Category Archives: Books

Fernanda Pessoa: The Book Of Disquiet


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V. S. Naipaul: The Enigma Of Arrival


He would have looked out on something like perfection: the lawn with the great trees in the foreground, the forest or wood to one side, the beaten-down water meadow beyond this lawn, with all the growth of willow and reeds and bamboo clumps and dogwood and the shrubs that loved water; the river with its river growths, the water meadows beyond, the willows, the channels, the drowned fields catching the morning light and, at a sufficient distance, the evening light; and then the bare downs again.  (222) Continue reading V. S. Naipaul: The Enigma Of Arrival

Svend Brinkmann: Stand Firm – Resisting The Self-Improvement Craze


I haven’t been able to get hold of Barbara Held’s “self-help book for curmudgeons”  Stop Smiling, Start Kvetching, but I enjoyed Svend Brinkman’s description of it in his own anti self-help book  Stand Firm – Resisting The Self-Improvement Craze.   This is from a chapter that starts, “It’s much more fun to be a sourpuss than a happy-clappy type”:

Continue reading Svend Brinkmann: Stand Firm – Resisting The Self-Improvement Craze

Tatyana Tolstaya: White Walls



And others survived, preserved themselves, guarded against changes, laid low behind the strips of unglued wall paper, behind the loosened doorframes, under the tattered felt, and now they emerged, honest and old-fashioned, redolent of ancient virtues and devalued sins… They came out, carrying under their arms valuables safeguarded in their lethargic sleep: decayed novelties, frayed audacities, mouldy discoveries, expired insights, amen; squinting, strange, rare and useless, they came out the way an antiquarian, albino cockroach might emerge from a pile of old newspapers…. 329

Continue reading Tatyana Tolstaya: White Walls

Olivia Manning: School For Love

This article in the Paris Review sent me back to Olivia Manning, a writer I haven’t thought about for years. Remember her Balkan Trilogy, which was made into a 7-part TV adaptation by the BBC?  That wasn’t until after her death, unfortunately – Manning was bitter about her lack of recognition, and particularly peeved about Iris Murdoch’s fame. I love her riposte when A.S. Byatt said The Rain Forest, the only one of her books ever listed for the Booker, was “slow”:

I wouldn’t call La Byatt exactly a sprinter.

So true. And I must say I share her exasperation at the canonisation of Iris.

Continue reading Olivia Manning: School For Love

‘An Exact Observer of all things in Earth, Sea and Air’

He wrote the first bestselling travel books which inspired Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels, and gave us many new words from barbeque, chopsticks, cashew and avocado to sub-species.  He has more than 1,000 words in the OED. He circumnavigated the world three times and visited all 5 continents. He visited the Galapagos 150 years before Darwin and Australia 80 years before Cook. He described plants and animals never seen by a European. Nelson’s sailors studied his Discourse of Winds, Tides and Currents. He was quoted by Darwin, Nelson, Humboldt and Cook.  He documented the effects of marijuana, described how soy sauce was made and drank the Spanish version of a cappuccino. He rescued Alexander Selkirk.

His burial site is unknown and he is largely forgotten. Continue reading ‘An Exact Observer of all things in Earth, Sea and Air’

The Book of Forgotten Authors- Christopher Fowler

Here is a book of ninety-nine stories and a dozen essays about authors mostly forgotten.  In a preface entitled Why are Good Authors Forgotten?’ Fowler begins, Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead. He has had to whittle down four hundred possible entries, and stick to novels and short stories to get the material for this  fascinating little book. Continue reading The Book of Forgotten Authors- Christopher Fowler