The Current Issue

November 2018, Issue 470 Rosalind P Blakesley on Sergei Shchukin * David Mikics on Saul Bellow * Alexandra Gajda on Walter Ralegh * Michael Burleigh on white demographics * Tanya Harrod on William Simmonds * Seamus Perry on Coleridge's love of walking * Christopher Ross on Japan * Ed Vulliamy on opioids * Tim Stanley on advice from American presidents * Kevin Jackson on vampires * Carrie Gibson on Cuba * Tom Shippey on dragons * Mark Lawson on Jonathan Coe * Lucy Daniel on Lucia Berlin * Clare Clark on Barbara Kingsolver *  and much, much more…

David Mikics

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife 1965–2005

By Zachary Leader

Saul Bellow had what one of his characters in Ravelstein calls ‘a gift for reading reality – the impulse to put your loving face to it and press your hands against it’. Bellow seems to outstrip other novelists in his unembarrassed wish to get as close as possible to the reality of people – their faces, clothes, bodies, speech, gestures. If Bellow’s love for his characters was often contentious and double-edged, well what is love if not the highest form of contention? Bellow was a personality worthy of his own fictions, a lively, inspired troublemaker, as Zachary Leader shows in the second volume of his magisterial biography. He was ‘a great chain-yanker’ during arguments, his son Daniel said, adding, ‘He liked to dig a pit and cover it with branches so you’d come walking along, whistling away, and fall right in it. Then he would stand at the edge and watch you as you sort of thrashed around. He liked that.’... read more

More Articles from this Issue

Alexandra Gajda

Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh

By Anna Beer

‘Rawleigh is a great name in our history, and fills a space in our imagination,’ wrote Isaac D’Israeli in 1841. Walter Ralegh’s various extraordinary careers – colonist in Ireland and the New World, soldier, courtier, unfortunate lover, poet, perhaps the most ambitious English historian before Gibbon – have ensured that he has been lionised as the most brilliant of those thrusting Elizabethans who advanced their fortunes through exploration, military heroics and literary endeavour. ... read more

Tom Shippey

The Dragon: Fear and Power

By Martin Arnold

‘A dragon is no idle fancy,’ wrote Tolkien in 1936, but ‘a potent creation of men’s imagination, richer in significance than his barrow is in gold’. The potency has only increased over the last eighty years. Dragons crowd the pages of modern fantasy; no one needs telling that Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons, holds a crucial place in George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones universe. Tolkien nevertheless also declared that ‘dragons, real dragons … are actually rare’, counting ‘only two that are significant’... read more

Rosalind P Blakesley

The Collector: The Story of Sergei Shchukin and His Lost Masterpieces

By Natalya Semenova with André Delocque (Translated by Anthony Roberts)

One evening in late 1908, Henri Matisse introduced a short, dapper visitor to the community of often struggling artists who tended to congregate at the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre. Picasso was there, as was his iconoclastic painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, then still known by its original title, Le Bordel d’Avignon. Fernande Olivier, Picasso’s lover and muse, was underwhelmed by the newcomer... read more

Ed Vulliamy

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America

By Beth Macy

American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts

By Chris McGreal

Anyone writing about the subject of narco-trafficking must grapple with what could be called ‘the lie of legality’. It is duplicitous to try to draw a line between ‘licit’ and ‘illicit’ drugs when describing the present carnage in Mexico, the ravages of drug abuse and the idea of our upright society waging a war against drugs. Drug cartels are corporations ... read more

Michael Burleigh

Whiteshift: Immigration, Populism and the Future of White Majorities

By Eric Kaufmann

A political scientist working at Birkbeck College, London, Eric Kaufmann is ‘a quarter Latino and a quarter Chinese’. He was raised in Canada but his father’s family was of Czech-Jewish background. His original expertise was the history of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland. Like Richard English, the historian of the IRA, he has diversified into the study of nationalism. Unusually, Kaufmann is fluent in opinion surveys and political demography too. That alone ensures that Whiteshift is a very substantial book... read more

Mark Lawson

Middle England

By Jonathan Coe

Sequences of novels that follow characters through a long period of time are popular with writers and readers because they allow fiction to represent the experience of living. In Anthony Powell’s twelve-volume A Dance to the Music of Time (1951–75) and John Updike’s Rabbit quintet (1960–2000), the decades spanned allow minor characters to become unexpectedly relevant – and deaths to feel like real losses – in the way that they do in life. Sue Townsend’s nine books about Adrian Mole, published between 1982 and 2009, introduce the hero as a teenager neurotically measuring his penis ... read more

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter