Dancing around Anthony Powell

A Dance to the Music of Time is, alternatively, a masterpiece (to be ranked, according to Tariq Ali of all people, alongside the works of Stendahl, Balzac and Proust) or an inconsequential snob’s chronicle. It is a Marmite of a novel sequence. Powell himself (no relation) divided his readers into ‘fans’ and ‘shits’, which seems rather extreme. It also leaves readers, like myself, who admire some of the 12 novels but not others, in undefined limbo. I would call myself a ‘fant’ – more fan than shit.   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 3

This blog is the third instalment of the Vietnam chapter of my unpublished novel on post-war American history (the first and second instalments went out last week and the week before that). Set in 2008, the protagonist, Tig, has gone looking for his old childhood friend, Jack, whom he hasn’t seen since Jack left for Vietnam in 1968. The chapter is set near Santa Fé in New Mexico, where Tig has tracked down a screwed-up vet called Joe, who might know what happened to Jack. In the first two extracts, Joe has told Tig what it was like to fight a jungle war in Vietnam. It is beginning to dawn on Tig that Joe is in fact Jack. Now ‘Joe’ continues…   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 2

This blog is the second instalment of the Vietnam chapter of my unpublished novel on post-war American history (the first instalment – Vietnam, part 1 – went out last week). It is 2008 and the protagonist, Tig, has gone looking for his old childhood friend, Jack, whom he hasn’t seen since Jack left for Vietnam in 1968. The chapter is set near Santa Fé in New Mexico, where Tig has tracked down a screwed-up vet called Joe, who might know what happened to Jack. In the first extract, Joe painted a picture to Tig of what it was like to fight a jungle war in Vietnam. Now he continues…   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 1

The Vietnam War has been on my mind recently. One reason is the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam, recently repeated on BBC4; another is the admirable film The Post. A few years ago I wrote a novel, never published, that explored my contradictory attitudes towards America and its recent history. One chapter dealt in detail with the Vietnam War. This blog and the next two will serialise that chapter.   Continue reading

The Times it is a’ changin’

I had a vague memory of a literary quote to the effect that when a man changes his newspaper after many years it is a seismic event. Since I am now in the process of changing my newspaper, this seemed a good quote to put at the top of this blog, so I Googled it. There was only one result. The quote came from my first novel. Not only do I find it hard to remember what other people write, it seems I can no longer remember what I write myself.   Continue reading

Things We Nearly Knew

Next Thursday, 11 January, my third novel is published by Picador: Things We Nearly Knew. It is nothing like my first novel, The Breaking of Eggs (2010, Weidenfeld & Nicolson UK/Penguin US) and nothing like my second novel, Trading Futures (2016, Picador) One day, I may get to the point where I have to repeat myself. But I’m not there yet, and hope never to be. So Nearly New, as we like to call it, is in fact entirely new. This is the story of how it was conceived and written.   Continue reading

Stoking the memory

Apart from London, which was my birthplace, my favourite city in Britain is Stoke-on-Trent. It holds a hoard of memories for me, not all of them good, but each with a powerful resonance. Most of all, there are the people. It seems improbable, since people are people and much the same wherever you meet them, that one city should appear to contain nothing but kind, decent human beings. Stoke does.   [read more]