Morag Fraser

Books of the Year is always one our most popular features. Find out what our 41 contributors liked most this year – and why.

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One swallow doesn’t make a summer, as the stark proverb cautions, but a cockatoo flocking of short stories suggests that the form is perhaps enjoying a revival – and the publishing industry has seized an opportunity. As it should.

In 2013, Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature, lauded as ‘the master of the contemporary short story’. Edna O’Brien’s The Love Object appeared in 2013. New collections by luminaries Hilary Mantel (The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher) and Margaret Atwood have followed in 2014. And for aficionados of the form, there was the splendid brick (733 pages) of collected stories by the quirky American virtuoso of the form, Lydia Davis (do read her – she’s extraordinary), anticipating a trend when it was published by Picador in 2009.

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Country Girl by Edna O’Brien & The Love Object by Edna O’Brien

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April 2014, no. 360

In the 1960s she was deemed an Irish Jezebel. After the publication of her début novel, The Country Girls (1960), the local postmistress told her father that a fitting punishment would be for her to be kicked naked through the town.

Now, a half century later, her litterateur countryman John Banville has introduced Edna O’Brien’s Collected Stor ...

Indiana’s State Route 67 is a highway straight out of Alfred Hitchcock, an open-skied strip through flat country, bordered by desultory malls, a ‘drive-thru’ Taco Bill, a county jail and sheriff’s department, a pedimented Walgreens and – most intriguing – the Mooresville ‘Lost Inn Motel’, and the ‘Lost Name Steak-house and Saloon’. (Google r ...

Morag Fraser tackles ever-prolific Joyce Carol Oates’s massive new novel, ‘The Accursed’, and likens it to a gigantic doll’s house: ‘The house has too many tour guides, encyclopedic, opinionated, and unreliable.’

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The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee & The Round House by Louise Erdrich

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March 2013, no. 349

‘What is chaos?’ asks the unnerving child at the centre of J.M. Coetzee’s new parable-novel, The Childhood of Jesus. ‘I told you the other day,’ replies the child’s guardian. ‘Chaos is when there is no order, no laws to hold on to. Chaos is just things whirling around.’

Louise Erdrich’s The Round House begins with ...

November in America signals a time to gather in, take stock and breathe a little. The elections are done by the end of the first week. Thanksgiving beckons, the high holidays begin, media fever subsides – a little – and morphs into retrospective political analysis and projected anxiety about the future, especially, since 2008, the economic future.

It is ...

The Academy Award season is so given to hyperbole that it was a relief to read one critic not starry-eyed about Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Rex Reed, in the New York Observer, criticised the film for having ‘too much material, too little revelation and almost nothing of Spielberg’s reliable cinematic flair’. I don’t agree for a moment, but Re ...

So many art books! And too many of them remainder-table compendiums of famous images thinly draped with text. It is refreshing, then, to rediscover an artist who has fallen into the slough that often follows a lifetime flush of reputation, and an art historian tenacious enough to resurrect that artist’s work and milieu.

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The Princeton Post Office, as befits this famed university town, has a certain grandeur. It is small – Princeton is a village after all – and modest in its proportions, but grand in aspiration. As you step through its panelled doors your gaze is drawn by the long parade of milk-glass and bronze lights towards the mural that adorns the far wall. Like the White House murals, it is lofty, but almost domestic in its depictions of American history, American hope, American mythology.

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