Normal People is the second novel by young Dublin-based author Sally Rooney, closely following her memorable début in the form of Conversations with Friends (2017). With regards it stylistic and thematic concerns, the book recalls its predecessor; yet Rooney’s depiction of the short-lived ménage à quatre undergoes both dilation and condensation in the plot of Normal People, which traces a volatile, nebulous and not exactly conventional friendship over the course of five years.
Someone I knew in New Zealand once described their impression of the London tube system: ‘The stops all have ridiculous names—Bank, Monument, Piccadilly Circus. It’s like a bloody video game.’ In K.A. McKeagney’s Tubing gaming is no longer an illusion, though nothing as innocuous as a video game either.
If you’re ever stuck for conversation at an uninteresting dinner party and find yourself in desperate need of a supertanker-sized icebreaker, Embarrassing Sexual Misadventures: 1001 of the Most Tragically Hilarious Sexploits Ever might just be the perfect source material.
An author’s transition from children’s books to adult fiction cannot but arouse the suspicion that outgrowing a genre requires time. In other words, the initial attempts are almost inevitably hybrids, haunted by traces of fairy tales, toy monkeys and misplaced innocence. Joanna Nadin’s The Queen of Bloody Everything offers, if not a refutation, then a formidable self-justification which uses the accusation to her own advantage.
Samuel Johnson once wrote “No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.” I have to say that I’m rather with the good Doctor on that one: the concept of high life on the ocean wave may be a fine one, but when it comes to the realities of modern cruise ships, I’d rather be an armchair sailor.
Remembered chiefly for his time as editor of the avant-garde monthly publication The Dial in the 1920s when modernism was at its apogee, Scofield Thayer remained an elusive and essentially self-contradictory figure for literary and art historians. The American poet, publisher, philanthropist and aesthete has been described as a ‘Jekyll-and-Hyde paradox’, with his socialist leanings set against a bourgeois lifestyle, his unmistakable misogyny placed in blatant antithesis with a tenderly romanticist spirit. Perhaps no work has shed such an unique light on Thayer the private man than Obsession: Nudes by Klimt, Schiele and Picasso from the Scofield Thayer Collection, a selective catalogue as well as an illuminated biographical study on the collector and the artists alike.
Mothers represents more than a balling-up of shorter pieces, and is both tonally very even and thematically consistent. Many of the stories within concern characters at various stages in life who find themselves abroad, as well as caught in moments of personal transition. It is probably appropriate, considering the format of the short story and its necessary brevity, that Power explores ideas around transience, caprice and the unknowability of human emotions, as nearly every story in the collection does. It is not that Mothers has an inappropriate focus, but rather the format itself that is generally dissatisfying.
Ok, Mr Field is Faber’s Lead Debut for 2018 and, in both its publication in June and serialisation in The Paris Review, it represents the emergence of what we might call Faber’s Lead Debutante – young author Katherine Kilalea. While Kilalea has had a poetry collection published in 2009 and has received preliminary attention from the Southbank Centre and the mainstream press for her writing, all eyes are very much upon the young South African with this slim but promising first novel. If it were the Gala Ball, she would be preparing to make her grand entrance down the staircase in all pomp and circumstance. You can practically hear the creak of necks being craned.
Hilton is back with another spicy thriller set in the seething underbelly of the international art scene – Ultima.
Lately, whenever someone’s asked me what I was reading, I’ve told them: ‘A middle-aged woman who starts fucking a merman’. If I were to sit and tell them what The Pisces is really about it would probably take more time than they’d be willing to spare.