Writing On Literature

  • My French editor, a poet who'd slipped into publishing because poetry doesn't pay, was a former colleague from the old Bibliotheque Nationale on the Rue de Richelieu. I worked in the galleries, he was Maps and Stamps, though his true interests were poetry and the spirit of '68. He had in mind a verse epic about Paris and life on the Grands Boulevards, the contemporary everyday bursting with ghosts. He had a greedy eye, and could be distracted by fleeting impressions and chance events, so much so that he often forgot to inject himself with insulin. This meant he was forever scurrying into the toilets of a MacDonalds, a syringe between his teeth. Someone would call the police. When he forgot

    Oct 08,
  • '...  cakes and biscuits will be provided free of charge.' It's a deal. In fact it was a deal before the final incentive. I'll be spending February in Gladstone's library on the Welsh border not far from Liverpool. There is a fairytale quality to the idea of a residential library, a sense that anybody who chooses to stay the night is not only living with the books, but also somehow in the books. Who knows where a library dream will go at night? I'm about to find out, mostly thanks to the energy of William Ewart Gladstone himself. Into his eighties, past even his old man's prime as the Grand Old Man, he founded this library so that his books,

    Jan 29,
  • I'm a judge for this year's inaugural Costa Short Story Award. There, interest declared, but one of the reasons I wanted to join in was the anonymity of the entries. There's a mystery to who has written each story, but there shouldn't be any mystery about the judging. As with reviews on Amazon, it helps to know who's who and who knows who and who's doing what. Right. The award is open to anyone who has written a short story, whatever their publishing history, and the deadline for entries is Friday 7 September. There are then three stages to literary glory: 1. All the entries will be sent anonymously to a group of readers, who will sort out the sixty stories

    Sep 04,
  • Plain black swan black wine black fashion black Leb black jet burnt black at midnight. Medium black velvet black hat black coat black shoes black eye black eyes black eye. Benjamin Banville Black and Conrad Moffat Black with Green and Blacks back Captain Black the blackguard. Dahlia black sacks on matt black tarmac. Ninja black on code black black ops bruised black by crow black oppo. Strong black deep black coal black tyre black road black boot black bin black black black black. Fast show black. Cat black and bible black even the eye of a pea. Nothing black, all black, empty black, soul black. Serious black. Extra black, extra extra black. Hole.

    May 01,
  • Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of Georges Perec's death, a date I wouldn't have noticed without this informative blog from France 24 journalist Oliver Farry. Which made me come over all Je me souviens ... Twenty years ago to the day, in 1992, I remember I was at an event for the 10th anniversary of Perec's death. Ten years! He was barely dead at all. I've been thinking about this event a lot, especially since last year's Booker debate about Difficult Books. For anyone who missed it, a couple of the judges for the 2011 Man Booker Prize were perceived as making a distinction between books that were easy to read and books that were difficult. In 2011 (and it

    Mar 02,
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