Time to go veggie? Max Barry’s “Jennifer Government”

Max Barry’s novel “Jennifer Government” (2003) is one of the best novels I have read recently. Similar in style to Huxley’s dystopian, satirical “Brave New World”, Barry’s comic exploration of modern society is full of brilliantly humorous moments and scarily possible (or probable?) predictions about the future. According to this account of the not-so-distant fate of the USA, the balance between the power of the … Continue reading Time to go veggie? Max Barry’s “Jennifer Government”

Failed visionaries?: Sebastian Faulks’s “Human Traces” (2005)

Growing up, I became used to the covers of Sebastian Faulks’ novels, which were frequently strewn over our living room coffee table, or lay on the back seat of the car during our long summer drives across Europe. The face of the “Girl at the Lion D’Or” particularly haunts my memory; the cover photographer captured that sense of “lostness”, isolation and emotional intensity which Faulks … Continue reading Failed visionaries?: Sebastian Faulks’s “Human Traces” (2005)

‘Neither East nor West’: Chicken Tikka in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007)

As it often happens, it is not quite the best lines of poetry that are remembered in popular culture: rather, I sometimes think, the most awkward-sounding. Kipling’s phrases ‘East is East’ and ‘West is West’ (from ‘The Ballad of East and West’, 1899) have been heavily exploited over the years. Interestingly, the former phrase seems to have inspired a lot of restaurant owners across the … Continue reading ‘Neither East nor West’: Chicken Tikka in Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007)

Celebrating Summer?: William Atkins’s ‘The Moor’

Now that spring has arrived (despite the rain and cold in Durham over the past week or so I am defiantly eating ice-cream and refusing to wear my coat), your thoughts, like mine, may be turning to the outdoors. Of course, my plans to undertake an expedition to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall will probably remain just that – plans – for quite a … Continue reading Celebrating Summer?: William Atkins’s ‘The Moor’

Perfecting Pfannkuchen with Lauren Owen (The Quick, 2014)

Recipe When Nico and I decided to make pfannkuchen, I felt more than a little trepidation. Lauren’s characters eat tasty baked potatoes, dripping with melted butter, or they tuck into hearty winter soups. Although I could have produced a recipe for either of these with ease, Nico felt that was a little boring. So we choose pfannkuchen instead. There are two types of this German sweet – … Continue reading Perfecting Pfannkuchen with Lauren Owen (The Quick, 2014)

How to eat a pomegranate: Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” (2003)

A few weeks ago, I ate my first pomegranate. The first task was to open it. After watching quite a few YouTube videos about how best to consume this tricky but delectable fruit (there seems to be a range of hotly-contested viewpoints on this topic amongst home videographers) I decided to defy those who advocated a more complex method. I took a risk and just … Continue reading How to eat a pomegranate: Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” (2003)

Holes and histories: baguettes in Ciaran Carson’s ‘For All We Know’ (2008)

Belfast-born poet Ciaran Carson is one of the most accomplished wordsmiths to be found amongst the current generation of writers. Born in 1948, he has published over 29 volumes of poetry, prose and translations from Irish. Carson’s indefatigable flair for witty, convoluted, memorable story-telling is cemented in his 2008 volume, For All We Know. This is an absolutely beautiful and emotive novelistic sequence of not-quite-sonnets … Continue reading Holes and histories: baguettes in Ciaran Carson’s ‘For All We Know’ (2008)