Literature Journalism by William Boyd

William Boyd
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THE WRITER, THE CITY AND THE PARK
A PERSONAL A — Z

A — Angus Wilson (1913-1991), novelist and short story writer, identified what he called an essential dichotomy in the English realistic novel dating back to Samuel Richardson in the 18th century, namely the concepts of “town” and “country” and the opposing values centred around them.

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Review of THE SECRET LIVES OF SOMERSET MAUGHAM
By Selina Hastings


I still possess my 1967 Penguin paperback of Somerset Maugham’s A Writer’s Notebook.  Ostensibly a distillation of his diary, kept over some 50 years, it was more interesting to the aspiring novelist for the gnomic advice Maugham offered on the craft of writing. “There’s no need for the writer to eat a whole sheep to be able to tell you what mutton tastes like,” is one sentence I underlined (amongst many).

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Review of WILLIAM GOLDING: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies
A LIFE

By John Carey

In 1967, some thirteen years after the publication of The Lord of the Flies, William Golding confessed to a friend (p 320) that he resented his first novel because it meant that he owed his reputation to what he considered a “minor book”, a book that had made him a classic in his lifetime, which was a joke, and the money he had gained from it was “Monopoly money” because he hadn’t really earned it.

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GRAHAM GREENE

“The God Confusion: an atheist reads Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter.”
By William Boyd

I want to begin with two quotations that will go some way to revealing my own position on matters of faith.

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A SHORT HISTORY OF THE SHORT STORY
By William Boyd


Let us begin at a notional beginning.  I have an image in my head of a band of Neanderthals (or some similar troupe of humanoids) hunkered round the fire at the cave-mouth as the night is drawing in and one of them says, spontaneously: “You’ll never believe what happened to me today.” Gnawed bones are tossed aside, children are quietened and the tribe gives the story-teller its full attention. The anecdote, the fond reminiscence, the protracted joke, the pointed recollection are surely the genesis...

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PESSOA
Foreword by William Boyd

“O homem nâo é um animal
É uma carne inteligente
Embora às vezes doente.”

[Man is not an animal
Is intelligent flesh
Although sometimes ill.]

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LANARK
By Alasdair Gray


Readers develop unique histories with the books they read. It may not be immediately apparent at the time of reading but the person you were when you read the book, the place you were where you read the book, your state of mind while you read it, your personal situation (happy, frustrated, depressed, bored) and so on — all these factors, and others, make the simple experience of reading a book a far more complex and multi-layered affair than might be thought.

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CHEKHOV'S GENIUS
By William Boyd


Like Vladimir Nabokov, I think the word "genius" should be used incredibly sparingly and not be casually bandied about. In certain fields of human endeavour the appellation seems relatively easy to understand and identify — I’m thinking of science, philosophy,  mathematics and music, in particular.  We appear able to recognise genius in composers almost instinctively.

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Review of THE CASTLE IN THE FOREST
By Norman Mailer


The prospect of this novel was highly enticing and alluring: Norman Mailer on Adolf Hitler and his family. Mailer, who has tackled — fearlessly, full-throatedly -- Marilyn Monroe, Jesus Christ, Lee Harvey Oswald, Picasso, Mohammed Ali and Gary Gilmore (amongst others) seemed to be squaring-up...

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MURIEL SPARK’S THE GIRLS OF SLENDER MEANS
By William Boyd


I first became aware of the strange and beguiling world of Muriel Spark on the release, in 1968, of the film version of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  Like most successful films, the adaptation took me back to the original, hungry for a richer aesthetic experience. I was not disappointed and since then ...

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