The Heat Of The Night: An American Marriage By Tayari Jones

Recommended to me by a friend and ex-colleague, this novel is definitely worth a read. The first couple of pages of the book are simply reviews from all sorts of luminaries from Oprah Winfrey to Barack Obama and all the major newspapers, both here and in the US, and it deserves every one of the accolades. Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 and a New York Times Bestseller, this has a well-deserved pedigree. Celestial and Roy are newlyweds, educated,…

Review: Anyone For Edmund? By Simon Edge

Anyone for Edmund? is a highly entertaining work of satire, written by former features writer and theatre critic, Simon Edge, who deftly applies his journalistic skills to fiction. The story delivers a wonderful blend of what you know to be pure fiction and what you suspect has been written with ‘insider knowledge’. The depiction of the press and the media industry is wry, and the inner schisms of government departmental hierarchy portrayed in what one presumes to be an equally…

Singles Of The Week: 7 August 2020

Another week has passed by and the world has once again been shook in many ways. As we dream of 2020 taking a turn for the positive, we once again immerse ourselves in this week's single releases. With a very close battle fought for the peak position of single of the week, we are excited for some impending album releases... SINGLE OF THE WEEK: Hannah Grace - Missing The Show Rating: 5/5 Hannah Grace's debut album Remedy is destined to be one…

Review: Never Let Me Go By Kazuo Ishiguro

This dystopian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is a complex and deeply compassionate insight into friendship and humanity. The narrative follows the life of Kathy from her childhood in Hailsham (an idyllic institution for raising children) to her work as a carer as an adult. From the outset there are subtle undertones of the unspoken treatment that would befall the children once leaving Hailsham - they are clones raised for their organs to be harvested to save the…

Poem Of The Week: 'The Marriage' By Anne Stevenson

The Marriage They will fit, she thinks, but only if her backbone cuts exactly into his ribcage, and only if his knees dock exactly under her knees and all four agree on a common angle. All would be well if only they could face each other. Even as it is there are compensations for having to meet nose to neck chest to scapula groin to rump when they sleep. They look, at least, as if they were going in the same direction. The geometrical arrangement of limbs in Anne Stevenson’s fine poem of marital disharmony is the key to an…

The Picture Of Dorian Gray And Bel Ami : A French Connection

In The Book of Five Rings of 1645, legendary Kenjutsu master Miyamotto Masashi wrote ‘Be detached from desire your whole life long…do not seek pleasure for its own sake or let yourself be guided by the feelings of lust or love’. Neither the infamously vain Dorian Gray nor the socially ambitious self-styled Baron, Georges du Roy de Cantel, heeded this sagacious advice. The causative agent acting upon these iconic literary anti-heroes was a decidedly French muse of an altogether different…

Review: The Mating Habits Of Stags By Ray Robinson

For some writers, plot development is secondary to considerations of tone, of mood. Ray Robinson’s brave excursion into the sparse interior of the world of itinerant Jake Eisner – ex-farmer, on the run for murder – reveals narrative through back-story, allowing the reader to construct a picture of a life, and the dramatic emotional turning points of that life, in thralled harness to shifting temporal tableaux. Moving between Wensleydale and the North Yorkshire coastline, the hinterland of Jake’s life is…

The Decline Of The American Dream: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Oh no! I told you previously that my favourite novel was Jane Eyre and now I’ve remembered The Great Gatsby. The Oscar-winning 1974 film with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford, despite seriously mixed reviews on its release, is far better than the more recent version with Leonardo di Caprio, but that’s my opinion (and probably my age!), and it’s not even wholly true to the book. I have little literary features in my garden: ‘Squirrel Nutkin’, the ‘White Rabbit’ and (a…

Celebrate this Yorkshire Day with Yorkshire Festival of Story

Yorkshire Festival of Story launches on Saturday 1st August with a brand new poem for the region created by Sheffield Poet Laureate, Otis Mensah Festival Guest Director, Yorkshire author Joanne Harris MBE, will be the first headliner for the online festival that boasts 80 events available for free across August. There has never been a better time to celebrate our great county. 2020 has brought challenges and difficulties, but the people of Yorkshire have lived up to their friendly, resilient reputation.…

Singles Of The Week: 31 July 2020

The summer sun is finally here and while the world succumbs to what appears to be the start of a second wave in our latest pandemic, the spring in our step has truly arrived as we bounce along in the glorious heat. To celebrate the long-awaited arrival of a real summer season, we run through this week's single releases... SINGLE OF THE WEEK: Melanie C - In And Out Of Love Rating: 5/5 Melanie C is really embracing her pop side as…

