Sebastian Smee

Whatever next?

Philip Hensher’s King of the Badgers is set in Hanmouth, a small English coastal town described so thickly that it is established from the outset as effectively a character in itself.

Cross-cultural exchanges

The 18 stories, each around a dozen pages long, in E.C. Osondu’s Voice of America seem to have poured out of him like water. They have a fluency, an evenness of tone and texture, that creates an illusion of transparency and simplicity.

A fragile beauty

Colm Tóibín’s short stories hinge on lonely figures seeking what one of his narrator’s describes as ‘the chance… to associate with beauty’.


Shady people in the sun

The characters in Rose Tremain’s deft new novel are almost all remarkably unpleasant.

Home is where the heart is

Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín


The invisible man

Strangers, by Anita Brookner

Conflicts of interest?

Land of Marvels, by Barry Unsworth

Going the distance

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami

Muddying the waters

Dreams of Rivers and Seas by Tim Parks

A mask that eats the face

Sebastien Smee on Patrick French's biography of V.S. Naipaul


The pleasure of his company

Sebastian Smee on James Salter

Once more with less feeling

Diary of a Bad Year
by J. M. Coetzee

Too much information

In managing too carefully the revelation of truth, parents often betray it. Graham Swift’s new novel is narrated by a…

Formal feeling comes good

Contemporary Australian fiction, like Australian film, is known more for its exuberance and antic energy than its reticence and restraint.…

When all the clocks have stopped

A great many unspeakable things happen in the course of Cormac McCarthy’s brilliant, distressing new novel. But the worst, the…

One kiss too many

Something is eating away at Father David Anderton, the narrator of Be Near Me, a novel as beautiful and perfectly…

The art of the matter

Listing page content here Peter Carey’s ropy, visceral prose casts a powerful spell. It has a swarming, improvised quality which…


Missing the middle path

Listing page content here Reading David Mitchell’s fourth novel, which is told through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy, reminded…

The fine art of appreciation

John Updike is, among one or two other things, a model art critic. Observant, sympathetic and knowledgeable, he also writes…

Method acting with a vengeance

Two of a good thing is usually better than one — unless, of course, the good thing in question is…

The Man of Feeling

Can a writer be guilty of an excess of sympathy for his characters? Sympathy, we are forever being reminded (Tolstoy…

His cup runneth over

Nick, the central character in Alan Hollinghurst’s wonderful new novel, is a young, alert middle-class boy with precociously refined aesthetic…

Both deep and dazzling

Rivalled only by the Rabbit novels, John Updike’s early stories — the 100 or so pieces of short fiction he…

A great painter’s likeness perfectly caught

Robert Hughes has suffered no shortage of appalling things over the past five years. He has experienced deep depression and…