Musings in lockdown: The Vulnerables, by Sigrid Nunez, reviewed

The Vulnerables represents Sigrid Nunez’s foray into pandemic literature, a genre we can only expect to see grow in the coming years. The topic is handled with a level of absurdity, making elements of the story eerily (and sometimes traumatically) recognisable. Nunez’s musings on how writing can represent the strangeness of life are never more poignant than when she reflects on the ‘uncertain spring’ of 2020. You’d think she was inventing it if you hadn’t been there yourself. The question of how to write when life is stranger than fiction is at the centre of the book. ‘More and more, fictional story-telling is coming across as beside the point,’ she

The real problem with ChatGPT is that it can never make a joke

I have been reviewing books for nearly four decades – starting in this very magazine – and over the years I have encountered some real stinkers. But this is the first time I can recall being reluctant to pick up the book because of actual physical nausea. Intellectual nausea I’ve had plenty of times. Give me a 900-page book of magical realism and that’s what I’ll get. But this time it metastasised into real queasiness. I’ll explain why. (Well, that is my job.) The odd thing is, Benny the Blue Whale starts amusingly enough. Andy Stanton, a writer of chidren’s books, had been both intrigued and alarmed by the rise