Month: January 2016

Lost in GA



Boston, MA: An empty Red Line Train at 08:05, I sit for a moment reading about Vic Chesnutt in Kristin Hersh’s book, Don’t Suck, DOn’t Die. I drift off to a rock club in GA, where Hersh and Chesnutt are setting up a show, and almost miss my stop.6809986523_be0a85a1e6_b

A Year of Reading Round the World

b252801416b6c19659cd7ec230d3c68aIt’s hard not to be drawn to what Ann Morgan is doing, but it is not for me at the moment.

In 2012, I embarked on an eccentric project. Having realised how anglocentric my reading was, I decided to try to read a novel, short story collection or memoir from every UN-recognised country, plus former UN member Taiwan (then 196 nations in all), in a calendar year.

I set up a blog,, and asked the world’s book lovers to help me. Pretty soon suggestions – and even books, manuscripts and unpublished translations – were flooding in from around the planet.

My criteria for choosing the titles I read varied and developed throughout the year. Sometimes I opted for national favourites. At other times I picked wildcards that intrigued me because they seemed at odds with the society that had produced them, such as works by exiled writers. And there were narratives that challenged my preconceptions in a huge number of ways.

Not all the books I read were set in the countries in question, but many were evocative of the regions they describe. Since then I’ve continued to seek out books that transport me to a different place. Here are 10 of my favourites:

Read more…

Tribute to C.D. Wright by Anna Ross


by Anna Ross

C .D. Wright, Language poet; C.D. Wright, elliptical poet; C.D. Wright, poet of the Ozarks, of Arkansas, erotic poet, poet of conscience, of place, of reportage, ekphrastic poet, elegiac poet. Poetry is the weird one: funny-looking on the page, resolutely non-commercial, refusing the neat thesis or linear narrative, and those of us who practice it often find ourselves in a defensive, explanatory crouch in the face of the question “So, what kind of poetry do you write?” As often, we acquiesce, labeling ourselves by school or influence either out of guilt for having introduced the awkward subject in the first place with our presence or because the stage, by its smallness, invites division. C. D. Wright, whom we lost suddenly and much too soon just over a week ago, never succumbed to this pressure. As she wrote in her National Book Critic’s Circle Award-winning One With Others, a book-length telling of Wright’s friend “V’s” participation in the 1969 Arkansas March Against Fear and the repercussions of that act, “[Where was it you wanted to bury this hatchet. Your land or mine.]”


Read more of Anna’s essay download

ViV AlbertinE Writes a Book

M-20Mag-20140724144211763661-300x0Listen to  The Slits. From 76 – 82 they were at the center of the punk world, while being on the fringe.Listen. This is essential rock and not rock at all.

On the one hand they are an accidental band, on the other, Ari Up was full of ambition, and although she started out not knowing how to play the guitar, VIv Albertine is the muical centre to the group.

The book tells her story all the time referring to clothes, music and relationships.  The history of punk step by stpe.  Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Don Letts, Johnny Thunders, Keith Levene. Albertine writes in such a straightforward way


Playing with The Slits

that it brings that world back. And her focus brings a poetry constantly moving through time. I remember some of this, but I lived it vicariously, Viv was right there and finally her book took me there.

In Memoriam Peter Dickinson


Peter Dickinson the author of around 60 books, has died at the age of 88. He is a children’s book author, fantasist and mystery writer.


I read The Changes years ago, and then later on read EvaAK and Tulku,  before discovering some of his adult mysteries.  He has such a fluent imagination. HE’s one of those writers who keeps working year after year, and none of the books I have read have not been worth reading.


New York Times
The Guardian
The Independent
The Times
The Telegraph
Publisher’s Weekly
School Library Journal

Author’s Website
Fantastic Fiction

The Arab of the Future in the New Yorker

I have just read The Arab of the Future, and you should too, but in the meantime, here is a really good profile of the author, Riad Sattouf. The article is called: Drawing Blood

72eef6d3852d3df33138ea30b248183f8beb328dOne of Riad Sattouf’s favorite places in Paris is the Musée du Quai Branly, a temple of ethnographic treasures from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, not far from the Eiffel Tower. One morning in mid-July, Sattouf, a French-Syrian comic-book artist who has recently emerged as France’s best-known graphic novelist, took me there, along with his year-old son, his son’s Ivorian nanny, and her three small daughters. He was dressed like a college student, with jeans, a black Lacoste T-shirt, white Stan Smith sneakers, and backpack. We were met in the lobby by Stéphane Martin, the museum’s president, who is a long-standing admirer of Sattouf’s work and has commissioned him to produce a graphic novel about the museum for its tenth anniversary, next year.

Read more…

A Guide to Sandman

Twenty-seven years after its premiere, reading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman (Vertigo) and its related books can be daunting, especially now with the publication of the prequel miniseries The Sandman: Overture. Where should you start reading? What is skippable? What is the difference between The Sandman and The Sandman Presents? Where will you keep all of this after you buy it? Read on and find out!

What is The Sandman?

The Sandman #1, cover by Dave McKean

Out on the Wire


The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio

Possibly the best guide to all kinds of writing published since Anne Lamott.   It focuses on This American Life and its ilk such as 99% Invisible
The Moth , Planet Money ,  Radio Diaries ,  Radio Lab , and Snap Judgement .

The care and attention to detail by the producers of all these programs is an inspiration. The techniques are spelled out by Jessica Abel, who manages to make an intelligent, fast-moving read out of the details of radio production of narrative non-fiction. The attempt here as with the best non-fiction is to present the truth, honoring those who are interviewed and whose stories are being told, in as dramatic a way as possible.   Abel is such an enthusiast for these programs that I hope she has not glossed over their failings. Reading the non-fiction graphic narrative that she has created it feels genuine.

This book grew out of a previous smaller publication Radio: An Illustrated Guide, that was written at Ira Glass’s request to be sold on This American Life‘s website in 1999.

The method that TAL  developed was to use storytelling technique to make non fiction radio essays.  According to Abel, what these shows have in common is that they ask big questions, concentrate on engaging characters with authentic voices and use a robust narrative structure with careful use of sound.  TAL has not just influenced radio but the state of written non-fiction and documentary film as well.

The structure idea is the sentence: “Somebody does something because_____________________ but______________________.  It is a story about_______________ and it is interesting because_____________________ .  After recording hours of interviews, many of these journalists plan their interviews, but still have to structure the story. Using different kinds of scenes, but each story is put together so that the listener always wants to know what is coming next.  On top of that the stories are driven by the journalist’s itches and interests , and structured and edited by the taste of the individual in agreement with the group.  The different programs have different styles some not using any commentary or sound.

.Also check out Transom Story Workshop  for more information on the technique.