Writing On Literature

  • The novel Acts of the Assassins is now out in the USA, but it's in disguise as The Apostle Killer. I'm not quite sure why the wonderful Melville House felt the title had to change, but they're the experts in the US market, and unlike 52% of my compatriots I haven't yet lost faith in experts. I think the word 'Killer' might have been persuasive - whatever else Acts might be, it's a killer thriller, a thriller about killers, and I can imagine the subset of readers who like that kind of thing is quite large. Lo and behold, The Wall Street Journal then picked out the title for special mention in their review: 'This is a smart, sly unpredictable

    Nov 23,
  • Acts of the Assassins is out in paperback in the UK from early March, and the cover is ... exactly the same. And why not? If it ain't broke don't fix it. I love everything about this cover, from the red and black to the hint of icon, not to mention the funny. Don't think I ever had a cover before that made me laugh. The folk at Vintage have added on some quotes from the reviews and a reminder that the novel was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. I was incredibly happy to be involved with the most interesting novel prize this country has. I know I would say that, but try Kevin Barry's Beatlebone or Max Porter's Grief

    Feb 02,
  • On the Open Book programme on Radio 4 (I never know what I'm going to say) I said that too much reverence for biblical stories and any refashioning will be tedious. Too little and the updated version becomes facetious. There are observable symptoms for both. In every over-reverential re-telling of a New Testament story the author cares far too much about what language the characters are speaking. 'I'll have the fish,' said Peter in Aramaic. The facetious disease is just as easy to recognise - Jesus returns to earth in the present day and smokes dope. Of course he does. Updated, Jesus is always a stoner. It's just easier to explain him that way. Luckily there are alternatives. Gospel Noir has antecedents, if not exactly a history.

    Apr 15,
  • Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. As well may be, but the name of Cambridge is not to be taken lightly. There's an excellent article here from the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge that identifies this text as a 2003 internet meme, unrelated to any published research carried out in Cambridge. The Brain Sciences people elegantly set

    Mar 20,
  • Start looking and it’s everywhere. Kate Atkinson is at it, and Jenny Offill and Anne Carson. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is full of it, as is the first season of Homeland, and David Lynch has been working on it for years. Jo Nesbo might be, John le Carre is. The poets, some might say, found their way to it first. Our ideas about the physical world are changing. Quantum particles exist in multiple states simultaneously, they act on each other at a distance and the road not taken is the road taken. Fiction has always reflected the world we inhabit, and in a quantum story individual narrative components behave outrageously. But as in physics, the overall solidity of the fiction

    Nov 11,