What is it about writers writing about writers writing?

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?

Show and Tell

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

Winter’s Reading

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

A further instalment in writers writing about writers writing

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

Vocation or Vacation

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