Cervantes spoke of the ‘strange charm’ in hoping for a good legacy. At 65, Tom Bryan had already donated his body to science, then in the face of several family deaths he decided to approach posterity afresh. He hired a professional archivist to sift, sort and box up his unpublished works and set his mind as well as his manuscripts to rest.
When 'austerity theatre' must cut the cloth to fit tight financial constraints, the result is smaller casts, simpler sets and design. Even worse, says Shaun McCarthy, the playwright is eclipsed: instead of author-driven productions, theatre is awash with devised, collaborative works. These developments, he argues, should concern us.
Jo Mazelis was born in Wales and lives there now, but she resists being pegged as a 'local author' just because she’s published by a Welsh Press. Here she reflects on the pull and push of regionalism. Why, when her novel is set in France with an international cast, does it get shelved next to Day Walks in the Brecon Beacons and Welsh Teatime Recipes?
In Mexico today real-life crime is both stranger and more egregious than fiction. But where does this leave writers who wish to document gang culture, random killings and government corruption? Nick Caistor discovers that the spirit of truth-telling is alive and kicking, and that poems and novels are as much vehicles of protest as demonstrating on the streets.
The novelist Anna Haycraft (Alice Thomas Ellis) died of lung cancer in 2005. Deborah Bosley, who along with Beryl Bainbridge, Shelley Weiner and Caroline Blackwood was one of Anna’s literary protégés, recalls a life rich in letters, love, children and faith. At the centre of it all was Anna’s profound domesticity, heady with books, booze, family and fags. And it revolved round the kitchen table.
Writer's block has become a cliché of Grub Street patois. At best it's lazy terminology, at worst, a poor excuse for failing to put bum on seat. Yet it has pedigree: Woolf, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Larkin all suffered it, and now Rupert Christiansen has the contagion. But the experience is very far from what he expected.
For much of the 20th century, George Orwell's boot stamping on a head was a better metaphor for political repression that Aldous Huxley's smiling dystopia of drug-induced passivity. No longer. Nicholas Murray says the wily ways of 'soft power' threading through Brave New World underpin today's consumer capitalism.
Timothy Leary considered Herman Hesse to be the ‘master guide’ to the hallucinatory experience; at 19, Paul Sayer, obsessed with Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf, agreed. It sent him on an acid fuelled odyssey to find his inner self that left him boggle-eyed, clinging to the tower of York Minster.