Village life

Maybe the village will be sad to see us go after all

‘You certainly gave us a run for our money,’ said the village elder, serving us with what appeared to be the official goodbye statement. I was sick of that old navy dressing gown myself. Shortly afterwards I got him a new one from Sainsbury’s The builder boyfriend was flabbergasted. He had been walking across the green with the spaniels when this gentleman, a leading light in the community, came towards him. He braced for impact because the last time they engaged outside the house it had not gone well. The builder b had, on that occasion, been wearing his old navy-blue towelling dressing gown and was putting out the bins.

My battle of the bulb

The streetlighting engineer walked up and down outside my house trying to work out who was right: me, or my neighbour, the vegan. On the one hand, I was claiming this LED light was lighting nothing of importance on a deserted village green at night while shining through my bedroom window driving me insane, and therefore should be fitted with a shield. On the other hand, my neighbour the vegan was claiming that if the bright white bulb was slightly dimmed on one side, women would be attacked, old people would trip over bins and it would be ‘scary’ to encounter fairground people and travellers in the dark when they

An unsuitable attachment to Nazism: Barbara Pym in the 1930s

Novelists’ careers take different paths, and sometimes don’t look much like careers at all. It’s true that some start publishing between 25 and 35, and write a novel respectably every two or three years until they die, like Kingsley Amis. Others don’t start until they are 60, like Penelope Fitzgerald, or stop abruptly without warning, like Henry Green, or write one novel and no more, like Harper Lee. Inspiration, or interest, comes and goes, and both the audience and the industry will have their wilful way with creativity. The ultimate aim of a novel, to be read with pleasure decades after its creator’s death, is reached in tortuous ways. Who

Another alien in our midst: Pew, by Catherine Lacey, reviewed

It needs authorial guts to write a novel in which details are shrouded, meaning is concealed and little is certain. Step up Catherine Lacey, and welcome. Her previous novels specialised in confounding the reader, taking the frames of road trip and science fiction and giving them a good yank. Now she’s gone full religious allegory on us: or has she? ‘Pew’ is the name the villagers in her novel give to a stranger they find sleeping on a pew in the local church. Lacey’s character offers no name, no story, no age or gender (so let’s use the pronoun they; though I admit I kept thinking of Pew as male,

Mysteries of English village life: Creeping Jenny, by Jeff Noon, reviewed

I doubt whether any book would entice me more than a horrible hybrid of crimefiction, speculative fantasy, weird religion and postmodernism. If that makes Jeff Noon’s third outing of the private detective John Nyquist sound like a niche affair I apologise, as it is a rollicking and goose-flesh- inducing novel. Writers such as the late Gilbert Adair have already used the forms of the murder mystery to explore avant-garde ideas, especially in his Evadne Mount trilogy. Noon — the author of those modern classics Automated Alice and Vurt — has created the ultimate mash-up with his Nyquist novels. There is a small joke for bibliophilic readers on the back cover.