Victory by James Lasdun review – suspenseful, truthful, audacious


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Two brilliant novellas about sex and power chime perfectly with the moment we’re in

Victory contains two novellas, Feathered Glory and Afternoon of a Faun, united in themes of male friendship, waning middle-aged powers and sexual transgression. Both make a motif of large fowl: a swan in the first, wild turkeys in the second. And both centre on a steadily married male teacher and a friend who has been more reckless with women’s hearts. Together they make a convincing case for James Lasdun as one of the most incisive investigators of the human heart writing in English today.

Feathered Glory opens with Victor, a bohemian music critic, turning up at his old friend Richard’s house in upstate New York having just left his girlfriend and baby for a married woman. Richard, an elementary school headmaster with a “morning assembly manner”, offers a cautionary tale from his own past as ...

Victory by James Lasdun review – suspenseful, truthful, audacious


This post is by Johanna Thomas-Corr from Books | The Guardian


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Two brilliant novellas about sex and power chime perfectly with the moment we’re in

Victory contains two novellas, Feathered Glory and Afternoon of a Faun, united in themes of male friendship, waning middle-aged powers and sexual transgression. Both make a motif of large fowl: a swan in the first, wild turkeys in the second. And both centre on a steadily married male teacher and a friend who has been more reckless with women’s hearts. Together they make a convincing case for James Lasdun as one of the most incisive investigators of the human heart writing in English today.

Feathered Glory opens with Victor, a bohemian music critic, turning up at his old friend Richard’s house in upstate New York having just left his girlfriend and baby for a married woman. Richard, an elementary school headmaster with a “morning assembly manner”, offers a cautionary tale from his own past as ...

Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley – review


This post is by Johanna Thomas-Corr from Books | The Guardian


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Two long-term couples’ lives are changed by a sudden death in Hadley’s wonderful tale of ageing and adultery

There are few literary slurs as damning as the term “Hampstead novel”. The Observer’s Kate Kellaway once defined it as “a middle-class morality novel – probably involving adultery and shallow-masquerading-as-deep”. Authors such as Margaret Drabble, Fay Weldon and Ian McEwan are apparently guilty of writing Hampstead novels. Common wisdom says you should never write one these days. But in her quietly defiant, untrendy way that’s precisely what Tessa Hadley has done. Clearly, the woman doesn’t give a fig-scented candle.

Late in the Day tells the story of two upper-middle-class boho couples who sit around listening to Schubert and saying things like: “Christ, Jules… I don’t want to go dinner at the Fairlies’. We don’t even like the Fairlies.” The characters visit the Venice Biennale, discuss Tarkovsky and, naturally, have affairs ...

Dream Sequence by Adam Foulds – review


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Adam Foulds skewers the world of acting in an entertaining novel that fizzes with wit

If you’ve ever had misgivings about yoga, Adam Foulds’s new novel will make them far worse. Dream Sequence features two memorable yoga classes: one at the beginning of the book, in suburban Philadelphia, where Kristen, a lonely but chipper divorcee, performs a series of invigorating asanas; and another towards the end, in London, attended by the vain English actor Henry Banks, who is the focus of Kristen’s obsession, her “twin soul” – though he doesn’t yet know it.

“Think of yourself as a germinating seed about to get up and walk into your future,” the American instructor tells her yoga bunnies, inadvertently fuelling Kristen’s delusion. Across the Atlantic, Henry experiences a “persistent anxiety-inducing tremor” during a meditation session as his mind runs over various professional and sexual insecurities – not least his failure to bed ...

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza – review


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This outstanding debut novel about a tour guide in Buenos Aires already seems like an important work

‘Being good with quotations means avoiding having to think for oneself,” observes the narrator of Optic Nerve, a seductively clever debut novel about an art historian who sees her life through the paintings and artists who enthral her.

It is, in itself, an excellent quotation, and it’s delivered with a wink. Maria Gainza, a 43-year-old Argentinian art writer, is extremely good with other people’s quotations – Stendhal and Carson McCullers, AS Byatt and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Reflecting on Mark Rothko’s final work before his suicide, she recalls TS Eliot: “The more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind that creates.” But no one could accuse the author of avoiding thinking for herself. The narrative intrigue of Optic Nerve ...

