Man reading on tablet
Man reading on tablet
“Man sitting in front of a fire reading from a tablet”​ by Supriya Bhonsle, via

In the middle of 2017, I started an email newsletter. It was called “Recommended short fiction on Medium” and the aim was to send out a weekly email which listed three short stories, published here on Medium, that I thought were worth reading. You can still see the residual traces of this newsletter in some of my old posts.

Even at the time, I wasn’t totally sold on the idea. Email seemed like old technology that had been overtaken by sleeker alternatives. People were already getting too much of it: even if they voluntarily signed up for more, they weren’t actually going to sit down and read it. An email newsletter was a dead end. …

Work desk with a computer, books, coffee and snacks, by Kika Fuenzalida
Work desk with a computer, books, coffee and snacks, by Kika Fuenzalida
Work desk with a computer, books, coffee and snacks by Kika Fuenzalida via Mixkit

During the week, I found myself mulling over two or three posts that I might write at the weekend and post on my site. One was a reaction to the announcement that has brought forward its United Kingdom opening and is now operating in partnership with independent UK bookshops and a book distributor. This would be a follow-up of sorts to my post from last weekend, “Who needs independent booksellers?”

The second was prompted by a blog post by Drew DeVault about Gemini, a hypertext protocol that is much simpler and more straightforward than HTML. Drew believes that the web is no longer redeemable and that we need to start again with something more basic that has fewer features. This seemed to jibe to some extent with two posts of mine from the last few months, “Writing ‘plain’ text” and “Even plainer text” and I thought it might be worth while to develop the connection between Drew’s proposal and my own scattered thoughts. …

Cutting the final tie to Facebook

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Microsoft Teams (image links to Teams site)

For ages now, WhatsApp has been my last remaining toe in the Facebook camp. All 3 of my sisters and a handful of friends that I particularly want to stay in contact with use it. But I’d really like to make a decisive break with all things Facebook. I deleted my Facebook account itself (then barely 18 months old) over three years ago. At the time, I believed I could continue to use Messenger to keep in touch with some of my former Facebook friends, but it turned out that the Facebook help page that had held out this possibility was out of date (though still turning up in Google search results), and Messenger wasn’t available to me unless I was willing to resurrect my whole FB account. …

Sally Rooney, short story writer

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Update 15 May 2020: In addition to the three stories discussed below, another short story by Sally Rooney is now available online, free to read. It’s “At the Clinic”, which was published in The White Review in 2016. It features the two main characters from Rooney’s second novel, Normal People.

Sally Rooney’s two novels to date, Conversations with Friends and Normal People, have been a phenomenal publishing success, so it’s worth reminding oneself that she first attracted attention as a short story writer. Shortly before the publication of Conversations with Friends, I saw that her story “Mr Salary” had been shortlisted for the prestigious Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, so I read it. As I didn’t buy a copy of Conversations until it came out in mass market paperback, there was a period of slightly more than a year during which I knew Rooney’s writing only through “Mr Salary” and perhaps another short story. “Mr Salary” left me in no doubt that she was a significant new Irish fiction writer. …

Why Litsy might not be a good fit for me

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Logo from

Two years ago, I posted a piece titled Goodreads and the self-published author. I had joined Goodreads towards the end of 2015 because I’d just self-published an ebook and I’d read online that Goodreads was the place to go to promote it. (Though I’ve always been a reader, I hadn’t heard of Goodreads till then, and I don’t think I’d have been interested but for the fact that I had an ebook to promote.) Shortly after that Medium post, I asked Goodreads to delete my author profile, having in the meantime signed up for Litsy to see how well it would work as an alternative. …

Unless you want to (and I’ll bet you don’t)

A very wise blog post by Fiona Voss is getting some attention over on (a site that I’ve been using as an alternative to Twitter for the past 15 months). It’s “A blog is not a commitment”, and here’s a taste:

I’ve seen people who said the reason they haven’t started a blog is because they know they’d abandon it and feel guilty. I’ve heard people dismiss the very idea of blogging, saying that it serves no purpose except to make bloggers feel guilty for not posting often enough. …

Going deeper than a book review

Woman sitting at computer desk, typing on keyboard
Woman sitting at computer desk, typing on keyboard
Woman … typing on keyboard by Kika Fuenzalida, via MixKit

Since I wrote recently about the drawn-out death of the book review, I’ve found that I have rapidly shrinking patience with review-type writing about books and literature. I’d rather be reading the books themselves than reading about them. All the same, I still think there’s an important place for writing about books, just so long as it’s a bit deeper and more involved than the typical standard book review.

I don’t want to make extravagant claims for my own writing in that respect but for what it’s worth, I have been posting, at first here on Medium and more recently on my own site, my attempts at the kind of critical discussion I have in mind. The front page of my site includes a section labelled “Criticism and book discussion” which links to all the relevant posts. To make them more discoverable by Medium readers, I’m reproducing that list here. …

I wrote these two short verse paragraphs at the beginning of August 2019. It felt as if they were waiting for a third to round them off so I put them aside and, I’m afraid, forgot about them. No third paragraph has turned up, so I suppose this can best be described as a work-not-currently-in-progress.

Ahistorical Survey

Marvell’s Cromwell, 1654

Escape the mindscape, see it for
what it is: topography cut loose from place,
like velocity without position. What we want
has always been a contradiction:
to stand outside, beside, and watch ourselves
immersed in doings, goings-on — events,
dear God, events. …

Three essays

When I defended my doctoral thesis, “Andrew Marvell’s ambivalence about justice” in 2012, I had a pretty good idea what I was going to do next. Despite the fact that I was then in my mid-50s I still had some hopes of getting an academic job. There were three particular topics that had impressed themselves on me while I was writing the thesis but which seemed at best incidental to its argument. My plan was to write up the three topics, submit them to academic journals and use them to bolster my job applications.

The first one, “Andrew Marvell’s Gender”, was published in the Oxford journal Essays in Criticism in April 2016. In the meantime, I’d submitted the less substantial of the other two to another academic journal. By the time I’d made the changes recommended in the readers’ reports, I’d concluded that, at my age, it no longer made sense for me to be looking for an academic job. That being so, there was no good reason to try to get the essays published in scholarly journals where, in most cases, they would be behind paywalls. I’d prefer to make them widely accessible to a general readership. …

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Last week, I posted a short piece on my own site in which I argued that the book review is slowly dying and that this is not something to be regretted. Then, a few days later — just in case anybody might accuse me of behaving consistently — I found myself updating my book reviews page, adding reviews that I’d originally posted on Goodreads but which had disappeared into the ether when I deleted my Goodreads account. I don’t think my behaviour is as self-contradictory as it might seem. …


Art Kavanagh

Writer of (mainly short) fiction, criticism/discussion and other stuff; aphantasic; antimasculine male, no pronoun preference

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