Top Opening Scenes in Books, The Guardian

Sometimes I want an opening to slap me in the face; other times I’d rather it come on like a creepy hand across my shoulder. There are millions of ways a voice can convince me to listen, but there are even more ways it can fail. I have little patience for the latter. Life is not long enough to ingest sub-par art.

We are on our way to Budapest. Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me. We are going even though we are not allowed to cross Mizilikazi Road, even though Bastard is supposed to be watching his sister Fraction, even though Mother would kill me dead if she found out; we are just going.

From We Need New Names by Noviolet Bulawayo

‘Quite like old times’, the room says. ‘Yes? No?’

There are two beds, a big one for madame and a smaller one on the opposite side for monsieur. The wash-basin is shut off by a curtain. It is a large room, the smell of cheap hotels faint, almost imperceptible. The street outside is narrow, cobble-stoned, going sharply uphill and ending in a flight of steps. What they call an impasse.

From Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

The Beautiful Indifference Review, Excerpt from The Guardian



British writer, Sarah Hall


Sarah Hall’s four novels have already shown her to be a writer of extraordinary talents, whether in the rough magic of The Carhullan Army, about female resistance in a near-future police state, or the passionate intertwined narratives of art and identity that make up the Booker-longlisted How to Paint a Dead Man. With her first short-story collection, her writing takes another leap forward, into a landscape entirely her own.

Monstrous events happen offstage over the course of these seven stories: beatings, maulings, suicide and abandonment. But their force is felt all the more powerfully through the measured precision of Hall’s prose, which is always grounded in the exact immediacy of everyday detail.

The Guardian’s Top 10 modern epistolary novels


Kathryn Hahn from the television adaptation of the epistolary novel, “I Love Dick”

Our book, The Night Visitors, is a horror novella told through an exchange of emails between two women who are investigating an unsolved murder. Gradually, the effects of their mutual obsession evolve into hallucinatory madness and the supernatural begins to intrude on their correspondence. There were two of us writing, and we each composed one side of the exchange, sending the emails to each other “in character”, then swapping sides after the first draft to edit. We like to think it was the joint folly of the writing process – a kind of spontaneous mutual insanity – that spawned a tale of possession, telepathy and bloodshed…

For more of the complete article on modern epistolary novels, click here.

Teju Cole’s ‘Known and Strange Things’, Reviewed

Teju Cole delights in following his curiosity to unexpected places. He is lively, funny and more of a rambler than his concise writing would suggest, prone to amusing tangents — about, for instance, his ability to detect whether someone prefers Rihanna or Beyonce.

From the the LA Times article by Meredith Blake

Largely absent from “Known and Strange Things” is traditionally autobiographical writing; personal details are scant in Cole’s essays, as are mentions of his parents, wife and family. “I don’t necessarily want to talk to you about what’s happened inside my bedroom,” he concedes, saying that what passes as personal is often just prurient. That’s not to say his writing lacks intimacy or insight into his passions; indeed, Cole focuses on what he calls “the really secret stuff” — the art, ideas and images that bring him pleasure.

Cole is a highly associative thinker whose diverse interests allow him to make unexpected, illuminating connections, as in an essay using an obscure art theory devised by the 19th-century Italian writer Vittorio Imbriani to explain Google’s Search by Image function.

For his part, Cole doesn’t think such eclecticism is so exceptional. “You like literature. And that does not seem to conflict with the fact that you like TV, or the fact that you watch films…

“It’s OK not to be the smartest boy in class,” he said, “because knowing how much you don’t know can then be the starting point for engaging with the world.”

Sarah Blackwell’s ‘At the Existentialist Cafe’ – A Guardian Review


Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, having coffee at the Cafe de Flore, Paris, circa 1957

In our age of surveillance and consumerist laziness, it’s time we looked again at the existentialists, argues this highly engaging work of philosophy and collective biography

My life and my philosophy are one and the same,” Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote in his diary. In his life as well as his writing, he dedicated himself to freedom and authenticity, insisting that personally and politically these fundamental concepts were more important than matters of sentiment. Sartre was one of many existentialist thinkers who were committed to living their philosophies and philosophising their lives. Yet there have been few attempts to investigate their collective lives and work side by side. Now Sarah Bakewell has undertaken this challenge and is unusually well-placed to do so.

The New York Times Book Review, Marcy Dermansky’s,’The Red Car’

There should be a literary term for a book you can’t stop reading that also makes you stop to think. I slammed down “The Red Car,” Marcy Dermansky’s sharp and fiery new novel, in tense fits and jumpy starts, putting down the book to ponder it, but not pondering long because I had to know what happened next. The novel’s furious action keeps the pages snapping by, but each incident, at times each sentence, is bubbling with equally furious ideas. “A novel of ideas” is not the term for this — that’s a term for a book that often has big chunks of boring, which “The Red Car” does not — but neither does it inhabit the term “entertainment,” which assumes a certain shallowness also nowhere to be found.

Melina Matsoukas

I grew up in the Bronx until I was about ten, and then we moved to New Jersey. I grew up in a very multicultural family. My mother is Afro-Cuban and Jamaican, and my father is Greek and Jewish. I felt the influences from all the different cultures — the stories, the ideas. And my parents are both communists and activists, so they’ve always been all about equality and doing something important with your life. I always wanted to do something big, I just didn’t know how I would go about changing the world.

Melina Matsoukas, director of the 2011 Rihanna video, ‘We Found Love’

On David Foster Wallace

Want To Read The David Foster Wallace ‘Rolling Stone’ Article By David Lipsky From ‘The End Of The Tour’? Here’s How

By Johnny Brayson for Bustle magazine, published 25 August 2015

The End of the Tour details the five-day road trip Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky, played by Jesse Eisenberg in the film, took with author David Foster Wallace, portrayed by Jason Segel, during the first leg of the press tour for what would become Wallace’s best known work, his novel Infinite Jest. The two men discuss many subjects over their time together — junk food, music, dogs, loneliness, depression, success, fear — with Lipsky eventually gaining the trust of the somewhat reclusive author. Their conversations are the heart of the movie, leaving many fans wondering where they can get their hands on the actual interview featured in the movie. So, how can you read the David Foster Wallace Rolling Stone article from The End of the Tour?

Unfortunately, you can’t — because the article was never published. Rolling Stone sent Lipsky to interview Wallace in 1996 in much the same way it is depicted in the film, and Lipsky did conduct (and tape) his interview. But he never wrote it up…

To find out why, click here