks as an eleven-year-old! Nicholson Baker’s extraordinary, hilarious novel is a high-concept book, and this […]

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He Nearly Goes Mad

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Sometimes I wonder why publishers bother to bring out anything as short as this book, especially when the cost will surely drive most buyers away. But The Pigeon answers my question. It would have been an act of pure wickedness not to publish this, which is if anything even better than Süskind’s last work, Perfume. […]

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He Nearly Goes Mad

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Sometimes I wonder why publishers bother to bring out anything as short as this book, especially when the cost will surely drive most buyers away. But The Pigeon answers my question. It would have been an act of pure wickedness not to publish this, which is if anything even better than Süskind’s last work, Perfume. […]

Shades of Beak Street

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In Arabia Jonathan Raban suggested that if the Arabs were to acquire a genuine contemporary literature, it would be written by women ‘because women were the only people living under the kind of strain which produces serious poetry and fiction.’ Arab men, he said, had it too easy. He also predicted that when the lattice […]

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Boxcar Willie

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The old writer William Seward Hall lives in a boxcar by the river. Thirty years ago he wrote a book called The Boy Who Whittled Animals out of Wood, about a crippled boy who carved animals, and finally animated them by means of masturbatory rites, but since then nothing. Now he sits down to write […]

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Pressure of a Cork

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Now if it had been Michel Foucault’s pendulum…but the Foucault in this case is Jean Bernard Léon (1819–68), and it is beside his pendulum, a copper sphere on a long thin wire suspended and swinging from the vault of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in Paris, that the narrator Casaubon waits patiently through six […]

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Smok Runs Amok

Posted on by Marketing Manager

It is fairly well known that before he emigrated to the United States in 1935, I B Singer was a rabbinical student, specialising in the study of Talmudic law. Judaism may have lost a good rabbi when Singer opted for a career as a writer (and this novel like the rest of his fiction is translated […]

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