Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Heaven Lies About Us (2005) / Eugene McCabe

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (2002) / Jon McGregor

The Optimists (2005) / Andrew Miller

McCABE Eugene [1930-] Novelist, short-story writer, playwright. Born in Glasgow, Scotland. NOVELS Death and Nightingales (1992) STORIES Heaven Lies About Us (2005); Tales from the Poorhouse (1999); Christ in the Fields: A Fermanagh Trilogy (1992); Heritage and Other Stories (1978); Victims: A Tale from Fermanagh (1976) PLAYS Pull Down a Horseman (1979); Gale Day (1979); King of the Castle (1978) CHILDREN’S Cyril: The Quest of an Orphaned Squirrel (with illustrations by Al O’Donnell) (1986)

McGREGOR Jon [1976-] Novelist. Born in Bermuda. NOVELS So Many Ways to Begin (2006); If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (2002: winner of a 2003 Somerset Maugham Award and the 2003 Betty Trask Prize for Best First Novel; shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, Eurasia region, and the Best Newcomer in the 2004 British Book Awards; longlisted for the 2002 Booker Prize for Fiction)

MILLER Andrew [1960-] Novelist. Born in Bristol, England. NOVELS The Optimists (2005); Oxygen (2001: shortlisted for the 2001 Booker Prize for Fiction and the 2001 Whitbread Novel Award); Casanova (also published as Casanova in Love) (1998); Ingenious Pain (1997: winner of the 1997 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, the 1997 Grinzane Cavour Prize and the 1999 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award)

Monday, February 27, 2006


“IT SEEMS to me there are moments in life. We don’t plan them. We don’t seek them out. But they come to us, and how we react at that moment determines who we are, what we are and how we go on.” Jamal Mahjoub, in The Drift Latitudes (Chatto & Windus, 2006)

MAHJOUB Jamal [1960-] Novelist. Born in London, England. NOVELS The Drift Latitudes (2006); Travelling with Djinns (2003); The Carrier (1998); In the Hour of Signs (1996); Wings of Dust (1994); Navigation of a Rainmaker (1989)

Sunday, February 26, 2006


The Cockney Amorist
John Betjeman

Oh when my love, my darling,
You’ve left me here alone,
I’ll walk the streets of London
Which once seemed all our own.

The vast suburban churches
Together we have found:
The ones which smelt of gaslight
The ones in incense drown’d;
I’ll use them now for praying in
And not for looking round.

No more the Hackney Empire
Shall find us in its stalls
When on the limelit crooner
The thankful curtain falls,
And soft electric lamplight
Reveals the gilded walls.

I will not go to Finsbury Park
The putting course to see
Nor cross the crowded High Road
To Williamsons’ to tea,
For these and all the other things
Were part of you and me.

I love you, oh my darling,
And what I can’t make out
Is why since you have left me
I’m somehow still about.

From Poet to Poet: John Betjeman
(Faber & Faber, 2006)

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Kelly Clarkson
(RCA, 2005)

Friday, February 24, 2006


In Cold Blood (1965) / Truman Capote
A nonfiction classic written in a novelistic prose style.

Tokyo Cancelled (2005) / Rana Dasgupta
Not exactly a novel in the real sense of the word, more like a cycle of stories told by a group of travellers stranded in an airport.

Fruit of the Lemon (1999) / Andrea Levy
A wonderful read. A wonderful story of contemporary Britain in all its multicultural flavours.

Never Far From Nowhere (1996) / Andrea Levy

A Thread of Grace (2005) / Mary Doria Russell

Only Say the Word (2005) / Niall Williams

CAPOTE Truman [1924-1984] Southern novelist, short-story writer, journalist, playwright. Born Truman Streckfus Persons (renamed Truman Garcia Capote) in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. NOVELS Summer Crossing (2005); Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Manuscript (1986); A Christmas Memory (1956); Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948) NOVELLAS Breakfast at Tiffanys (1958); The Grass Harp (1951) STORIES The Complete Short Stories of Truman Capote (2004); A Tree of Night (1949) PLAYS The Grass Harp (1952); The House of Flowers (1954) NONFICTION Music for Chameleons (1980); The Dogs Bark: Public People and Private Places (1973); In Cold Blood (1965) LETTERS Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote (edited by Gerald Clarke) (2004) MEMOIR A Christmas Memory (1956); The Thanksgiving Visitor (1968); One Christmas TRAVEL The Muses Are Heard (1956); Local Color (1950)

