Thursday, March 31, 2011

A portrait of grief and loss

ERIC FORBES talks to American novelist PAUL ELWORK about his first novel, The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead, a moving story about people traumatised by death and the grief and sense of loss it engenders

PAUL ELWORK was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he still lives with his wife and their two boys. He works as an editor and report production manager for a company that does archaeological and historic architectural research. “I work as an editor to pay the bills and write to satisfy some compulsion that seems to have a cumulative effect over time, like regret or arsenic. But it’s a lot more fun than that sounds,” he laughs. His short fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, Word Riot, Quiet Feather, Johnny America, and other journals. His first novel, The Tea House, was published by Casperian Books in October 2007. Amy Einhorn Books, a division of Penguin Group, released an expanded version of the novel (retitled The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead) in March 2011.

What made you a writer?
I think it’s impossible to answer that question easily, though of course a lifelong love of stories and reading are major factors. I think it may be easier to answer what made me the kind of writer I am—which I would say largely falls on my fascination with time and mortality, personal identity, perception and reality, and the little details that go to make up a life.

When did you realise you were going to be a writer?
I remember having the clear sense of my desire to be a storyteller while reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit when I was around 10 or 11 years old.

When you decided that you wanted to be a writer, did you imagine what a writer’s life would be like?
For many years, I imagined a writer’s life as something contemplative and focused, as being devoted to the work and free of the distractions of a day job. This is a naïve notion, to say the least, as I have since learned—though I still dream of a career successful enough to allow a focus on writing without other work distractions.

What do you enjoy most about your life as a writer?
The thing I enjoy most about being a writer is the exhilarating feeling of producing pages that seem to be more discovered than conceived, of the story and characters carrying me along rather than the other way around. There’s nothing else like it.

What’s your writing process like?
I usually write after my sons are in bed. When the work is flowing steadily, I like to write for a few hours on most days. I often write in longhand and then transcribe the new text into the working manuscript; there’s something about writing with a pen, and the transcription builds in an immediate, initial redraft. I also tend to redraft as I go, rereading previous sections in preparation for writing new text.

Was it difficult getting your first novel published?
When I was shopping around the original version, The Tea House, I got lots of interest from agents and editors, but no one took the leap. Finally, Casperian Books—an independent press out of Sacramento, California—accepted the book for publication in early 2007.

Tell me a bit about The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead. What are some of the themes you explored in it? Were you conscious of these when you first set out to write the story?
While still in high school, I read Carl Sagan’s Broca’s Brain and encountered the story of the Fox sisters, who in the mid-nineteenth century started the Spiritualist movement by convincing people that Margaret and Kate Fox could contact the dead through ghostly rapping noises in the air (actually the cracking of a joint in their toes, like the cracking of knuckles). These girls went on to become celebrities in and out of America. They toured Europe and performed for adoring crowds, garnering big-time fans like Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Victor Hugo. Even more fascinating for me was the ending of the story (or the ending in my mind, I should say) years later, when Margaret stood on a stage in New York and made a public confession. The true believers apparently rejected this confession and asserted that Margaret had been coerced into it, that she was destitute and desperate for money and would have confessed to anything. All of this said a lot to me about belief and how as believers we consciously and subconsciously make choices based largely on emotional and psychological factors, especially when tied up with powerful forces like grieving and personal identity.

Years later, I volunteered at Glen Foerd On The Delaware, the historic riverfront estate I would base the fictional estate in my novel on. One of the structures on the estate is called the tea house, and at one time it served as the playhouse for the children living there. The notion of a brick-and-mortar playhouse for wealthy kids—really an adapted garden house—struck me with fascination. I thought of the secret confidences that must have been exchanged there, of the childhood discoveries, and this notion got together with the story of the Fox sisters still knocking around in the back of my head. I took the basic arc of the Fox sisters’ story, recast it and fictionalised everything, moved the story to the 1920s to follow World War I, and kept the scope smaller and more intimate, never leaving the neighbourhood where the story begins. With the notions about belief and history mentioned above in mind, I began writing The Tea House in the late 1990s.

