Bookface Blog

Archive by tag: Killian FoxReturn
Jun 19, 2022

This magnificent book reveals the strange and mysterious ways that creatures sense their surroundings – pushing our understanding of them to the limit

Scallops have eyes. Not just two eyes, like humans have, or eight, like most spiders do, but up to 200 of them, each clasped by a thin, wavy tentacle protruding from the inner edges of the corrugated shell. Considering how rudimentary a scallop’s brain is, these eyes are surprisingly sophisticated. Play a scallop a video of juicy particles drifting by in the water, as researchers at the University of South Carolina have done, and it will likely open its shell, as if to take a bite.

It’s possible, at a stretch, to say what’s going on here. The scallop’s eyes transmit visual information to its brain, which creates a picture, however fuzzy, of some juicy plankton approaching, and it springs into action. The shell opens wide, the plankton floats in, and snap! Dinner is served.

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Jun 26, 2021

The author of the apocalyptic novel Leave the World Behind reflects on its parallels with the Covid pandemic, the genius of Lorrie Moore and why he is looking forward to letting his kids run feral outside

Rumaan Alam was born in 1977 and raised in Washington DC. He is the author of three novels, the latest of which, Leave the World Behind, got rave reviews when it came out in hardback last year. The story of two families, one white, one black, thrust together in a Long Island holiday home amid apocalyptic events, it was described by the Observer as “simply breathtaking… as terrifying and prescient as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road”. Now out in paperback, it is being turned into a film by Sam Esmail (Mr Robot) starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. Alam lives in Brooklyn with his husband, David Land, a photographer, and their two adopted sons.

A lot of reviewers called your book “prescient”, given that you wrote it before the pandemic. What’s your take on that?
I’d never even heard the word coronavirus prior to February 2020. On a very basic level, the book dramatises being trapped in at home and not having enough information – and it happened to be published into a reality in which many readers felt that they were trapped in their homes and didn’t have enough information. So it’s a strange resonance. I think it’s connected to other books that are talking about some of the same things – about the individual relationship to anxiety over the climate, the absurdity of the contemporary moment, our warped relationship to technology. People are thinking and talking about this stuff so it makes sense that there will be books about it.

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Jan 23, 2021

Spy novels, Swedish art and the Russian obsession with immortality feature on the Norwegian literary heavyweight’s cultural hitlist

Karl Ove Knausgaard is a Norwegian author, born in 1968, who lives in London and Sweden. He gained worldwide fame, and notoriety, with his six-volume series of autobiographical novels entitled My Struggle (or Min Kamp in Norwegian), which dissected his life and relationships in often merciless detail. The Wall Street Journal described him as “one of the 21st-century’s greatest literary sensations”. He is also the author of the Seasons Quartet and, most recently, the essay collection (translated by Martin Aitken) In the Land of the Cyclops (Harvill Secker).

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Jan 02, 2021

The Booker-winning author on what Russian short stories can teach us, late-life realisations and why he doesn’t like social media

George Saunders was born in Texas in 1958 and raised in Illinois. Before his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, won the 2017 Booker prize, he was best known as a writer of short stories, publishing four collections since 1996 and winning a slew of awards. In 2006, he was awarded both a Guggenheim and a MacArthur fellowship. His latest book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, draws on two decades of teaching a creative writing class on the Russian short story in translation at Syracuse University, where he is a professor. Saunders lives in California but was in the middle of a snowstorm in upstate New York when this interview took place via Zoom.

What prompted you to turn your creative writing class into a book?
I was on the road for a long time with Lincoln in the Bardo. When I came back to teaching, I just thought, man, after 20 years of this, I really know a lot about these stories. There was also that late-life realisation that if I go, all that knowledge goes too. I thought it would be just a matter of typing up the notes, but of course it turned out to be a lot more.

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