week 5: The Grotesque – Patrick McGrath


THE UNRELIABLE NARRATOR – seminar with Jonathan Barnes, 27.10.11



‘I want to know if men realise when they are insane.’  (‘The Doll’)


Reading Patrick McGrath’s new-gothic short novel, The Grotesque, I am startled by the uncanny resonances with Daphne Du Maurier’s short story, ‘The Doll’, as if perhaps one could have been inspired by the other.

Precise images seem to be almost exactly replicated from one story in another.


‘The Doll’ is the first person account of a macabre story of a man who meets and subsequently becomes obsessed with a talented and tormented violin virtuoso. The brief intense relationship, her secret and her loss will eventually madden him.


‘The feeling of urgent, cruelly blocked desire became almost unbearable.’ (The Grotesque)



The whole premise of The Grotesque and its story as recounted by its grossly unreliable narrator, Sir Hugo, could not be more accurately summed up than by the preamble to ‘The Doll’ in its own foreword,


‘Whether the wild improbabilities of the story are true, or whether the whole is but the hysterical product of a diseased mind, we shall never know.’


‘Human enough, damnably lifelike, with a foul, distinctive personality, but a doll.’ (‘The Doll’)


‘a pitiful, motionless, misshapen man’ with ‘a cataleptic fixity of posture,’ ‘severe masking’ and ‘a blank lizardlike stare’ (The Grotesque)

‘He was a machine – something worked by screws – he was not alive, not human – but terrible, ghastly.’ (‘The Doll’)



I am tempted to say that McGrath must surely be giving a knowing nod to Du Maurier. And yet, ‘The Doll’, though written in 1937 was lost for over 70years and very recently was published for the first time.


‘and by the time I arose the next morning, it was a mere ghost of itself, a stiff breeze’  (The Grotesque)



Has anyone else read this and also thought they bear startling similarities?





Paul Bailey – Autumn tutorials

Paul Bailey

PAUL BAILEY is a British writer and critic, author of several novels as well as memoir and biographies. He is a winner of numerous awards and has been twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Paul Bailey won a scholarship to the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1953 and worked as an actor between 1956 and 1964. He became a freelance writer in 1967.

He was appointed Literary Fellow at Newcastle and Durham Universities (1972-4), and was awarded a Bicentennial Fellowship in 1976, enabling him to travel to the USA, where he was Visiting Lecturer in English Literature at the North Dakota State University (1977-9). He was awarded the E. M. Forster Award in 1974 and in1978 he won the George Orwell Prize for his essay “The Limitations of Despair”, first published in The Listener magazine.

Paul Bailey’s novels include At The Jerusalem (1967), which won a Somerset Maugham Award and an Arts Council Writers’ Award; Peter Smart’s Confessions (1977) and Gabriel’s Lament (1986), both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction; and Sugar Cane (1993), a sequel to Gabriel’s Lament. Kitty and Virgil (1998) is the story of the relationship between an Englishwoman and an exiled Romanian poet.

In Uncle Rudolf (2002), the narrator looks back on his colourful life and his rescue as a young boy from fascist Romania, by his uncle, a gifted lyric tenor.

His latest book is “Chapman’s Odyssey” (2011), in which the main character, Harry Chapman, in morphine-induced delirium, encounters an all-star cast of characters from public and private history.

Last evening, during Julian Barnes’ acceptance speech for the 2011 Man Booker Prize he offered some advice to publishers: “Those of you who have seen my book, whatever you think of its contents, will probably agree it is a beautiful object. And if the physical book, as we’ve come to call it, is to resist the challenge of the ebook, it has to look like something worth buying, worth keeping.”1      Chapman’s Odyssey is one such book. Beautiful.

Paul Bailey is Distinguished Visiting Writer-in-Residence at Kingston University.

  1. Mark Brown for Guardian, Wed 19th October, 2011. available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/oct/18/booker-prize-julian-barnes-wins

on Uncle Rudolf:

‘An exquisitely composed novel.’ – Stevie Davies, Guardian

‘One of Paul Bailey’s best.’ – Penelope Lively

on Chapman’s Odyssey:

If Fred Astaire had been a novelist he would have been Paul Bailey. One of the wittiest, most panacheful and most graceful writers we have’ – Ali Smith

Bailey has a rare feeling for language and an understanding of character few can rival’ – Daily Telegraph

You can read more from, and about, Paul Bailey at Guardian online:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/paul-bailey


Fiction –

At The Jerusalem (1967) – winner of the Authors’ Club First Novel Award

Trespasses (1970)

A Distant Likeness (1973)

Peter Smart’s Confessions (1977) – Short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction

Old Soldiers (1980)

Gabriel’s Lament (1986) – Short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction

Sugar Cane (1993)

First Love (ed., 1997)

Kitty and Virgil (1998)

Uncle Rudolf (2002)

A Dog’s Life (2003)

Chapman’s Odyssey (2011)

Non-fiction –

‘Limitations of Despair’: An Essay (1978)

An English Madam: The Life and Work of Cynthia Payne (1982)

An Immaculate Mistake: Scenes from Childhood and Beyond (1990)

The Oxford Book of London (ed., 1995)

The Stately Homo: A Celebration of the Life of Quentin Crisp (ed., 2000)

Three Queer Lives: An Alternative Biography of Naomi Jacob, Fred Barnes and Arthur Marshall (2001)


Thursday 13 October
3:30 – 4:00  Citlalli

Tuesday 8 November 1-3
1:30-2:00   Mike Loveday
2:00-2:30   Lauren Forry
2:30-3:00   Stuart Bird

Tuesday 15 November 1-3
1:30-2:00   Rich Mallender
2:00-2:30   Alexandra Little
2:30-3:00   Sarah Veeder

Tutorials will take place in the Piction room. Work (approx. 2,500 words) should be submitted by email one week in advance, or as agreed with Paul.

Andrea Stuart – workshops

Andrea Stuart

ANDREA STUART was brought up in the Caribbean and the US. She has lived in Paris and now lives in London. She is the author of two acclaimed biographies, Showgirls – about a number of fascinatingly charismatic women including Colette, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West and Josephine Baker – published by Jonathan Cape in 1996; and Josephine: The Rose of Martinique, a biography of the Empress Josephine, published by Macmillan in 2003.

She is co-editor of the Black Film Bulletin and Fiction Editor of Critical Quarterly.


Non-Fiction –

Showgirls (1996)

Josephine – The Rose of Martinique (2003)


Andrea will be running the MFA workshops at the usual allocated times on Tuesdays 11th and 18th October, 2011.

Reading Lists – Jonathan Barnes

A new perspective on recommended reading from fantasy / science fiction novelist, Jonathan Barnes

Jonathan Barnes’ very subjective reading list

Here are ten novels which I’d recommend to anyone. All the books are fairly short and approachable and provide a useful introduction to the author’s work. Each one is structured ideally. There is a bias, of course, towards my own genre… And I’ve included one shamelessly topical entry!

In order of publication:

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

H G Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw

Anthony Powell, A Question of Upbringing

John Fowles, The Collector

William Boyd, A Good Man in Africa

Martin Amis, Night Train

Michael Chabon, The Final Solution

David Mitchell, Black Swan Green

A D Miller, Snowdrops

visit Jonathan’s blogsite at http://jonathanbarnes.blogspot.com/

Liz Jensen – Autumn tutorials

Coming up – Your Autumn tutorials

Liz Jensen

LIZ JENSEN was born in Oxfordshire, and read English at Somerville College, Oxford. She worked first as a journalist in Hongkong and Taiwan, then a TV and radio producer for the BBC in the UK, then a sculptor and freelance journalist.

Her work has been short-listed for the Guardian Fiction award, nominated three times for the Orange Prize, developed for film, and translated into more than 20 languages. Liz Jensen is currently working on her eighth novel, a ghost story. She divides her time between London and Copenhagen.

She is Writer-in-Residence at Kingston University.

Jensen is becoming one of our best writers, sometimes surreal, sometimes down to earth, always with a great and embracing human sympathy’  – Fay Weldon

Our most brilliant woman novelist’ – Rod Liddle

‘Liz Jensen is a true original, beholden to nobody’ –
Deborah Moggach


Fiction –

Egg Dancing (1995)

Ark Baby (1998)

The Paper Eater (2000)

War Crimes for the Home (2002)

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax (2004)

My Dirty Book of Stolen Time (2006)

The Rapture ( 2009)


Irvine Welsh reviews The Rapture for the Guardian:



Tuesday 25 October
1 – 1:30 – Mike Loveday
1:30 – 2 – Lauren Forry
2 – 2:30 – Steve Timberman
2:30 – 3 – Serina Gothard

Tuesday 22 November
1-1:30 Sarah Veeder
1:30 – 2 – Ying Trangkasombut
2 – 2:30 – Richard Mallender
2:30 – 3 – Gideon Roberton

Thursday 24 November
12 – 12:30 – Alexandra K Little
12:30 – 1 – Stuart Bird

All tutorials will take place in the Picton Room. Work must be emailed a week in advance or as agreed with Liz.

Brian Evenson and J.Robert Lennon

You’ve got to be licking your lips at this prospect – two new guest writers /teachers confirmed at KU.

