Friday, 28 February 2014

Rebecca Hunt: Everland review in Literary Review

I've reviewed Rebecca Hunt's Everland for the March issue of Literary Review. Not available online, only in a lovely, gleaming, real print copy.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Harry Potter and The Goldfinch: How they are related

Warning: Doesn't move
So I've finally finished Donna Tartt's mostly enjoyable The Goldfinch, which weightily discusses the purpose of moving art around. It has been widely reviewed, obviously, and its relationship to the Harry Potter series (which has got moving art in it) has already been noted. The more I think about it, the more I believe that Tartt is saying: you've had your Portkeys and your spells and your wands. True magic lies in the things that man makes.

Here, then, is how they are related.

The Goldfinch

Orphaned boy with glasses & scar

Parents killed, one in terrorist attack, one in accident

Sent to live with horrid relatives

Finds solace with wise older man

Falls for bright ginger girl

Has goofy, slightly irritating friend

Gets his kicks from magic drugs

Dates the wrong girl

Has an enemy called Lucius

Moves a painting around

Finally defeats "evil"

Nickname: Harry Potter

Published by Bloomsbury, then Little, Brown
Harry Potter

Orphaned boy with glasses & scar

Parents killed in wizarding terrorist attack

Sent to live with horrid relatives

Finds solace with wise older wizard

Falls for bright ginger girl

Has goofy, slightly irritating friend

Gets his kicks from magic

Dates the wrong girl

Has an enemy called Lucius

Has paintings that move around

Finally defeats evil

Nickname: Harry Potter

Published by Bloomsbury, then Little, Brown

Monday, 17 February 2014

Yet More Notes from Underground

Photo from Flickriver
I'm going to have another manic underground-going day quite soon, when I'll do more anthropological research into what people are reading on the tube, but in the interim I thought I'd post a simple list of books I've seen in the last fortnight. It shows a breadth of reading material that I found quite delightful.

Isaac Bashevic Singer
Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall (naturally)
A book by Mark Mazower
Hester by Mrs Oliphant - this was most pleasing. I don't think I've ever seen anyone reading this, even in a library.
The American Future by Simon Schama
Hunger Games (see Wolf Hall)
The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
The Arabian Nights
Things I Don't Want to Know  by Deborah Levy - in a striking purple Penguin paperback edition.
The Bolter by Frances Osborne
Those Wild Wyndhams by Claudia Renton - the hot new history book by my old chum. I saw an old lady reading it on the bus and almost tapped her on the shoulder to tell her I knew the author. Which would have been weird.
Huckleberry Finn
Cloud Atlas  by David Mitchell
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.
A book by Richard Power.

There is a lot to be heartened by here: an eclectic mixture of the popular, the classic, the heavyweight and the recondite. Londoners are reading still, and they are reading broadly, eagerly, and, perhaps thanks to the peace-inducing state of the tube, more thoroughly than ever.

Stay tuned for a full examination. A previous assessment can be read here.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Ten Ways to Avoid the Tube Strike on Thursday

There's a tube strike on, donchaknow.

So what you need is a guide. How do you manage to get to all those vital appointments that you might otherwise miss? Well, here's a handy cut-out-and-keep list of tips for the busy commuter.

1. Move to New York.

As easy as it sounds. I mean, by the time you get there you might have just about made it to Victoria from Brixton.

2. Hire a coach and four.

In all seriousness, I don't know why nobody has thought of this. I tried it today and it really worked.

3. Dig your own tunnel.

It's quite simple, really - just find a spade and some helpful angry commuters, and you'll be away in less time than it takes for Bob Crow to get back from his holidays.

4. Parcourt.

Now might be the time to develop those urban running skills. You could be walking up the side of the Shard tomorrow. You could be arriving in your office before everyone else, looking all sleek and cool. 'How did you manage that?' they will ask. And you will  smile, knowingly, and a tiny bit smugly.

5. Harness yourself to a bus.

I suggest finding an abandoned trolley and a piece of wire, and then attaching the trolley to the bus. It might be a bit jerky, but at least you'll be able to read.

6. Sewers.

Those of you who like the scenic route can explore the delights of London's real underground. Just remember to bring a change of clothes, and hey presto! You'll be at that vital meeting looking fresh and clean and wondering why everyone around you looks like someone's died.

7. Teleportation.

Clearly by now we should have evolved this particular ability. I mean, come on. It's 2014, people! Get teleporting! If you concentrate really, really hard you can "teleport" into your office. Shut your eyes now, go on. Imagine yourself in your office. Now open your eyes! You see! Your armchair is now your office!

8. Fly

Well, it worked for Daedalus. [NB not for Icarus. Terms and conditions apply.]

9. Use nature's bounty

Find a dozen urban foxes, train them to drag you in a makeshift sled, and bingo! You are the king of the open road! Everyone will flee from you in terror! And also want a lift!

10. If all else fails...

Try the underground. I think they have some lines running. Once every other Tuesday. In the past. And you need to upgrade your zones to go there. But your card's negative so you can't buy a monthly pass until you've put more money on it and anyway the office is closed until 2056. Better walk.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan: review

Hello all, I've reviewed When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan for The Guardian. Read it here.