Explore essays and memoir
Aphrodisiacs I Have Known
‘In the winter of 1957, I went to Liberia for the New Yorker.’
‘As I stood in front of the immigration officer, I was already worrying about my answers to the questions he might ask’.
‘Bollywood is part of what our culture has become. We are lying to ourselves all the time.’
‘I saw him slipping into belligerence, the ghost of James Dean descended upon him and sent a shiver down my spine.’
‘I'd already begun to suspect that sex brought misery or death, and now I knew.’
Bell And Langley
‘He said that new ideas only came to him between these hours, and when they did, they were like recollections of things forgotten. Sometimes he put on his hat and coat at two a. m. and walked ten miles, the way a mourner will do when he is trying to recall the sight of a beloved face.’
Best Book of 1818: The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, by E.T.A. Hoffmann
‘What sets Hoffmann’s work apart is the meeting of the joint impulses of Enlightenment and Romantic thought’
Best Book of 1900: The Autobiography of Dr William Henry Johnson
‘Johnson is now a ghost of history; he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, but I can’t let him disappear.’
Best Book of 1941: Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher
‘This book is about yearning for the Sunday nights of childhood, or dreams; it is a meditation on hunger in all its forms.’
Best Book of 1955: The Magician’s Nephew
‘Much like Tolkien’s, admittedly vaster, legendarium, Lewis’s world is exquisitely conceived.’
Best book of 1964: Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr
‘In days of such human cruelty and pettiness and stupidity, we need reminding that we are all capable of savage compassion as well as the contagion of hatred.’
Best Book of 1965: Everything That Rises Must Converge
‘O’Conner has for me the effect of nailing and then blowing up one’s most casual illusions’
Best book of 1983: The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek
‘After 2016 I’m done with sentimentality, and it’s hard to think of a less sentimental book than The Piano Teacher, objectively a masterpiece, subjectively a book that changed my life.’
Best Book of 1998: 253
Carmen Maria Machado on why Geoff Ryman’s 253 is the best book of 1998.
Best Book of 2000: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
‘It is the novel I have read which best expresses the honest and sad truth of art: that it is often produced in precarity and performed in near silence, but that it can also redeem a life.’
Best Book of 2015: After The Dance
Dimitry Elias Léger on why Jan Gaye's After the Dance is the best book of 2015.
Best Book of 2015: Thus Were Their Faces by Silvina Ocampo
‘Time is a rubber band, and in a single sentence, ghosts and alternative worlds superimpose’
Best Book of 2016: Joanne Kyger’s On Time
Hoa Nguyen on why Joanne Kyger’s On Time is the best book of 2016.
Best Book of 2017: Shadowbahn
Jonathan Lethem on why Steve Erickson's Shadowbahn is the best book of a year to come.
Best Story of 1992: ‘Mlle. Dias de Corta’
Mary O’Donoghue on why Mavis Gallant‘s ‘Mlle. Dias de Corta’ is the best story of 1992.
‘In a city as sprawling and as proud of its architectural grandeur as Chicago, such an emphasis on size seemed only fitting.’
‘It’s at night that you really notice the dust, because artificial light suddenly makes the fines visible.’
Blood Is Usually Red
‘A lot of babies were born in skiffs during storms, their umbilical cords cut with rusty pocketknives.’
‘Rather than death itself, it is the disappearance of traces that seems unbearable and sad. The disappearance of all signs that I existed.’
‘A rustle in the bracken; then, almost immediately, a snout and some wiry black hair.’
Books Do Furnish a Room
‘The shelves say something about the person who has stocked them; they say much.’
‘Bradford, I felt, was a place I had to see for myself, because it seemed that so many important issues, of race, culture, nationalism, and education, were evident in an extremely concentrated way.’
‘I knew I was Pakistani long before I knew I was English, just as I knew I was Muslim long before I knew I was British.’
‘It was a clear, uncomplicated space, a brand image, a label that could be stuck on a billion sauce bottles.’
‘He dedicated The Less Deceived to her: it was the only collection of poems he dedicated to anyone.‘
‘The year was 1944. The Germans had started to rain their first flying bombs on England’.
Brodsky’s Room and a Half
‘It’s enough to sit in silence for the duration of a lighted cigarette in order to be taken over by the life force flourishing among the graves.’
Captain Scott’s Biscuit
‘Those who took anything out of any of the huts could excuse themselves in the belief that they were merely saving a relic from gradual climatic destruction’.