Interview | ‘Stories don’t protect us, but they do prepare us’...

Here's the thing: I like to be a queer writer. Being a writer is a part of my identity; being queer is a part of my identity. I don't know that they're the most important parts – but they're important to me. Every writer wants their work to be read on many different levels. I want people to read my books and enjoy the stories – just on a surface level – and to be swept up in the narrative and transported somewhere else for a while. I'd also love it if readers enjoyed the language [...]

Interview | Artist hana on ‘Inventing Artist Paints’ – her exhibition...

The art world is awash with self-taught painters these days, but the emergence of artist hana (styled in lower case) has taken many by surprise, not only because of her talent but because she has re-invented oil paint. Her paint is made from coconut shells, algae, seaweed, dried fruits and vegetables. All this has caught the eye of Noel Fielding, among others, who is endorsing her ground-breaking innovations. This week sees the opening of her first solo show [...]

Interview | Alka Bagri on the Bagri Foundation ahead of ‘Tantra’...

For the last thirty years, the Bagri Foundation has quietly supported projects that promote Asian culture in the UK. While some of its partnerships are high-profile — it is the lead donor of the British Museum’s blockbuster Tantra exhibition — it also supports a variety of smaller projects for the visual arts, literature, music, dance, performance and lectures, and is now expanding its activities into other territories [...]

Essay | The Ring by Tomoé Hill

I still have my wedding ring – platinum with a pear-shaped, grass-green tourmaline, and small diamond baguettes flanking either side, facets refracting both light and superficial values. Sometimes I take the cursed object from its black octagonal leather box with the gold bird on the lid, wondering what illness it slowly introduced to me in the guise of joy. ‘Green stones are bad luck,’ said a friend of my then-fiancé, on admiring my ring. It was automatic; one of [...]

Interview | Michael Cisco on Weird Fiction, Cheerful Nihilism and Sex...

Michael Cisco has been hailed by China Miéville as being 'of a different kind and league from almost anyone writing today'. He is best known for his first novel The Divinity Student, winner of the International Horror Guild Award for Best First Novel of 1999. His novel The Great Lover was nominated for the 2011 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel of the Year, and declared the Best Weird Novel of 2011 by the Weird Fiction Review. His work has attracted attention in [...]

Review | Outsiders: A Short Story Anthology by 3 of Cups...

‘We all secretly see ourselves as outsiders in one way or another.’ This, argues Alice Slater, editor of new anthology Outsiders from 3 Of Cups Press, is why readers are attracted to characters who do not fit in. But the very fact that the experience is universal exposes the paradox of the ‘outsider’ label. If we are all outsiders, then none of us are. The outsider then must mean something different to different people. Often, an outcast narrator, as Slater says, can be a representative for [...]

Review | Sleepless: A Musical Romance at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Sleepless: A Musical Romance, based on the classic nineties film Sleepless in Seattle starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, had its official opening night at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre last night (01 September). Originally slated to premiere in March earlier this year, the show has the unenviable task of serving as an experiment for theatre re-openings across the country, with social distancing still a specified requirement for indoor venues [...]

Interview | Sculptor Guy Portelli on ‘Wight Spirit, 1968-70’ and the...

This summer sees Portelli also take on the role of curator for Masterpiece Art Gallery’s major exhibition Wight Spirit, 1968-70. History has been somewhat unkind to the 1970 Isle of Wight Music Festival. Its riotous atmosphere which saw over 600,000 people descend on Afton Down led Parliament to ban large open-air gatherings in the Isle of Wight County Council Act of 1971. But the festival remains a cultural landmark: it saw legends such as Jimi Hendrix [...]

Essay | The Eccentricity of Lydia Davis’s ‘Essays’ by Eliza Haughton-Shaw

Ironic, self-conscious and full of weird humour, in Lydia Davis’s hands the short story is economical to the point of obsession. Having published short fiction as well as translations for many years, she came to widespread attention with the publication of The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis in 2007, for which she won the International Man Booker in 2013. While Davis remains less well-known outside the United States, for readers familiar with [...]

Fiction | Monsters Make Monsters by Nina Ellis

I was the pretty sister. I was the good one, too. Some people said Jackie was the good sister, but that was to compensate for her moving 7,450 miles away from home to save the world. ‘Next right?’ said Jackie, frowning at her phone in the passenger seat. You mean left, babe, I said in my head. Jackie has never had much of a sense of direction, geographically or in life. That’s why I’d come here in the first place—not to see hippos, like I’d told her, but to get her to [...]

Interview | Emily Henry on ‘Beach Read’ and Writing Romance

January Andrews has lost her faith in happy endings after suddenly losing her father and uncovering ugly truths about her parents’ marriage at his funeral. Moving into her father’s recently discovered beach house, the narrative follows a blossoming relationship between January and her neighbour and fellow writer, Augustus Everett, as they evolve from writing partners, to friends, to lovers. A perfect balance of drama, humour and romance, Beach Read is a heartfelt [...]

Essay | Books That Changed My Life: ‘Tales from Ovid’

‘I don’t get poetry.’ It’s a miserable cliché, but generation after generation takes it to heart. In fact, as a teenager studying for my GCSEs, I believed it myself. Still sporting K-Swiss trainers and a swooping Justin Bieber fringe long after it was a good look (if it ever was), I was stuck in my old ways. I was a novels person, I thought — poems were too brief to affect me deeply or really sear themselves onto my psyche [...]

