Grand Old Snobbery of the Left

Posted on by David Gelber

Positional goods are goods in limited supply, goods to which access is determined not by wealth alone but by position. If people want more washing machines and they have enough money, more washing machines can be made. But positional goods are the goods they’ve stopped making, such as time and space and Georgian houses. Since […]

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She Can Do No Wrong

Posted on by David Gelber

This is the story of a woman who many liked to think of as a saint, but whose messy private life dominated the press and damaged her reputation; a girl who, after an insecure childhood, rushed into early marriage with an older man; a beauty who captivated the world, but who was never appreciated by […]

Travelling For Fun

Posted on by David Gelber

When is a travel book not a travel book? When it’s not just about travel, of course. The best travel writers show you more than the sights, and while the late Robert Tewdwr Moss’s book is a thoroughly inadequate guide to Syria, it is, perversely, a fine piece of travel writing.

A Foolish Gesture to Boys in Short Trousers

Posted on by David Gelber

In October 1962, the Cuban missile crisis brought the world the closest it has ever come to all-out thermo nuclear war. ‘I don’t think we expected that he would put the missiles in Cuba,’ President John F Kennedy said, ‘because it would have seemed such an imprudent action for him to take.’ A veritable flood […]

All We Need

Posted on by David Gelber

In a Guardian interview to mark his seventieth birthday on 10 September 1973 – scarcely more than a year before he died – Cyril Connolly revealed that he would have been happiest as a poet: ‘I lack some quality whereby long books get written,’ he explained, before adding the defiant statement, a contradiction of everything […]

Overbearing Woman Who Asked for It

Posted on by David Gelber

Elisabeth Bathory, a seventeenth-century Hungarian magnate, was accused of torture, serial killing and witchcraft: accused that is, but never tried. Her story was hushed up in such a way as to make it one of the crucial sources for the archetypal mythology of the vampire. This book, Tony Thorne promises, is for ‘the vampire enthusiast, […]

Nin in Everything

Posted on by David Gelber

‘I create an artificial paradise,’ Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary in January 1937, ‘and human life destroys it, is against it’. Reality, never Nin’s strong point either as a writer or as a human being, was getting in the way of the Baudelairean structure she had gradually been erecting round herself ever since she […]

Shy, But Not Cock-Shaw

Posted on by David Gelber

Considering that he has had more words devoted to him than any other writer of the 20th century, Shaw has been badly served by his biographers. The first of them, an American named Archibald Henderson, produced a vast work called Bernard Shaw: Playboy and Prophet, which accomplished the remarkable feat of making Shaw sound dull. […]

Leading Rake or Early Socialist?

Posted on by David Gelber

An earlier biographer of Philippe d’Orléans began his book by quoting Balzac’s master criminal, Vautrin. There were, he wrote, two kinds of history. There was the lying, official history that is taught in schools. And there was secret history, the shameful history which reveals the true causes of events, that is to say, ‘personal feelings […]

Not All it Seems

Posted on by David Gelber

I began reading this book with a sense of trepidation, expecting a triumphalist tome churned out by another right-wing émigré, crowing over the collapse of the Soviet Union and its former satellite states. The prologue, set in Kabul and Angola, confirmed my fears. Radek Sikorski, Polish-born, Oxford-educated, journalist and war-groupie of such outfits as the […]

Cleverly Done

Posted on by David Gelber

The opening chapter of Ian McEwan’s latest novel is a tour de force. As in Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey – a marvellous novella, still unaccountably underrated – a large cast is introduced in a moment of breathtaking drama. In Wilder’s story, it is as they plunge to their deaths from a […]

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But is it Art?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Ms Greer’s book falls into two halves; ‘The Obstacles and How They Ran’ and is at once a sociological inquiry into the dilemma of women artists (a logical extension of The Female Eunuch), and an attempt to establish what women artists, as a group, actually did; she aims to include, at least for the early […]

Chronicles of Revolution

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

During the last all-white election in Rhodesia, over which Ian Smith presided in 1977, I went to pay a call on Sir Roy Welensky. The old boy sat in his garden in the suburbs of Salisbury, where an enormous tortoise from the Seychelle Islands was inching about, and talked about the way in which the […]

Edward Said’s Orient

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Edward W Said, a scholar born in Palestine and educated in Egypt, is presently Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is the author of several books on contemporary politics (The Question of Palestine, recently published by Routledge & Kegan Paul), literary theory (his Beginnings were discussed in the Literary Review of […]

Interview: Ian McEwan

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Born in 1948, Ian McEwan started writing short stories in 1970. His first collection, First Love, Last Rites, won enormous praise and the Somerset Maugham Award 1976 for its sophisticated depiction of sensuality and depravity. A second collection, In Between the Sheets, has been followed by two brilliantly executed novels, The Cement Garden (1978) and […]

It Can be Happy

Posted on by Marketing Manager

In my capacity as unpaid agony aunt and telephone counsellor I have discovered this truth: all marriages are exactly alike. No matter what the previous disposition of the partners, something in the nature of marriage produces conformity, turns out Husbands and Wives as if from a mould. The British Standard Marriage, for example, can be […]

Short Measure

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Twenty years ago, in A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood gave an account of a teacher’s day which, although marred by its mawkish memories of the hero’s dead lover, remains both extremely funny as social comedy and able to say something universal without becoming pretentious. October, a diary that he kept for a month four years […]

Get it Right

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Philip Howard was recently described to me by a leading lexicographer as one of the four working journalists with a dictionary. He cares how he writes, notices how others write and points accurately to the atrocities they commit upon the language, with a sharp eye for new arrivals. The performance is stimulating, informative and lucid. […]

Chilean Lament

Posted on by Tom Fleming

On 25 May 1972, on Chilean television, Pablo Neruda warned the country that they faced the same threat of civil war as Spain in 1936. The similarities were not coincidental, but part of a common pattern when a popular front government faces a die-hard Hispanic establishment. In both cases there were: agrarian unrest including massacres […]

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