Brian Evenson and J. Robert Lennon, directors of two of the most prestigious writing programs in the United States –

coming soon at a spring workshop near you.

Brian Evenson

BRIAN EVENSON is the author of ten books of fiction, most recently the limited edition novella Baby Leg, published by New York Tyrant Press in 2009. In 2009 he also published the novel Last Days (which won the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel of 2009) and the story collection Fugue State, both of which were on Time Out New York‘s top books of 2009. His novel The Open Curtain (Coffee House Press) was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an IHG Award. His work has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Slovenian. He lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island, where he directs Brown University’s Literary Arts Program. Other books include The Wavering Knife (which won the IHG Award for best story collection), Dark Property, and Altmann’s Tongue. He has translated work by Christian Gailly, Jean Frémon, Claro, Jacques Jouet, Eric Chevillard, Antoine Volodine, and others. He is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes as well as an NEA fellowship. ( from http://www.brianevenson.com)

He is director of the MFA program at Brown University.


Fiction –

Altmann’s Tongue (1994)

Din of Celestial Birds (1997)

Prophets and Brothers (1997)

Father of Lies (1998)

Contagion and Other Stories (2000)

Dark Property: An Affliction (2002)

The Brotherhood of Mutilation (2003)

The Wavering Knife

The Open Curtain (2006)

Aliens: No Exit (2008) – as B.K. Evenson

Last Days (2009)

Fugue State (2009)

“Pariah” in Halo: Evolutions – Essential Tales of the Halo Universe  – B.K. Evenson (2009)

Baby Leg: A Novella (2009)

Dead Space: Martyr – as B.K. Evenson (2010)


Understanding Robert Coover (2003)


J. Robert Lennon

author of, most recently, Castle, a novel

and Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes –  which contains 100 very short stories

He is director of the MFA program at Cornell University.


Novels –

The Light of Falling Stars (1997)

The Funnies (1999)

On the Night Plain (2001)

Mailman (2003)

Happyland (2006; serial publication)

Castle (2009)

Short Story collections –
Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes (2005)


here is the New York Times review of Castle and Pieces for the Left Hand, by Scott Bradfield:


As if you weren’t excited enough.

week 2 – critical reading: Death in Venice, Family Happiness

Critical Reading  week 2 : Rachel Cusk


Does anyone have any thoughts they might like to share while reading these books?



Death in Venice, Thomas Mann



A sneak preview of Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film version –




Family Happiness, Leo Tolstoy



Fifth Annual Troubadour Poetry Prize

Announcing the £2,500 Fifth Annual Troubadour International Poetry Prize

Judged by Susan Wicks & David Harsent (with both judges reading all poems)

Sponsored by Cegin Productions

Prizes: 1st £2,500, 2nd £500, 3rd £250 & 20 prizes of £20 each
Plus a Spring 2012 Coffee-House-Poetry season-ticket
and a prizewinners’ Coffee-House Poetry reading
with Susan Wicks & David Harsent on Mon 28th Nov 2011
for all prize-winning poets

Submissions: by Mon 17th Oct 2011


– Susan Wicks has lived and worked in France, Ireland and America and has taught at University College Dublin and University of Kent; she is the author of five collections of poetry including ‘Singing Underwater’ (1992), which won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize, and ‘The Clever Daughter’ (1996), which was shortlisted for both T.S. Eliot and Forward Prizes, and she was a Poetry Society ‘New Gen’ poet in 1994. A short memoir, ‘Driving My Father’, was published in 1995, she is the author of two novels, ‘The Key’ (1997) and ‘Little Thing’ (1998), and ‘Roll Up for the Arabian Derby’, her collection of short stories, was published in 2008. Her latest collection of poetry is ‘House of Tongues’ (Bloodaxe, 2011).

– David Harsent, a Visiting Professor at Sheffield Hallam University and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, has published ten collections of poetry and several limited editions, and has received a number of awards, including the Eric Gregory Award, the Geoffrey Faber Award and the Cheltenham Festival Prize. His most recent collection, ‘Night’ (Faber, 2011) was a PBS choice and shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. His previous book, ‘Legion’, won the Forward Prize for best collection 2005 and was shortlisted for both the Whitbread Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize. His ‘Selected Poems’ was published in June 2007, and was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize.

– Both judges will read all poems submitted.


– General: Entry implies acceptance of all rules; failure to comply results in disqualification; submissions accepted by post or e-mail from poets of any nationality, from any country, aged over 18 years, and writing in English; no poet may win more than one prize; judges’ decision is final; no correspondence will be entered into.

– Poems: Poems must be in English, must each be no longer than 45 lines, must be the original work of the entrant (no translations) and must not have been previously broadcast or published (in print or online); winning & commended poems may be published (in print or online) by Troubadour International Poetry Prize, and may not be published elsewhere for one year after Monday 17th October 2011 without permission; no limit on number of poems submitted; no alterations accepted after submission.