What led to the publication of the expanded version of The Tea House?
Less than a year after the Casperian edition came out, suspense writer M.J. Rose took an interest in my work and introduced me to my agent, Daniel Lazar, of Writers House in New York. Within a few months of signing with Dan, Amy Einhorn picked up the book to be published in an expanded version, and The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead was the result.

Was there much research that you had to do?
I didn’t research the Fox sisters beyond that initial discovery, because I knew I wanted to tell a very different story. I did research as needed on nineteenth-century America, World War I, and the first quarter of the twentieth century in American history so that I could put my narrative and its backstories on believable stages.

What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing your book?
I found in myself a deeper sympathy for belief as something that operates heavily in the lives of all human beings, even those who consider themselves flinty sceptics like me. Though I already had some idea that we all approach our lives through belief and supposition rather than hard facts and reasoning (necessarily, because how much can we really be sure of between birth and death?), I found a more mature and nuanced understanding in writing this novel and living with these characters.

What were the books you grew up with, and how much influence did they have on your life?
I loved Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and read lots of fantasy and horror, along with some science fiction. In high school, I couldn’t get enough horror fiction, and read all of the Stephen King and Clive Barker [novels] I could get my hands on. I think these books left me with a strong sense of pacing and an increased fascination with fiction that explores dark places, real and imagined.

Who are some of your favourite contemporary novelists? What are some of your favourite contemporary novels?
I love the writing of James Salter; I’ve read all of his novels and many of his short stories. I also admire the work of Jim Harrison, Michael Ondaatje, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alan Lightman, Scott Smith, Dan Simmons, and many others.

Do you have an all-time favourite book?
This is a tough one. I’m going to have to say Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, as a book that touched me deeply and that I have reread more than any other.

Do you reread books you enjoyed the first time round?
Yes, I try to reread the books I love most every several years, to better know them in rereading and in bringing my increased wisdom back with me.

Suggest a couple of good reads that you think haven’t received as much attention as they should.
Anything by James Salter (but especially his novel Light Years); Salter is revered by writers but not well known among general readers. Alan Lightman’s Ghost, Dan Pope’s In the Cherry Tree, and Maureen F. McHugh’s Nekropolis are some other novels I think deserve to be more widely read.

What are you reading at the moment?
Dan Simmons’s Carrion Comfort, a novel about psychic “vampires”—basically ordinary humans except for their ability to control other people’s minds and the life-extending effects that result. It’s an epic novel that incorporates the Holocaust and shows, from that time and the more recent past, how scary human beings can be. It features unsupernatural characters alongside the novel’s “monsters” who remind us that the real horror is what people are capable of doing to each other. Great, psychologically layered stuff.

As a writer and reader, what are the elements you look for when you read a piece of fiction? What differentiates the great novels from the merely good?
I think psychological complexity and the ability in a few lines to strike deep notes in the reader’s consciousness distinguishes great storytelling. I also think the great stuff has a confessional quality and honest things to say about the human condition, as big and open-ended as that sounds.

Who are some of your favourite short-story writers?
I love the short fiction of Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, James Salter, Alice Munro, Grace Paley, Tobias Wolff, and many others.

Do you think there are differences between writing short stories and full-length novels? Which form do you personally prefer as a writer?
Different kinds of thinking go into writing short stories and novels, and for me this difference is a conceptual sense of ideas rather than specific approaches. From the time I hold an idea in my head, I begin to sense whether there’s a short story there or an entire novel. The novel ideas seem to stretch out to the horizon, with lots of opportunities for discovery; the short story ideas feel more whole right away, even if I don’t know how they’ll end, and even though discovery along the way is still a big reason to write these stories in the first place.

Any truth to the suggestion that writing short stories is good training for novelists?
I think the only way to learn to write novels is to write novels—to start that first one with no real sense of how much you have to learn along the way, to have the audacity to think you can pull it off. Writing short stories can become a sort of safe haven for a writer, if that writer can never make the leap into a larger work, one that stretches off to the horizon.

