Tag Archive: Dickensian

THE NIX by Nathan Hill (Picador Books, 2016)

thenixAccording to the cliché,  everybody has at least one book in them. Nathan Hill has now written his in the form of this bold and hugely entertaining debut novel.

The American author says that his previous attempts at fiction followed formulas in vain attempts to win a lucrative book deal.

After a series of rejections he decided to cut his losses and simply write a book to please himself. In doing so, he had no idea whether or not it would be published.

It took him ten years to write, a slow but enjoyable process that he equated to tending to his own garden. The result is a triumph. Continue reading


Donna Tartt’s worst novel

THE LITTLE FRIEND by Donna Tartt (Vintage Book, 2002)


A creepy cover but, like the novel itself, I have no idea what it is meant to signify,

“The only thing keeping this book together is the binding” quipped one reviewer on Good Reads. It’s an exaggeration but I understand where this reader is coming from.

Donna Tartt’s second novel begins,like her first and third, with a violent death. The sister of a dead boy, Harriet,  vows to find out what happened. She’s a gutsy, unconventional young woman and the strength of this character raises hopes that this might be a tight and nail-biting murder mystery or at least a gothic melodrama of sorts.

It is neither.

The main failing is that the tightness and control displayed so brilliantly in The Secret History is absent. Instead, the looseness that made the conclusion of The Goldfinch such a disappointment is all too present.

When Donna Tartt is writing about domestic dramas she is good at exposing “the tiny flaws and snags in the thread of reality” and creates tension in the most mundane of family situations. When she tries to write about characters from the wrong side of the tracks the credibility factor begins to falter. Drug dealers and violent delinquents are not her forte. Long passages here try desperately to create a Dickensian sweep involving good vs evil; right vs wrong but end up being merely sprawling and unfocused.

It picks up briefly towards the end with a couple of good action sequences but by then I’d ceased caring.


"I never teach my pupils: I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn" - Albert Einstein.
My Wordle for Personal Learning Networks

Wordle for Personal Learning Networks

One of the effects of the abundance of online learning resources is the trend of coming up with new terms to define what we mean by education and even to question what its purpose is.

There are still relics of the Dickensian notion that students are vessels to be filled facts but, thankfully, this is a pedagogy that by and large belongs to the past.

Yet, although we like to think we live in a more enlightened age, the rapid nature of the change over the past two decades continues to be hard to assimilate.

Openness implies accessibility and an accommodating attitude so, all things being equal, these should be good times for teachers and students, life-long or otherwise.

So why do I feel so much doubt and uncertainty? Shouldn’t my mood be more celebratory? Continue reading

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