Articles by J.P. Smith

March 10, 2017

Another Shade of Darkness: The Life and Work of Beryl Bainbridge 2

Bainbridge had no airs about her; she enjoyed nothing more than having a drink or three at her local pub with a friend, or bumming smokes from a young interviewer while explaining how she was trying to quit by puffing on her foul cabbage-leaf cigarettes. For her, being a writer was simply about the end product, not the person behind it.

November 18, 2016

Past Imperfect: On Patrick Modiano’s ‘Little Jewel’ and ‘The Black Notebook’ 0

Life is a routine, one day after another, while the big events take place as though in another galaxy, and yet briefly, intimately, they sometimes touch us, gently nudging us like one billiard ball tapping another before rolling away and vanishing into a distant pocket.

September 16, 2016

Literary Touchstones: On the Life and Death of Marcel Proust 1

As Proust wrote upon hearing of the writer John Ruskin’s death: “I am shown how paltry a thing death is when I see how vigorously this dead man lives.”

September 21, 2015

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mutt: On Patrick Modiano 1

Privately, without any basis in reality, without having read a single word by him, I turned my wrath upon Patrick Modiano

October 7, 2010

The Edge of Life: Dying by René Belletto 1

To Belletto this all comes naturally. The ease with which he shifts between genres—whether they be straightforward thriller, detective story, spy tale, or the blisters and flames of a thwarted romance—is breathtaking and highly entertaining.

July 22, 2010

Reading in Tongues 4

Where that translator emphasized, or rather extracted and highlighted, the poetic and romantic side of Proust, reading him in French showed just how muscular, how sinewy, Proust’s prose truly is.

June 9, 2010

The Trick of It 4

Childhood and adolescence are the great gateway experiences to adulthood, middle-age, the so-called golden years, and then decrepitude. All that, waiting to be unpacked. By that time it’s too big for a backpack. We’re talking about a whole civilization you’ve buried in your backyard.

May 21, 2010

Death in Venice? Don’t Look Now 5

A movie possesses a literalness that a truly good piece of fiction doesn’t, or shouldn’t. Because we can’t, in the first instance, flip back to an earlier scene, and because it’s presumed that we’re seeing this movie for the first time at the cinema, we experience it as one continuous unspooling of narration.