This is how ‘Richard Stark’ (that is, US thriller writer Donald Westlake) introduces his most famous creation, Parker, in the first of the many novels dedicated to him, The Hunter (1962). Parker is walking across the George Washington Bridge, having refused the offer of a lift (‘the guy said “screw you, buddy” and yanked his Chevy back into the stream of traffic’):

This is, it’s superfluous saying so, great writing: the echt hard-boiled concision and vividness. Although, having said that — it’s not all that concise, is it: dwelling rather repetitiously on the holes in his socks and footwear, say…

Here’s something I don’t get about Twitter (I mean, I should say, here is one of the many things I don’t get about Twitter …) — the way people brag about blocking other users. The way they boast about it. The way they announce it, like it’s a commendable thing they are doing. The way their twitter-friends applaud them.


I don’t mean to be performatively dense. Twitter might be, for you, a kind of friendzone, which is fair enough. It may be a place you go digitally to hang-out with people you like, for a sense of community, support…

“Falstaff with Doll Tearsheet” by Henry Fuseli

Fuseli’s illustration, there, to Henry IV Part 2, Act 2 scene 4. Doll, of course, is a prostitute at the Blue Boar. I have a theory about her name. Ah, but do we even need a theory? It has after all been read as a straightforwardly descriptive moniker:

Her surname is suggestive of her activities … Stanley Wells and Eric Partridge say she is “so called, either because she tore the bed-sheets in her amorous tossings or because her partners did so while consorting with her”. According to René Weis, “Tearsheet’ has been read as a misprint for ‘Tearstreet’ (i.e…

‘Borgesian’, say the critics. ‘Marvellous … dream-haunting … compelling’ they say (I’m quoting from three separate reviews from the mainstream press here, though sparing the blushes of the reviewers by not naming them). ‘Unlike anything else in fiction today,’ declares the same reviewer who earlier insisted that The Model was Borgesian: a combination of judgments that strikes me as frankly contradictory, but what do I know? …

You can’t promote inclusivity by excluding people. This is not merely a matter of semantics. On the contrary, it is, I’d say, one of the great social, cultural, identitarian issues of our time. What you promote by exluding people from your group is purity. If excluding people (naturally, so far as you are concerned, you’re only talking about excluding the wrong kind of people) is your thing, then own it, accept that you are seeking a kind of purity. Don’t lie to yourself or others by announcing that you are seeking inclusivity.

Me, I think purity a toxic and hideous criterion to apply to human beings. But your mileage may differ.

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.” Tolkien, preface to “The Lord of the Rings”


Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory. That is to say, it superposes two ways of understanding reality: a chronological lived-experience way and an allegorical spiritual way. Various things happen in the story of The Pilgrim’s Progress, people are encountered, places are visited and so on, and all of these are “allegorical” representations of various things that are happening in another story, which we can intuit from what we read but which is not specifically told: the story of a person trying to live a life true to their Christian faith in “our” world. The book is about this balance…

Here’s one promise: this review contains spoilers.

The Promise is another piece of elegantly turned Galguttian neoFaulknerism. It’s very elegantly and often very insightfully done, this novel, and it has striking and I daresay important things to say about race relations and social change in South Africa 1984-present. Not a bag of laughs, but that’s understandable given its subject.

At any rate, it strikes me as a notably Faulknerian novel, as did the last Galgut I read, In A Strange Room (the title itself is a quotation from Faulkner), not just because specific elements from the Yoknapatawphanian scribe’s oeuvre are…

[Continuing my read-through of the Waverley novels: previously on this blog, Kenilworth (1821), The Pirate (1821/22), The Fortunes of Nigel (1822) and Peveril of the Peak (1823). There are other posts on other Scotts on other blogs. These posts are lengthy and full of spoilers, so, you know: have a care.]

For the first time in his career Scott sets a novel on the European mainland — specifically, in France and Burgundy in the 1460s. The possibility of overseas sales was certainly on his mind. As Scott later readied Quentin Durward for its reissue as part of the 1831 ‘Magnum…

I’m intrigued by this 1960s Punch cover art. I wasn’t born until 1965, so the couple there could be my parents, grooving to … what, exactly?

Adam Roberts

Writer and academic. London-adjacent.

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