About Asylum

Asylum is a record of the books I read, and the occasional author interview.


  1. I would love it if an experienced reader such as yourself would check out my work! I would love honest feedback from someone who really knows how to analyze and provide commentary on writing. Feel free to check out my blog at fromtheinbetween.wordpress.com! And thanks for sharing your opinions with us!

  2. Dear John, I’m following your site full of interesting reviews of books I never seem to hear of, but your posts never seem to show up on my reader in WordPress even though I’m following you. Is there another button I need to press for your posts to pop up automatically when you when you post something new? Thanks!

  3. Hello! I am a publicist at Southern Illinois University Press and we are interested in sending you a book to review. If you are interested, please send me your email and I will send you an electronic copy, or we can send you a standard copy if you would prefer.

  4. Ten or 15 years ago I read a Brian Moore book about an IRA bomber (not Lies of Silence.) I don’t remember the title. Can you help?
    Thank you, Charles Coates, NYC

  5. Hello John,
    I’m a publisher, of sorts, and have an author, at least that’s what he claims, and I was wondering if you’d like to take a shufti at his novel and considering a review. It’s published in the New Year, but I have physical copies available. Do let me know if you’re interested.

    Here’s some blurb.

    ‘Reckless, sardonic, and frequently hilarious Nico Lee’s ‘A Good Lie Ain’t Easy’, is a heart-warming tale about not staying true to yourself and all the joy that can bring to family and friends. Set on the road, somewhere between the cheap ache of nostalgia and the numb regret of last night, it charts the trajectory of four young drifters, as they attempt to remain as emotionally stunted as the great nation they’re erratically traversing, an English girl and three American brothers, set to wander, in a time so primitive that Grindr was just a really bitchin’ Death Metal band and irony was still something you could enjoy without having to be ironic about it.’

    John Blaney

  6. Hello there,

    I’m a writer – I write romance novels and romantic comedies (in e-book format). Would you like me to send you one to see whether you want to review it?

    They are light, funny books with a warm heart and some deeper subjects bubbling away beneath the fun…!

    Thanks for your time,

    Bernie x

  7. Hi John,

    I’m a marketing assistant for Gallic Books, indie publisher of an eclectic mix of prize-winning fiction from around the world. I’m in the process of updating our bloggers database, and though I know we’ve sent you some titles before, we don’t appear to have an email address for you in the system. I’d love to get one on there for you, just so it’s easier for us get in touch in future about any exciting upcoming releases we’d be keen to send your way.

    Drop me a message if you can!

    Many thanks,

  8. Been trying to read Joseph Heller’s “Something Happened” since it first came out. Never got more than a page or two. Recently, I started again and am now up to page 367. Think I’ll make it this time. Hypnotic. In tone, pace, and obsessive self-absorption, its nearest relative is Samuel Beckett’s “Molloy.” Everyone used to be on the lookout for “the Great American Novel.” This may be it, though no one in their right mind would cop to it.

    Anyway, I went looking for reviews on line and found your Guardian piece, “Famous for the Wrong Book.” I agree with much of what you say, except for the notion that one book is, objectively, “better” than another. My own position is best expressed by a bit of dialog from Nicholas Meyer’s 1993 film, “Company Business,” with Gene Hackman and Mikhail Baryshnikov, which takes place in the last days of the Cold War. Spies, respectively, for the US and USSR, Hackman and Baryshnikov sit in a cafe in what is still West Berlin, discussing vodka. Hackman praises Stoli. “Have you tried Starka?” asks Baryshnikov. “No, but it couldn’t be better than Stoli.” Baryshnikov shakes his head. “It isn’t better,” he says, “I just prefer it.” Case closed.

    I generally prefer first novels — “This Side of Paradise,” “The Sun Also Rises,” “Decline and Fall,” “Down and Out in Paris and London,” “On the Road” and so forth — to those canonized by academia and the critical establishment. Some of my favorite novelists are not acknowledged by literary types at all, or brought up only to be dismissed: Erich Remarque, Arthur Koestler, John O’Hara, Anthony Powell.

