- Essays -

In the 25th Year Since
How Late It Was, How Late ...

Written: 2019 / Word Count: 21,037
Any specific memories of the first time I read How Late It Was have faded over time, but the one thing I know is that I read and re-read the opening of the book multiple times during the first read, a few more during the second, and countless times on its own ... click here to read more

Mavis Gallant's
30-Dimensional Character

Written: 2019 / Word Count: 2,569
The brilliance of Mavis Gallant’s story Mlle. Dias de Corta lies in the difficulty the reader has in condemning a character who has shown herself worthy of nothing more ... click here to read more

Nikolai Gogol:
The Other 19th Century Narrator

Written: 2015 / Word Count: 10,398
Gogol’s love of folk tales as rendered by the wandering storytellers of Russia and the Ukraine meant he was operating within an oral tradition that pre-dates what we know as ‘existentialism’ in fiction, but it is a medium which permitted him to register some of the same achievements that a writer such as Kafka would also manage later ... click here to read more

The Music of Tim Buckley

Written: 2018 / Word Count: 1,653
Greetings From L.A. being my first Buckley album meant that a key step in my conversion from sceptic to very adoring fan was arriving at a particular understanding: that the vocals in a song need not be anything other than the presence of something else within that soundscape ... click here to read more

A Polyphonic Spree:
Hubert Selby Jr's Dialogue

Written: 2017 / Word Count: 10,057
I was certainly not disappointed when I did read Selby’s novels. There was a multitude of ways in which his prose diverged from the ‘rules of writing’ as I knew them, but the area that dazzled most was his use of dialogue. Selby is surely one of the great innovators of literary history, both in terms of rendering speech on the page, and of the effects that can be achieved via different representations of the spoken word ... click here to read more

Cormac McCarthy,
Expression & the Fictional Dream

Written: 2016 / Word Count: 9,087
The great problem I have with Child of God is that, in my opinion, his narrative style simply does not work, and is the antithesis of writing that encourages and enables the ‘fictional dream’ ... click here to read more

A Certain Kind of Beauty:
Ernesto Sabato's The Tunnel

Written: 2017 / Word Count: 3,196
A common feature of many of the greatest novels of the past two hundred years has been for the tale of a great and heinous crime to be focalized through the very obviously damaged and/or deranged consciousness of the criminal, and the book therefore serves as an extended examination of the motivations and repercussions that relate to the criminal act ... click here to read more

Carver vs Lish:
An overlong argument about The Bath

Written: 2017 / Word Count: 15,843
So firstly a phrase used by Raymond Carver himself in his introduction to ‘Best American Short Stories’, a book he edited in 1986, where he noted that short fiction at its best shows us what is “recognizably human”. That is his term. And I agree. Completely. The greatest art is always “recognizably human”, and anything that is not has to be considered inferior ... click here to read more

These Permanent Shadows:
A Review of Kelman's A Lean Third

Written: 2014 / Word Count: 5,477
During the examinations of these stories, I felt I was able to identify a set of specific editorial changes which differentiate A Lean Third from the Lean Tales originals. Of course, it would be silly to present these as though I was capable of divining Kelman’s every motivation and decision and thought whilst undertaking the revision process, but I can detail what I found the literary effects of each editing action to be as I read ... click here to read more

An appreciation of an unpublished work:
Alan McMunnigall's Atheists

Written: 2017 / Word Count: 11,905
In August 2016, the journalist and critic Stuart Kelly reviewed a novel in the Culture section of The Scotsman. He proposed that the book in question was emblematic of a new sub-genre of literature – that following on from such trends as Dirty Realism and what James Wood termed ‘Hysterical Realism’, we have now in Scotland this strange new strand of Mimsical Realism ... click here to read more

She Feels The Foe Within

An examination of the poetry of Lord Rochester

Written: 2006 / Word Count: 9,153
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, seems destined to be forever remembered as the most infamous, the most debauched and the most obscene English poet of the seventeenth century. The fact that his life was recently made into a Hollywood movie called The Libertine and starring Johnny Depp as the man himself supports this concept of Rochester ... click here to read more

Short Commissioned Pieces

A selection of shorter essays written for publication ... click here to read more

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