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Stuff I’ve Been Reading: February 2004


  • Old School—Tobias Wolff
  • Train—Pete Dexter
  • Backroom Boys—Francis Spufford
  • You Are Not a Stranger Here—Adam Haslett
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves—Lynn Truss


  • Enemies of Promise—Cyril Connolly
  • What Just Happened?—Art Linson
  • Clockers—Richard Price
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves—Lynn Truss
  • Meat Is Murder—Joe Pernice
  • Dusty in Memphis—Warren Zanes
  • Old School—Tobias Wolff
  • Introducing Time—Craig Callender and Ralph Edney
  • PLUS: a couple of stories in You Are Not a Stranger Here; a couple of stories in Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme; a couple of stories in Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry? by Elizabeth McCracken.

My first book was published just over eleven years ago and remains in print, and though I observed the anniversary with only a modest celebration (a black-tie dinner for forty of my closest friends, many of whom were kind enough to read out the speeches I had prepared for them), I can now see that I should have made more of a fuss: in Enemies of Promise, which was written in 1938, the critic Cyril Connolly attempts to isolate the qualities that make a book last for ten years.

Over the decades since its publication, Enemies of Promise has been reduced pretty much to one line: “There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall,” which is possibly why I was never previously very interested in reading it. What are you supposed to do if the pram in the hall is already there? You could move it out into the garden, I suppose, if you have a garden, or get rid of it and carry the little bastards everywhere, but maybe I’m being too literal-minded.

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