    “Catch-22” and “Brideshead Revisited” are special cases. I was seventeen when I read them, and the effect they had on my emotional make-up and world view cannot be overstated. I consider John O’Hara and Robert Stone the two greatest American novelists 1945-2000.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Gerald. Interesting that you should mention John O’Hara, who keeps being reissued in the UK (most recently a month or two ago) but never seems to have taken off. I read and enjoyed, to an extent, both Appointment in Samarra and BUtterfield 8, but haven’t been moved to read more. I think A Rage to Live is among the recent reissued; do you recommend it?

      Robert Stone is one of those authors I’ve heard of (Outerbridge Reach?) but again I don’t know that he’s even in print in this country. Do you also rate Irwin Shaw? He seems often to be mentioned as one of the once-revered and now overlooked, like Stone and O’Hara.

  9. Hi, John,

    I would love to send you a copy of my book, The Evasion-English Dictionary expanded edition (Em Dash Group). I can send an electronic or print copy. The publisher’s email is books [AT] emdashgroup [DOT] com or I’m at nycmaggie [AT] gmail.

    -Maggie Balistreri

  10. Dear John,

    I am an ex-English teacher, journalist and debut author of literary fiction. My book is set in a possible London, not too distant from today: “a sharp nightmare-like arrow fired at the alienation we feel from our children as we witness the increasingly pressing demands power and society makes upon them.”

    My book is about a woman: her search for success; her discovery of it’s hollowness; gradually developing self-knowledge; disillusionment with a governing corporation she once revered.

    You can read the opening chapters on my blog, (disneyatemydaughter.com) along with some of my other writing. I am happy to post a hard copy.

    All the best,


  11. Hello,

    I chanced upon your blog just today and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Have taken the liberty of posting your piece on the literature of pandemics (on Penguin) on my facebook page.

    ~Ajit Bhide

  12. Hello John,
    I am a (much too occasional) visitor to your site, each time picking up unexpected goodies – so thanks for that!
    I recently came to Geoff Dyer from his photography book and note your comments on the last book of essays. I’m a great fan though he does sometimes seem under the cosh a bit from his publisher.
    Another writer whose essays I love is Jonathan Raban (‘For Love And Money’) and what put me in mind was your splash on Maigret novels – Raban got me into reading John D MacDonald’s Travis McGee crime series. I’m happy to forgive the bad bits for the philosophising of his friend Meyer – really MacDonald bemoaning the despoilation of Florida.
    In fact almost the last thing he wrote was a piece called ‘Reading for Survival’ for the US Library of Congress. It was a playing out, almost, of Mark Twain’s comment, ‘The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.’

    1. Thanks Andy. I thought I had read John D MacDonald but then I realised it was Ross McDonald’s The Galton Case… By the way you may be interested to know that Geoff Dyer has another book on photography, See/Saw, out in November.

  13. Just read your article about Penguin’s new SF books in the Guardian.
    I bought a copy of James Tiptree’s ‘10,000 light years from home’ when it first came out in paperback. It has Robert Silverberg’s introduction in which he vigorously opposes the suggestion that Tiptree might be a ‘female’ writer.
    When I read her stories, I always think of the Rolling Stones’ ‘2,000 light years from home’, which I have always thought must be related to the title chosen for the short story collection, although as I grew older I realised it might well have been the publisher that chose the title.
    Anyway, the Rolling Stones’ track could not be better suited to the strangeness of Tiptree’s worlds.

    1. Hi Elise, sorry, I just saw this. Sedaris quotes it in the book (p289):

      “March 23, 2013
      Frank and Scott went to an Indian restaurant the other night and took a picture of the menu, which offered what it called ‘a carnival of snackery.'”

  14. I loved your review of Strangers . I know some people say Anita Brookner wrote the same book repeatedly but I think she’s one of the finest writers of our time and does interiority in the way we experience it – beyond time – blowing up the things that mark us, neatly sidestepping the rest . I used to love seeing her books appear on the shelves every year but now I go back and reread her work when I want escape, and company . She makes us believe that the common fund of humanity runs deep . Would love to see more reviews on her books by you . I also loved Leaving Home and Lewis Percy. I came here, hoping for a review of my memoir which features the late Derek Walcott in his last days and found everyone else wanted the same !

  15. dear John, how can I get you to read and, hopefully, review my biographical novel? How can a debut novelist like me break through the glass ceiling? I’ll happily send you a copy. I’ve had lots of great reviews on Amazon, but I need you now..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s