Musical Motivation: Izakman

Israeli solo artist Izakman (aka Itamar Isaak) released his first single ‘Cyber Love’ last month. The award-winning animator has already attracted the attention of his local music industry with his charasmatic stage presence and enigmatic style. We caught up with him to find out what songs make him... Smile Small Faces – Lazy Sunday Afternoon This groovy tune is very dear to me. It has a great attitude and character that I identify with. The whole album is pretty awesome too. Anything…

Poem Of The Week: 'Second Person' By Sam Gardiner (1936-2016)

Second Person You rush into the shopping arcade and step aside to avoid the mirror-clad pillar When you meet yourself rushing out. Swiftly you pass, and may even glance over your shoulder just in time to glimpse yourself spinning on your heel, wondering which of you is real. As I did, before hurrying off, getting home first and trying to persuade her there was only one of me. But apparently she had always known there were two, and the one she loved should soon be home, if I’d care to wait. Good, I…

Review: The Decadent Society By Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat’s The Decadent Society: How We Became Victims of Our Own Success by New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat is a thoroughly compelling read that dissects life as we know it, diagnosing all its flaws and providing rational and well-informed suggestions as to where, why and how it all went so very wrong. Douthat’s style is informative but not didactic. He shares fact but doesn’t often voice opinion. The book, therefore, doesn’t read from a one-sided perspective: all options…

Maupassant - Tales Of Day And Night: Folly Satirically Eviscerated By A Master Of The Short Story

‘All of them were possessed by violent passions, by irresistible impulses, that inspired them with fanatical devotion and drove them to commit, not only the wildest follies, but even crimes’. An elucidatory line from one of the short stories contained within Tales of Day and Night by Henri-René Guy de Maupassant, published in book form in 1885. At the age of twenty, Maupassant (1850-1893) was diagnosed with syphilis, a terminal disease leading to insanity and an ignominious demise. Perhaps we…

Interview With Glass Animals' Joe Seaward

Formed a decade ago by childhood friends, Glass Animals are about to release their third studio album, Dreamland. With the initial release postponed by the quartet to "keep focus on the Black Lives Matter movement and the discussions taking place around racism and police brutality around the world," their ever-growing fanbase are counting down the days to the latest material from the Mercury Prize nominated troupe. Having heard an advance stream, we can reveal that fans will not be disappointed…

Review: The Miseducation Of Evie Epworth By Matson Taylor

We’re in Yorkshire during the summer of 1962 and sixteen year-old Evie Epworth stands on the cusp of womanhood. What should she do with her life? And even more importantly, how will she cope with her father’s soon-to-be new wife, the bossy and controlling Christine? Christine is a money-grubbing and manipulative schemer who wants to consign Evie to a life of shampooing and setting at the local salon, even though Evie has shown no inclination or propensity towards this career choice.…

Musical Motivation: ELA

ELA is originally from West Wales, a little village called Brongest near Cardigan but then she moved to Monmouth for 10 years (the reason, she thinks, that she mostly lost her strong Welsh accent!) She credits her musical father with helping her from a very young age to learn to play music and to sing, but above all, to work hard. This inspired and enabled her to win a coveted music scholarship where she decided to focus on the…

Cub Sport - Like Nirvana

Cub Sport have shared their very personal journey over the course of their records to date. Having debuted back in 2010 on the EP, Tim Nelson & The Cub Scouts, they really came to mainstream attention with their debut album, 2016's This Is Our Vice. Since then they have released albums documenting their growth into acceptance of who they are and what they stand for. Their 2019 eponymous album climaxed this journey with a raw exploration of their gender, sexuality…

Taylor Swift - Folklore

Taylor Swift has pulled a Beyoncé and released a surprise album. In a move that is very un-Taylor, given the lavish marketing campaigns that normally precede her releases, Taylor has dropped folklore, an album that also very un-Taylor in sound and content. Having sent her fans into a whirling frenzy to order the limited edition physical copies - available for only one week from her official website - and without noting anything about the sound of the record - Taylor…

Thomas Bartlett - Shelter

Over the last two decades Thomas Bartlett has had a rather impressive recording career. Best known for his work as Doveman, he has performed alongside and produced artists including The National, David Byrne, Nico Muhly, Anohni, Surfjan Stevens while he also performed as part of The Gloaming. , and his own much-acclaimed supergroup, The Gloaming. However he has never released an album of his own work. This may be somewhat of a surprise, given the prolific nature of his work…