DASGUPTA Rana [1971-] Novelist. Born in Canterbury, England. NOVEL Tokyo Cancelled (2005)

LEVY Andrea [1956-] Novelist. Born in London, England. NOVELS Small Island (2004: winner of the 2005 Orange of the Oranges Prize for Fiction, the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction, the 2004 Whitbread Award for the Novel and the Book of the Year, the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, Eurasia Region, and the overall winner of the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book; shortlisted for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction); Fruit of the Lemon (1999); Never Far From Nowhere (1996: longlisted for the 1996 Orange Prize for Fiction); Every Light in the House Burnin’ (1994)

DORIA RUSSELL Mary [1950-] Novelist. Born Mary Doria in Chicago, Illinois. NOVELS A Thread of Grace (2005); Children of God (1998); The Sparrow (1996)

WILLIAMS Niall [1958-] Novelist, playwright. Born in Dublin, Ireland. NOVELS Only Say the Word (2005); The Fall of Light (2001); As It Is In Heaven (1999: shortlisted for the 1999 Irish Times Literature Prize); Four Letters of Love (1997) PLAYS The Way You Look Tonight (2000) NONFICTION The Luck of the Irish: Our House in County Clare (with Christine Breen) (1995); The Pipes are Calling: Our Jaunts Through Ireland (with Christine Breen) (1990); When Summer’s in the Meadow (with Christine Breen) (1989); O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in County Clare (with Christine Breen) (1988)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

2006 DECIBEL AWARD: Shortlist

THE DECIBEL AWARD for Writer of the Year is a new award given to the writer of fiction, narrative non-fiction or poetry who is of African, Caribbean or Asian descent and has made the greatest contribution towards the literary year. The inaugural 2005 Decibel Award for Writer of the Year was awarded to Hari Kunzru for Transmission (2004) from a shortlist comprising Malorie Blackman for Knife Edge (2004), Andrea Levy for Small Island (2004) and Benjamin Zephaniah for Gangsta Rap (2004).

Maps for Lost Lovers (2004) / Nadeem Aslam

26a (2005) / Diana Evans

The Icarus Girl (2005) / Helen Oyeyemi

On Beauty (2005) / Zadie Smith

The 2006 award winner will be announced on March 29, 2006.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


The Italian
Patrizio Buanne
(Universal, 2005)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


E.L. DOCTOROW has won the 2006 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for The March (Random House, 2005), his bestselling novel about General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through the Confederate South. This is the second time that the much-lauded American novelist has captured the prestigious literary prize, having won the 1990 PEN/Faulkner Award for Billy Bathgate (1989). Others shortlisted for the Prize included Karen Fisher for A Sudden Country (Random House, 2005), William Henry Lewis for I Got Somebody in Staunton (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2005), James Salter for Last Night (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) and Bruce Wagner for The Chrysanthemum Palace (Simon & Schuster, 2005).

DOCTOROW E.L. [1931-] Novelist. Born Edgar Lawrence Doctorow in New York, New York. NOVELS The March (2005: winner of the 2006 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2005 National Book Award for Fiction, the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction); City of God (2000); Waterworks (1994); Billy Bathgate (1989: winner of the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction; shortlisted for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction); World’s Fair (1985: winner of the 1986 National Book Award for Fiction); Loon Lake (1980: shortlisted for the 1980 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction); Ragtime (1975: winner of the 1976 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction); The Book of Daniel (1971: shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction); Big as Life (1966); Welcome to Hard Times (1960) STORIES Sweet Land Stories (2004); Lives of the Poets: Six Stories and a Novella (1984) PLAY Drinks Before Dinner (1979) NONFICTION Reporting the Universe (2003) ESSAYS Jack London, Hemingway and the Constitution: Selected Essays, 1977-1992 (1993)

Monday, February 20, 2006


CANADIAN novelist M.G. Vassanji is the first writer to win the Giller Prize twice. The Giller Prize is one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards. The next writer to do so is Alice Munro.