Fees: All entries must be accompanied by fees of £5/€6EURO/$8USD per poem (Sterling/Euro/US-Dollars only)

By cheque or money order: payable to ‘Coffee-House Poetry’; write poet’s name plus, if poems already submitted via e-mail, Entry Acknowledgement Reference, on back of cheque.

By PayPal: go to www.coffeehousepoetry.org/prizes and follow PayPal instructions at bottom of page.
– By Post: No entry form required; two copies required of each poem submitted; each poem must be typed on one side of A4 white paper showing title & poem only; do not show poet’s name or any other identifying marks on submitted poems; include a separate page showing Poet’s Name, Address, Phone No., E-Mail (if available), List of Poem Titles, Total Number of Poems, Total Fees, and whether cheque included or fees already paid via PayPal; no staples; no Special Delivery, Recorded Delivery or Registered Post; we recommend folding A4 poems in half in C5 envelope as this does not incur ‘large letter’ charge if less than 5mm thick (UK); entries are not returned.

– By E-mail: No entry form required; poems must be submitted in body of e-mail (no attachments) to CoffPoetry@aol.com; entries should be preceded by Poet’s Name, Address, Phone No., List of Poem Titles, Total Number of Poems, Total Fees, and whether payment-to-follow or fees already paid via PayPal; acknowledgement will be sent to entrant’s e-mail address showing Entry Acknowledgment Reference; if payment-to-follow, send by cheque or PayPal within 14 days; entries included only when payment received; no Special Delivery, Recorded Delivery or Registered Post.

– Acknowledgement/Results: Postal entrants may include stamped, addressed postcard marked ‘Acknowledgement’ and/or stamped, addressed envelope marked ‘Results’ if required; results will be sent to all e-mail entrants after winners announcement; no correspondence will be entered into.

– Deadline: All postal entries, and postal payments for e-mail entries, to arrive at Troubadour International Poetry Prize, Coffee-House Poetry, PO Box 16210, LONDON, W4 1ZP postmarked on or before Monday 17th October 2011.

– Prizewinners: All prizewinners will be contacted individually by Monday 21st November 2011. Prizegiving will be on Monday 28th November 2011 at Coffee-House Poetry at the Troubadour in Earls Court, London.
Anne-Marie Fyfe (Organiser)
coffee-house poetry at the troubadour

life, literature and the pursuit of happiness…
in the famous Troubadour cellar-club:
London’s liveliest & best-loved poetry venue…

readings, mondays from 8 to 10 pm, tickets £7 concessions £6, season tickets 30% off…
classes, sundays 12-3.30 pm, £28 (concs. £24), advance booking only
cheques payable to Coffee-House Poetry, no credit cards

at 263-267 Old Brompton Road LONDON SW5
(no mail to this address, see correspondence address below)
nr. junct. Earls Court Rd & Old Brompton Rd
nearest Tube station: Earls Court (District & Piccadilly Lines)
for info, booking, season ticket & mailing list enquiries,
e:coffpoetry@aol.com w:www.coffeehousepoetry.org or write to
Anne-Marie Fyfe, Coffee-House Poetry, PO Box 16210, LONDON, W4 1ZP

Scott Bradfield’s totally subjective (within reason) reading list for the MFA

MFA Reading List

– Bradfield, Fall 2011 –

The following titles are recommended to anyone who wants to see how good writers with long careers behind (and ahead of) them address issues of style, plot, character and substance.


Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana

Brian Moore, Lies of Silence

Alison Lurie, Foreign Affairs

Georges Simenon, The Man Who Watched the Trains Go By

Michael Moorcock, The Knight of Swords

Elmore Leonard, La Brava

Xiaoda Xiao, The Cave Man

Richard Yates, The Easter Parade

Brian Evenson, Last Days

Steve Erickson, Zeroville

Rachel Cusk, In the Fold

Jonathan Franzen, Freedom

Ian McEwan, Solar

Short Stories:

Helen Simpson, Four Bare Legs and a Bed

Raymond Carver: Where I’m Calling From, New and Selected Stories

George Saunders, Pastoralia

J. Robert Lennon, Pieces for the Left Hand: 100 Anecdotes

Joyce Carol Oates, The Collector of Hearts

Travel Literature/Life-Writing:

Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent

Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life

Children’s Fiction:

Phillip Pullman, Northern Lights

Louis Sachar, Holes


James Merrill, Water Street

John Berryman, The Dream Songs

Disch, About the Size of It

and, oh, anything by Amy Clampitt

The online thoughtdump of the Kingston University MFA Creative Writing students





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