The Shepherd and his Flock

In Tim Winton’s latest novel ‘The Shepherd’s Hut’ an Australian teen, Jaxie, flees a violent home when his abusive father unexpectedly meets his end courtesy of a faulty car jack. He decides to head for the home of the one person who has shown him any love a shaven-headed girl called Lee which means he …

Fox 8

George Saunders is probably one of the few genuine geniuses writing today. I would be very surprised if many of works aren’t read in thirty years time Part of this down to his humanity and basic human His book Fox 8 is a perfect parable for our troubled times. It is a simple tale of …

Little Lumpen Novelita

An author’s reputation generally rests on his more weighty books. Yet sometimes there are smaller and more fragile works that though not as worthy of critically adoration have the ability to move and demonstrate exactly why a writer is considered one of the immortals. Robert Bolano’s slight novella ‘Little Lumpen Novelita’ is a moody, nihilistic …

Colorless Tsukuru Tasaki

Haruki Murakami is not everyone’s cup of green tea. His bizarre switches from reality to fantasy can leave more conservative readers both baffled and slightly put out. Talking cats, men being flayed in Mongolian deserts and people inexplicably trapped at the bottom of wells are a few of his more memorable flights of fancy. Yet …

Man of Action, Man of Letters.

Up to about five years ago I lived my life in ignorance of James Salter. If someone had mentioned his name to be I would have probably imagined him to be some kind of old-fashioned tradesman,  ‘Salter and Sons. Purveyors of finest quality meats’ Now my life has been immeasurably enriched by the discovery that …

Owning Kerouac

All through the later part of this year I have had an inexplicable Jack Kerouac obsession. I’ve read virtually every book he’s written as well as listened to a number of audio books like Deever Brown’s memoir of taking a road trip with Kerouac in the sixties and Allen Ginsberg’s reading of The Dharma Bums …

War Stories

War what is it good for? Well at the risk of sounding incredibly cynical I’d say as source for some of the most powerful books ever created. I’ve just been reading 2 fascinating looks at two totally different wars. The first is Kevin Powers ‘The Yellow Birds’, a much praised book that is the first …

Who’s Not Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Last night I went to the Upper East Side and came away feeling thoroughly exhilarated. It wasn’t a visit to an upmarket French restaurants or sale of haute couture that did that to me but a simple lecture at the 92nd street Y Going to talks and readings at the Y is something that I’m …

Private Holden Caulfield

  On reading Kenneth Slawenski’s biography of JD Salinger I was struck by one thing. This guy Salinger, the guy we associate with sensitive young Holden Caulfield, was a military badass. He fought in the D-Day Landings and the Battle of the Bulge, as well as the Battle of Hurtgen Forest. This was the longest …

Words Fail Me. But Not Gore Vidal.

The death of Gore Vidal is a sad blow for all whom like bitchy put-downs. My own personal favorite is his reaction to being physically attacked by Norman Mailer at a cocktail party over a bad review. As he picked himself up off the floor he uttered the timeless words “Once again words fail Norman …