“Enough of that. And of this.”

The love of literature, of language, of the mystery of the mind and the heart showing themselves in the minute, strange and unexpected combinations of letters and words, in the blackest and coldest print – the love which had to be hidden as if it were illicit and dangerous, he began to display, at first tentatively, and then boldly, and then proudly.

– John Williams, Stoner

Asylum is taking a break.  My sincere thanks to everyone who has read and commented over the last three years.

Seeking asylum


  1. Reads like a semi-permanent break to me John. You’re kidding right? It would be a real shame to lose you from the blogsphere for any length of time.

    Regardless, whatever your motivations, best of luck and don’t make the break too lengthy.


    My warmest wishes to the man who, more than any other, has helped and encouraged my own attempts at lit-blogging. You will be sorely missed whatever the length of this hiatus. Best of luck…


  3. I shall miss Asylum – it’s been one of my must-reads since I discovered blogs and I have got many reading recommendations from your excellent reviews.

    Have a good break – but do come back!
    Good luck

  4. Very sad news indeed. Your blog has been my ‘go-to’ literature fix since I first came across it 18 months or so ago and I’ve bought at least half a dozen books on your recommendation. I’ve always been amazed at the quality and quantity of your output, so I can completely understand why you might need a break. All the best!

  5. Sorry to hear that. I’ve read all your reviews with interest for 2½ years so they’ll be greatly missed. Still, I imagine your family responsibilities are getting pretty demanding. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do and all that….

  6. Have to agree with Rob, this feels like more than a brief hiatus. Certainly hope not. I hope you get a pile of books read for the (already) much-needed return…enjoy the time off though!

  7. And I only recently discovered your blog! Shame – I will miss it. Perhaps a new Salter will tempt you out of retirement?

  8. I’ll echo the feeling here, too. Still have the tweets, of course, but it’s not the same, dammit.

    Hope you come back soon, mate.

  9. Thanks everyone.

    Just to clarify, I do expect it to be a temporary break. In fact announcing it so vaingloriously like this is really a way of committing myself to having a rest: if I’ve said it, I have to stick to it!

    I’m exhausted. What Cyril Connolly said about the pram in the hall has had me nodding my head grimly of late, though I’m only trying to write about ‘good art’, not make it. And two months of one or other member of one’s household (inc me) being sick really cuts out reading, writing and concentrating time. Plus – I almost forgot – being a dad is more important than telling people what I thought of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and other stories.*

    I’m currently inching – millimetring – my way through Blake Bailey’s new biography of John Cheever, and simultaneously Cheever’s Collected Stories. At almost 800 and 900 pages respectively, I reckon those two will keep me busy for a month or two at least. After that, who knows? And it’s nice to think of being able to read books without wondering what I’m going to say about them.

    So I do hope to return, at least on an occasional basis.

    * It’s very good…

  10. Well, the Blake Bailey biography looks fantastic (these writers, eh? What a rum lot. Cheever one of the rummest I can think of, which makes the biography that more alluring…) and I hope you enjoy kicking back with tales of madness, cheeky little trips off into the forest and 10am bottles of whiskey…

  11. Enjoy the break, Mr Self. No wonder you’re exhausted – look back on the archives and see how much work you’ve put in. Looking forward to your return.

  12. But no!

    Of course, I understand your priorities re: Shirley Jackson (should I read it then?), and you’re quite right. But I’ll sorely miss checking into the asylum.

    Hope you enjoy the break – and that the break is indeed temporary.

    Very best wishes,


  13. I’m going to cry. But I’m keeping Asylum bookmarked. Who knows what shape your writing will take in the future…a good rest can clarify and strengthen in ways you can’t foresee. All good wishes, have Fun!

  14. Dammit. You’ll be missed, Mr Self. Enjoy your well-deserved break and I hope that your absence is only a temporary one.

  15. Your break is well-earned and I echo those who wish you well. You will be held to your promise to return, but even readers need to re-charge batteries.

    I’ll repeat something I think I said (certainly thought) when planned engineering works were announced a while back. This site has three years worth of material (reviews and comments) archived on it. Those of us who visit this site reread books (and even criticism) all the time and learn from those revisits. Just because there are no new posts while JS takes a break doesn’t mean that his wisdom has to be packed away in a vault.

    Perhaps he will even be able to occasionally find the time to visit and comment on his blog.

  16. …”being a dad is more important than” pretty much anything, I think; good luck on your break, I hope it helps. We’ll look forward to seeing you when you return.

  17. Enjoy the break John. Enjoy your family time too. And of course enjoy the reading of the books. You’ve surely given us all plenty of top recommendations to keep us occupied in the meantime.