The Wall by John Lanchester review – dystopian fable for our time


This post is by Johanna Thomas-Corr from Books | The Guardian


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The Capital author’s latest novel imagines a fortress UK walled in concrete and patrolled by young conscripts. All too plausible…

The scene is Britain, the time the not-too-distant future. The air hangs heavy with metaphor. Ever since a climatic event known as the “Change”, life has, well, changed. Movement between countries is outlawed. There isn’t a single beach left anywhere in the world. Britain’s coastline has been obliterated by a National Coastal Defence Structure, known to everyone who serves on it as the Wall. Every British youngster is conscripted to spend two years of their life as a “Defender”, patrolling 10,000km of concrete walkways looking for “Others” who might appear at any moment from the sea. Life on the Wall is cold. It is boring. It is utterly grim. It is a whisper away from the sort of vision you can imagine Sajid Javid using to unveil a Tory leadership ...

Book clinic: which books will help me make a fresh start?


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Some suggestions for a former postman about to begin a new life after almost four decades in the same job

Q: What can I read to help me make a fresh start in life in the new year? I have just taken redundancy after working for the same company for 37 years.
Michael Prime, 53, former postman

A: Johanna Thomas-Corr, journalist and book critic:
“To make an end is to make a beginning,” wrote TS Eliot in the last of his Four Quartets, a lyrical meditation on the passing of time and the sadness of lives not fully lived. That might sound like the last thing you want to read as you unbox your fresh start, but it’s also rich with possibility. “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

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Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami review – a sprawling Gatsby for the Google age


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A homage to Scott Fitzgerald’s classic is undone by too many narrative threads

In 2006, Haruki Murakami, Japan’s superstar author, fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams. He didn’t win a huge literary award (Murakami actually withdrew his name from Sweden’s alternative to the Nobel shortlist last month, tired of the speculation). Nor did he achieve his ambition of sitting at the bottom of a well. But he did manage to translate The Great Gatsby into Japanese, something he had long ago vowed to do. It turns out F Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz age classic is not only Murakami’s long-held “infatuation” but the inspiration for his entire career. Which in itself sounds rather Gatsby-esque.

Like the lovestruck millionaire, Murakami clearly believes his own decades-old obsession needs a higher purpose. So his 14th novel is a 674-page homage to Fitzgerald’s most cherished book, a sprawling, surreal Gatsby for the information age. At ...

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller – review


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The English writer brings the full range of his virtuosity to bear in a Napoleonic-era tale that veers from comedy and romance to outright menace

It’s a wonder Andrew Miller is not a household name. Now 58, he has been publishing confident, controlled fiction for more than 20 years; whether he alights on 18th-century Paris or 1990s Los Angeles, his novels are always suffused with wit, grit and melancholy wisdom. He’s the kind of novelist other writers admire and readers mean to get around to, who makes it on to Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime but rarely the bestseller charts. Perhaps his excellent eighth book, a cat-and-mouse thriller set at the height of the Napoleonic wars, will change that, though the fact it’s not made this year’s Man Booker longlist is already something of a travesty.

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free opens in 1809, shortly after the Spanish ...

Book clinic: which writers can lead me inside the minds of millennials?


This post is by Johanna Thomas-Corr from Books | The Guardian


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Sally Rooney’s confessional style and Joe Dunthorne’s satire should help a teacher understand the ‘avocado generation’

I’m teaching millennials but find it hard to know what makes them tick. Can you recommend millennial writers who would help me better understand my students?
Christina Melia, 47, Paris (originally from Ireland)

Johanna Thomas-Corr, literary critic, writes…
Ah, those millennials. So hard to pin down, aren’t they? Once denoting the generation born c1980-1995, millennial is now often used to mean “digital-era whippersnapper” or “profligate consumer of avocados”. Such is the difficulty of generalising about a generation born at the apex of individualism – but happily, this most overanalysed group is now telling its own stories.

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