Since January 2017, I’ve been posting most of my writing on Medium. During that time, I’ve been giving priority to fiction, particularly shorter forms. I’ve also posted a couple of pieces of what I’ve been loosely calling literary criticism, though maybe just “criticism” would be a more accurate term. Two of those have been among my most viewed (and read) posts on the site, and are still available here. The other two, both essays on poetry, are perhaps a bit heavy going for Medium and can be found on this site (see Criticism and book discussion below).
And here's a list of blogs and personal websites that I like and recommend.
Apart from fiction and criticism, I’ve written an accidental series on the subject of aphantasia, since recognizing in March or April 2018 that I have that condition. (I’m using “condition” in the widest conceivable sense, as equivalent to “state”, and not to imply that aphantasia is a medical condition or impairment.) Up to January 2019, I published those posts on Medium, the most recent one is on this site. Here is the list of posts so far — I'll update it if and when I add more.
I've made a list of my own stories on Medium. It includes several short stories, a novella and a novel, all of which are free to read. As a bonus, here is the shortest story I've written so far, “Closure”. It comes in at about 750 words. I originally posted it on Medium but deleted it last year and now I've reposted it here.
More about LaTeX as a writing tool: LaTeX and Microsoft Word
In a follow-up to my post from 2 weeks ago on LaTeX as a writing tool, I look at Daniel Allington’s critique of LaTeX evangelism (or, as he puts it, the LaTeX fetish).
The book review is slowly dying, and we don’t need to mourn it
Book reviews have become an impoverished form of writing. The internet needs a more critical and enlightening kind of book discussion.
LaTeX as a writing tool
On Micro.blog, Ciaran Connelly has been publishing a series of microposts on the subject of writing tools for lawyers, specifically for the production of legal documents: pleadings, contracts etc. His posts prompted me to think again about the relative merits of HTML (and Markdown) on the one hand and LaTeX on the other.
Survivorship bias in writing and publishing
We all want to avoid irrational thought patterns but it may not be a good idea for writers, publishers and literary agents to worry to much about being fooled by survivorship bias. This is why.
Pinterest “breaks” the grid — but in the tamest, most conformist way imaginable
I had been puzzled by the hold that Pinterest seems to have over me, until I came across the unfamiliar phrase “anti-grid design”.
More thoughts on ebooks and real books
I’ve been critical and dismissive of ebooks in recent posts. That doesn’t mean that I always prefer to read from a printed page rather than a screen but rather that I believe that ebooks have so far failed to make the most of the possibilities of digital publication.
How ebooks could become real books
This is a follow-up to something I posted two months ago on Medium: Why ebooks aren’t real books. It would require a change of attitude towards ebooks by publishers (traditional and indie) and also by suppliers such as Apple Books.
Preparing to close my Amazon account
I haven’t bought anything from Amazon since November 2017 and I don’t intend to again. But it’s only recently struck me that I might as well go the whole hog and delete the account. But that means losing access to the Kindle books I already have.
Medium's paywall — a change of approach
Medium has made changes to the way posts are recommended and promoted, as a result of which I need to change my approach to the paywall, and revisit the question which stories to post on this site and which on Medium.
The phone's not smart so you might have to be
What's the ideal smartphone for someone who doesn't like phones?
Short fiction on Medium — recommendations
Though I've ended my email newsletter, “Recommended short fiction on Medium” after a little over a year, I'm still very fond of the title and I want to continue to use it.
Could subscription reading put paid to the ebook?
Writers, “aspiring” and the other kind, would do better to look to subscription services than to the Kindle ecosystem if they want to make money from their writing. At the moment the closest thing to a subscription publishing model that's open to self-publishers and isn't (like Kindle Unlimited) under Amazon's control is Medium.
HTML and Markdown
Though I think Markdown is (from a writer's point of view) elegant and enjoyable to use, it's also frustrating and a reminder of a missed opportunity.
This section is for links to my writing about other writing — in particular fiction, poetry and (conceivably, eventually) drama. At the moment, I’m for the most part alternating between two projects. The first is to turn my doctoral thesis (“Andrew Marvell’s ambivalence about justice”) into something more widely accessible; the second to examine how some authors have been able to maintain interest in the same or connected characters over a series of crime fiction novels.
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Restrained and understated it may be. but when you look closely Kazuo Ishiguro’s sixth novel is a horror story.
Robert Galbraith, Lethal White
Nearly 18 months ago, I wrote a post on Medium in which I argued that each of the first three Cormoran Strike novels explores a different trope or sub-genre of crime fiction. Now, at long last, I’ve added my thoughts on the fourth novel in Robert Galbraith’s series.
Liz Nugent, Skin Deep
I previously wrote a mini-review of Liz Nugent’s Lying in Wait which you can find on the book reviews page. Here‘s a slightly more substantial discussion of her more recent novel.
Andrew Marvell’s Gender
This is an essay that I published in Essays in Criticism in 2016. As the title suggests, it looks at how gender informs Andrew Marvell’s writing. The version I’ve posted here is a HTML conversion of the approved draft. The final, definitive version is on the journal’s website. That’s the version that should be cited, of course.
Gillian Flynn's plotting in Dark Places: The deceptive attraction of overkill
My discussion of the plot of Gillian Flynn's second novel, Dark Places (2009).
Rereading Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum
Kate Atkinson’s first novel has a narrator who falls into three different types, each pulling in different directions. This results in a “teeming”, overstuffed tale whose profusion of detail tends to compensate for or distract from a glaring gap in the narrator’s memory. It’s a novel that requires to be reread.
Finite though unbounded: the abolition of infinity in the poetry of William Empson
A long essay (originally 5,000 words, but it seems to have stretched a bit over the years) about a theme in the early poetry of William Empson, which I wrote in 1996 and now think is worth resurrecting in a very slightly revised form.
The paradoxical ambition of Andrew Marvell’s Third Advice to a Painter
This is an argument (really a by-product of my thesis) about one of Marvell’s satires.
Who really killed The General’s Daughter?
A discussion of the resolution of the plot of Nelson DeMille’s 1992 novel The General’s Daughter.
Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike books
This post deals with tropes and subgenres in the first three Cormoran Strike books. For Lethal White, see above.
Most of the book reviews from Goodreads that I think are worth keeping have now been moved to this site.