Tuesday, 10 July 2018


I love Rachel Cusk’s long sentences. How come my editor never lets me get away with that?

The man seated next to her on the plane:
He was somewhere in his forties, with a face that was both handsome and unexceptional, and his tall frame was clad with the clean, well-pressed neutrality of a businessman’s weekend attire. He wore a heavy silver watch on his wrist and new-looking leather shoes on his feet; he exuded an air of anonymous and slightly provisional manliness, like a soldier in uniform.

You could the bells that rang unendingly from the town’s many churches, striking not just the hours but the quarter and half hours, so that each segment of time became a seed of silence that then blossomed, filling the air with what almost seemed a kind of self-description. The conversation of these bells, held back and forth across the rooftops was continued night and day: its cadences of observation and agreement, its passages of debate, its longer narratives – at matins and evensong, for instance, and most of all on Sundays, the repeating summons building and building until it was followed at last by the joyous, deafening exposition.

Journalist and literary critic:
He couldn’t ever imagine writing as the author had written, or indeed, in some cases, wanting to; even thinking about it exhausted him, and he sometimes found himself wishing these prodigies had a little less energy, because every time they wrote something new they also created his obligation to respond to it. The tremendous effort to conjure something out of nothing, to create this great structure of language where before there had been only blankness, was something of which he personally felt himself incapable: it usually rendered him, in fact, quite passive and left him feeling relieved to return to the trivial details of his own life.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018


Krauss tells us two life stories in alternating chapters, of a novelist by the name of Nicole and of a philanthropist, Jules Epstein, who has recently disappeared. Nicole hopes to find herself (and possibly Jules), who has last been seen at the hotel in Tel Aviv where she herself is staying. It’s a building in the brutalist style. Its unrelenting grid seems to be a message nearly a mysterious as the Stonehenge.

Nicole believes in a multiverse, possibly created by her own mind. The idea of being in two places at once goes back a long time with her. Perhaps all children have this feeling because their sense of self is still porous, an oceanic feeling. Most people grow out of that. They want to create form out of formlessness and map meaning onto the world through the structure of language.

But doubt remains, especially about our memory, which will always be irreconcilable with history. Maybe literature can provide a more coherent narrative. Novels have to make sense. The character always needs a reason for the things she does. Even when there appears to be no motive, the plot reveals its existence in the denouement. Nicole at any rate wants to escape into that world. She didn't want to see things as they were. I had grown tired of that.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018


"Sexual obsession, mysterious art, dysfunctional family, and corrosive 205h entury history come seamlessly together in this fast-paced psychological thriller" (Michael Mirolla)

"Taut, fast-moving novel...The reader must puzzle over the way family secrets create false identities just as doubts about provenance destabilize the legitimacy of a work of art" (Charlotte Furth)

Monday, 2 April 2018




Thursday, 22 March 2018

#Amreading Kureshi, Dermansky, and Nguyen. Am pondering sex in novels.

I just finished reading Kureshi’s The Nothing. The protagonist sits on his wife’s face. Or else, he reams out her arsehole. My sense of smell would not allow me to participate in either scene, and I would certainly not get off on it. Maybe the wife didn’t either – Kureshi doesn’t say if she did. Perhaps she (that is, the woman he imagined) was a masochist and in need of degradation, and those acts had nothing to do with sexual gratification.

Now I’m reading Dermansky’s The Red Car, and her protagonist provides blow jobs and does sixty-nine, on the beach, on a couch, in the backseat of a car, and in some bushes in a park. Maybe that didn’t have anything to do with sexual gratification either. The author describes it as being an essential effort, like trying to do well on SATs.

Doesn’t anyone have sex for pleasure anymore? Or because they are attracted to their partner? No, that question is incidental.
“Please don’t break up with me,” he said. “I need you.”
And, according to Dermansky, she obliged and didn’t.
I wonder if Kureshi’s protagonist would have gotten off his wife’s face if  he had asked him nicely.

But really, I think Viet Thanh Nguyen got it right: Dating in America isn’t about sex. It’s business, he says in The Sympathizer. “A male and a female set a mutually agreeable time to meet, as if to negotiate a potentially profitable business venture.” It’s about investment and gain, whereas old-fashioned romantics see it as courting loss.

Thursday, 11 January 2018


Dry weather going through Texas (no surprise there).

Wet in L.A., but at least no mudslides.

And now for something entirely different (and no, I don't wish I was there! The air is too thin for me in the Himalayas).