VASSANJI M.G. [1950-] Novelist. Born Moyez G. Vassanji in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa. NOVELS The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (2003: winner of the 2003 Giller Prize for Fiction; shortlisted for the 2003 Trillium Book Award for Fiction); Amriika (1999); The Book of Secrets (1994: winner of the 1994 Giller Prize for Fiction); No New Land (1991); The Gunny Sack (1989: winner of the 1990 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel, African region) STORIES Uhuru Street (1991)

Sunday, February 19, 2006


One of my favourite novelists

André Carrilho
The New York Times Book Review
February 19, 2006

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Arthur & George (Jonathan Cape, 2005) / Julian Barnes

Labyrinth (Orion, 2005) / Kate Mosse

Some Hope: A Trilogy (Picador, 2006) / Edward St. Aubyn
A tragic aristocratic dysfunction of epic proportions. Comprising three of St. Aubyn’s earlier novels: Some Hope (1994); Bad News (1992); and Never Mind (1992). These books were combined as The Patrick Melrose Trilogy in 1998. And now repackaged and retitled as Some Hope: A Trilogy.

The Book of Secrets (1994) / M.G. Vassanji
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (2003) / M.G. Vassanji

Bartleby & Co. (Harvill, 2004) / Enrique Vila-Matas (trans. from the Spanish, Bartleby y Compania, by Jonathan Dunne) (2000; 2004)
Excellent but not exactly for everyone.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Helen Dunmore
(Fig Tree, 2006)

DUNMORE Helen [1952-] Poet, novelist, short-story writer. Born in Beverley, Yorkshire, England. NOVELS House of Orphans (2006); Mourning Ruby (2003); The Siege (2001: shortlisted for the 2001 Whitbread Novel Award and the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction); Your Blue-Eyed Boy (1998); With Your Crooked Heart (1999); Talking to the Dead (1996); A Spell of Winter (1995: winner of the 1996 Orange Prize for Fiction); Burning Bright (1994); Zennor in Darkness (1993: winner of the 1994 McKitterick Prize) STORIES Rose, 1944 (2005); Ice Cream (2000); Love of Fat Men (1997) POETRY Out of the Blue (2001); Bouncing Boy (1999); Bestiary (1997); Recovering a Body (1994); Short Days, Long Nights: New and Selected Poems (1991); The Raw Garden (1988); The Sea Skater (1986: winner of the 1987 Poetry Society’s Alice Bartlett Hunt Award); The Apple Fall (1983) CHILDREN’S The Tide Knot (2006); Ingo (2005); The Seal Cove (2004); The Lilac Tree (2004); The Silver Bead (2003); The Zillah Rebellion (2001); The Ugly Duckling (2001); Zillah and Me (2000); Allie Away (2000); Aliens Don’t Eat Bacon Sandwiches (2000); Brother, Brother, Sister, Sister (1999); Allie’s Rabbit (1999); Great-Grandma’s Dancing Dress (1998); Clydes Leopard (1998): Go Fox (1996); Fatal Error (1996); Aminas Blanket (1996); Allies Apple (1995); In the Monty (1993); Going to Egypt (1991) CHILDREN’S POETRY Snollygoster (2001); Secrets: A Collection of Poems from Hidden Worlds (1994: winner of the 1995 Signal Award for Poetry)

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Les Murray

An idea whistles with your lips,

laughs with your breath.
An idea hungers for your body.

An alert, hot to dissemble and share,
it snatches up cases of its style
from everywhere, to start a face.

An idea is a mouth that sells
as it sucks. It lusts to have
loomed perpetual in the night colours;
an idea is always a social climb.

Whether still braving snorts
ordering its shootings, or at rest
among its own charts of world rule,
amaturing idea will suddenly want

to get smaller than its bearers.

It longs to be a poem:
earthed, accurate, immortal trance,
buck as stirrups were
blare of the panther.

Only art can contain an idea.

From Subhuman Redneck Poems
Les Murray
(Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997: 1997 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Written Lives (Canongate, 2006)/ Javier Marías
A collection of portraits of famous writers like Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and others.

American Pastoral (Vintage, 1997) / Philip Roth

The Night Watch (Virago, 2006) / Sarah Waters
Another pageturner from the Orange Prize- and Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Fingersmith (2002). Perhaps a very strong contender for the 2006 Booker Prize for Fiction?

