I am a writer who works in fiction, philosophy and children’s literature. I particularly like working at the place where stories and philosophies meet.
Levinas, Storytelling and Anti-Storytelling explores the ambivalence of the relationship between storytelling and ethics through a reading of the work of Emmanuel Levinas, the great French-Lithuanian 20th Century philosopher.
Exploring Levinas a storyteller of ethics—albeit a reluctant one—whilst at the same time taking seriously Levinas’s own critiques of storytelling and narrative, this book aims to plot a new course through Levinas’s work, not only looking anew at the stories that Levinas tells, but also unearthing the stories that he is incapable of telling.
My book Finding our Sea-Legs: Ethics, Experience and the Ocean of Stories explores the relationship between stories and philosophies of ethics, by attempting itself a kind of storytelling philosophy.
The book takes as its starting point the ethical philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas; but this is only the starting point. From there it ranges over oceans and seas to take in stories of Chinese sages, tales from the rain-forests, and accounts of talking fish in the fish-markets of New York, in an attempt to explore the relationship between stories, ethics and our everyday lives. Sea-Legs was published in 2009 by Kingston University Press.
Introducing Happiness: A Practical Guide is a brief and breezy guide to the various philosophies of happiness, from Diogenes to the Positive Psychology movement, and from Zhuangzi to Epicurus.
The book aims to explore happiness in the light of a wide variety of philosophical traditions, as a way of introducing a bit more complexity into the often philosophically rather narrow debates on the nature of happiness and the place of happiness in our lives. The book is packed with thought-experiments and exercises, and was published by Icon Books (Totem in the USA) in 2012.
Novels and other Fiction
My novel Cargo Fever is set in East Indonesia, and explores the sometimes blurred boundaries between gods, human-beings, ancestors and other kinds of others.
The book arose out of the fieldwork I conducted in the Tanimbar islands back in 1994/1995, as a part of a project from Newcastle University. Whilst the book grew out of the stories that I was told in Tanimbar, it is determinedly a work of fiction. It is also the first novel in the world—I think—to ever feature a live specimen of Homo floresiensis. It also contains jokes.
Cargo Fever was published by Tindal Street Press in 2007.
The Descent of the Lyre is my second novel, a story about Bulgaria, banditry, music and landscape, a reinvention of the myths of Orpheus set in the Thracian homeland of the mythical king, some time around the beginning of the nineteenth century.
I made three trips to Bulgaria between 2005 and 2007 to research this novel, which blends myth, history and music to fashion a tale about a strange kind of sainthood. “Memorable for all the right reasons. Gripping and highly original, it is beautifully written” — Louis de Bernières. Published by Roman Books, 2012.
I also write stories for children. My picture book, The Snorgh and the Sailor, illustrated by Thomas Docherty, came out from Alison Green Books in 2012. It’s about storytelling, adventure and grumpiness.
The Snorgh and the Sailor was described by UK children’s laureate, Julia Donaldson, as ‘Outstanding—adventurous and quirky!’ You can find out more about the Snorgh (and find some Snorghish activities as well) at snorgh.org.
I’ve published contributions for a number of other books. I wrote the two major entries for Dorling Kindersley’s bestseller, The Philosophy Book—everything from Nietzsche to Žižek. I’ve got short stories in the lovely Lowestoft Chronicle 2012 Anthology, and the forthcoming collection of stories to read aloud, Overheard, published by Salt in November 2012, and edited by Jonathan Taylor. I’ve got another piece on happiness in the Five LeavesUtopias anthology, and a short chapter on coffee, philosophy, idleness and ethics in the collection Coffee Philosophy: Grounds for Debate.