Scott Bradfield

The lonely passions of Carson McCullers

It may be true that The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) – but in the case of Carson McCullers it could also be an indefatigable and exhausting one. Born Lula Carson Smith into a struggling middle-class family in Columbus, Georgia in 1917, she grew up hungering for great passions – and, like Hunter’s teenage

In search of utopia: Chevengur, by Andrey Platonov, reviewed

It has been a long journey into the light for the greatest Russian modernist most people have probably never heard of: Andrey Platonov. Born in 1899 in Voronezh, he started professional life as a mechanic and land-reclamation engineer, making him one of those rare writers with an affinity for both people and machines. In the

The extraordinary – and haunting – life of Lafcadio Hearn

It’s a convoluted title for a book, but then Lafcadio Hearn – a widely travelled author and journalist who earned his greatest fame as an interpreter of Japanese horror stories – led a convoluted life. Born in 1850 from a difficult marriage between an Irish officer-surgeon and a wildly unpredictable noble-blooded Greek woman (his middle

Harpo Marx – genius, idiot savant or lovable overgrown child?

It’s hard (if not impossible) to imagine a world worth living in that doesn’t include the Marx Brothers; and equally impossible to imagine the Marx Brothers without their forever silent, animal-loving, hilariously unpredictable Harpo, he of the moppet wig, trampish overcoat packed with stolen silverware and blow torches, and recurringly grotesque facial expressions. For while

Is Mark Twain’s old age best forgotten?

Mark Twain conquered almost every challenge that came his way except old age. Living well into his seventies, he was a printer, an investigative journalist, a riverboat captain, a government functionary, a bestselling novelist, an imperialism-defying political essayist, a successful playwright and a devoted father and husband. He travelled the world giving lectures that made

Life’s dark side: the catastrophic world of Stephen Crane

Long before Ernest Hemingway wasted his late career playing the he-man on battlefields and in fishing boats, or Norman Mailer wasted an entire career playing Hemingway, Stephen Crane was the most world-striding combative male intelligence in literature. And while he created the template for every ‘manly’ novelist who came after, from Jack London to Robert