James Francken

James Francken, a former assistant editor at the LRB, works at the Daily Telegraph.

Abecedary: Ian Sansom

James Francken, 20 May 2004

At the tail-end of 2000, Ian Sansom decided to move from London to a small town in County Down. He had half expected friends to dismiss his plan as a backwoods adventure, and was surprised when they said they felt the lure of the place. Sansom tells the story of moving house, and makes sense of his friends’ enthusiasm, in a typically buoyant essay, ‘Where Do We Live?’* In...

Grousing: Toby Litt

James Francken, 7 August 2003

It was Bridget Jones’s Diary, published in 1996, that marked the arrival of ‘chick lit’; the phrase appeared in the OED late last year. If the dictionary definition brushes the genre aside – ‘(chiefly derog.) literature which is perceived or marketed as appealing to young women’ – it is not the fault of Helen Fielding’s comedy of manners....

No one reads George Meredith any more. His novels are thought to be brainy and obscure, his difficulty is seen as suspect. In the four weeks ending 22 February, according to Nielsen BookScan, 1359 people in Britain bought a copy of Middlemarch; of the noteworthy novels published in the same decade, Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes sold 182 copies; Meredith’s The Egoist sold nine. He...

So-so Skinny Latte: Giles Foden’s Zanzibar

James Francken, 19 September 2002

Those who argued that 11 September could change the direction of contemporary fiction soon had a facer. The Corrections, published a week before the terrorist attacks, became a runaway bestseller, and the case against Jonathan Franzen and his kind of big social novel did not look so watertight. There may be something too wised-up about these novels, but interest in large-scale fiction has not...

Advertising campaigns for new books have changed their well-established patterns, bringing the old ways of the marketplace up to date. Publishers are using the Internet to drum up business; authors have created websites that give themselves a plug. But some authors seem nonplussed by the need for all this self-promotion, distrusting the visitors their sites may attract. ‘If you are a...

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