Marilynne Robinson’s first novel Houskeeping, a story of the lives of three women, was published to general acclaim in 1980. It was twenty-four years before her next book, Gilead, was published. Houskeeping was a finalist in the Pulitzer Prize and was listed as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Gilead won the Pulitzer in 2005. What is it about the work of Marilynne Robinson that has seen her work described as having meditative calm, spiritual intensity, simplicity and mesmeric power? Continue reading Marilynne Robinson – Gilead
Ramatoulaye and Aissatou have been friends since childhood.
Your presence in my life is by no means fortuitous. Our grandmothers in their compounds were separated by a fence and would exchange messages daily. Our mothers used to argue over who would look after our uncles and aunts. As for us, we wore out wrappers and sandals on the same stony road to the koranic school; we buried out milk teeth in the same holes and begged our fairy godmothers to restore the to us, more splendid than before. Continue reading Mariama Ba – So Long a Letter
Louis Claret is a high school teacher, coming to the end of his career. He is fifty-eight but seems to be embracing old age. His marriage is over, his daughters are embarked on their own lives, he lives alone, not reading much, just embracing nothingness. But when we meet him, he is at a gallery opening, an exhibition of the work of a former student. As he says,
I didn’t belong there. Continue reading Jean-Phillipe Blondel – Exposed
The house party has always been a favourite setting for crime writers. Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers, all the cosy crime writers had murders at Christmas parties, bodies in the library, murders at Halloween. What most of these books had in common was that the participants were often related or at least known to each other. They needed to be to provide a motive for murder. A modern take on this is the Yoga retreat, the detox weekend or the well-being retreat. But here of course, the participants are usually unknown to each other. Continue reading Gert Loveday – Writing is Easy
Gert shares Harry and Meghan’s concern that the Queen “has not taken full ownership” of the racism allegations they made in their interview. This has made it so hard for them to move on that they’ve had to give another interview about how hard it is for them to move on. If she doesn’t take full ownership of that, they’ll have to give another interview, and another and another. It could even turn into a series and a podcast and a TED talk and a self-help course and honorary doctorates and it will be all Betty’s fault.
But of course Gert has just the book for H & M.
Imagine a city that is two cities. Two cities on the same terrain. Two cities where the citizens of each are forbidden from looking into the other world. This means that the inhabitants are required and culturally conditioned to ignore the other city. They must act as if it is not visible, and must guard their eyes, deliberately unseeing any vestige of the other city. This is all policed by a powerful, but hidden organisation called Breach. These cities ‘grosstopically’ occupy the same physical space, but have different laws, economies and rules. Continue reading China Mieville – The City and The City
Clara Beaudoux is a French journalist. In 2013 she moved into a renovated apartment in Paris. The previous tenant had lived there for twenty years and had died a year before Clara moved in. The only part of the apartment left in its original state was the cellar storage room which had a padlock on its door So what does Clara do? Continue reading Clara Beaudoux – The Madeleine Project
I had to happen. A ‘snap’ lockdown. Bang go the plans for the weekend. But life was ever thus. Just when we have won the lottery we are diagnosed with a terminal disease. Searching for inspiring reading I came upon a book by A E Ellis, Father of Rational Emotive Therapy. Continue reading Simply messing about in books
Louis Ives is a young man leading a quiet life teaching in Princeton. No, not Princeton University, but year 7 at Pretty Brook school. As he enjoys his job and is rather shy, he cannot see his life changing. But he has his weaknesses, and an incident where he is caught trying on a colleague’s bra in the staff room sees him moving to New York. Continue reading Jonathan Ames – The Extra Man
This month my self-imposed task of reading a Great Book each month brought me to the work that would present me with my greatest challenge. It was time to take down that copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses sitting on my shelves for the last twenty-seven years and actually read it. I knew only that it was about one day in the life of Dublin and some of its citizens and that its structure was loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey. I also knew that it is considered one of the greatest works of Modernist fiction and that its author is considered a genius by many. Hence my trepidation. Continue reading James Joyce – Ulysses