Don DeLillo on Trump’s America: ‘I’m not sure the country is recoverable’


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He has spent half a century dissecting America’s dreams and nightmares. Now the great novelist is imagining what his ‘deluged’ country will be like three years from today

Whenever he’s able to separate himself from the distractions of daily life, from family obligations and the rolling thunder of 24-hour news, Don DeLillo taps out a few pages of his latest book. He writes out of habit and because he’s in the grip of an idea that won’t let him rest. He’s constructing a story set around the next corner, in an America he may not live to see. Obliquely, unavoidably, he’s writing about Donald Trump.

Or as he puts it: “I’m working on a piece of fiction set three years in the future. But I’m not trying to imagine the future in the usual terms. I’m trying to imagine what has been torn apart and what can be put back ...

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami review – a rambling voyage of discovery


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Paintings become magic portals in this digressive, beguiling novel about an artist in flight from himself

Anyone who has ever stared for hours at a blank laptop screen or surfed a deadline on to the rocks would be forgiven for feeling aggrieved by the serene, steady progress of Haruki Murakami. When at work on a novel, the Japanese author adheres to a strict daily routine. He rises at dawn, writes through the morning and then takes a 10km run in the afternoon. Eventually, he says, the writing and the running become indivisible, a “form of mesmerism” that serves to cast the author as a semiconscious agent in the forward movement of the narrative, or an observant traveller through pre-existing terrain. As an added bonus, this helps to fireproof the work against criticism, implying that any perceived failings – any missteps, soft patches or unexpected detours – are simply part of ...

Lost Empress by Sergio de la Pava review – a crazed American football farce


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An uproarious yarn of an underdog team and its overdog owner takes in a shadowy criminal cartel, a stolen Dalí and the social tensions of a nation

In August 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the start of a preseason game. The decision, he explained, was a silent protest at what he saw as a culture of police brutality, racial inequality and a systemic bias against minorities within the criminal justice system. The “take the knee” protest has since gone viral. It has been adopted by more than 200 players, threw the 2017 season into crisis and outraged Donald Trump, who derides the protesters as treacherous ingrates and wants them all to be fired. Previously a well-oiled bastion of monopoly capitalism (exclusively white-owned, yet disproportionately reliant on black talent), the NFL is in danger of ...

Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna – review


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An enjoyable biography of director David Lynch is rich in detail, but doesn’t get to the root of the man’s mystery

A few years back I interviewed David Lynch at his lithographic studio in Paris. The film-maker sat at an ink-splattered table in a sky-blue smock. He was courteous and serene and blithely unrevealing about his life and his work – keen to present himself as an unconscious translator of pre-existing ideas, or an angler at the water’s edge, waiting for something to bite.

“You don’t make the fish, you catch the fish,” he explained patiently. “Now you can cook it in a good way or a bad way, but that’s as far as it goes.” The hour flew by in a haze of happy abstractions. I came away thinking that while I’d genuinely enjoyed meeting the man, I could not say for sure who it was that I’d ...

Overland by Graham Rawle review – the illusion of home


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A Hollywood set designer plays God as he builds an ersatz town to hide an aircraft factory, in this beguiling story grounded in historical events

Viewed from above, Overland, California is a patchwork community of red-roofed houses and bucolic sheep meadows. There is a church and a tennis court and a tranquil blue lake. Laundry snaps on the line in well-tended backyards; Sullivan’s Travels is playing at the local picture palace. It’s 1942 and the world is at war. But unremarkable Overland sits apart from the conflict.

It is only at ground level that the facade starts to flake. The Overland diner serves only coffee and doughnuts. The fire hydrants emit not water but steam. And the tranquil blue lake is a vast sheet of tarpaulin: toss an apple on to its surface and the fruit risks being sucked down a vent and dropped on to the shop floor of ...

Top 10 terrible houses in fiction


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Places you’d be desperate to avoid in real life provide a magnetic lure in books by authors from Dickens to Du Maurier and even Richard Adams My novel, The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times, tells the tale of a girl who travels through a dark forest and arrives at a big house. The forest is bad but the house is arguably worse – a false sanctuary inhabited by decadent aristocrats; boozy and boisterous, on the brink of turning nasty. At some point when writing the story, I realised I was naively blundering into a long and noble tradition of books about terrible houses, much as I’ve naively blundered into many awkward, unfamiliar houses down the years. Maybe I love these places in fiction because I hate and fear them in real life. Continue reading...

Don DeLillo: ‘I think of myself as the kid from the Bronx’


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As he approaches 80, the author’s work still channels America’s tensions. In a rare interview, he discusses his new novel, cryogenics and preserving himself through fiction Twice a year, either side of the summer solstice, the setting sun is perfectly aligned with the grid of New York city streets. This urban phenomenon is known as the Manhattanhenge and Don DeLillo saw it once, some decades ago, while travelling crosstown at the back of a bus. He recalls the great ball of fire framed by towering buildings; the jubilant uproar of his fellow passengers; a vision of heaven at the end of 34th Street. The Manhattanhenge has haunted DeLillo ever since, and in the final pages of his latest book he unearths the scene and plays it out afresh. One last golden flourish before the endnotes. I meet DeLillo inside a fifth floor apartment on the Upper East Side. The room ...

Peter O’Toole: The Definitive Biography by Robert Sellers review – the last of the hellraisers


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‘No blood, no show’ – he outlived most of his drinking companions, but his rich, declamatory acting style went out of fashion

In the late 1940s, a working-class Catholic schoolboy sat down to write a poem that read like a contract with his future self. “I will not be a common man, because it is my right to be an uncommon man,” he vowed. “I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.”

Over the course of a six-decade acting career, Peter O’Toole rarely passed up an opportunity to lord it over his rivals; to clamour for the world’s attention; to upset the applecart of bourgeois conformity. His life amounted to a series of flamboyant gestures. He kicked up so many dust clouds that he ran the risk of becoming lost in the swirl.

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