Readers often say how literary novels (compared to popular fiction) lack plots. Do you think literary novelists should put more emphasis on plot and less on stylistics? Why do you think there’s a perceived divide between popular and literary fiction?
I have less patience for plot-driven novels featuring cardboard characters than plotless (plotlight?) novels with complex, compelling characters, though I certainly feel at times that a novel can wander around aimlessly and leave me with no strong sense of itself when I’ve finished reading. I love a great plot when it’s matched with psychologically complex characterisations. I read once somewhere—and I can’t remember who said it—that the term “literary” should be expanded to include any fiction that features such depth of character, so that we would think of literary science fiction, literary suspense, and so on. I think this issue of characterisation is more of a dividing line (assuming, for the sake of argument, that a discrete dividing line can be drawn) than the presence or absence of a driving plot.

Do you agree that writing is a moral act: what authors write has a real effect on readers, often to a surprising extent?
I think that writing of value has a moral psychology to it, in that it explores such issues, but I stop short of calling it a moral act or of suggesting a moral responsibility on the writer’s part in influencing readers. That said, I do find writing that depicts people with anything less than the complexity of the human condition—that deals in cartoons of humanity—devoid of any real moral value. I also take “moral” here in relation to how people treat one another, not in its limited sense as expressed in arbitrary cultural rules.

Have you a preference for stories set in the past (historical) or present (contemporary)? What about fantasy and science fiction?
I’m up for anything, pretty much, if it’s well written. And I am an old fan of science fiction and fantasy, though I don’t read widely in either genre.

What are the things that inspire you in life?
My sons, music, passion, great writing, films, angles of light, autumn, the immensity of all I don’t know.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Black and Whites and Other New Short Stories from Malaysia

CCC PRESS of the United Kingdom announces the next anthology of new writing in its World Englishes Literature Fiction series:

Black and Whites and Other
New Short Stories from Malaysia
Edited by Macdonald Daly & Emma Dawson
(CCC Press, May 2011)

The World Englishes Literature Fiction series, featured on the BBC World Service in February 2011, introduces readers to new, emerging fiction in Englishes from around the world. The Series has already published anthologies of new short stories from Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya. (Find out more at

The next exciting volume from CCC Press is a volume of new short stories from Malaysia. In the title story, written by Janet Tay, the reader is taken into the double life of Ming Huang as he sits by his dying father’s bedside. What can he say to his father in these last days? He can’t even reassure his father that he will continue to run the family kopi tiam (coffee shop). In the father’s morphine-induced sleep, he mistakes his son for his wife, who died when Ming Huang was only five, but how can Ming Huang be mistaken for his own mother? And why are his cheeks stained with mascara-tears …?

The other stories in the collection touch on many aspects of Malaysian life, from funeral rites to urban living, dreams and ambitions of young hearts and memories of Ah Poh.

Writers and stories featured in this new anthology include:

“After the Funeral” / Daphne Lee
“Of Life, Death and Money” / Chang Shih Yen
“The Fountain” / Shih-Li Kow
“A Long Sigh Goodnight” / Fadzlishah Johanabas bin Rosli
“Before I Sleep” / Joanna Van
“Colours of Glory” / Chua Kok Yee

Black and Whites and Other New Short Stories From Malaysia | May 2011
Available from
Free post and packing to anywhere in the world

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Eggs and Literary Criticism

An Edifying Evening of Cultural Discovery

In 2010, British writer TOM SYKES relocated to Manila with his young family. Meeting a series of unorthodox locals over one evening, he gained a very different insight into the Filipino culture.

AFTER A MONTH of living on the University of the Philippines campus, Donna, Daisy and I moved into a peeling Art Deco condo on Esteban Abada Street which looked like something out of Gotham City. Just behind us was Katipunan, a hectic boulevard-cum-motorway flanked by fast food joints, language schools and men selling helium balloons with Disney characters on them. The growl and whine of traffic was non-stop, except when Manny ‘Pac-Man’ Pacquiao was fighting a boxing match. Clinging to the wind was a cocktail of smells: the bittersweet stink of ancient diesel engines and the incinerator reek of pavement barbecues, among other things.

