Eavesdropping, worms and outrageous luck

Hello readers,

The walls in my apartment are so thin that I know many details about my neighbors. “Am I creepy or just conscious?” is a question that keeps popping up when certain personal noises penetrate the drywall. As long as I’m not aggressively scouting for bugging opportunities – like standing against the wall with a drinking glass to my ear – I feel like I can claim my innocence. And anyway, it’s a one-way street; I’m sure the neighbors also collected data about my habits without being asked. To paraphrase a saying: I don’t know what about you know can not hurt me!

Below two novels that took me from my polluted urban abode to 1) a country house and 2) a country estate.

Good Trip,


Chris lives on the edge of a moor in an old cottage with crumbling plaster and ceilings so low that he risks being automatically decapitated every time he climbs the stairs. He is 45 years old and “fired” from his job. But he’s content with a humble country life and a blank calendar, and we soon learn why: Chris’ youth was filled with drama to pursue a season of reality TV.

One day, an unexpected visitor inquires about Chris’ past – a past marked by adultery, divorce, sibling wars, artistic triumph, professional despair and much more. A real worm box. Actually too many worms; there may be an excess of action here, but it is sustained by an abundance of sharp perceptions. The cover of my issue, pictured above, is painfully unrepresentative of the text.

Read if you want: Jane Gardam bursting through the doors with excitement, Helene Hanff’s ’84, Charing Cross Road’
Available from: arrow, or check your library or antique store

Mr. Crowe is a man of incredible fortune. His estate features formal gardens, a hedge maze, a croquet lawn and a perfectly square pond. (How? Why?) For dinner, he eats lobster garnished with flecks of gold leaf. (How? Why?) Other residents of the house are Eustace, a butler and consigliere, and Clara, a child with an unspecified disability that leaves her unable to speak. During a routine evening of debauchery, Mr. Crowe pulls out a gun and appears to kill a guy on his property – but when the body is examined, there are no gunshot wounds. And that’s not the only secret!

Hovering between gothic and fantasy, this novel begins at a leisurely trot and works its way up to a canter. That’s not a polite way of saying the book is boring; only that the first act is meticulously prepared for the turns that follow.

Read if you want: David Mitchell, Susanna Clarke, cryptic (or “British”) crosswords
Available from: tin house

  • Slip into “Old Masters” if you wish LOVE art/hate speeches etc TO HATE sentimentality/paragraph breaks?

  • Tell people you had “UNWISE SOLARIZATION” sunburn next time? (And steal other lines from Nabokov while you’re at it.)

  • Sigh and resign COMPLETE LOVE with another word puzzle? As far as I can tell, the site doesn’t have instructions on how to play, but you’ll be able to find out.

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