Ready to Go Off

Jenny Turner, 18 February 2021

Kindred is an act of generosity, an embodiment of the hope that one day, it will be nothing to write home about when a Black woman sits in her new house with her white husband, happily surrounded by piles...

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Extreme Jogging: The ‘Nocilla’ Project

Kevin Breathnach, 18 February 2021

Agustín​ Fernández Mallo, then a Spanish physicist with one book of poetry to his name, was on holiday from his laboratory in 2004 when he was hit by a motorbike in Thailand....

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Me? Soft?

Namara Smith, 4 February 2021

It’s never easy to sort out what’s yours and what’s your mother’s – harder still, Yaa Gyasi’s book suggests, when the fear of enmeshment is shared. Armed with diagnostic...

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Corporate Imposter

Alex Harvey, 4 February 2021

The narrator of Denis Johnson’s The Largesse of the Sea Maiden concludes his account of dead or dying friends with a careless aside: ‘It doesn’t matter. The world keeps turning....

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In​ 1993, frustrated and unfulfilled, Emmanuel Carrère was waiting on two replies – one from Satan, the other from God. He was 35, with four novels behind him but not enough fame for...

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Ursula Le Guin was able to direct a whole array of ‘what if?’ questions against the conventions of children’s fantasy. What if you don’t need heroic quests? What if keeping...

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Surely, Shirley: Ottessa Moshfegh

J. Robert Lennon, 21 January 2021

Death in Her Hands, like all Ottessa Moshfegh’s novels, is a mystery, as well as a portrait of a broken mind. But it’s also a hall of mirrors in which every image or event might be real, or...

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Slashed, Red and Dead: Rilke, To Me

Michael Hofmann, 21 January 2021

Rilke set himself subjects the way a shoemaker might, or a sculptor. Laocoön. The burghers of Calais. The thinker. The lovers. The tiny figurines and vast hands.

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If we had a real choice: Sophie Mackintosh

Madeleine Schwartz, 21 January 2021

Sophie Mackintosh’s two novels could be classified as dystopias but they are more like hermetically sealed thought experiments. The worlds they describe are different from the one we wake up in,...

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Wire him up to a toaster: Ordinary Carey

Seamus Perry, 7 January 2021

John Carey has always been alive to what he once called ‘the strengths of the unliterary’, the salutary effect that a principled suspicion of the aesthetic may have on the actual practice of...

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Dentists? No Way

Naoise Dolan, 7 January 2021

O’Brien’s Country Girls courses through Elaine Feeney’s women, though As You Were is set seventy years or so later, just before Ireland legalised abortion in 2018. One character...

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Into a Blazing Oven: Virginie Despentes

Lili Owen Rowlands, 17 December 2020

Reviewers like to say that Despentes’s trilogy ‘holds a mirror up’ to French society and call it things like ‘the Comédie humaine 2.0’. But Balzac wrote about modern...

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Head in an Iron Safe: Dickens’s Tricks

David Trotter, 17 December 2020

Dickens fought long and hard against the human tendency to focus exclusively on what is of immediate pressing concern in any given situation. His often anodyne protagonists have to compete for our attention...

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A ‘true ghost story’, except to a believer, moves between the worlds of fact and fiction, but Alma Fielding’s poltergeist is more disturbing. It inhabits a place of constant dissolution...

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Just a Devil: Kristeva on Dosto

Michael Wood, 3 December 2020

The riddle of who is made in the image of whom – humans in that of God or the Devil, God or the Devil in that of humans – becomes an extravagant joke about figuration, about any attempt to...

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Echo is a fangirl

Ange Mlinko, 3 December 2020

Denise Riley argues with her identities and ‘identity’ in general: she is unhappy with them, casts them off only to find them stuck on again in the morning. She is also our pre-eminent dialectician...

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Coughing Out Slogans: DeLillo tunes out

Andrew O’Hagan, 3 December 2020

His great instinct, all along, has been to give shape to dread­ful events before they happen, before the people who might carry them out are even born, and to seem to know their source in our public...

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Saint Agnes’s Lament: ‘Shuggie Bain’

Christian Lorentzen, 3 December 2020

Amid the tearing of hair and the rending of garments, the busted teeth and the vomit, a picture of a gutted Glasgow emerges. It’s the dark side of Thatcher’s Britain, another reason for the...

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