Edmund Gordon

Kilburn Calling



Hamish Hamilton 295pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

In 2008, Zadie Smith published an essay in the New York Review of Books under the hiply doctrinaire title ‘Two Paths for the Novel’. In it, she chides a tradition she calls ‘lyrical Realism’ – a tradition characterised by a belief in ‘the transcendent importance of form, the incantatory power of language to reveal truth, the essential fullness and continuity of the self’ – for being ‘inauthentic’ and ‘consoling’. ‘I have written in this tradition myself’, she admits, ‘and cautiously hope for its survival, but if it’s to survive, lyrical Realists will have to push a little harder on their subject.’ She quotes a passage from Joseph O’Neill’s novel Netherland that she sees as typical of ‘lyrical Realism’, and poses a few questions she reckons it fails to engage with:

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The entertaining Howard Jacobson is in conversation with Prof John Mullan at the Queen’s Park Book Festival on Sund… ,
    • 'A modest and retiring man, Thompson spent his life describing apple varieties and recommending the best – Ribston… ,
    • 'Macfarlane is a poet with the instincts of a thriller writer, an autodidact in botany, mycology, geology and palae… ,
    • 'Some scholars attribute Shakespeare’s pre-eminence to four centuries of propaganda and not to the fact that Hamlet… ,
    • RT : We would appreciate any retweets ,
    • We've just stumbled on a gem from the LR archive. The emoluments page from May 1995, in which one reviewer asked to… ,
    • Unlike Mary Shelley's monstrous creation, Jeanette Winterson's Frankenstein-inspired novel feels 'barely alive', sa… ,