Saturday, 28 April 2007


So there I was, sitting at my desk upstairs in my ‘office’, when I heard what sounded like an enormous lorry approaching. The house began to shake and I thought, that’s a bloody heavy lorry!

The shaking became really bad, enough for stuff on my desk to shuffle about a bit, and lasted for two or three seconds. When it was over I ran downstairs. ‘What the hell was that?’ I asked The Secretary. ‘What was what?’ she said. She hadn’t felt a thing. I began to think I must have imagined it.

Later I discovered there had been an earthquake, somewhere off the coast of Dover. An earthquake! Here in Kent!! According to the BBC News website, the Kent incident is the largest recorded in Britain since an earthquake in Dudley in 2002.

A seismologist from the British Geological Survey said the tremor was around 4.3 on the Richter scale, with an epicentre 7.5 miles off the Dover coast.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Scarlett Thomas – The End of Mr Y (Review)

The End of Mr Y is a clever book full of complex ideas and a running joke about the nature of fiction. ‘I am aware that I’m not in a story’ says the protagonist with no trace of irony. ‘The world doesn’t revolve around you’ says her mother. Oh yes it does. Everything is a metaphor, and there are so many paradoxes, as the narrator says towards the end, you may be in danger of developing a headache. This is a multi-layered book that will entertain you while it makes you really think.

For example, do you believe in telepathy? Consider: this book was made up in the mind of its author, Scarlett Thomas. She gave her thoughts words and committed those words to paper. When you read those words, your mind recreates the author’s thoughts in your own mind. So are you not reading the author’s mind? Isn’t that telepathy?

Okay, let’s forget the paranormal and get scientific. Everything is made up of individual atoms, and atoms are made of smaller particles – electrons, protons, neutrons – which are themselves made of quarks. Things might get even smaller than that for all we know, in the same way that the universe might be even bigger than we think: it might be part of a multiverse. And that’s just in this space-time dimension. How many other dimensions are there?

If all this gets you thinking philosophical thoughts – do objects exist outside of language? what is consciousness? – then this is the book for you. If you don’t understand any of the above then this may still be the book for you, for Ms Thomas explains complex ideas so clearly.

The End of Mr Y is a mixture of Alice in Wonderland, The Matrix, Being John Malkovich and an introductory seminar on the deconstructionist theories of Derrida. It’s fantastic - but sometimes too clever by half. Who or what is Mr Y? Or is it Mr Why? Or is this book really about the End of Mystery? Everything is deconstructed and examined, including quantum physics, philosophy and the nature of God and religion. There are so many questions raised by this book. But it’s good fun trying to get to the bottom of them.

Friday, 6 April 2007

McEwan's pebbles back on Chesil Beach

I couldn't believe the fuss made about Ian McEwan's 'revelation' earlier this week that he had taken some pebbles from Chesil Beach and kept them on his desk to inspire him as he wrote his latest novel. Apparently, taking pebbles from that particular beach is a criminal act, and McEwan could have been fined £2,000. (I bet his publicists were happily balancing that against the amount of free publicity his admission had generated.) Anyway, he has now returned the illegal pebbles to the the beach - and hopefully to the appropriate place (which is important - if you read the novel you'll understand why).

So this afternoon I'm off to Sandwich Bay with the armful of pebbles I've 'borrowed' over the years.

Or maybe I should keep them on my desk until after my next novel On Sandwich Bay is published?

Thursday, 5 April 2007

An Honourable Man

I had good news in my email inbox today. My novel An Honourable Man was one of the 100 winners of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2007 novel writing competition announced today. The link below has more information and the full list of winners.

Three overall winners, who will have their work referred to a top literary agent, will be announced on the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook website in July 2007. Meanwhile, I'm off to celebrate!

Monday, 2 April 2007

Ian McEwan - On Chesil Beach (Review)

I’ve been a fan of Ian McEwan since The Cement Garden. Since then, he has been getting better and better, each new book a major event. His latest novel is about the same length as his first, not much more than a novella, but it really is a little gem. Over the years McEwan has matured into a truly great writer, technically brilliant as always but with a growing sense of affection for his characters. In On Chesil Beach he condenses two lives into a single evening – a single episode, almost. So much happens in that episode – each of the characters being transformed by it, growing up, becoming different people. McEwan has captured the essence of what it is that makes us what we are and set it out on the page. It’s heartrending in places. I finished the book in a few hours and I wished there had been more. Brilliant!