Self Portrait in Green

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Read 28/02/2021

Rating 5 stars

Written in 2005 and first published in English translation in 2014, Marie NDiaye’s hypnotic fictional memoir Self Portrait in Green follows an unnamed narrator, who is a writer, and her encounters with mysterious green women. Continue reading

famished

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Read 16/12/2020-23/12/2020

Rating 4 stars

famished is a collection of ultra short stories by Anna Vaught. The minimalist, modernist cover contains 17 baroque horror stories, all centred on food or eating, and influenced by writers from Angela Carter, Henry James and Edgar Allan Poe to F Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner and Carson McCullers.

These tales are strongly feminist, peopled by women who are taking control. The subtext is often ‘eat, or be eaten’. Continue reading

Between Beirut and the Moon

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Read 07/12/2020-16/12/2020

Rating 5 stars

Between Beirut and the Moon is Naji Bakhti’s debut novel. Set in Beirut roughly a decade after the civil war, it follows Adam Najjar and his dream of becoming the first Arab astronaut and the first Arab to walk on the moon. Bakhti is a wry observer of the universal oddness of family and the extra complexity that comes with a Lebanese adolescence. Continue reading

Ghosts on the Shore: Travels along Germany’s Baltic Coast

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Read 23/11/2020-06/12/2020

Rating 5 stars

Ghosts on the Shore is a travel book partly inspired by family history. Paul Scraton is a British writer who has lived in Berlin since the early 2000s. His wife grew up in the GDR and spent her early years on the Baltic Coast. Scraton became fascinated by this part of Germany, in part thanks to his wife Katrin’s family photographs and her childhood memories, but also because of the Baltic Coast’s place in the wider history and mythology of Germany. And so he decided to take a trip. Continue reading

Imaginary Cities

Read 01/09/2020-27/09/2020

Rating 3 stars

Darran Anderson’s Imaginary Cities is a weighty tome that tries to pull together all manner of writing, thinking, visual representation and design theory on space and specifically on cities. It’s inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, a book I haven’t read. It’s also that very rare thing – a book I don’t really know how to review. Even taking into account that I don’t really write standard reviews.

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Boy Parts

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Read 11/07/2020-12/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 5 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

I find it hard to believe that Boy Parts is Eliza Clark’s debut novel. It’s confident, fiercely funny and its chattiness belies the darkness at its heart.

Not since Chuck Pahlaniuk have I felt so delighted to be entertained by the vagaries of human nature. Not since James Kelman has a writer captured so well for me the hard edge of working class play and working class survival. Not since the translation of Virginie Despante’s Vernon Subutex trilogy into English have I been so pleased to meet a character that is so grotesquely charming. Continue reading

Exercises in Control

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Read 22/01/2020-26/01/2020

Rating 3 stars

This slim volume of short stories by poet and fiction writer Annabel Banks is one of my chosen books from my Influx Press subscription. It’s a challenging and entertaining read. There are moments of real discomfort mixed up with the laughs provoked by Banks’s ability to skewer human nature. Continue reading

This Way to Departures

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Read 04/10/2019-06/10/2019

Rating 5 stars

This Way to Departures is Linda Mannheim’s second collection of short stories for Influx Press. It’s the follow up to Above Sugar Hill, which I loved.

This Way to Departures spreads its net wider than NYC, both geographically and emotionally. If Above Sugar Hill is about the identity of a particular place and its influence on those who are entwined in its arms, then Departures is about the nomads who have no place of their own and find it impossible to become entwined, no matter where they go.

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How the Light Gets In

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Read 22/08/2019-26/08/2019

Rating 5 stars

Read for the 20 Books of Summer readathon.

How to describe How The Light Gets In. The prosaic description is that it’s a collection of short stories. It’s not, though. Not entirely. These are ultra short stories, fragments in many cases, brief glimpses into the lives of people on the edge of the prosaic. I found some of the stories breathtaking, literally. At times, I found myself holding my breath with the emotion of being dropped into a situation and then realising the enormity of that situation to the person experiencing it. Continue reading