Books

Enough Facts; Let’s Have More Fiction

  The flavour of the moment is to ground fiction in ‘authenticity’. Whenever a book or film proves to be historically inaccurate, many people get exercised about the apparent falsehoods on display. My attitude is that there’s no such thing as historical accuracy. The past is by its nature unknowable. You may copy the argot and […]

A Book Before Lunchtime

Recently I tried to work out how many words I’d written in the service of Bryant & May. Each time I work it out I get a different figure, but it runs into millions. You can more than double that if you add in my other writings. People are always shocked by this, but if […]

Wrong End of the Shelf: Strange Books I Love

Why we should be seduced away from the reading mainstream. For me it started with the plotless symbolist novel ‘À Rebours’ by Joris-Karl Huysmans, in which the hero locks himself away in his house near Fontenay to live in artificial decadence rather than follow the natural order. The strangest thing that happens in the (non) narrative […]

The Selling Of Words

A moderately intelligent dog can write a Sherlock Holmes story. Sometimes writing comes thickly and slowly. On a warm day it can feel like Henry Reed’s poem ‘The Naming of Parts’, the mind adrift, the fight to concentrate. But after the words have been forged into sentences, the sentences harvested and trimmed into the whole, […]

A Whizz In The Kitchen

Restaurants are the by-product of travel. There’s a café near me called the Capannina Café. I’m always tempted to push open the door and ask, ‘Pardon me sir, is this the Capannina Café?’ It’s the equivalent of those place that always feature in American movies with old waitresses, plates of waffles and endless pots of […]

Did Reading Just Become Fashionable Again?

For some of us it was never unfashionable. A new documentary, ‘The Booksellers’, looks at the annual Antiquarian Book Fair in New York, the biggest and best such fair in the world. Tales abound of discovering folios and rarities, but there are sad tales too, like the bookseller who was devastated to discover that a […]

More Books For Christmas Part Two

This selection pretty much sums up my appallingly narrow range of guilty pleasures, although there’s not a good film book here as they seem to have fallen out of vogue, and there are no books exploring the back-alleys of British history this time. Scoff First up in Pen Vogler’s ‘Scoff‘, a delightful look at foods […]

Some Hardbacks For Christmas Part 1

This was the year in which hardbacks really came into their own. Suddenly £18 seemed a reasonable spend on a brand new novel when going out to dinner (remember that?) set us all back an awful lot more. But in these wretched times of political ineptitude, disease, loss and economic betrayals our tastes grow tame. […]

The Path Less Trodden Part Deux

I’ll read anything really esoteric so long as Aleister Crowley’s not in it. Andy Sharp’s ‘The English Heretic Collection’ seems to have avoided that ridiculous old fraud so far, and it’s a real curate’s egg. It provides an alternative mythology for Britain, zooming about between Druids, B movies, magickal wars and old psychedelia while inevitably […]

The Path Less Trodden Part 1

Esoteric Books For Christmas Under normal circumstances the bookshop tables should by now be groaning with the weight of popular Christmas books. This is the time of year the crowd pleasers come out, but it looks as if this time we’ll have to buy most of our books online. I’m as happy as anyone to buy […]