Friday, 30 August 2013

Today I'm also channelling... Seamus Heaney RIP


"I always believed that whatever had to be written would somehow get itself written."

Seamus Heaney (April 13, 1939 - August 30, 2013)

Today I'm channelling... Isabel Marant

"I don't dress up everyday. I wear a sweatshirt and trousers, like most people... I'm not this goddess of fashion - I'm low profile. I look like a delivery guy."

Isabel Marant

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Today I clicked, read, downloaded.., 29/8

Karen Walker's AW13 eyewear campaign 

Downloaded... this cute image from Karen Walker's eyewear campaign starring models who didn't look anorexic and hadn't had any work. Wish I'd been so #gingerandproud when I was eight. Clicked... On a link to two kittens bringing the New York subway to a standstill by playing on the tracks. I guess you're either a cat person or you're, er, not. Read... this and discovered I have nomophobia. No, I hadn't heard of it either. But I'm pretty sure you've got it too. Apparently there's a helpline and everything. Downloaded... The new issue of Netaporter's The Edit, so I could look at all the clothes I can't afford and no longer have to buy for the shows (does small victory dance). And, because I'm not 100% shallow, Read... this inspiring feature about the Afghan Women's Writing Project, which teaches women to read and write in secret.

Today I'm channelling... Captain America

"Of course I'm strong, I'm an idealised power fantasy. But the most interesting thing about me is that, on the inside, I'm a dorky little artist."

Captain America

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Today I clicked, read, watched... 28/8/13

Read... Marisha Pessl's Night Film ,  review on Bazaar on Books tomorrow. Clicked... on this rage-inducing news story about Stacey Dean Rambold, a 49-year-old Montana teacher convicted of raping a 14-year-old student who subsequently killed herself. His sentence? 30 days in jail (15 years suspended "all but 31 days, with a day's credit for 'time served'."). According to Judge G Todd Baugh, "It's not probably the kind of rape most people think about...not a violent, forcible, beat-the-victim rape, like you see in the movies." Oh, that's all right then. Downloaded... the survey for Women in Clothes. The fascinating new book project from Leanne Shapton and Sheila Heti about what women wear and why. More information at  Downloaded... the podcast of Julie Goodyear's Desert Island Discs as recommended by Lauren Laverne. "I've led a leopard print kind of life."

Today I'm not remotely qualified to channel... Martin Luther King Jr

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Martin Luther King Jr, 50 years today since he had a dream

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Today I clicked, read, downloaded... 27/8/13

Clicked... on a link entitled Kate Middleton reemerges in breton stripes, already skinnier than you. Yes, I hate myself too. And, no, I'm not linking to it here. You know where the sidebar of shame is just as well as I do. Read... this feature nosing around writers' rooms in T magazine. Strangely, mine looks nothing like this. Clicked... on this picture (above) of All Saints' icon leather jacket. More than once. If there's one thing my wardrobe doesn't need it's another leather jacket... Downloaded... a torrent of abuse on the #AskJamieOliver hashtag on twitter following Jamie (Ratner) Oliver's ill-advised diss of poor people with large TVs who don't know how to cook Spaghetti Pomodoro ("I meet people who say, "You don't understand what it's like." I just want to hug them and teleport them to the Sicilian street cleaner who has 25 mussels, 10 cherry tomatoes, and a packet of spaghetti for 60 pence and knocks out the most amazing pasta.") and was deeply grateful not to be his publicist, his publisher or his TV producer.

Today I'm channelling... Zelda Fitzgerald

"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring."

Zelda Fitzgerald

Monday, 26 August 2013

Today I clicked, read, watched... 26/8/13

Watched... this completely joyous police dance-off at the Notting Hill carnival on youtube. Got to be in the running for most uplifting click of the week.  Downloaded... this spot-on New Statesman blog by @sarahditum on Miley Cyrus at the MTV VMAs. "White men run the show, black men play support, all the women get mostly naked and black women get to hold up the bottom of the objectification pile." Clicked... On Amy Grace Lloyd's piece for about her seven years as literary editor of Playboy. Read... and massively over-identified with Lucy Mangan's piece on her beauty milestones for


It's six months since I started my books column for Harpers Bazaar and in that time, I've read A LOT of books. (More, if anything, than I read judging last year's Costa Novel award). Here's my pick of the best so far...

1. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)

One of the first books I read this year and, so far, still one of the best. The Groundhog Day-esque story of Ursula Todd, a child born on 11 February 1910. And born again. And again. And again. Each rebirth taking a different course until she gets it right. Or, more, until she gains the courage and the self-knowledge to fulfil her destiny. Once you get over the initial repetition of the baby years, Ursula’s story takes various paths that are by turn visceral and shocking. I guarantee Ursula will linger in your head long after you have turned the last page (and probably turned it back again, a little frustrated…) 

2. The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes (Harpercollins)

Having won the Arthur C Clarke science fiction award for her second novel, Zoo City, South African Beukes takes the concept popularised by The Time Traveller's Wife and turns it inside out. Harper Curtis is a serial killer who travels between the 1920s and the present day in search of the shining girls whose light he is compelled to snuff out. Kirby Mazrachi is the one that got away. Beautifully written, skilfully plotted, entirely original, this was Stephen King's beach read and I can see why.

3. The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer (Chatto & Windus)

What makes one person succeed where another, seemingly just as talented, fails? That's the question Wolitzer (acclaimed author of The Wife) sets out to answer in her ninth novel. The Interestings of the title are an ironically self-named group of creatively inclined teenagers at summer camp in 1974. The novel follows the friends back and forth over the next forty years. Wannabe actress Jules fails and retrains as a therapist, golden boy Goodman crashes and burns, while Ethan, the boy least likely to, cleans up. But why? And how much envy and disappointment can a friendship stand? Wolitzer has some rather compelling answers.

4. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby, Sarah Churchwell (Virago)

A biography of a book more than a person, academic and Fitzgerald scholar, Churchwell analyses the gestation of The Great Gatsby to produce an insightful, engrossing and sometimes shocking portrait of a year: 1922, The year in which Gatsby was written. And a place: prohibition era New York City. And none of it is as it seems. An unexpectedly engrossing read, not just for Gatsby obsessives.

5. The Last Banquet, Jonathan Grimwood (Canongate)

From the moment I first encountered four-year-old Jean-Marie d'Aumout (over Jon's shoulder in Caffe Nero where he was writing this book), I was obsessed by this sensuous tale of one man's search for the perfect taste. This affecting journey takes d'Aumout from dung heap to Versailles as he mingles with the great, the good and the utterly corrupt in an 18th century France heading inexorably towards revolution. 

6. Firefly, Janette Jenkins (Chatto & Windus)

From his Jamaican mountain retreat of the title, an ailing, cantankerous 71-year-old Noel Coward looks out over the bay and his life. It is a long hot summer in the early seventies and wistful memories of the glamorous friends of his long-gone London years intermingle with the implausible fantasy city that lives in his manservant Patrice's dreams of becoming a waiter at the Ritz. Just add a cocktail and I can think of no better poolside companion than this pitch-perfect reimagining of a regret-tinged twilight of Coward's life.

7. How To Be a Good Wife, Emma Chapman (Picador)

Marta and Hector have been married a long time. How long, Marta is not sure, she struggles to remember her life before Hector. But she knows it's a long time and she knows she loves Hector because he tells her so. She also knows that since their son left home, things have started to go awry. And, Marta feels sure, she's starting to remember. Cue a slight (in the best possible sense), dark and utterly bleak debut novel that will have you returning to the first page as soon as you finish.

8. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter (Penguin)

There's a reason this book spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists: it is quite simply the ultimate brainy beach read. Split between sixties Rome as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor embark on their infamously tempestuous affair and contemporary Hollywood, it examines the birth of celebrity with the lightest of touches. 

And four that slipped through the cracks...

The Son, Philip Meyer (Simon & Schuster) - a multi-generational American epic that's been described as The Wire meets One Hundred Years of Solitude...  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner (Harvill Secker) - Kushner's critically acclaimed novel set between the 70s New York art scene and an Italy in the midst of revolution... Burial Rites, Hannah Kent (Picador) - This eerie debut reimagines the true story of a convicted murderer sent to await execution in an Icelandic village in 1829... Things We Need, Jennifer Close (Vintage) - the author of the undersung Girls in White Dresses turns her attention to family, and what happens when we 'go home'.

See all my Bazaar on Books blogs at