Are you intelligent — or rational? The question may sound redundant, but in recent years researchers have demonstrated just how distinct those two cognitive attributes actually are.
Marisa Silver’s fantastically inventive new novel counters expectations at every turn. The “Little Nothing” of the title is a girl named Pavla, born in an unnamed Slavic country on the cusp of modernization. Superstition, at first, seems to be the enemy: When Pavla is born a dwarf, she is considered a curse. Yet the unexpected occurs, in an unexpected turn of phrase: “Like a rat or icy wind, love creeps in.”
Adam Biles steers a path somewhere between these chalk-and-cheese predecessors in his dazzling and darkly funny first novel, which opens without any hint of the weirdness that awaits. It tells the story of Dot, a retired teacher selling up to join her husband, Leonard, at Green Oaks, a residential home recently purchased by a cost-cutting contractor with its fingers in school catering and – grimly – waste disposal.
The reality about making money as a writer is you hustle the fuck out of freelance pieces like this one. Or you teach. Or you drive a bus. Or someone supports you. Or you're independently wealthy. The reality is that somehow you have money, and somehow you write.
Much like armies, train travelers in India march on their stomachs. And this was certainly true when I was a child, growing up in the 1980s, in the southern city of Chennai. My most vivid memories of summer vacations are of overnight train journeys to Hyderabad, to visit my maternal grandparents. The trips were defined by food.
As soon as the train left Chennai station, my mother would open a container of munchies for the evening – perhaps a homemade snack like murukku (a crunchy fried snack made from lentil and rice flour) or thattai (savory crisps made of lentil flour) or boiled peanuts tossed with onions, cilantro and mild spices. She would wash this down with a cup of tea bought from the passing chai wallahs (tea vendors), who hopped on and off at the small stations on the way.
As a British journalist living in the US, I’m well aware of the benefits of each country’s approach to journalism. British reporting is scrappier and has less respect for authority, while US journalism tends to be more high-minded, with insightful and nuanced analysis. Though I’m from the UK, I the prefer the US approach (partly because British scrappiness has a tendency to get dirty), with one very clear exception: Restaurant reviews.