NO BLANK SPACES

1969: The State of the Nation

Here is a discarded preface from an earlier version of the novel I am working on. It’s an overview of the ‘state of the nation’ of Afghanistan at the end of President Kennedy’s ‘Development Decade.‘ The year is 1969. A spectre is haunting the Afghan project of a ‘New Democracy’:…

Thoughts on swimming

Swimming is so much pleasanter once you start treating the water like your partner rather than your enemy. This sounds obvious yet it has taken me until my 28th year to realise it. I have swum more in the last four days than in the ten years preceding. (Where a…

You Got This

Here is a story I wrote about a year ago. I was reading a lot of Hemingway at the time. *** Mitch needed money. So there was that. He needed other things, but he still needed money. After school, he went running. It was a perfect afternoon. In the height…

Why I Write about Afghanistan

Four years ago I stumbled across some pictures of Kabul in the 1960s. It didn’t look anything like the city that I saw on the news every day. Women walked the streets, uncovered and unaccompanied. Tourists and locals mixed freely. This was a free, vibrant, optimistic city. Ever since, this…

The Cultural Carrion: April Edition

Eduardo Paolozzi, Whitechapel Gallery (until 14 May) – ***1/2 The most striking picture in the first room of this retrospective is a portrait of the artist himself. Suddenly everything else makes sense. You see, Paolozzi was made of concrete. At least, I think. His sculptor has tried to cram as…

‘Jackie’: An existential biopic

“Jack wasn’t a perfect man but he was perfect for our country.” So says Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) to Life journalist Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) in Pablo Larrain’s heady, haunting biopic of the former First Lady. It’s a statement rich in ambiguities: does she mean he was better suited…

2016: Must Read Harder!

In 2016, the world stubbornly refused to end. In light of this fact (something else that hasn’t gone away), I’m going to need something to read while waiting for the End of Days (re-scheduled for 20th January, apparently). Last year my book-reading ceased, at least outside of holiday time, thanks…

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