One night I decided to sample the bohemian nightlife Quezon City was known for. I stepped out our building and waved to two grinning teenage lads armed with revolvers. These were our security guards. I hopped in a tricycle, best described as a World War II-style motorbike and sidecar, the sort of vehicle Steve McQueen frustrated Nazis with. I asked the driver to take me to the best bar in the barangay. We zoomed past signs that read ‘Happy Cupcake Dental Surgery’ and ‘S.D. Lucero—Maker of Artificial Legs’. The driver was polite and talkative, but made two wrong assumptions about me, that I was American and had come to the Philippines to look for a wife.

We stopped at a hangout called Ride and Roll. Its sanded floorboards and minimalist furniture reminded me of a Western coffee shop. Less familiar were the walls filled with paintings inspired by the Star Wars trilogy. As soon as I entered, a chirpy man in a Metallica T-shirt rushed over.

“I’m Jose,” he said, shaking my hand vigorously. “I’m the owner. How are you? Why are you in the Philippines? What do you think of Manila?”

He didn’t give me time to answer.

“Somebody got shot in the bar up the road the other night,” he continued, no less cheerily. “But not in this bar, you see. Never this bar. This is a friendly bar.”

“Oh good,” I replied. “I’ll stay for a drink in that case.”

“Crazy people,” chuckled Jose as he went to get my beer. “Shooting each other all the time!”

I got talking to a small group of trendy types, who, by sheer chance turned out to be some of the leading artists and writers in the country. Bayani was a poet and Professor of English who had won literary prizes in Britain and the US. He had an intense mien, underlined by his habit of pressing his hands together as if in prayer. He talked about his humble upbringing in the provinces, where electricity was still a rare treat, switched on only for weddings and funerals. A stern, ever-frowning woman named Karen (nickname: JoJo) gave me a lecture on nationalism. In her view, a ‘national’ Filipino literature was needed to unite the 7,107 culturally disparate islands that made up the country. She ticked several Filipino writers whom I quite liked for being too foreign influenced. I was surprised by her audacity and brusqueness—not traits I associated with her countrymen. Urged on by the beer, I called her narrow-minded. Hadn’t a lot of great literature come from the meeting and mixing of cultures? She herself spoke in a kind of hybrid New York/Filipino accent. I used a one-word quote from Paul Gilroy—‘conviviality’—to straighten my line of argument. It didn’t work. Karen got tired of me and started hectoring someone else.

Bayani then introduced me to Bob, a slight yet strong 40-year-old who coached the local all-female university’s basketball team.

“You tried balut?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “What’s that?”

He called a street vendor over and bought what looked like three hard-boiled eggs. Following his lead, I peeled the shell off one and ate it. It was delicious. Contrary to Bob’s expectations, it didn’t stop being delicious even after I’d found the half-formed duck embryo inside. He slapped me on the back. “Respect to you, man. Not many foreigners can handle this stuff. Want some more?”

I gladly reached for another.

“Oh actually,” he said, grabbing my arm. “Best not to. They’re very high in cholesterol. Some guys have keeled over with a heart attack after eating five of these in a row.”

“Thanks for letting me know,” I said. I slipped the balut into my pocket. I thought I might scare my wife Donna with it later. She’s a vegetarian.

Feeling that the night had been eventful enough, I got up to leave. Jose bounded over with two incredibly tall (by both Western and Eastern standards) men with a dozy yet mean look in their eyes. “Tom, you gotta meet my friends. They’re SWAT policemen. I think you’ll find them fascinating.”

“Fine,” I said, looking at my watch.

It was now two in the morning. Another hour wouldn’t hurt, especially if I got some juicy material out of it.

Unlike any other Filipinos I had met so far, these policemen couldn’t speak a word of English. Bayani agreed to translate. They told me that they’d recently assaulted the hideout of a weird cult that was going around throwing acid at innocent people. All the cult members wore amulets that they believed would protect them from bullets. Ironically, the opposite happened. The SWAT team made extremely accurate head shots and the operation was over quickly. One of the policemen took an amulet with him as a memento. The next time he was in a combat situation he wore the amulet and its power seemed to have returned: he miraculously dodged being shot at point-blank range twice. Wondering if its magic was back for good, he hung the amulet up at the police station rifle range and fired at it. It smashed to pieces immediately.

When I got home, I gave the last balut to our security guard who was half-asleep on the reception desk, revolver laid down beside him.

