Culture Wars reviews contemporary fiction along with regular feature coverage of fiction festivals such as Jewish Book Week and prizes like the Orange Prize and Man Booker.

Browse books by title with CW new books archive feature.

Friday 11 September 2009

Quiet at home - Orange Prize Winner, 2009

Home, by Marilynne Robinson (Virago Press)

The novel is a powerful demonstration of all those forces that frustrate our personal progression.

Friday 28 August 2009

Cold and oppressive yet strangely comforting

Chronicle in Stone, by Ismail Kadare (Canongate 2007)

Overall, the charm of this book lies in the innocent, imaginative playfulness of the young narrator, and the unselfconsciousness of his voice. Whether it was the best book published in English in the whole world in 2005 remains an open question.

Waiting for the pregnant widow

In anticipation of The Pregnant Widow, by Martin Amis (forthcoming from Jonathan Cape)

Speaking in Manchester, Amis likened the relationship between reader and author to that of lovers, and so to expand on the analogy, if Amis were to be our lover: he would be lush, indulgent, too demanding of our attention in his stripling desire to delight.

Friday 24 July 2009

Trouble in paradise

Black Rock, by Amanda Smyth (Serpent’s Tail)

Some might find Celia’s misfortune a little too relentless for one child to manage, but there is a refreshing lack of self-indulgent dwelling on said circumstances; writing the narrative as though through the eyes of a child was the best thing Smyth could have done.

Friday 10 July 2009

Amazing words

The Quickening Maze, by Adam Foulds (Jonathan Cape)

Adam Foulds’ new novel recounts the life, loves and madness of John Clare, poster-boy poet of romantic environmentalists and it-once-was Englanders. Can we bracket him so easily and read him as nothing more than a lament for a natural world destroyed in front of his eyes? Or does his life and poetry tell us something more important about civilisation than it does about nature?

Friday 26 June 2009

Kak kak kak

Harare North, by Brian Chikwava (Jonathan Cape)

It is striking how tenaciously he clings to the ideas instilled in him, refusing to believe the horrors that are reported about the actions of Mugabe’s party.

Woman inside man describes woman

Novel about my wife, by Emily Perkins (Bloomsbury)

Perkins inhabits the male mindset utterly convincingly, drawing her male narrator with total commitment.

Jo Caird in • Fiction

Ukrainian in New York

One more year, by Sana Kraskikov (Canongate)

Krasikov’s women do not quite fit into their new surroundings; they stay within their communities, regarding the Americans they encounter with a certain mild derision.

Friday 29 May 2009

Turned outwards to the world

The Pleasant Light of Day, by Philip Ó Ceallaigh (Penguin)

Ó Ceallaigh specialises in identifying moments where modern consumerist lifestyles fall down, the areas where the veil between perceived happiness and true contentment has worn thin and it becomes clear that some other solution must be found.

Jo Caird in • Fiction
Friday 3 April 2009

‘We’re never gonna survive, unless, we get a little crazy’

Wildlife, by Joe Stretch (Vintage)

Life should be renamed McLife, a homogenised version of what we experience on a daily basis. Her ultimate goal is to seek ‘a way of life that was…smiles without brains, love without odour and sex without stains’.

Friday 27 February 2009

Geregtigheid in a Rainbow Nation

Magenta, by Denis Beckett (University of Natal Press)

Beckett’s characters speak Seffricanese, the language of Josi or Joburg as the locals call their city – an exuberant mix of English peppered with popular phrases and slang words from Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho.

Friday 13 February 2009

Guernica, recounted

Guernica, by Dave Boling

The thirty or so pages that deal directly with the attacks are exhausting to read; Boling’s writing here is deadly in its effectiveness, mercilessly directing the reader’s gaze onto scenes of human pain and terror, each more awful than the last.

Jo Caird in • Fiction
Friday 6 February 2009

Good nosh, well done

Thin Blue Smoke, by Doug Worgul

This novel may be finger-lickin’ good, but does it’s sizzling character loose the plot?

Jo Caird in • Fiction

Spirited Individuality

Adapted from a presentation to the Institute of Ideas book group meeting on 3 February 2009.

Maggie O’Farrell’s work has attracted little notice; but her work is a delicate trail of clues.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

It’s hip to be square

Submarine, by Joe Dunthorne (Hamish Hamilton)

At times, I had to stop myself from throwing the book at the wall and screaming expletives – but it’s because Dunthorne has hit the nail on the head. Perhaps I am being too cynical, but ultimately Oliver annoys me because he evokes memories of every teenage boy I had feelings for: selfish, clueless and incredibly infuriating.

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Contemporary Writers
New writers, new works, databased by the British Council

Pen Pusher
London-based free literary magazine

Celebrate the short story!

Orange Prize
Only the fairer sex need apply

Man Booker Prize
Literary Prize of the Finest Quality

The up and coming speak

The Bookseller
Infused with news from the world of books

International Pen
Writers around the world campaign for freedom of expression

Serpent’s Tail
Independent publisher for experimental voices

Random House
Fiction from the biggest publisher around

Edinburgh Book Festival
Books books and discussing books galore

Jewish Book Week
Celebrating, discussing and critiquing Jewish Lit

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