Mike Tomkies: Wilderness(e) man

"No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe" wrote Donne. Well, Mike Tomkies tried his damnedest. Tomkies's books sold in their thousands in the 1980s, but in today's Nature Writing Revival he is nowhere to be found. Both my Dad and cousin Colin (with whom I went birdwatching in my teens, chugging around Fife … Continue reading Mike Tomkies: Wilderness(e) man

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Imag(in)ing the past

The story I'm writing at the moment is set in the past, in a vague and never-specified summer at the end of the 80s: 1988 or 1989. Certain signifiers are there - and necessarily there - which tie it to this particular era. Thatcher is Prime Minister; the 1984-85 miners' strike is described as having … Continue reading Imag(in)ing the past

All change: Jan Mark’s “Thunder and Lightnings” (1976)

In my previous post I wrote about nostalgia and the loss of contiguity that can trigger it. There are books, though, that I have always had: every house move has seen them boxed, shifted and unpacked; and, in time, re-read. For these books, each re-reading reveals new aspects: a form of anti- or a-nostalgia. One … Continue reading All change: Jan Mark’s “Thunder and Lightnings” (1976)

In praise of brevity: Clive Barker’s “Cabal” and the anti-epic

Clive Barker’s 1988 novel Cabal is short: at 253 pages, padded out by chapter breaks and illustrations, it’s practically a novella. After the effort of writing the 700-odd pages of Weaveworld, this was a refreshing length for the author: "One of the interesting things about going to Cabal after [Weaveworld] was that I found a … Continue reading In praise of brevity: Clive Barker’s “Cabal” and the anti-epic

L’année dernière à Manderley

I’ve long wanted to read – or to write, and I’ve tried1 – something which marries the claustrophobic atmosphere of Daphne du Maurier’s short stories (such as ‘The Birds’ and ‘Don’t Look Now’ obviously, and also ‘The Blue Lenses’), with the formal experimentation of French nouveau-romaniste Alain Robbe-Grillet (1922-2008). Although they both published some of … Continue reading L’année dernière à Manderley

Under the influence

The artist John Wells was a member of the so-called “St. Ives” group, a loose collective of artists active from the late 1930s to the 1970s. None of the artists in question necessarily thought of themselves as part of a group, and their often fractious relationships makes for great reading. The most illustrious members were … Continue reading Under the influence