He Was Black Once

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It is curious to say the least that Joyce Carol Oates should try to write a book about boxing. She is a small, timid-looking professor of English at Princeton who admits to being squeamish, and also the author of novels and short stories which have been compared to Anita Brookner’s for their delicacy of feeling. […]

Posted in 109 | Tagged , | Comments Off on He Was Black Once

Gin Doesn’t Stain

Posted on by Tom Fleming

When Daniel Farson became a television interviewer in 1956, the critics were inclined to accuse him of brutality: MR FARSON PULLS NO PUNCHES, as one newspaper headline put it mildly. In fact, the brutality is simply the appearance created by his honesty: a determination to tell the flat truth about any thing he discusses. This […]

Rotten Marxist, Nice Bloke

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘He may be a rotten Marxist, but he’s the best raconteur the British Left has seen since the war’. So spoke a sectarian friend of mine some fifteen years ago about Tariq Ali. I agree with both propositions. I will join sectarian battle with Tariq before this is over (where better than in the Literary […]

Possibly the Last Word on a Very Important Subject

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It is common enough to review a book by a friend, but rare when that friend is not just the author of the book but also the publisher, and not just the publisher of the book but of the magazine in which the review appears. Such is the chutzpah of Naim Attallah – the ebullient […]

To Boldly Go

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Danziger is the stuff that legends are made of. In early April 1984 he set off overland to Peking on what must be one of the most extraordinary journeys undertaken this century. In the course of eighteen months and sixteen thousand miles he was beaten up, had his rucksack stolen, was bombed by Russian MiGs, […]

Interview: Michael Holroyd

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘I have been a nine days’ wonder twice’, said Michael Holroyd, reflecting on the recent fuss surrounding Chatto and Windus’s purchase for a record £625,000 of the British and Commonwealth rights to his authorised biography of George Bernard Shaw. ‘The first time it was because of sex and now it’s because of money’. The ‘sexual […]

Take One Before Bedtime

Posted on by Tom Fleming

So: how does she think of them? This fat book is made up of four smaller collections, spanning nine years of writing; each story nasty, brutish and short, each displaying a pat familiarity with the baser passions, each tightly, tritely organised, and most ending in murder; most cocooned in a sort of rotten gentility, like […]

His Lips Are Sealed

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Anyone of no public eminence of whom the world in general has never heard (and I come into both these categories) is presumptuous in thinking he can write a book which people will want to read.’ Thus the mock-modest opening words of Nicholas Elliott’s autobiography. I say mock-modest because he must know very well that […]

Money for Jam

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Guislaine Morland’s autobiographical recipe book, The Food of Love, takes the first year of her second divorce as its subject, thus promising some sort of narrative structure – farewell banquets, new friends, sensual comforts and so on. In January she has a transatlantic affair but describes only the jet lag; in February an old friend […]

How to Spot a Misogynist

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Psychologist Dr Susan Forward isolates a group of men (to whom she gives the almost clinical title ‘misogynist’) whose behaviour causes a specific type of woman: what Forward calls a ‘madness for two’. This is in effect a ‘How To’ book, a guide to women who want to break out of disabling patterns of behaviour, […]

Birds Drop from the Skies

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In the southern Darfur in Sudan, in 1982, I lay for a week giggling with malaria. I had planned to travel north, through El Fasher and on to where the Kababish wandered; then perhaps on the old Forty Days Road to Egypt. Had I gone, which the total absence of petrol prevented, I might have […]

Something Useful in the New Shakespeare

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The formidable bulk of the new Oxford Shakespeare invites mockery, and the long time that elapsed between the publication of Volume One (the modernised text without a commentary), Volume Two (the text unmodernised but still without a commentary) which followed within months, and now the long promised third volume which has just appeared, invites suspicion […]

One Tory Island Story

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Poets make lousy historians. This is because poetry and history, as Schopenhauer aphorised, are antithetical. Poets are surpassed only by politicians in their exploitative relationship with history. Politicians are keenly aware that persuading the people to vote for them is invariably a matter of persuading them to adopt a particular analysis of the past. Consequently, […]

The Land of Oz

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Jews are expert in the matter of salvaging hope from despair. Even so, one would imagine that the current troubles in Israel presented a new and more difficult problem: what happens when it’s the Jew who’s perceived as the villain? But consolation is found – in the belief that not every Jew, and indeed not […]

Great Scot

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In early 1978, as the old New Statesman was trying to decide on a fresh occupant for its editorial chair, a telexed application for the post was received on the battered office machine. It had been handed in at some one-horse depot in the Shetlands, but it read as if newly printed and took the […]

Mot Much Fun

Posted on by Tom Fleming

There is a rather grim photograph of David Hart inside the back jacket of his second novel Come To The Edge. His unsmiling hard-line aspect, combined with no-nonsense hairdo and Victorian bobby moustache gives him that man-with-a-mission look – the sort of chap who would sit up late at night furiously typing long letters to […]

Posted in 120 | Tagged | Comments Off on Mot Much Fun

Off With Their Heads

Posted on by Tom Fleming

During the abdication crisis of 1936, Edward VIII decided to retaliate against the Baldwin government by ‘planting’ his point of view – including his opinion of certain ministers – in a newspaper. The politician he chose as a go-between in this operation was John Strachey, a left-wing socialist. And the publication he selected was The […]

The Tynan of Rock

Posted on by Tom Fleming

If you are dismissive of rock music journalism, feel insulted by its gimmickry, stupidity and glibness, why should you read Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, an edited selection of the criticisms of Lester Bangs, the late American rock journalist? Here are three reasons: 1 He’s damn good. 2 He’s damn funny. 3 You may learn […]

A Monster Who Used Women

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘I am only a clown who has understood his own times and has taken advantage as best he knew how of the imbecility, the vanity, and the cupidity of his contemporaries.’ Pablo Picasso’s critics always offer this famous denigration of his own art as proof that he was nothing more than a charlatan, shamelessly duping […]

Sign Up to our newsletter

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

Follow Literary Review on Twitter