Italian Literature’s Identity Crisis

italian-flagItaly is one of those countries you just have to love. It has some of the best countryside and most interesting towns and cities in the world; it’s the country of the Renaissance, of glorious art and architecture. Its wine, fashion and food are widely considered to be second to none. Besides, how can you not love a country shaped like a boot? Yes, there’s no doubt about it: Italy gets rave reviews all round. Continue reading

The Living is Easy

Lake Como, where I like to spend those long summer days...

Lake Como, where I like to spend those long summer days…

One of the good things about living in Italy is the general consensus that, from June onward, the weather is much too hot and sticky to keep students locked in school. By now, then, school is well and truly out, and the once-crowded school corridors are a spectral place of lone cleaners mopping the floor and the plaintive shrill of phones that never get answered. Of the students and teachers, there is not a trace. Well, who am I to argue with such a wise and humane policy? Continue reading

Time, Dr Who, and Writing – or not, as the case may be

TardisI sometimes swear I’m caught up in some kind of bizarre Dr Who-style time-bending experiment. I don’t know what’s happened to the space-time continuum, but it just doesn’t seem to be functioning as it once did. I can remember a time when the temporal gap between one Christmas and the next lasted for about – well, about twelve months actually: twelve long, glorious months stuffed full of exciting possibilities. Now I sometimes wonder if it’s even worth packing away all the festive decorations; before I know it, it’ll be time to put them all back up again. Continue reading

The Importance of Play

© Pnovess /  Dreamstime Stock Photos

The way forward is not always a straight line… © Pnovess / Dreamstime Stock Photos

Recently, while tapping away at a work-in-progress, I hit the buffers. The ideas that once seemed fresh and exciting began to look dull, and the words that once seemed so alive suddenly became leaden, lifeless artefacts. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that I was beginning to sense a looming deadline – not, I should stress, a deadline that had been imposed on me, but one that I had imposed on myself. Feeling that time was running out, I forced myself to sit down and write for a certain number of hours every day; yet during those hours, I often found, I actually managed to achieve very little. I was putting in the hours, all right, but I wasn’t seeing the results. Continue reading

The Internet, Piracy, and Amanda Palmer

internetThat the internet has had a profound effect on our world is so obvious that it barely needs stating. In terms of its ability to create long-term social change it’s on a par with the printing press, or indeed just about any major technological and scientific development you care to mention. But what effect will all of this have on the arts, and on literature specifically? Continue reading

Secrets and Skulls: The Rotting Spot, by Valerie Laws

71WtXpTGNGL._SL1229_‘Much of the time, watching their golden existence, he carried on alone, like some tiny rocky planet orbiting twin suns, so far out as to feel little warmth.’

Valerie Laws’s The Rotting Spot is a thriller, and a very good one at that; but it’s ultimately about love and loss, the corrosive effects of secrets, and the skeletons (or should that be skulls?) that sometimes rattle around in the most apparently innocent of closets. It is also – as the passage above testifies – extremely well-written. Continue reading

Honesty is the Best Policy

No embellished CV this...

No embellished CV this…

My good friend Aniko Carmean recently wrote this brilliant blog post, in which she published her honest author biography. I loved it: it was so much more engaging and interesting than the usual bland and/or boastful biographies that sit at the back of many a novel alongside an airbrushed photo. In fact, it was such a good idea that I felt I just had to steal it (sorry, Aniko). Continue reading