Mike Cormack

James Kelman’s ‘Memoirs’ are a misnomer

James Kelman doubtless remains best known for his 1994 Booker prize win for How Late It Was, How Late and the subsequent furore. The brouhaha looks painfully absurd 25 years later with the plaudits Kelman has received (when not being dismissed as akin to an ‘illiterate savage’) perhaps the greatest in post-war English literature. Here

Poetic miniatures: A Lover’s Discourse, by Xiaolu Guo, reviewed

The novelist, memoirist and film-maker Xiaolu Guo writes with tremendous delicacy and nuance about migration, language, alienation, and love. A Lover’s Discourse is a series of poetic miniatures, sometimes just a page long, following the unnamed female Chinese narrator, living in London to pursue a PhD, and her relationship with a similarly unnamed German-English architect.

Anglo-Chinese misunderstanding: an Oxford don visits 1960s Beijing

This book is a rather startling depiction of Hugh Trevor-Roper’s involvement with the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU), his sponsored visit to China in October 1965 (just months before the Cultural Revolution got under way) and his efforts to find out who actually controlled and funded SACU. Having been induced to be a sponsor of

Entente hostile: China, Japan and Korea

The mutual animosity of the Far East Asian nations can strike some as baffling, given their shared history and cultures, though anyone who grew up in a large family will know what it’s like to fight for individual space. With China’s rise, some form of understanding or defence alliance between Japan and South Korea seems

Ray of light

Often a blurb exaggerates, but rarely does it fundamentally misrepresent (unless it contains the words ‘In the tradition of…’). The Adulterants, however, talks of ‘the modern everyman… stubbornly ensconced in an adolescence that has extended well beyond his biological prime’. We thus expect a man-child, resiling from responsibility and dependent on internet porn and gaming

The keys to Chinese

The history of industry is the story of the reduction of complexity to easily manageable, replicable components or actions. But what if some things appear to remain irreducible, complex and laborious? The Chinese writing system is one such case. For early information technologists, it presented what appeared like insoluble problems. Unlike an alphabet of 26