Villager

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Read 08/05/2022-12/05/2022

Rating 5 stars

Villager is Tom Cox’s first novel. I’m not going to call it a debut, because the author has a wealth of writing already in his back catalogue.

Cox is a writer of place. His books 21st Century Yokel and Ring the Hill explore landscape and folklore, mixed with Cox’s eye on the world and its margins. His short story collection Help the Witch marries that sense of place and love of folklore with fictions that open the door a crack to the other places hidden just behind what we experience as real.

His writing in Villager is a beautiful leap off from the coiled force present in some of the longer pieces in Help the Witch. There is folklore here, but also Bildungsroman, speculative fiction, diary writing and cultural reference points that span Mary Oliver, Mike Leigh, Oliver Postgate and Public Enemy. The story sprawls over time and place, slipping through the margins and brushing up against its own past and future. At its heart is a collection of songs written by an itinerant musician, and one ancient song in particular that echoes through the narrative. Continue reading

Crudo

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Read 03/05/2022-08/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

Crudo is Olivia Laing’s first novel. I read her excellent exploration of how loneliness informs art, The Lonely City, a handful of years ago and kept meaning to read more by her.

In The Lonely City, I liked the way Laing included memoir in what is, essentially, a biography of eight artists. Her first novel is a memoir of sorts, a fictional one this time. Inspired by Chris Kraus’s biography of Kathy Acker, as well as by Acker’s own approach to literature, Laing has imagined an alternative Kathy who is also partly Laing, too. Continue reading

Fauna

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Read 01/05/2022-03/05/2022

Rating 4 stars

David Hartley’s collection Fauna gathers together twelve short stories that explore the relationship between humanity and the rest of the living world while also imagining a variety of futures that have tilted in favour of one side over the other. Continue reading

Muscle and Mouth

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Read 29/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

I heard Louise Finnigan read from her short story Muscle and Mouth at a literary event recently. The story is part of the Fly on the Wall Press Shorts series. It’s about Jade, an A-level student in Manchester who has ambitions to study at Durham University. Continue reading

The Good Immigrant

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Read 19/04/2022-29/04/2022

Rating 5 stars

The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays by 21 British writers who “explore what it means to be Black, Asian and minority ethnic in Britain today”. It was published by Unbound in 2016. In the six years since it first appeared in print, the world has moved on and the white devised acronym BAME is rightly seen as reductive now.

On the back cover is a question that each of these essays seeks to answer: “What’s it like to live in a country that doesn’t trust you and doesn’t want you unless you win an Olympic gold medal or a national baking competition?” Continue reading

Sugar and Slate

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Read 15/03/2022-29/03/2022

Rating 4 stars

Sugar and Slate is a memoir about growing up mixed race in North Wales. Paula chose it as this year’s Dewithon book and I managed to find a library copy. It’s partly fictionalised and the author’s reminiscences about her own life are punctuated by poetry and dramatic scenes that tell the story of her parents and the broader stories of nationality, race and belonging. Divided into three sections, Africa, Guyana and Wales, the book examines how these places have impacted and influenced the author’s life, and how their presence as points in the slavery triangle explain how the author came to exist. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation: From The End of the Affair to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Here we are at the first Saturday in March, meaning it’s time for Six Degrees of Separation, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.

The starting book for this month’s chain is Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, about extramarital love in a time of war. Although I haven’t read this one, I like Graham Greene’s writing and am interested in reading this novel at some point.

Continue reading