So Long, Whale Bum

This – a new story about the band called okay – has just gone online in The Manchester Review.  To give you some idea how seriously I took it, that’s what I called my first solo album.                    


Why Souls? What could be more irrelevant? What’s Souls got to do with anything? You’re not going to go all Archbishop of Canterbury on us, are you? I do a Summer Lecture every year. When deciding what its subject is to be, I think about two things: What will be useful for you to hear, […]


  I don’t think you’re going to like this. It’s probably going to hurt. If it doesn’t hurt, there’s a problem. As part of your coursework, you’ll have read Flannery O’Connor’s essay ‘Writing Short Stories’. She begins by saying this: ‘I have heard people say that the short story was one of the most difficult […]

Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick: Review

Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick My rating: 4 of 5 stars I am sure I did not find this novel – and the presence in it of Elizabeth Hardwick – as endearing as some readers will do. But I think that’s my fault. Elizabeth Hardwick is an America Virginia Woolf, concerned with peripheries and with […]

The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier: Review

The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier My rating: 5 of 5 stars First published in 1973, if The Long Way is dated, it’s in a melancholy way. The book ends – after Moitessier’s circumnavigation and more – with the wise sailor encountering environmental destruction on Tahiti. He becomes engaged, politicized, after months of selfish (in […]

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively: Review

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively My rating: 5 of 5 stars This acute, ambitious novel was unexpected. It had been recommended to me only a couple of times, but by people whose opinions I took seriously. I thought Moon Tiger would be polite, lyrical, easily-put-asideable. Instead, it’s a tight, vastly ambitious, tender and troubling (in […]

Home Farm by Janet Sutherland: Review

Home Farm by Janet Sutherland My rating: 4 of 5 stars I will declare an interest: Janet Sutherland was one of the other writers at Hawthornden Castle, where was a writing fellow last year. Some of these poems were written there, and read out at the end of the day on which they’d been written. […]