Fiction | ‘Notes from Underground’ and Dostoevsky’s existentialism

Dostoevsky’s literary legacy lies not so much in the style of his novels as in the characters that inhabit them. His characters drive narrative forwards and fulfill their plot function yet are also miraculously idiosyncratic. It is this which makes them so resonant: their apparent freedom of will that so often leads to tragedy. Whether it is the Byronic heroism of Raskolnikov or the troubled Ivan Karamazov, Dostoyevsky is interested in egoism and irrationality in the human condition [...]

Interview | James Shapiro on cinematic storytelling and ‘Shakespeare in a...

My first exposure to Shakespeare wasn’t until the age of fourteen, at high school in Brooklyn. We were assigned Romeo and Juliet and set off on what felt to me like a ‘death march’ through the play. I hated it, didn’t even get the dirty bits my classmates sniggered at, and swore I’d never study Shakespeare again. I never did at university. What changed everything for me was seeing the plays performed [...]

Interview | A. Naji Bakhti on ‘Between Beirut and the Moon’,...

Between Beirut and the Moon (Influx Press, 2020) is Naji's first novel, praised by Roddy Doyle as ‘engrossing, warm and gloriously funny’. Adam, the narrator, dreams of becoming an astronaut: but before he can be the first Arab on the moon, he must contend with issues much closer to home, as he comes of age in post-civil war Lebanon. On the phone from Beirut, I spoke to Naji about reaching an Anglophone readership, humour in the midst of conflict, and [...]

Review | The Dark Nest by Sue Harper

Sue Harper’s new collection of warped, modern fairy tales, The Dark Nest, updates classic characters – from European folklore to Wonder Woman – for a contemporary audience interested in the macabre and the taboo. The book is twisted but amusing: a journey into the quirks of fear and human desire. Kafkaesque transformation, of people and the worlds they inhabit, is a recurring theme in Harper’s work. Instead of men waking up from long slumbers to find they have turned into insects, the living mortify and the dead begin to dance. In the story ‘Graisaille’, the narrator is  ‘frozen and immobile’ like a corpse, while the dead rise up in  ‘an ecstasy [...]

Essay | The Moving Finger: Edward FitzGerald and the consolation of...

It is bad practice to search for a single moment in the life of an artist for explanation of their greatest work, but for Edward FitzGerald such a moment calls out for itself. In 1856 Edward Byles Cowell, FitzGerald’s companion and close friend, decided to leave for India following his graduation from Oxford to pursue a professorship in Calcutta. Up until this point in his life FitzGerald had been listless, finding little to enthuse him [...]

Review | Wasted at the Southwark Playhouse

A grungy rock musical about the Brontës and their challenging lives, battling against addiction, disease and poverty, promises to be an exhilarating take on this famous family. Bleak, poverty-stricken Yorkshire becomes a stark, wooden platform that stages a series of powerful rock ballads. With music by Christopher Ash and book and lyrics by Carl Miller, Wasted’s undeniably talented cast have the potential to create something really exciting, but sadly, the production’s [...]

Fiction | Tunnel by Will Ashon

We began the tunnel behind the bunk bed in the back bedroom. We chose the back bedroom because the guards went in there less often. They were lazy and also had to queue outside the supermarket for an hour or more, which made them lazier still. Some of them were eating cat food straight from the squeezy pouches. It dribbled down their chins and made their eyes go funny. I wonder sometimes if they even knew what they were guarding [...]

Essay | An argument for theatres by Amber Massie-Blomfield

The last show I saw before lockdown was Love Love Love at the Lyric Hammersmith. 500 of us were in that room; all gathered together to do what, in my pre-quarantine life, I used to do two or three times a week. I didn’t hug my friend when I met him at the start of the evening. It was the beginning of March and what constituted acceptable public behaviour seemed to shift on an hourly basis. We touched elbows. ‘This is probably the last theatre show we’ll ever see,’ [...]

Interview | Lara Williams on Supper Club, Feasting and Taking Up...

Roberta takes up cooking to avoid succumbing to loneliness at university; the start passion that later develops into her co-hosting secret dinner parties filled with food, alcohol, drugs, sex, and petty crimes with a group of defiant young women, known as the Supper Club. Hungry women gather to gorge themselves, to free themselves. And as their bodies expand, so do their desires. Winner of The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2019 and best books of the year in Vogue [...]

Interview | Rick Gekoski on Darke Matter, scepticism and reading for...

Rick Gekoski awoke one morning from uneasy dreams and inexplicably found himself metamorphosed into a writer of fiction. He was seventy-three years old, a retired academic, former Booker prize judge and Chair, broadcaster, bibliographer, private press publisher, journalist and rare book dealer. He had never published a word of fiction. His novel, Darke (2017) was prompted by an insistent inward voice, and its author was called “a late-flowering genius of a novelist” in The Times [...]

Essay | How to Run a Queer Reading Series at a...

Queers Read This is an ongoing reading series started independently by artist Richard Porter and myself at the Horse Hospital in London in 2017, and co-run with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) since. Quarterly events feature readings of texts which work across intersectional systems of oppression, and challenge formal distinctions between prose and poetry or critical and creative writing. Themes range from pansies and twink mysticism [...]

News | Southbank’s Everyday Heroes art and poetry project to celebrate...

The Southbank Centre has announced a new public art and poetry project celebrating the invaluable contributions of key workers who have kept the country running during the COVID-19 crisis. Everyday Heroes will comprise original portraits - whether in the form of paintings, drawings, photographs and texts - reproduced as large scale posters for a dynamic display across the Southbank Centre from mid August to November 2020. The portraits are to be shown [...]

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