Nick Hornby’s ‘State of The Union’ and The Guardian Crossword

        Having read Lucy Mangan’s five star review in The Guardian – https://bit.ly/2lDUV58  I went into my viewing of Nick Hornby’s State of the Union determined to follow her advice not to binge it all in one sitting. I failed. Ten ten-minute dramas. I wolfed the whole lot down. Short-form comedy, I’m sure, … Read moreNick Hornby’s ‘State of The Union’ and The Guardian Crossword

Q and A about ’10 Things To Do Before You Leave School’

    Where did the idea for 10 Things To Do Before You Leave School come from? I’m fascinated by lists. We all make them – from shopping lists and mundane daily to-do lists to more ambitious ones to do with hopes and aspirations. One of the Lists people like to make is ‘The Bucket … Read moreQ and A about ’10 Things To Do Before You Leave School’

What I don’t get about Sally Rooney’s Normal People

On the second page of Sally Rooney’s universally acclaimed, Booker- longlisted novel is the following paragraph: ‘He puts his hands in his pockets and suppresses an irritable sigh, but suppresses it with an audible intake of breath, so that it still sounds like a sigh.’ What? I get the hand in the pockets bit, but … Read moreWhat I don’t get about Sally Rooney’s Normal People

Teaching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Given the revived interest in Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (sales of the novel have increased dramatically since Trump’s election and a USA TV adaptation is to be screened by Channel 4 in the UK),  I found it interesting to look back at something I wrote in 1993 about  teaching it. An Approach To The … Read moreTeaching ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

What I don’t get about Sex Education

    The Netflix comedy-drama Sex Education is look-away explicit in its treatment of sex. In fact, before I acclimatised to its no-holds barred, let-it-all-hang-out approach  I spent many of the early episodes watching the screen through eye-shielding hands, tempted on occasions to hide behind the sofa as if I was a kid again hearing … Read moreWhat I don’t get about Sex Education

Now I get it, Elena Ferrante

Elena Ferrante, I apologise. Last summer I read the first of your Neapolitan Novels, ‘My Brilliant Friend’ and I was underwhelmed. I wrote about it in a round-up of my summer reading. I am not usually worried by being out of sync with majority opinion but In your case something was nagging at me, so … Read moreNow I get it, Elena Ferrante

Leonard Cohen. You Want It Darker.

It is easy, and tempting, to see the eighty-two-year-old Leonard Cohen’s magnificent fourteenth album as a farewell. As is often the case with Cohen, though, it is not quite that simple. ‘You Want It Darker’ may seem to be the singer’s farewell to his life, his work, to us, but throughout the album the nature … Read moreLeonard Cohen. You Want It Darker.

‘A’ for Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell

  Well, Ian, what can I say? You’ve done it again – out smarted your clever class-mates and dazzled your teacher with a real tour-de-force. Your classmates chose a more predictable approach. Many wrote as Gertrude (the closet scene being a particular favourite). Some opted for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, despite my warning that this had … Read more‘A’ for Ian McEwan’s ‘Nutshell

Loose Canon — The extraordinary songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin

As  Stephen Fry puts it in his introduction to Ian Shircore’s survey of the songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin, ‘those of us who have hugged the secret of this wonderfully gifted pair to ourselves can’t help feeling rather special and discerning, and we don’t need anyone else to clutter up the premises of … Read moreLoose Canon — The extraordinary songs of Clive James and Pete Atkin