19 January 2018 marked the 29th anniversary of the death of British travel writer Bruce Chatwin. To mark the occasion, I read some old articles and reviews relating to his life and work, and came across an interesting profile of the writer by American novelist Hanya Yanagihara. (more…)


“After two years of careful reading, moving backwards through time, Robert McCrum has concluded his selection of the 100 greatest nonfiction books. Take a quick look at five centuries of great writing.” — The Guardian

Includes: Former President of the United States, Barack ObamaBetty FriedanEdward SaidGeorge OrwellJames BaldwinJoan DidionMichael HerrNaomi KleinOliver SacksSusan SontagVirginia Woolf, and many more.

“The TV adaptation of her dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale captured the political moment. Ahead of a new series, Atwood talks bestsellers, bonnets and the backlash against her views on #MeToo” — The Guardian

“The entire countryside trembles with cold.”

— Jules Renard, Journal, January 1905

An illustration of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast by Alan Lee.

Robert Macfarlane has written a series of short pieces reflecting on literary representations of space. Among them, he includes a thoughtful discussion of Mervyn Peake‘s labyrinthine Gormenghast novels (Titus GroanGormenghastTitus Alone), and in particular the eponymous castle setting that will be etched into the minds of all its readers. At one moment, Macfarlane draws parallels between Peake’s castle and a modern city:

“Cities are, like Gormenghast, excessive and connective. They spawn, proliferate, self-generate: and they are sites of encounter and overlap. For every story you overhear in a city, every conversation you catch, myriad more are in the making at that moment. This is the affront that cities offer to reason, and the excitement they provoke in the mind: that they surpass all possible record. They are places of—to borrow again from Peake—intense ‘circumfusion’.”

— 1843 Magazine

Macfarlane concludes, “At such moments—in such places—it feels as if Peake has not mimicked the real but anticipated or supplemented it.”