Review | Machines Like Me and The Cockroach by Ian McEwan

For fans of Ian McEwan’s writing, 2019 presented two rough-cut diamonds: Machines Like Me and The Cockroach. Not without their flaws, as some critics noted, they are nonetheless highly enjoyable and sure to leave even the ultra-demanding and fastidious reader hankering for more. The novels differ in more ways than one. Firstly, there’s size: Machines Like Me clocks in at a reasonable 306 pages, while The Cockroach, a much slimmer work [...]

Review | The Dressing-Up Box and Other Stories by David Constantine

David Constantine’s fifth collection of short stories, The Dressing-Up Box and Other Stories, is ostensibly about loss, conflict and loneliness. His characters are driven to the edge as they struggle to engage with the world and must deal with their suffering. Yet, throughout the collection, the author clings to the promise of hope during turbulent times [...]

Review | Fairview at the Young Vic

Fairview is an innocuous title for a play. It has the ring of a sleepy American backwater, a kind of every-town. The curtain comes up and we are faced with the ground floor of a suburban house. The walls are orchid pink, the dining chairs gleaming white and, in the centre of the stage, Beverly (Nicola Hughes) is peeling carrots. She lip-synchs and dances along to the song playing on the radio, then adjusts her makeup in front of an imaginary mirror hanging on the fourth wall [...]

Review | The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada

Picture a large office, staffed with hundreds of employees. Each worker has their own cubicle, placed in long rows throughout the space to make a corporate honeycomb; their heads are quietly buried in their work. They’re next to each other, but not touching or talking. Their corporate workspaces embody the paradox of the cubicle: a part of something, but also completely isolated [...]

Review | Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth's Strout's bestselling debut, Amy and Isabelle, announced the arrival of a serious talent. Her second, Abide With Me, went one better. With 2008's Olive Kitteridge she moved from novels to a trickier form: the cycle of interconnected stories. It was that rare kind of book that can reasonably be called a masterpiece, and it won its author the Pulitzer prize [...]

Review | Not Like Their Mothers: Ambai & Uhart

This autumn, Archipelago Books published two short story collections in translation: A. Ambai’s A Kitchen in the Corner of the House, translated by the late Lakshmi Holmström, and Hebe Uhart’s The Scent of Buenos Aires, translated by Maureen Shaughnessy. Ambai’s and Uhart’s collections reveal each author’s range as a storyteller [...]

Review | Werther at the Royal Opera House

Massenet’s Werther makes a welcome return to the Royal Opera House in the third revival of Benoît Jacquot’s 2004 production. Based on Goethe’s Die Leiden...

Review | The Intelligence Park by Gerald Barry at the Royal...

The Royal Opera House seems to be celebrating the career of Gerald Barry this season. In February they are staging his latest opera, Alice’s...

Review | Don Pasquale by Donizetti at the Royal Opera House

Don Pasquale by Donizetti is a frothy comedy – or at least it should be. This new production at the Royal Opera House by...

Review | The Magic Flute at the Royal Opera House

Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte returns to the Royal Opera House in the seventh revival of David McVicar’s incredible production. There is good reason that this...

Review | I May Be Stupid But I’m Not That Stupid...

‘Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world, our own, we see it multiplied...’ Selima Hill is a unique voice in contemporary British poetry, as the title of her latest collection — I May Be Stupid But I’m Not That Stupid — implies, there is more to her than meets the eye. Her poetry is eclectic and electric; it cartwheels through juxtapositions and leaps of logic [...]

Review | The Night of the Long Goodbyes by Erik Martiny

The Night of the Long Goodbyes, Erik Martiny, River Boat Books, 2020, 282pp, $17.95 (paperback) Erik Martiny’s The Night of the Long Goodbyes is a hugely...

Review | Lucian Freud: The Self-portraits

Throughout art history, the self-portrait has remained a point of captivation. From Velasquez to Van Gogh, the artist’s rendering of selfhood provides a fascinating insight into the psyche of a figure often shrouded in mystery, revealing to the viewer traits which even the photograph fails to capture [...]

Review | Insurrecto by Gina Apostol

I’ve always had reservations about reviews that liken books to film. It’s too easy to draw parallels between, say, sweeping visuals, swift or dialogue-driven narrative, and cinematic technique. I’m often left wondering how a novel – the experience of sitting down to read one – can ever really be like cinema [...]

Review | Love, Rage – and Laughter by Alex Diggins

It is hard to smile at the apocalypse. Extinction Rebellion, the global climate crisis movement occupying cities and social media feeds from Cairo to Melbourne, signs its newsletters: ‘In love and rage’. The climate-induced societal breakdown is, this sign off implies, no laughing matter. Higher ideals and deeper, more searching emotions [...]

Review | Slip of a Fish by Amy Arnold

Ash, the protagonist of Amy Arnold’s debut novel, is a curious creation; she is fascinated by the etymologies and sounds of language, storing her favourite discoveries in an imaginary ‘word collection’, she swims in an abandoned lake with her daughter Charlie to practice breathing underwater, steals dogs from pubs [...]

Review | Big Love by Balla & The Night Circus and...

Though Balla, one of Slovakia’s most prominent contemporary novelists, has been compared to Kafka, he might more reasonably be called a nihilistic Etgar Keret (Israeli author of The Nimrod Flipout and multiple other collections of surreal short stories), given the thoroughly ironic [...]

Review | Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš

On the face of it, Flesh-Coloured Dominoes is a book of two novels spliced together: its chapters alternate between two wildly different narratives. One is a bildungsroman of sorts that sees the Second World War through the eyes of an unnamed first-person narrator, a young orphan growing up in Riga; the other is set in the 18th century in Vidzeme – part of modern-day Latvia – and aptly centres on a very literal, very macabre case of conjoining two odd halves to make a whole [...]

Review | Robyn Denny: Works on Paper

Charlie DixonRobyn Denny: Works on Paper Robyn Denny’s work soared with the post-war momentum of 60’s London, helping to define the visual culture of a generation....

Review | After the Formalities by Anthony Anaxagorou

In ‘Cause’, the second poem in Anthony Anaxagorou’s collection After the Formalities, the poet reclaims the phrase ‘flames lambent’ – an image taken from Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and quoted by historian David Starkey in a 2011 interview following the London riots – for poetry [...]

Review | Underland by Robert Macfarlane

How should writers respond to the ecological crisis? Both 'crisis' and the much-contested term ‘Anthropocene’ appear to bring us to the brink: there is, they tell us, no return to a state of innocence. If the possibility of an alternative future ever existed (and some claim it never did), then now it must be foregone [...]

Review | Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Company at Sadler’s Wells

I first saw the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Company during a visit to New York between Christmas and New Year in the mid-90s. I was entranced by the troupe and have never since missed a chance [...]

Review | A Frank O’Hara Notebook by Bill Berkson

A Frank O’Hara Notebook, Bill Berkson, No Place Press, 2019, 278 pp, £35.00 (hardcover) Frank O’Hara’s poetry has previously been described as being written like entries...

Review | Fur Coats in Tahiti by Jeremy Over

“The best way to live in the present is less carefully”: for better or worse, Jeremy Over’s winningly preposterous fourth collection, Fur Coats in Tahiti, follows its own advice to the letter. On the whole, I think, the better wins out, but let’s start by getting some of the worse [...]

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