Vivian Leopold James, a prayer for debut authors, some reading reccs, two potters on 19th Century farm in Paris and sad, hurting people.

Hello friends,

This the last READ.LOOK.THINK. for a bit.


“…people turn away from us and refuse to engage. But we react differently to being frozen out. Some seek heat, looking for a way back into the sociable warmth, miserable in the cold, unable to get used to it. Others, like Cusk, get comfortable.” | “With that kiss, the ice water of theory came pouring over me.” Ariana and the lesbian narcissus. | Stevie blogged! | A prayer for debut authors.

Goodbye Clive James, I loved your memoirs so much. “[I]t was the Australian sunshine he absorbed in his youth that did for him in the end”. / A summary from the New Yorker in case you didn’t know him. / His 1997 piece mourning Princess Diana that people derided at the time as being too intense but in retrospect completely caught the mood. / Go back to the opal sunset. PS, true fact: his real name was Vivian Leopold James <3

Some of my all time greatest reccs for anyone needing an absorbing, transporting, reading experience to get lost in during the holiday season:

  • The Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. Peabody is a suffragette spinster in a Pride and Prejudice-style rel with an intensely loveable male Egyptologist. Why is it not a TV show?! Anyway, start at the beginning, but my peak fave is Last Camel Died at Noon.

  • PD James. Start with Original Sin, set in a publishing house. Then read from the start to fall in love with Adam Dalgliesh. Keep in mind PD James is conservative, and some characters make conservative arguments, but she shows the truth and complexity of life.

  • The Cazalet Chronicles: I still cry about Villy’s teeth. Hilary Mantel on why we should all read Elizabeth Jane Howard. (This is superb on audiobook, all these reccs are.)

  • The Line of Beauty. I used to say I “re-read it X times a year” but actually now I just have it with me at all times in three formats — I just constantly read it. New jokes and terrible new realisations every single time I dip in. “The ability to repeatedly engage with a work of art to the point where you not only experience the initial emotional impact but start to comprehend the framework of craftsmanship beneath it is the essence of cultural appreciation. And, frankly, it’s a thrilling experience, no matter what work of art you’re engaging with.”

  • Love, Nina: Dispatches from family life. This book is perfect. An instant, timeless classic of warmth and comedy.

Do not miss Emily Gould’s new novel Perfect Tunes. It’s not out yet but pre-order it or put it in your calendar or whatever! Hard to describe it, but it was like going to therapy for me — like the novel was a safe place for me to exist and have feelings inside.


If you start watching Carol (2015) at 22:47 on December 31st, Carol and Therese will share their first kiss exactly as the clock strikes midnight. | A joyful testament to middle age. (Content warning: includes a graphic — beautiful — medical/body photograph.) | Two potters on 19th Century farm in Paris. | Samin Nosrat has an email newsletter.


Something is stopping us from creating the families so many of us want. | Why do people think the UK is or was a beacon of tolerance? | “The present objections to cancel culture are not so much concerned with the weapon, as the kind of people who now seek to wield it.” | The new trend in feminism is feeling nothing. | How smartphones turned election news into chaos, featuring frightening case studies.

From For Rashan Charles: a poem by Raymond Antrobus:

[…]Can we disagree graciously

I am tired of people

not knowing the volume

of their power.

Because it’s the holidays: The Trussell Trust provides emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. | £10 to the Book Trust will give a child in care a book of their own for Christmas. (I saw someone say that many books are available in charity shops for a lot less. I think you’re only cool with getting old stuff when you have enough new stuff not to mind.) | Donate to Magic Breakfast to help children who go to school hungry.

Have a beautiful holiday season everyone. I’m offline for a bit but email me if there’s something I need to see, particularly meals you’ve cooked, selfies taken in nice light, or to share how you’ve reorganised your desk/any room in your home. I’ll be back in January (or February or March at the latest) after I’ve finished a second draft of something I’ve been working on for SEVEN YEARS.