Mark Twain: A Life (Scribner, 2006) / Ron Powers
An enjoyable biography of Mark Twain (1835-1910). First published in the United States by Free Press in 2005.

Birthday Letters (Faber & Faber, 1998) / Ted Hughes
Birthday Letters is now one of the biggest-selling poetry collections of all time, with sales climbing towards half a million. One of my all-time favourite poetry collections. The writing here is extraordinary.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightening they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that goodnight.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that goodnight.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Monday, February 13, 2006

POETRY ... Elizabeth BEWICK

Oranges at Christmas Time
Elizabeth Bewick

I can see our dining-room still,
the sideboard with a central mirror,
heavy two-handled fruit bowl
doubled by its own reflection
in the glass; round red Jonathans
polished to perfection, Jaffa oranges
and sometimes pears; no rules
forbidding us to touch—they were
there for the picking.

At Christmas there were tangerines
for eating at the table after meals.
A conniving uncle taught us how to spit
the pips backwards into the fire
without getting up from our chairs,
my mother indulgent to his goings-on.
He was the same uncle who tickled us
till we screamed for mercy then drew
breath to ask for more.

Last Christmas I was given a tree,
a Citrus Mitis, fragrant with flowers
growing in clusters, perfectly formed,
delicate and white, five small oranges
appearing at the same time. They
ripened to perfection and I used
them in my next batch of marmalade,
alongside the Sevilles and the limes,
and it tasted fine.

New oranges upon my tree this year,
rich colour set to rhythm and to rhyme,
their succulence a secret learned
in childhood, schooled by my mother's
tolerance—acceptance of the aunt who
taught us to suck oranges messily
through a sugar lump, thrust deep into
a hole made through the rind, to reach
the flesh beneath.

Oranges at Christmas time, memory
sharp as their flavour, sweet as the
indulgences of childhood and the lasting power of love.

From Light Unlocked: Christmas Card Poems
Eds. Kevin Crossley-Holland and Lawrence Sail
(Enitharmon Press, 2005)

Sunday, February 12, 2006


One of my favourite short-story writers

André Carrilho
The New York Times Book Review
February 12, 2006

Saturday, February 11, 2006


MELOY Maile [1972-] Short-story writer, novelist. Born in Helena, Montana, U.S. NOVELS A Family Daughter (2006); Liars and Saints (2003: shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction) STORIES Half in Love (2002: co-winner of the 2003 PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction)

Friday, February 10, 2006


DESAI Kiran [1971-] Novelist; daughter of novelist Anita Desai. Born in Chandigarh, India. NOVELS The Inheritance of Loss (2006: longlisted for the 2006 Booker Prize for Fiction); Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard (1998: winner of the 1998 Betty Trask Prize for Best First Novel)

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Morning Song
Slyvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

From Ariel
Sylvia Plath
(Harper & Row, 1966)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Fishing on the Susquehanna in July
Billy Collins

I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasureif it is a pleasure
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.

From Picnic, Lightning
Billy Collins
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


THE regional winners of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book and Best First Book were announced on February 6, 2006. The overall winners will be announced on March 14, 2006.

Canada and Caribbean
Best Book
Alligator (House of Anansi Press) / Lisa Moore
Best First Book
Suspended Sentences: Fictions of Atonement (Peepal Tree Press) / Mark McWatt

Southeast Asia and South Pacific
Best Book
The Secret River (Text Publishing) / Kate Grenville
Best First Book
The Harmony Silk Factory (Harper Perennial) / Tash Aw

Best Book
On Beauty (Hamish Hamilton) / Zadie Smith
Best First Book
Lazy Eye (Scribner) / Donna Daley-Clarke

Best Book
The Sun by Night (Africa World Press) / Benjamin Kwakye
Best First Book
Tropical Fish: Stories Out of Entebbe (University of Massachusetts Press) / Doreen Baingana

What I think: I believe the Best Book is a close contest between Orange Prize-winner Kate Grenville and Booker-shortlisted Zadie Smith. I like them both. (Smith’s début novel, White Teeth , was named the overall Best First Book in 2001.) The Best First Book should go to either Whitbread Prize-winner Tash Aw or Donna Daley-Clarke.