Looking back, that evening was a strange, roundabout introduction to Philippine society. I learned about the prevalence of guns and the death and destruction they wreaked. By eating balut I was not only sampling a unique local dish but proving my mettle. I got a taste of attitudes to literature, sexual morality and national identity. But most importantly, I learned the whereabouts of my nearest bar!

Reproduced from the January-March 2011 issue of Quill magazine

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Conor Grennan on why he wrote Little Princes

Why I Wrote Little Princes
By Conor Grennan

WHEN I WAS FIRST APPROACHED about the idea of making the story of my time in Nepal into a book, I turned it down. I was up to my eyeballs in my first year of business school at NYU Stern, with a heavy course load and the challenges of serving as president of my class. My wife Liz was expecting our first child. I was trying desperately to keep Next Generation Nepal (NGN) afloat, running the organization almost singlehandedly while Liz supported us by working long hours at a New York law firm. The thought of simultaneously trying to write a book seemed ludicrous.

After long discussions with Liz, I decided that if I could find the time to write the book, if even a few people read it, it would be a wonderful way to share the story of Nepal, and specifically of the kids, with as many people as possible. We might even bring in some donations. Fundraising for NGN is a difficult and never-ending task, and life was only going to get busier when our son was born.

The book turned out to be a joy to write. It was as if I was back in Nepal, back with the children, reliving my days with them. I loved those days so much. I had taken hundreds of pages of notes in the time I was there, taken literally thousands of photos, and written dozens and dozens of blog entries about it for friends and family back home. Each of the children I knew there remains permanently etched in my mind; I can conjure any of their voices and movements and little traits that identify them—especially the eighteen children of the Little Princes Children’s Home, with whom I lived for eight months. They were the ones that changed my heart about Nepal and inspired me to first try to find the families of all those lost children. I named the book Little Princes in their honor—it couldn’t be any other way. It’s their story.

But in writing it, I realized it was more than just their story. It was the story of how somebody like me, somebody with no relevant skills whatsoever, no deep passion for volunteering, no profound desire to make an impact on anyone’s life but his own, found himself sacrificing his comfortable way of life to try to improve the lives of these young children on the other side of the world.

That became perhaps the most important element in the story for me. I am desperate for readers, especially younger readers, to see what getting involved can do. How it can change your life so completely, and in ways you could never imagine. How volunteering, whether it is in an impoverished third world nation or in your hometown, requires only that you show up. Don’t worry how little of your time or resources you may have to offer—just offer it, and see what happens.

The fact is, volunteering is no longer a fringe activity—the world gets smaller every day and we have a responsibility to understand what it looks like. It’s not how the other half lives, it’s how the other 90% live. And I believe that each of us has a responsibility to know what those lives look like, even if we only give one single day of our life to discovering it. Because it could have been us.

Little Princes is, I hope, quite humorous and not such a difficult read, because those are the kinds of books I like to read. I like to have fun with stories and I try to make the reader laugh while I show him or her the truth.

But it’s also humorous because that’s what life is like when you’re living with children, whether they are your own children or they are children growing up on the other side of the world, abandoned survivors of a civil war. There is always hope. And sometimes those kids, right in the thick of it, are the only ones who can see it. It was a joy to be there, beside them, telling their story to the world.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Wonderful Paperbacks

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March 2011 Highlights

1. Started Early, Took the Dog (Reagan Arthur Books, 2011) / Kate Atkinson
2. Untold Story (Transworld, 2011) / Monica Ali
3. The Land of Painted Caves (Crown, 2011) / Jean M. Auel
4. Monsieur Linh and His Child (trans. from the French by Euan Campbell) (MacLehose Press, 2011) / Philippe Claudel
5. The Death of Eli Gold (Fourth Estate, 2011) / David Baddiel
6. The School of Night (Henry Holt, 2011) / Louis Bayard
7. Other People’s Money (Bloomsbury, 2011) / Justin Cartwright
8. Song of Slaves in the Desert (Sourcebooks, 2011) / Alan Cheuse
9. Galore (Other Press, 2011) / Michael Crummey
10. Butterfly’s Child (The Dial Press, 2011) / Angela Davis-Gardner

