A pure original: the inventive genius of John Donne

Perhaps it was all because of his name. John Donne: for a poet this must have felt a little like destiny, and even in the most unlikely of moments he couldn’t resist making puns. He sat down to write a letter to the enraged father of the teenage girl he had just married in secret. A lesser man might have chosen to play this fairly straight, but not JD. ‘It is irremediably done,’ he wrote to his new father- in-law, and of course he spells it ‘donne’. His young bride’s family name was More; the jokes pretty much wrote themselves. The couple had 12 children and were, he later said,

Labyrinthine tales: We All Hear Stories in the Dark, by Robert Shearman, reviewed

When the estimable Andy Miller, the host of the Backlisted podcast, recommended a new collection of short stories on Twitter, he said just enough about it to pique my interest. Online booksellers didn’t seem to have heard of it and I had to buy it directly from the publisher. I’m very glad I did. Robert Shearman’s We All Hear Stories in the Dark, running to three volumes and 1,750 pages, is the most original and impressive new fiction I’ve read this year. You have to find your own way through it. It takes its form from an outdated but fondly remembered series of paperbacks for children, the Adventures of You,