Category: fiction


Why Woolf Works works

woolfworksIt might seem an odd notion to base a dance performance on three novels by Virginia Woolf, but Wayne McGregor is a choreographer who makes his own rules. He proves that great prose can inspire and captivate in the same way that the rhythmic flow of lyrical poetry can.

Woolf Works was premiered to huge acclaim in 2015 and is divided into three sections: ‘I Now, I Then’ is based on the themes in Mrs Dalloway; ‘Becomings’ takes its cues from the surreal wit & vitality of Orlando and ‘Tuesday’ is inspired by The Waves, Woolf’s most experimental novel.

This final section is also named after the heading to the suicide note Woolf left for her husband. This letter, which begins “I feel certain that I’m going mad again”, is beautifully read by Gillian Anderson as a preface to the profoundly moving conclusion.

The revival of these pieces was a hot ticket at The Royal Opera House but has now reached a wider audience thanks to a live worldwide broadcast in over 1,500 cinemas and more than 35 countries on February 8th 2017. Continue reading

THE GREENLANDERS by Jane Smiley (Anchor Books, 2005)

franzen_smileyIs life too short for big books?

When it comes to novels like Infinite Jest or Middlemarch, I’d say not.

David Foster Wallace was so overflowing with ideas that he needed the space to expand his thoughts while George Eliot used a larger palette to create a world with a world.

Yet, there seems to be a trend (or requirement) for writing 500 or more pages as a demonstration of a writer’s prowess.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s  sprawling ‘Here I Am’ is one recent example of a novel that would have greatly benefited from trimming by at least 200 pages.

Jane Smiley’s epic Norse saga is another. Continue reading

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS directed by Tom Ford (USA, 2016)

“All the animals come out at night” – Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver (1976)
“Now it’s dark” – Frank Booth – Blue Velvet (1986)

nocturnal_animals_posterInspiring comparisons with the finest works of Martin Scorsese and David Lynch is a sign of how impressed I am by this magnificent movie.

Tom Ford’s equally fine debut A Single Man from 2009 can no longer be dismissed as a one-off.

Well-established as a hugely successful fashion designer, Ford does not need further acclaim or money. Wealth does not guarantee creative inspiration but it does buy a certain freedom. Perhaps this is how he has been able to be so uncompromising and daring in his adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan. Continue reading

Robert Crais: It’s a cop thing.

CHASING DARKNESS by Robert Crais (First published by Orion Books, 2008)

 crais1This is the first Robert Crais book I’ve read and to put this into true context I have a fair amount of catching to do. This is number 11 in an ongoing series of novels featuring a LA based private detective Elvis Cole and his reliable yet taciturn sidekick Joe Pike. There are already another five in the series.

Cole is the kind of maverick investigator who will say things like ‘I suppose I should’ve called the cops but I didn’t’. The implicit message is that to get results you need to take risks and ignore conventional methods.

He has enough inside contacts to enjoy the benefits of official resources without the burden of having to play by the rules. When Pike breaks into the home of a suspect, Cole says reassuringly. “Don’t worry. It’s a cop thing” . Continue reading

Jonathan Safran Foer woz here

HERE I AM by Jonathan Safran Foer (Hamish Hamilton, 2016)

foerWilkie Collins once asserted that “the primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story.”

Tell that to the post-modernists!

Jonathan Safran Foer says that “I have yet to write a novel from a plan” and says of his third major fictional work that “there wasn’t any one ‘idea’ but a number of disparate starting points”.

Unfortunately it shows! Continue reading

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