Three years on from the Brexit referendum, there’s little sign of the passions stirred up by a fiery campaign being put to rest. Many participants in the Brexit debate have found their politics more entrenched and more extreme, and their private and public thoughts more prone to conspiracy theory and bile. Continue reading
In France, the release of Serotonin, the latest novel by Michel Houellebecq, attracted the sales and comment his work usually receives. Around the same time, France’s former infant terrible was awarded the légion d’honneur. The author, popularly held to be brutal, unromantic, also married Qianyum Lysis Li late last year. In the pictures, Houellebecq was dressed strangely, but looked happy. His new book is, so far, unavailable in English. Continue reading
This is a story of one thing leading to another.
My parents set the foundations for everything I have read. From my mother, books about history and poetry; from my father, an introduction to contemporary novels. In the latter category, amid Amis, McEwan and Faulks, one cannot escape William Boyd. Continue reading
Review – The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England Since 1918 by D. J. Taylor
Is there such thing as a presiding literary culture today? Such is the implicit question of the final chapters of D. J. Taylor’s The Prose Factory, a history of literary life in this country since the end of the Great War. Surveying the ruins of the contemporary publishing industry, where technology has aided the self-publisher and self-publicist and little else, he concludes that there is not. Instead, there could soon be two competing literary cultures – one distinctly and deliberately highbrow, a culture of expensive hardbacks and fashionably small circulations, and the other a culture of genre fiction, ghost-written autobiographies and discounted bestsellers. Continue reading
In the novel Saturday, Ian McEwan rests an assessment of the state of the British nation upon a single man. During the course of one day, the reader bears witness to the story of Henry Perowne, a successful surgeon, a good man, whose experience becomes suddenly less secure and less detached through a deceptively minor incident on the road. Private dramas intermingle with national ones, and the whole book is shot through with a dramatic sense of place and time, beginning with what is perhaps the most visceral symbol of the fragility of the post-9/11 world order: a flaming aeroplane. (As is later elaborated, ‘everyone agrees, airliners look different in the skies’; they seem either ‘predatory or doomed’.) And unlike many novels of the same theme, which fictionalise events and float within a vaguely contemporary setting, McEwan’s effort is entirely rooted, nailed to the ground; it takes place explicitly on Saturday, February 15, 2003 – and its entire edifice is supported and contained within the context of the anti-war protests which took place on that day, as well as the prospect of war which animated them. Continue reading