Ten of the Best in 2019

In no particular order: Gingerbread by Helen Oyayemi. A dazzling mix of folklore, pop culture, allusions, absurdism and wit. It is Hansel & Gretel, and then some. My Review. The Ice House by Tim Clare. A rip-roaring speculative adventure with the female hero I wanted to read before she was ever written. My review. Bitter Continue Reading

Coming April 2020…

Operateur Cephalique, line engraving by Campion, 17–. Credit Wellcome Collection CC BY The Nag’s Head by Amanda Read A short horror story based on a character of French folklore targeting Enlightenment-era female empowerment. Published by Breaking Rules Publishing. Subscribe to this blog (click Subscribe button in left column) for news updates.

Fever Dream

by Samanta Schweblin (trans. Megan McDowell) Feverish, Argentinian horror. Lying in a hospital bed in rural Argentina, Amanda is visited by eight-year-old stranger, David. A traumatic and terrifying event has brought her to this point and the precocious David cajoles her into confronting the memory. Amanda is immobile and David explains ‘It’s the worms. You Continue Reading

Fox

by Dubravka Ugresic Narrated as though a series of autobiographical essays, heavily footnoted with real and fictitious references, and foxtrotting across continents, cultures and history, Fox takes on the persona of its namesake to explore storytelling, to challenge the form of the novel, and to comment on human survival. Like the fox, the novel is Continue Reading

Fox as Symbol

Header photo: Joachim Munter This post looks at how the fox is portrayed across cultures in folklore and myth, and how this has influenced language and literature. The fox appears in the folklore of many cultures as a trickster with a double-identity, often with magic powers and the ability to transform. Its nature, cunning yet Continue Reading

The Society of Reluctant Dreamers

by José Eduardo Agualusa, Daniel Hahn (Translator) Surreal political fable. Angolan journalist, Daniel Benchimol, comes across a mango-yellow camera floating in the sea. The camera belongs to Moira, the Cotton-Candy-Hair-Woman. Daniel hasn’t met Moira yet, but he has been dreaming about her. They meet and become involved with a Brazilian neuroscientist creating a machine to Continue Reading

The Science of Storytelling

by Will Storr Essential resource for writers of fiction. Storr writes in an engaging and informative way, effectively interpreting the science for the layperson. He draws on research by story theorists, mythologists, anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, biologists and social genomicists to explain how stories work. Each point is amply demonstrated with examples from literature, film, Continue Reading

Paradise Rot

by Jenny Hval, Marjam Idriss (Translator) Hyper-sensual, surreal and as intense as bletted fruit. Norwegian student, Jo, arrives in a new country to study biology. The strangeness of her new life becomes stranger still when she finds accommodation in a former brewery. The building is rotten to the core. Through its paper-thin, partial partitions, Jo Continue Reading

The Hearing Trumpet

Leonora Carrington Effervescent, hilarious and life-affirming. Marian Leatherby, 92, is given a hearing trumpet only to discover her family wants to pack her off to an old peoples’ home. On arrival, Marian’s dread turns to wonder. The facility comprises a collection of fantastical dwellings in which the larger-than-life residents live. Marian soon becomes embroiled in Continue Reading

Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi A wicked stepmother, a bullying rat-catcher father and Snow White in 1950s-60s small-town America. Oyeyemi writes with a style as naïve as any fairytale, and just as magical. Like all the best folklore, Boy, Snow, Bird has something lurking, dark and dreadful, bullying below the surface. In this case, it is racism, racial Continue Reading

Killing Commendatore

Haruki Murakami, transl. Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen A male thirtysomething artist at a crossroads in his life discovers a painting in the attic. A bell mysteriously rings in the woods in the dead of night, always at the same time. Then, one by one, characters from the painting make an appearance. This has everything Continue Reading

The Old Drift

Exuberant Zambian historico-futuristic matrilineal saga-of-sorts. In following the matrilineal lines, Serpell redresses history written by the victor/man. So, less about politics and more on the domestic front, less about wielding power and more on the receiving end. The hysterical realism mode (typified by a strong contrast between elaborately absurd prose, plotting, or characterization, on the Continue Reading