Number 38 | Things are heading south

John Kennedy Toole’s Hot-Dog Carts

'Going to New Orleans after a fresh reading of A Confederacy of Dunces gives the city a different flavour. Every sign begins to read like a knowing wink.'

Becoming Westerly

'It’s funny how the ocean calls out to you. It’s not about checking wave cams on the Internet, or reading the surf forecast. It’s a feeling in your bones and blood, something like the way dogs sense earthquakes.'

I Knew Nothing

Part 1. 'I have at last rejected the notion that I grasp even the basics of life, of society, or the laws of the natural world, the workings of business, or even the grammar of my native language.'

Give It Up

'I try to guess the book’s big idea and decide, well in advance of criticism or comprehension, whether or not the writing will be rich enough to entertain my friends when they ask, "Read anything good lately?"'

The New Threat from Islamic Militancy

'Islamic militants are of our time. They are in fact ahead of the curve very often. They were crowd-sourcing funding before the word was even invented.'

The Fantastications

'Reading made me a traveler; travel sent me back to books. When I got home, I immersed myself in Southern fiction.'

The Decline of the Coffee to Stay

How could one ever feel pessimistic here? But then one day out went the beautiful iron-sided tables and comfortable chairs, and with them the people and all of their books.

‘It was like a ten-year stag party’

'Maths and numbers and abstraction, these all seem like very un-Irish things; but imagining other worlds, turning reality into a hall of mirrors, these are things we are very good at.'