In Edward St Aubyn’s ‘A Clue to the Exit’ (2000), successful screenwriter, Charlie, is given six months to live and decides to use the time writing an important novel about death. All very serious sounding. But also, as a reader should expect from St Aubyn, a hoot. Charlie’s literary friend Lola always thought he had … Continue reading What is it about writers writing about writers writing?
There was a best-selling book back in the 1980s. At the time, it felt like the peak of self-help advice. The only one of the rules I remembered from Robert Fulghum’s ‘All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten’ (1986) was about holding someone’s hand when you cross the road. The writing rule that … Continue reading Show and Tell
American author Ann Patchett gets straight to the point: ‘The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living. My short stories and novels have always filled my life with meaning, but … they were no more … Continue reading Making Ends Meet
If on a winters’ night a traveller had come and described this novel to me, I’d have gone cross-eyed and then run a mile. I knew Italo Calvino was a name uttered with reverence, but I came upon his ‘If on a Winters’ Night a Traveller’ (1980; English translation 1983) cold, so to speak. It … Continue reading Winter’s Reading
Seriously, when I’m deciding on the next book to read, I don’t go searching for novels about writers writing. And yet, so often in the last couple of years these stories just keep turning up. The latest novel to fall in with the theme literally arrived on my doorstep in a box with a bunch … Continue reading A further instalment in writers writing about writers writing
Never meet your heroes. This truism needs to be extended to meeting your heroes on the page. I have been reading and loving Muriel Spark’s sardonic novels for decades but after finishing Martin Stannard’s biography (2009) I’m pretty much convinced I wouldn’t have liked the Scottish author. Stannard’s ‘Muriel Spark: The Biography,’ is absorbing and … Continue reading Vocation or Vacation
As a child in Tanzania, I remember being mesmerised by the flamingos – the sheer number of them, and the pink shimmer of the massed flocks in the distance. As a young adult, I was surprised to see similar numbers near the airport in Larnaca, Cyprus when I spent some extended time on the island. … Continue reading Flamingo Inspiration