Hamish Hamilton - Five Dials, Issue 29 (3 stars)

Hamish Hamilton - Five Dials, Issue 29

A dedication to quality writing and clean design is let down by a self-consciously highbrow attitude


Offered free from London publisher Hamish Hamilton’s website, Five Dials is fashioned in the McSweeney’s mould – substantial, writerly content, clean and simple design – and is marked by quality writing that gives credibility to its tag-line: ‘Do you miss your attention span? We can help.’ On the downside, it is too self-consciously highbrow: enigmatic illustrations scattered throughout bear no discernible connections to any of the pieces, and there is an editorial whiff of ‘you should be interested in this because we are telling you about it’, which is a little off-putting.

The content is excellent, though. This issue features a long interview with the fascinatingly analytical French novelist Eric Reinhardt, and a piece on the life of Jewish weightlifter Grigory Novak that reads like a real-life version of a John Irving story. In ‘the Back Section’, the traditional book review slot is turned into a personal reflection on a particular novel, while a hugely entertaining piece from Richard Godwin notices the recurring mentions of eggs and bacon in Nabokov, and theorises about the great writer’s supreme valuing of little (delicious) details.

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