In which your Blogger sets forth his Views on a most admirable Book Golden Hill Francis Spufford, Faber, June 2016 World history can count a number of archetypal cities, each inheriting the mantle from the former: Babylon, Rome, Constantinople, Paris, London. Since the early 20th century the title has gone to New York, with a skyline so symbolic that it was targeted in the attacks of September 11th 2001. It is difficult to imagine New York Cit...

Quantum buffoonery in a fun but unconvincing sci-fi romp Dark Matter Blake Crouch, Macmillan, 2016 Fans of the TV series Fringe, which ended in 2013, will know the narrative potential of parallel universes. They can be a textbook example of the uncanny in literature – similar enough to be recognizable but with noticeable, and sometimes amusing, differences. For example, we learn that the second universe’s version of Batman is called the Mantis...

Growing up Northern Lights Philip Pullman, Scholastic, 1995 (Warning: this review contains spoilers for the Harry Potter series.) For approximately three years after the release of The Golden Compass, the 2007 Hollywood adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, I was expecting news of a sequel. Then I, like most of the rest of the world, forgot about it. All things considered, the film—bowdlerized and in some places quite clunky—was a di...

Small town story Gilead Marilynne Robinson, FSG, 2004 If I had to choose a vocation in literature, I would not choose that of the ‘good man’. If that is your role, you are faced with two options: 1) suffer terribly and, preferably, die (the Christ model), 2) bore the pants off your readers, normally acting as a foil to more complex characters (the Alyosha Karamazov model). Readers are very rarely saints ourselves, and we identify more readily ...

A coward’s life The noise of time Julian Barnes, Jonathan Cape, January 2016 Concluding a recent talk about life-writing, Julian Barnes wryly asked for a disclaimer to be placed into any future biographies of him: “This is not how I was; this is what I am like when I’m being biographed”. Of course, it is difficult enough capturing the ‘truth’ about a subject in a straight biography; Barnes’s fictional account of Shostakovich’s life asks ...

Francis Spufford – Golden Hill
Book Reviews / September 21, 2016

In which your Blogger sets forth his Views on a most admirable Book Golden Hill Francis Spufford, Faber, June 2016 World history can count a number of archetypal cities, each inheriting the mantle from the former: Babylon, Rome, Constantinople, Paris, London. Since the early 20th century the title has gone to New York, with a skyline so symbolic that it was targeted in the attacks of September 11th 2001. It is difficult to imagine Ne...

Blake Crouch – Dark Matter
Book Reviews / September 7, 2016

Quantum buffoonery in a fun but unconvincing sci-fi romp Dark Matter Blake Crouch, Macmillan, 2016 Fans of the TV series Fringe, which ended in 2013, will know the narrative potential of parallel universes. They can be a textbook example of the uncanny in literature – similar enough to be recognizable but with noticeable, and sometimes amusing, differences. For example, we learn that the second universe’s version of Batman is called ...

Philip Pullman – Northern Lights reread
Book Reviews / June 27, 2016

Growing up Northern Lights Philip Pullman, Scholastic, 1995 (Warning: this review contains spoilers for the Harry Potter series.) For approximately three years after the release of The Golden Compass, the 2007 Hollywood adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, I was expecting news of a sequel. Then I, like most of the rest of the world, forgot about it. All things considered, the film—bowdlerized and in some places quite clunk...

Marilynne Robinson – Gilead
Book Reviews / June 27, 2016

Small town story Gilead Marilynne Robinson, FSG, 2004 If I had to choose a vocation in literature, I would not choose that of the ‘good man’. If that is your role, you are faced with two options: 1) suffer terribly and, preferably, die (the Christ model), 2) bore the pants off your readers, normally acting as a foil to more complex characters (the Alyosha Karamazov model). Readers are very rarely saints ourselves, and we identify mor...

Julian Barnes – The noise of time
Book Reviews / February 3, 2016

A coward’s life The noise of time Julian Barnes, Jonathan Cape, January 2016 Concluding a recent talk about life-writing, Julian Barnes wryly asked for a disclaimer to be placed into any future biographies of him: “This is not how I was; this is what I am like when I’m being biographed”. Of course, it is difficult enough capturing the ‘truth’ about a subject in a straight biography; Barnes’s fictional account of Shostakovich’s ...