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On cosmic realism...

The Booker Prizes longreads

Melville, Dostoyevsky, Conrad, Faulkner, and McCarthy form an echoing conversation across time. Such writers in their familial resemblances might better be described as cosmic realism. For they are defined by their cosmic eye, their ability to gaze as though from on high at the human condition in all its agony and confusion and grand gestures, to hold within their gaze not just the table and chairs and the chatter in the room but the fundamental strangeness of our condition – the infinite spaces that enfold us, the eternal truths that define us throughout the ages. Theirs is a gaze that reaches into the farthest reaches of reality and into the very stuffing of what we are. More...

How should literature meet
the world we live in now? 

The Big Issue UK

There is a 1991 book you may know by Don DeLillo called Mao II that explores a unique set of problems facing the modern writer. In that book, the reclusive novelist Bill Gray finds himself adrift from a society that no longer places the novel at the centre of the culture. A novelist in the late 1990s would no doubt recall a time when demanding fiction such as Saul Bellow’s Herzog could chart at number one on the New York Times bestseller list for 29 weeks across 1964-65, not to mention a time when men in large numbers, and not just women, read literature as though the very state of the soul, not to mention the nation, depended on it. More...

The dream that wakes you up

The Stinging Fly, Bray Festival lecture on creativity

The ancient Greeks did not believe in the self as the source of inspiration. They saw creativity as something located outside oneself in the form of the daimon, an attendant spirit, part god and part human, that acted as a conduit between man and the divine fire. To be met with the spark of illumination, or to be in thrall to the creative spirit, was to be visited by your daimon, bringing you into direct communication with the gods.... More...

When the Plots of Your Fiction
Spill Into the Real World


In 2013, two fishermen left the village of Costa Azul on the coast of Chiapas in Mexico on board a 23-foot panga and motored out into the Pacific Ocean. They expected to return 30 hours later with an iced cooler full of marlins and sharks. Instead, they met a storm that lasted five days. Their boat took a battering. Their outboard motor was damaged and their communication and navigation devices destroyed. The men were cast adrift at the mercy of the ocean currents, taking them further and further away from rescue. Imprisoned on their boat, they were met with an instant and profound social isolation.... More...

strange work is the
writing of a novel

Irish Times

Strange work is the writing of a novel. A book begins in the mind as an itch and the writer discovers a compulsion to scratch. An image arrives and resonates, sometimes for years. The writer thinks: why this image and not another you might like? More...

There’s No Such Thing
As Historical Fiction


It might sound odd to say it, but there is no such thing as historical fiction. And yet if you write a literary novel set in the past, let’s say before the 1950s—though in truth, it might well be much later than that—it is a label impossible to escape. The agents, book scouts and publishers with a wistful sigh shunt you into the historical trap. The author, as the novel is brought to book, might be surprised to discover the term appearing in the jacket text forewarning the unwary reader. Watch then as the book is published and reviewers rush to box the novel as historical fiction.... More...

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