Send us your questions for Zadie Smith

The Observer New Review offers you the chance to put your questions to the award-winning writer

In February next year, Zadie Smith will publish Feel Free (Hamish Hamilton), a book of essays on topics ranging from Brexit to Beyoncé, JG Ballard to Justin Bieber.

Smith has written six novels – including White Teeth, On Beauty, NW and last year’s Swing Time – and a number of nonfiction publications, edited collections and essays. Raised in north-west London, she lives between London and New York with her husband Nick Laird and their two children.

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Attrib. this: Eley Williams’s experimental stories are a microblast

This thought-stoppingly daring debut (and other stories) offers the winterval reader a bounteous sharing platter of thinking experiments. And a whole lot of fun

Generally, the trick in storytelling is to make the reader forget about the building blocks of language, and concentrate on the larger structure. As a reader, you might subconsciously pick up on rhythms. Sometimes you will notice a sharp phrase or two, a rhetorical flourish, perhaps the odd bit of alliteration and assonance. If you let him, Will Self might bash you over the head with his dictionary. But, on the whole, it’s what the words do that matters, rather than what they are. You focus on the broader picture, not the pigment and paint, even if you can also appreciate the colours.

Related: Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams review – life’s big microdrama moments

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‘Women are better writers than men’: novelist John Boyne sets the record straight

Male authors are always pronouncing their own brilliance – or boasting about not reading books by women. So, after a lifetime of writing and attending literary festivals, John Boyne would like to get something off his chest …

Do you know what the literary tea towel is? It’s an Irish phenomenon that can be found hanging in half the pubs of Dublin and all the tourist shops. Also taking the form of a calendar, a beer mat, a T-shirt and a poster, the tea towel features images of 12 great Irish writers, most of whom look as if they’ve spent the morning drowning puppies.

There’s George Bernard Shaw looking constipated, while Flann O’Brien stares into the distance. Oscar Wilde at least has a half-smile on his face, as if Bosie has just lifted his shirt to show off his abs. Only Brendan Behan seems truly happy, but then he is ...

Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?


Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

We might as well embrace it: Christmas is coming. And there’s definitely a good side. Maggie B, for instance is using the festive season as an excuse to read Terry Pratchett:

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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz review – fiendish whodunnit

Horowitz channels Agatha Christie, with a rustic English setting, a tricksy book-within-a-book, and red herrings aplenty

Anthony Horowitz has ventriloquised Ian Fleming in Trigger Mortis. He’s taken on Arthur Conan Doyle in The House of Silk. And very well too. In Magpie Murders, Horowitz tries something a little different: he pastiches the cosy country murder stories of Agatha Christie, setting his whodunnit in the sleepy 1950s English village of Saxby-on-Avon, where the widely disliked Mary Blakiston has been found dead at the bottom of the stairs in Pye Hall, the grand house where she worked as a housekeeper.

Except he doesn’t really do this at all. Blakiston’s death is a story within a story, the work of a crime novelist, one Alan Conway, whose vintage tales of murders solved by the wonderfully umlauted German detective Atticus Pünd regularly top the bestseller lists. Conway’s editor, Susan Ryeland, is Horowitz’s narrator ...

The Alarming Palsy of James Orr – review

Tom Lee’s elegant first novel tells of how a man’s comfortable life unravels when he awakes one day with a debilitating condition

James Orr wakes one morning to find he can no longer move half of his face. He is diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a condition that paralyses the facial nerves, and makes eating and talking difficult. He no longer looks nor feels like himself; he’s signed off work and his days lose their shape. His comfortable middle-class existence, a high-powered job, two children, and a house on a private estate, starts to come apart. Tom Lee’s first novel, written while he was recuperating from a serious illness, is crisp and slim. It has a dash of Kafka, but it’s also subtly propulsive, as James becomes increasingly competitive with his neighbours, including the frequently shirtless and barefoot Kit, more sexually demanding with his wife, and more disoriented by his surroundings. ...

Six-figure deal for ‘Irish Bridget Jones’ series

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen sign two-book deal to follow their breakout debut, Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling

Two friends whose novel about a “complete Aisling” is being hailed as the Irish answer to Bridget Jones have landed a six-figure two-book deal.

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen started sharing “Aisling-isms” with their friends in 2008, while they were sharing a flat in Dublin. But when the two journalists set up a Facebook page to swap stories of a country girl who has never dyed her hair or lost her phone, who walks to work as fast as she can to get her steps in, they gradually found an audience beyond their immediate circle.

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