  18. Just a couple of months after finding your wonderful blog and you are going!

    However,there are enough of your wonderful recommendations to keep me going until you return.

    Now go and enjoy being a Dad. There is nothing like it!

  19. Thanks for the reviews, John! They’re a real highlight of my day.

    It’s fitting that today I bought a copy of John Williams’ Stoner.

  20. Ha! It’s a “I’ve got a big book to read break” and well deserved break it is too – I bet that there are more than a couple of books that you’ve already read that’s going to keep everyone busy in your .

    Don’t make it too long though 😀

  21. John, I will miss you here and look forward to your return but I applaud your reasons, that gorgeous baby will be twenty before you know it and it’s time far too precious to miss x

  22. DGR is right, my “baby” is nearly 16. You won’t regret one moment spent with that little guy.

    KfC has a very good point too – I will still be commenting because I will probably look up your blog entry after I’ve read a particular book. If you’re checking, wave hello!

  23. You will be missed–I genuinely believe this is the best book review blog on the net. And I guess we’ll never know what you thought of ‘The Land of Green Plums’!

  24. Good call, John; always a pleasure reading your reviews; you have such a wide interest. I will surely be checking the site at intervals over coming weeks/months/however long it takes till you return. Till then, take it easy, and well done.

  25. Thanks for your reviews. I hope you’ll resume blogging at some point, but, regardless, this blog is a great resource for readers of good and challenging fiction.

  26. A final thought for now, John. And to partially (almost entirely) steal a Half Man, Half Biscuit’ song title, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is Twelve From The Shelves’…

  27. My luck sucks! I have just discovred your wonderful blog when I was googling for something about Nabokov. Anyways, enjoy the break and come back soon. In the mean time, I will busy myself with Asylum’s archives. But do come back soon.

  28. Well, I’m glad to hear it’s only temporary, you’ll still be missed though.

    But Kevin’s quite right, in the meantime there are many excellent books in the archives, the Zweig’s alone could take one some time to read through…

    Have a great break.

  29. Sorry to hear you’re taking a break as I’ll miss the site a lot. I’m now beginning to get an idea of how much work you must have put into it! Enjoy being a dad – though, of course, it’s even harder work! Thanks for all the interesting reviews, which I’ll still return to as I read the books.

  30. I’ve marvelled that you’ve found time to blog so comprehensively and so courteously.It’s been great reading your incisive and beautifully written reviews and disagreeing from time to time….Have fun with your family but I’m sure you’ll find time to read as well. It’s a lifetime addiction! With best wishes from Brittany

  31. John,

    You will be missed. I can only echo all the sentiments above. You are an outstanding asset to the community of internet booklovers, so we will miss you. I hope you enjoy the time off without the pressure of deadlines. Enjoy your little one! Cheers and I look forward to your return.


  32. After 50 comments there’s nothing much left to say.

    Best lit blog out there in my opinion. I’ll miss the Asylum

  33. Although I’m going to miss your blog, I know exactly how you feel and you have my full support. Take it easy. And here come the good news: it all gets much easier after the first year. The number of books I read during Una’s first year: one. The number of books I read during Una’s second year: at least twenty so far, but I think it must have been more (I’m not really counting).
    Enjoy the break with your family!

  34. Love this blog. Inspirational. Let it remain as long as possible. I rely upon the wisdom of each post to guide my reading life. Hugo Wilcken’s THE COLONY. You introduced me to this book, one of the most satisfying reads of my year. I thank you for that and hope to pick through the archives here for a long time.

  35. Have been reading your blog for the last two years and have enjoyed your insightful comments. Maybe your break will give me a chance to read the backlog of books i have that you have reviewed. I will keep visiting the site for inspiration in your archives. Thank you for your exhaustive efforts to post so regularly. I look forward to your return sometime in the future.

  36. May as well add my voice to the Greek chorus lamenting your absence. Yours was the first blog I stumbled upon and I haven’t found a better one yet. I think I have some idea how time-consuming it must be doing what you do to maintain this site. Best wishes to you while you recharge your batteries.

  37. I’ve been away on a computer-free long weekend and come back to find this! Your blog is the must-visit book blog and the only one I visit religiously, even if I might not leave a comment every time I drop by. I hope you enjoy the break, however long it might be, and that when you return you feel refreshed and reinvigorated to continue to highlight the very best literary fiction that would otherwise slip under my radar.

  38. Pingback: Leaving the Asylum
  39. Thank you for the referrals to books I wouldn’t have known about. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. I hope that on your hiatus you’ll get to read some books that are lighter than your baby and that are just fun. Best wishes to you.

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