Reportage

On Kate Bush

'There is something about Kate Bush’s voice – her physical voice, as well as her voice in a literary sense – that has often struck me as heroic. Heroic because it is reckless, stubborn.'

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.'

Phantoms Over Paris

'It’s the New York Herald Tribune, Jean Seberg’s voice in the middle of traffic. It’s Romaine Bohringer and Elsa Zylberstein lolling on a bench at the top of a city hill, art and hope and tragedy ahead of them.'

Flight South

'Everything about swallows says ‘South’. They are a shiny, metallic, gregarious, nomadic tribe, decked in magenta and ravishing deep blues.'

On Roydon Fen

'This is a classic squatters’ landscape, and all the better for it. I always feel immediately at home in such makeshift places. Even the little palings have a Dickensian sort of attraction.'

The Latter-Day Thoreau

'Walnut Tree Farm, the house he eventually completed, and in which he died in August, 2006, is made largely of wood. It is as close to a living thing as a building can be.'

Ancient Trees, Ancient Knowledge

'For indigenous people everywhere, nature is an enlargement of your mind and your sense of kin – your social mind. Trees have long been associated with knowledge.'