11. Three Stages of Amazement (Scribner, 2011) / Carol Edgarian
12. The Beauty of Humanity Movement (Penguin, 2011) / Camilla Gibb
13. Blood Count (Bantam Press, 2011) / Robert Goddard
14. King of the Badgers (Fourth Estate, 2011) / Philip Hensher
15. The Hunger Trace (Simon & Schuster, 2011) / Edward Hogan
16. Witches on the Road Tonight (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011) / Sheri Holman
17. Into the Heart of the Country (HarperCollins Canada, 2011) Pauline Holdstock
18. The Cloud Messenger (Telegram Books, 2011) / Aamer Hussein
19. The Summer Without Men (Picador/Sceptre, 2011) / Siri Hustvedt
20. Child Wonder (trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartless and Don Shaw) (Maclehose Press, 2011) / Roy Jacobsen

21. A Palace in the Old Village (trans. from the French by Linda Coverdale) (Arcadia Books, 2011) / Tahar Ben Jelloun
22. Pym (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) / Mat Johnson
23. Five Bells (Harvill Secker, 2011) / Gail Jones
24. The Silent Land (Doubleday, 2011) / Graham Joyce
25. Custody (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Manju Kapur
26. The Troubled Man (trans. from the Swedish by Laurie Thompson) (Harvill Secker, 2011) / Henning Mankell
27. Anatomy of a Disappearance (Viking, 2011) / Hisham Matar
28. When the Thrill’s Gone (Riverhead, 2011) / Walter Mosley
29. Emily, Alone (Viking, 2011) / Stewart O’Nan
30. Prophecy (HarperCollins, 2011) / S.J. Parris

31. Disputed Land (William Heinemann, 2011) / Tim Pears
32. Seven Years (trans. from the German by Michael Hofmann) (Other Press, 2011) / Peter Stamm
33. The Sparrows of Edward Street (University of Queensland Press, 2011) / Elizabeth Stead
34. Spring (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / David Szalay
35. Lucifer’s Tears (Putnam, 2011) / James Thompson
36. Daughters-in-Law (Doubleday, 2011) / Joanna Trollope
37. The Unseen (Orion, 2011) / Katherine Webb

First Novels
1. The Upright Piano Player (Quercus, 2011) / David Abbott
2. Island of Wings (Quercus, 2011) / Karin Altenberg
3. The Afterparty (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / Leo Benedictus
4. The Free World (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / David Bezmozgis
5. Cleaning Nabokov’s House (Touchstone, 2011) / Leslie Daniels
6. The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead (Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books, 2011) / Paul Elwork
7. Correspondence: An Adventure in Letters (David R. Godine, 2011) / N. John Hall
8. So Much Pretty (Simon & Schuster, 2011) / Cara Hoffmann
9. The Book of Lies (Canongate Books, 2011) / Mary Horlock
10. Pigeon English (Bloomsbury, 2011) / Stephen Kelman

11. Tiger Hills (Grand Central Publishing, 2011) / Sarita Mandanna
12. The Dry Grass of August (Kensington Publishing, 2011) / Anna Jean Mayhew
13. Today (Atlantic Books, 2011) / David Miller
14. What You See in the Dark (Algonquin, 2011) / Manuel Muñoz
15. The Tiger’s Wife (Random House/Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011) / Téa Obreht
16. This Vacant Paradise (Counterpoint, 2011) / Victoria Patterson
17. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece (Orion, 2011) / Annabel Pitcher
18. Into That Darkness (Thomas Allen, 2011) / Steven Price
19. Someone Else’s Garden (Harper Press/HarperCollins Publishers, 2011) / Dipika Rai
20. Bent Road (Dutton, 2011) / Lori Roy

21. Between Shades of Gray (Philomel, 2011) / Ruta Sepetys
22. Invisibles (Myriad Editions, 2011) / Ed Siegle
23. The Sentimentalists (William Heinemann, 2011) / Johanna Skibsrud
24. When God Was a Rabbit (Headline Review, 2011) / Sarah Winman
25. My Dear I Wanted to Tell You (HarperCollins, 2011) / Louisa Young