Liza Anne - Bad Vacation

Bad Vacation is an interesting title for a 2020 summer album release. For as the world came to a standstill (in many senses) back in March, it feels in some ways that 2020 has quite simply been the worst vacation - one that was unwanted and unneeded, yet as the same time, the time out from the fast paced consumerist lives we were living has been a period for growth and change. It may have been a bad vacation, but…

Singles Of The Week: 23 July 2020

This has been a week of pop revelations. Not only has it marked the return of Australian icon Kylie, but Taylor Swift has dropped an unexpected album! While the live music world may have been put on hold, it is clear the recorded world has plenty of treats to deliver. Here are our thoughts on this week's single releases... SINGLE OF THE WEEK: Kylie Minogue - Say Something Rating: 5/5 An easy single of the week this one. Revealed yesterday on BBC…

The Safety of Clouds: Fledge By Jonathan Humble

If you studied English Literature at school in the late sixties or early seventies, and you were searching for a way through the woods, it’s very likely that you encountered the figure of Ted Hughes on your journey. The brooding, visceral presence in your mind’s eye, the hand that drove the instructive pen in Poetry in the Making, and the shockingly original natural images of Hawk in the Rain, may even have given you an impetus to write. Those of…

What Is Alien? Bridging The Abyss In The Man Who Fell To Earth And Under The Skin

It is traditional in works of science fiction for humankind to fear that which is alien. We are familiar with H. G. Wells’ The War of The Worlds and the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day, in which alien races of superior intelligence, bent on human destruction, arrive in vast spaceships and blot out the sun. But should the terms “alien” and “evil” necessarily be synonymous? As Nietzsche cautioned, “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a…

Musical Motivation: Maddox Jones

‘Headspace' is Maddox Jones' first release as a solo artist. While fronting a band is never an easy task - and Jones had his fair share of experience playing and collaborating with other artists - standing alone and allowing his deepest emotions to flow through some of the most personal songs he has ever written was a completely different experience. We caught up with the former Departure and Strangers vocalist to find out what songs make him... Smile The Killers -

Ronan Keating - Twenty Twenty

On 26 July 2019 Ronan Keating made the transition from boyband frontman to soloist when he released his debut single, a cover of the Alison Krauss hit When You Say Nothing At All for the soundtrack of Notting Hill. The single reached #1 in the UK and Ireland, while storming into the Top 5 in various countries the world over. A year later he released the Gregg Alexander and Rick Nowels penned Life Is A Rollercoaster and solidified his place…

Courtney Marie Andrews - Old Flowers

A decade since she released her debut solo album and Courtney Marie Andrews arrives at her most hyped album to date, Old Flowers. Having really scored herself a firm place on the musical map back in 2016 with the still impressive Honest Life, she showed a move in musical direction with 2018's critically acclaimed May Your Kindness Remain. Boasting a rich Blues sound with a soulful, Country vocal, it took her from determined and driven to reflectively dreamy. Her latest…

Pete Lapish Galleries Go On Line

I defy anybody to look at one of Pete Lapish’s paintings and not experience a warm glow and an urge to possess it. Anybody that is except, perhaps, an art critic, an academician, a modernist. You’ll no doubt have admired his paintings of local scenes, hills, dales and coast, on covers of Yorkshire magazines, biscuit tins, postcards, and even on jigsaws, without knowing who did them. His lovingly nostalgic recreations of the age of steam engines, trams and canals are particularly…

The Edge Of Time - A Memoir By Kaye McGann

A Place This is the place I know best, the place I dream of when I am far away. The buildings huddle under the brooding moorland, dark millstone grit squared against the weather. The wind sweeps down from Blackstone Edge, swirling and biting. Rain comes from low-hanging mist, battering the streets and brave houses. It was a place of Roman fortification, a defence against the Brigantes. One cannot imagine a greater contrast than this place and the bright sunlight of Rome. Weather It is…

Musical Motivation: Kev Sherry

Kev Sherry, lead singer for the cult, critically acclaimed Scottish indie-rock four-piece Attic Lights (Island Records, Elefant Records), makes a welcome return as he prepares to unveil his new single ‘Feelgood Movie Of The Year’ ahead of his debut solo album Foxy Orthodoxy in Sept 2020. We caught up with him to find out what songs make him... Smile Yes by McAlmont & Butler Essentially a one hit wonder but also the greatest single of the 1990s. It's soul music but something…