Against “Show, Don’t Tell” (With Walter Scott)

‘Show, Don’t Tell’ (like ‘Less is More’) has become a cliché of creative writing teaching. It’s usually associated – to my mind at least – with American minimalist writing. Not just the more recent instances, such as Lydia Davis and Mary Robison. And not the middle distance of Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. […]

Music Sounds Better With You

Sometimes someone says something you’ve been trying to say (to yourself as much as anyone) for years. In a recent issue of Wire magazine (well, November 2015), Bridget Hayden supplied the copy for their Inner Sleeve column. This feature allows a musician or producer to talk about the cover art, usually to an L.P., that has meant the […]


I find Politics dangerously embarrassing.   Dangerously, because my embarrassment about it makes me quietly leave the debate (any debate) to others. Dangerously, because everyone should involve themselves in politics (because politics has always already involved itself in them, not least in the formation of them as them (and, somewhere, as part of many bigger […]

The President of the Union – Michael Gove

In 1988, I was an ambitious student journalist at Oxford University. Having missed out on the editorship of Isis magazine, I went for that of DEBATE: The Oxford Union Review – along with my co-editor, Samira Ahmed, now of the BBC. At that time, the President of the Oxford Union was Michael Gove, now of the […]

Sport – or, What Can Writers Learn From Athletes and Coaches?

This talk was first delivered to students of the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck on May 3rd 2016. Leicester City won the Premier League, and since then a great deal of the national conversation – online, in newspapers, in corridors – has been, ‘How did they do it?’ The next thing after that, of course, is, […]

Why Did You and Stella Duffy Get 220 Writers to Sign a Letter about Lambeth Libraries?

Because we were asked to by the good people currently occupying Carnegie Library. Because we love libraries generally but we also specifically love our local libraries, in Lambeth, London. We want all ten of them to stay open as libraries, with librarians, not gyms, without librarians. And because this is something we could do. We’re […]