1. All the Time in the World: New and Selected Stories (Random House, 2011) / E.L. Doctorow
2. Ten Stories About Smoking (Picador, 2011) / Stuart Evers
3. Volt (Graywolf Press, 2011) / Alan Heathcock
4. The Architect of Flowers (Mariner Books, 2011) / William Lychack
5. Touch (Seren, 2011) / Graham Mort
6. A Book of Blues (Flambard Press, 2011) / Courttia Newland
7. New Irish Short Stories (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Joseph O’Connor (ed.)
8. You Think That’s Bad (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) / Jim Shepard

1. Horoscopes for the Dead (Random House, 2011) / Billy Collins
2. Selected Poems (ed. J.D. McClatchy) (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011) / Anthony Hecht
3. The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Yusef Koumnyakaa
4. A Hundred Doors (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / Michael Longley
5. Becoming Weather (Coffee House Press, 2011) / Chris Martin
6. The Open Light: Poets from Notre Dame, 1991-2008 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011) / Orlando Ricardo Menes (ed.)
7. Folk (McClelland & Stewart, 2011) / Jacob McArthur Mooney
8. Taller When Prone (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Les Murray
9. The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems, 1980-2010 (Knopf, 2012) / Marge Piercy
10. Double Shadow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Carl Phillips

11. Poems Under Saturn (trans. from the French by Karl Kirchwey) (Princeton University Press, 2011) / Paul Verlaine
12. Ghost in a Red Hat (W.W. Norton, 2011) / Rosanna Warren
13. Sound Archive (Seren, 2011) / Nerys Williams
14. Torn (Four Way, 2011) / C. Dale Young

1. Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and literature, 1966 to 2005 (The University of Chicago Press, 2011) / David Antin
2. Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight (Hamish Hamilton, 2011) / James Attlee
3. Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews: Selected Essays and Reviews (Graywolf Press, 2011) / Geoff Dyer
4. Civilization: The West and the Rest (Allen Lane, 2011) / Niall Ferguson
5. Holy Bones, Holy Dust: How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe (Yale University Press, 2011) / Charles Freeman
6. I Found It at the Movies: Reflections of a Cinephile (Carcanet Press, 2011) / Philip French
7. The Use and Abuse of Literature (Pantheon, 2011) / Marjorie Garber
8. Edith Sitwell: Avant Garde Poet, English Genius (Virago Press, 2011) / Richard Greene
9. A History of the Irish Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2011) / Derek Hand
10. Collected Essays (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Hanif Kureishi

12. The Joy of Secularism: 11 Essays for How We Live (Princeton University Press, 2011) / George Levine (ed.)
13. Killing the Black Dog: A Memoir of Depression (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) / Les Murray
14. Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag (Atlas, 2011) / Sigrid Nunez
15. A Widow’s Story (Fourth Estate, 2011) / Joyce Carol Oates
16. A Radiant Life: The Selected Journalism of Nuala O’Faolain (Abrams Image, March 2011) / Nuala O’Faolain
17. The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist: Understanding What Happens When We Write and Read Novels (Faber & Faber, 2011) / Orhan Pamuk
18. The Fetish Room: The Education of a Naturalist (Profile, 2011) / Redmond O’Hanlon & Rudi Rotthier
19. The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death (W.W. Norton, 2011) / David Shields & Bradford Morrow (eds.)
20. The Smell of Summer Grass: Pursuing Happiness: Perch Hill 1994-2011 (HarperPress, 2011) / Adam Nicolson

21. Frank Sinatra Has a Cold and Other Essays (Penguin Classics, 2011) / Gay Talese
22. Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany (Bloomsbury UK, 2011)/ Frederick Taylor
23. Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose (2nd edition) (Princeton University Press, 1994/2011) / Francis-Noël Thomas & Mark Turner
24. To a Mountain in Tibet (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, 2011) / Colin Thubron
25. Writing the Irish West: Ecologies and Traditions (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011) / Eamonn Wall
26. Access All Areas: Selected Writings 1990-2011 (Jonathan Cape, 2011) / Sara Wheeler
27. The Essays of Virginia Woolf: Volume 6: 1933 to 1941 (ed. Stuart N. Clarke) (Chatto & Windus, 2011) / Virginia Woolf