Every Third Thought – Robert McCrum

In 1995 Robert McCrum, literary editor of The Observer and former editorial director at Faber and Faber, suffered a massive stroke. He was only forty-two years old and had just got married. There followed a long struggle to rehabilitate and regain the use of his left side. By 2013 he had been through deep depression and his marriage had ended. Continue reading Every Third Thought – Robert McCrum

Sigrid Nunez – What are you going through

Sigrid Nunez  is usually a writer I enjoy and respect, but in her attempt to address friendship, illness and death in her latest book I feel she never goes beyond the superficial.On the second last page of the book she tells us her title, What are you Going Through, taken from a quote by the French philosopher Simone Weil, means in French quel est ton tourment?Tourment’ can be translated as, torment, pain, or suffering, more extreme one would have thought than the bland English words of her title. And, sadly, I felt there was something bland and random about this book. The characters don’t come alive. Is the fault in the writing, or is it that affluent white American society can be like this; a sterile life of focusing on appearances, a fetishisation of sex, a lack of closeness ?  Continue reading Sigrid Nunez – What are you going through

Tara Westover: Educated



“I have been teaching in Cambridge for more than thirty years,” he said, “and this is one of the best essays I‘ve read.”

I was prepared for insults, but not for this…

I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was a poison to me; I choked on it. I wanted the Professor to shout at me, wanted it so deeply I felt dizzy from the deprivation. The ugliness of me had to be given expression.

Continue reading Tara Westover: Educated

Indelicacy – Amina Cain



She works as a cleaner in a museum. It is hard to work out the time and place. She speaks of carriages and long dresses, yet also of the beach and bathing costumes. She lives alone and walks freely through the streets. Sometimes she might eat a small meal alone in a cheap cafe. She has no family that she sees, and in the beginning, only one friend. She speaks later of visiting Brazil, but it is hard to get a sense of where she is living. Continue reading Indelicacy – Amina Cain

Roast swan with green mashed potatoes


If, like Gert, you love big personalities with a sizeable helping of the fraud or impostor, you’ll enjoy this article by Edward White in The Paris Review about Fanny Cradock, the face and voice of cooking on British television from the mid-’50s to the mid-’70s [who was] once described by one national newspaper as “a preposterous character, the foodie you loved to loathe.” She actually wasn’t much of a cook – mincemeat omelette, anyone? – but she was an excellent self-promoter, a brand before the time when celebrities were brands.

Continue reading Roast swan with green mashed potatoes

Amanda Lohrey – The Labyrinth, Vertigo

Amanda Lohrey is an Australian fiction writer. Over a writing career starting with The Morality of Gentlemen in 1984 she has written seven novels and one book of short stories. In 2012 she got the Patrick White Award, which seems to be a kind of consolation prize for highly regarded Australian writers with a solid body of work, who have never got the recognition they deserve. A few local awards, a Longlisting for the International Dublin Literary Award and that’s about it. But that is not to say she doesn’t take on controversial subjects. In The Morality of Gentleman she dives right into the politics of Unionism in her account of a complicated legal case from the 1950’s. She comes from a working-class background and says that her work is always political. Continue reading Amanda Lohrey – The Labyrinth, Vertigo