The Hitchhiker’s Guide to (my) London Bookshops

Judging from the pile of books I’ve accumulated over my seven months in London so far, it is easy to come across some potentially future favourite reads in the Old Smoke. That much isn’t surprising. So, this week, I thought I’d pay homage to the bookish places of worship that have helped met tread the…

Nathan Byrn and the unbearable heaviness of the divided self

Anyone who knows me, the author of this blog, knows that I am a confessed and unabashed fan of a good fantasy series. JK Rowling was a big part of my adolescence (more so than JRR Tolkien; at the time I lacked the intellectual seriousness that would later draw me towards his books through the…

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Thus spoke Socrates. (Allegedly) From the cradle to the grave, we are born with a penchant for storytelling. Inasmuch as we tell stories to amuse ourselves and pass time before we croak, stories are also a prime source of self-discovery. We are, as the famous dictum goes, the…

The deconstructivist Crow

How do you tell the tale of mourning? How do you describe the empty white space of a painful absence? For all its sudden and definitive shock, the irregularities of death do not map easily onto the stylistic and uninterrupted stream of prose. Not prose then. Prose is too neat. Prose does not bleed and…

The improbable story of Buddy Christ’s following

Many would argue that the history of Christianity is the history of Europe (at least in its post-Roman times as it drifts from the East, and then again the East is an equally integral part of that history). I had been meaning to read one of these histories for long, and even bought Diarmaid MacCulloch’s masterful —…

Hygge and the Great British Art of Baking

To the Danes, much of life’s happiness can be found in the small, simple pleasures that colour our days. A warm plate of comfort food in a warmly decorated flat, the company of your friends and loved ones, a luminous sunset wrapped up in wool. This they call hygge (more on that, and Louisa Thomsen Brits’…

The (im)possible Freudian profession (of faith)

Few ideas, concepts, theories or philosophical systems have been as influential as psychoanalysis. Like it or hate it as much as you want, but this one came, kind of conquered and thoroughly seeped in. From the moment Freud’s Studies on Hysteria hit in 1895 with its suggestion one could talk his/her troubles away, to his…

South London gothic

Most of us have a complicated — and at times nonexistent — relationship with poetry. For some reason we tend to think of it as complicated, overly intellectual, too cerebral. To me, it seems that most people’s fear and dislike of poetry is a completely theoretical and abstract concept, a bit like not wanting to lick a…

Artful stories and painted words

Art, its stories and its histories. (Imagine Morgan Freeman reading this, as if this blog wasn’t already too cool for school) We’ve all felt that special something in our lower and upper bodies when viewing some pieces of art, be it revulsion or elation, f*ck-it-this-is-shit or an instance of Stendhal syndrome. The concept of Art…

The soulsucking vampires from outer existence

Many writers hit us strong with a single book. (Think Harper Lee or Arundhati Roy) Others work our brains with sagas or individual repeated jots of prose. Very few writers, though, get to take up residence in our cortices out of the emergent notion of an entire world put there by the longest, most subdued…

Daphne does Seoul

For all their caveats and inherent political issues, literary awards are an important and useful tool for any bibliophile, if for no other reason than to signal out amazing new voices. Once you identify the sort of books you like and what genres tickle your intellectual fancy, you may find yourself using a couple of…

On necessary lives

What is literature and how far back can we trace it? What do we mean when we describe a piece of writing as literary? And who were the figures that built the institution we now call “Western literature”? When Ernst Gombrich sat down to write his A Little History of the World in 1930s Vienna…