June 6, 2013
Paperback now available – £9.99
Nominated for the Samuel Johnson Prize, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot is lyrical nature writing that draws deep on literature, myth and memory. It’s a book for walkers or indeed anyone who’s felt their imagination stir as they put one foot in front of the other on an ancient path. Macfarlane is intensely curious about the places and people he encounters – and himself. If you can read it outdoors with a majestic landscape as your companion then all the better. It’s also a book that does a fine job of reviving interest in the early 20th century poet Edward Thomas, who was heavily influenced by the English countryside. His collected poems are also available at the Riverside.
For fans of Robert Macfarlane, there’s also the intriguing Holloway about the author’s exploration of a sunken path in south Dorset. It’s a slender, exquisite volume illustrated by Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood.
January 15, 2013
New issues out now – £12.99
Object Lessons, the superlative collection of short stories from The Paris Review, was a literary hit over Christmas. For anyone enraptured by that anthology of favourites from the New York magazine’s 60-year history, the obvious next step is to acquire a quarterly habit for The Paris Review’s inventive fiction, poetry and prose from international authors. Issue 203 features new fiction and poetry from James Salter, Rachel Kushner, Sarah Frisch, Tim Parks, Peter Orner, Ben Lerner and Geoffrey Hill, as well as Pulphead essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan and editor Lorin Stein’s interviews from the First Annual Norwegian-American Literary Festival.
British literary magazine Granta, which features award-winning reportage, memoir, fiction and photography, will be making headlines in the spring when it publishes its once-a-decade list of the best of young British novelists. In 2003, their literary roll call included David Mitchell, Zadie Smith and Sarah Waters. The latest issue, no. 122, has the stinging theme of betrayal with new writing by Ben Marcus, Janine di Giovanni, Karen Russell, Samantha Harvey, Colin Robinson and John Burnside.
October 24, 2010
Humboldt’s Gift is loosely based on Saul Bellow’s relationship with Delmore Schwartz who, as a short story writer and poet, in his early twenties burned as brightly as the best of them before failing to live up to the expectations that were placed on his young shoulders by the waiting literary observers. It’s impossible to unstitch the story of Delmore Schwartz, and in turn his own work as a writer/poet and teacher, from New York’s cultural landscape. At Syracuse University he taught a young Lou Reed, whose band, The Velvet Underground, would dedicate ‘European Son’ to him. In later years Schwartz’s life would be curtailed by increasing mental health problems and Bellows story begins with his narrator, ‘the successful’ Charlie Citrine, the toast of senators and Broadway (his hit play is about a character based on Humboldt’s genius) alike, hidden behind a car, spying his one time friend, in the gutter eating a pretzel stick, “the dirt of the grave already sprinkled on his face.” This is the last time that Citrine will see the older writer alive before he reads his depressing obituary (“for after all Humboldt did what poets in crass America are supposed to do.”) five years later. Back in his native Chicago to write his masterpiece on Boredom Citrine finds his own life to be in a slump. But then after a chance encounter with a small time hood at a poker game he is reunited with his old friend’s legacy and so he is forced to reavulate his own life. Whilst the premise of story is just that, this is also a book full of wisdom about the meaning of success, what it is to be ‘real’ and why America loves to see it’s poets, those who strive most of all to be real, dead. Advertised as having an introduction by the formidable Martin Amis, its mysterious omission will not hinder your enjoyment of this warm book. Read one of these books and you’ll want to read the other whilst listening to the echo of the Velvet Underground in your head.