Steven Mcgregor

Discovering bourbon on Brick Lane

When I was stationed in Kentucky I never drank bourbon. It wasn’t until I came to London that the drink became something special to me. I always passed a bowling alley on Brick Lane with fluorescent lights and unmarked taxis waiting by the door. One night they had two for one drinks, so I went

The Iraqi Christ, by Hassan Blasim – review

There is much about Hassan Blasim that demands attention. He is an Iraqi. He escaped from Saddam’s dictatorship in 2000 by walking to Iran and smuggling himself into Europe. He has a confident, almost intimidating demeanour. And with the growing stack of literature about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan all penned by westerners, there

Fobbit by David Abrams – review

Fobbit, by David Abrams, is an attempt at describing a wartime tour from different perspectives, including soldiers and support personnel. Chapter by chapter our viewpoint rotates within this cast of characters.  Indeed, for every three infantrymen, five soldiers are required in forward deployed locations to cook, care for wounded, file paperwork, et cetera. Abrams himself

War is not to be envied

Donald Anderson is a former US Air Force Colonel and current professor of English Literature at the US Air Force Academy. His new book, Gathering Noise from my Life: A Camouflaged Memoir, is a controlled crash, like all landings. It skips and judders, the wheels skidding across the tarmac, until finally the plane is at

Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize – The Walking Wounded

This is the runner-up in our recent Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize. The rest of the shortlist will be published in the coming days. At the entrance is a pale stone bower of equilateral arches and then a brass-plated door opens into a small vestibule and after a turn there is the Chamber. The golden Sovereign’s

Thornton Wilder’s theatrics in The Cabala

I was on a date once in Atlanta, Georgia. We decided on the theatre and there was only one show playing, The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder. After a night time drive under the arms of blue mossed oaks we made it to Emory University and took our seats and the curtain rose

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished business

It’s hard enough convincing people to read finished novels much less unfinished ones — though perhaps our cultural obsession with The Great Gatsby is reason enough to republish F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Love of the Last Tycoon. The partial manuscript now appears alongside his personal essay The Crack Up in one slim volume. Read the

The Hamlet of the trenches: Parade’s End reviewed

Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End is being republished as well as adapted for the screen by the BBC.  I first discovered the tetralogy when, in an attempt to improve my chances, I asked my future mother-in-law for a list of must-read novels.  Parade’s End and The Good Soldier featured near the top of the list.

The fictional House of Lords

The House of Lords has yet again survived reform. ‘We have been discussing this issue for 100 years and it really is time to make progress,’ the Prime Minister said last month in a pleading, exculpatory tone. What then is the trend in popular culture? Writing for the Times Literary Supplement in 1949, Anthony Powell

Interview: Nick Makoha’s shame

“My shame was my father wasn’t there,” says Nick Makoha, the London poet who represented Uganda at the recent Poetry Parnassus. This frank vulnerability is at the core of his first collection of poetry and his new theatre performance, ‘My Father and other Superheroes.’ Uganda is a source of tension for Makoha as both the

Exiled at the Poetry Parnassus

While the Ancient Greeks ceased hostilities for the Olympic Games, this summer will be business as usual in many parts of the world. Exiled poets from Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, China, and Uganda presented their work yesterday afternoon at the Southbank center, participating in the ongoing Poetry Parnassus. Readings took place in the cavernous, skylit, Front

A writer’s vanity

‘Jordan’s fourth biography, that’s vanity.  Only writers are subjected to this kind of inquisition about how their work reaches the viewer,’ quipped a panelist at a recent Birkbeck University event on self-publishing. Someone had mentioned the pejorative, ‘vanity press’ and the room of writers stirred. All were seated in neat rows in a wood paneled

The battle for free speech in China

I haven’t been much drawn to erotica or political allegory, but Chen Xiwo’s I Love my Mum changed that. Relaxed, in an open necked shirt and jeans, at a recent English PEN event in Bloomsbury, Xiwo looked the antithesis of a persecuted writer. He appeared with a range of other speakers, from exiled writers to

Ending a war story

What, if any, are the similarities between the great novels of past wars, such as Somerset Maugham’s The Hero (the Boer War), Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End (WWI), and Evelyn Waugh’s The Sword of Honor Trilogy (WWII)? And is there a connection between these wartime experiences and our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? As

Remembering Gilbert Adair

Gilbert Adair was a mentor to me, even in the year following his stroke, which was when we became closest, and I knew him best. I had just left the US Army and moved to London when I met Gilbert at a cocktail party at a friend’s flat in Maida Vale. Though it was an