Reviewer: AF

By this author

book February 06, 2016

The Noise of Time

[TOC:ul In this story] Originally The Noise of Time was the title of a series of autobiographical sketches by Russian-Jewish poet Osip Mandelstam – and Mandelstam, who came of age in the early days of the revolution, stands high in the martyrology …

book January 23, 2016

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

[TOC:ul In this story] James Baldwin’s essay collection Notes of a Native Son slaughters a number of sacred cows, but none so sacrosanct as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In a 1949 piece entitled “Everybody’s protest novel”, the writer …

book December 19, 2015

Books 2015 #1

Reviewers' picks from the year in print. Best New Talent, Guilty Pleasure, Most Overrated, Most Disappointing.

book December 12, 2015

The Little Red Chairs

[TOC:ul In this story] Critic V. S. Pritchett once described Dostoevsky’s incorrigibly voluble characters as having souls that loll from their mouths like tongues. Edna O’Brien’s new novel – the 17th in a career that spans half a century and …

book October 31, 2015

Avenue of Mysteries

[TOC:ul In this story] It may as well be said at the outset: John Irving, the earnest, charming and energetic neo-Dickensian author of a fistful of engagingly intelligent bestsellers starting with 1978’s The World According to Garp, has not …

book September 12, 2015

Where My Heart Used to Beat

[TOC:ul In this story] The number of contemporary English writers who seem at home in France can be counted on your fingers: Julian Barnes, John Berger, Adam Thorpe, perhaps William Boyd. None of them have parlayed that cultural intimacy into popular …

book September 05, 2015


[TOC:ol In this story] “Once upon a time, it had sufficed to write The Sound and the Fury or The Sun Also Rises,” Jonathan Franzen writes in Purity (576 pages). “But now bigness was essential. Thickness, length.” Even …

book August 29, 2015

Beauty Is a Wound

[TOC:ul In this story] So sorrowful, so savage, so freaking weird is Beauty Is a Wound that I found myself backtracking paragraphs, just to ensure I’d correctly understood their lunatic import. Eventually I accepted the fact that here was …

book July 18, 2015

Last Day in the Dynamite Factory

[TOC:ul In this story] In a brief essay on Franz Kafka published in 1951, the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges mounted a characteristically perverse argument. He wrote that “each new writer creates his precursors”. But what sounds insane at first …