A Capital Fellow

Posted on by David Gelber

During his eighteen-year tenure as chairman of the USA’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan was arguably the world’s most powerful public servant, and probably the most revered. This soft-spoken New Yorker – blue-suited and bespectacled like an older Clark Kent – came to be credited with an almost superhuman ability to calm or […]

Tales of the Heart

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Beware of beauty. The cover portrait of Elizabeth Jane Howard transfixes you, but beauty failed to bring her happiness – quite the opposite, in fact. It plays a starring role in Artemis Cooper’s perceptive biography and led Jane (as everyone called her) into a breathtaking number of doomed affairs and three marriages which ended in […]

Upwards from Everest

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Jan Morris likes to be known as a ‘writer about places’ (a much classier designation than mere ‘travel writer’). But she herself is best understood in the context of journeys. A loafer who quietly observes as she moves among peoples and places, she has undergone a series of remarkable personal odysseys. These include her well-publicised […]

David Lancaster on Colin MacInnes

Posted on by Marketing Manager

The imminent publication of Tony Gould’s biography of Colin MacInnes, Inside Outsider, is well timed. For MacInnes is an unfairly neglected figure, and it’s only in the 1980’s that we can see how ahead of his time he really was. His three London novels – City of Spades, Absolute Beginners and Mr Love and Justice […]

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John Haffenden talks to Salman Rushdie

Posted on by Marketing Manager

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children won the Booker McConnell Prize for 1981, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the English Speaking Union Literary Award. A fecund, dynamic, baroque, transformative fable of memory and politics – ‘a commingling of the improbable and the mundane’ – the book has been equally acclaimed on both sides of the […]

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A Warm Gun

Posted on by Marketing Manager

A court case story in the Daily Mirror seemed to say it all. ‘Jilted guns freak killed party guest’ (July 15th). A twenty-year-old Brummie was refused sex by a girl at a party and said he was going to ‘blow someone’s head off’. It was alleged that he then fetched a sawn-off shotgun from his […]

Look Who’s Talking

Posted on by Marketing Manager

Hypocrisy doesn’t have the cachet of other vices. It is typically petit bourgeois, lacking the aristocratic glamour of jealousy or ambition, the subject matter of the great tragic writers. Vanity is better regarded. Avarice does more damage. Cruelty is in an altogether different league. Hypocrites will be sent, if they are unlucky enough to meet […]

Gray’s Elegy

Posted on by David Gelber

A visitor to the presbytery of St Peter’s Morningside in Edinburgh during the 1920s would have realised at once that the occupant was no ordinary, run-of-the-mill Roman Catholic priest. There were fitted carpets (a most unusual luxury at this period) of a soft velvety quality. The leaded casements in the windows shut out the Edinburgh […]

Cloistered Love

Posted on by David Gelber

Posterity judges us by what we do, our friends by what we are. People whose lives have been more essence than action are frustrating subjects for biographers. If those who remember him are to be believed, it seems unlikely that Michael Cox’s ‘informal portrait’ of M R James can have captured the essence of the […]

A Turbulent Future

Posted on by David Gelber

Do American politicians and academics take office for the office itself or for the memoirs? The question often seems to me moot. Every four years, during the dreary and debilitating inter regnum, outgoing officials scurry around publishers or, if they are lucky, have publishers scurry around them. At the same time incoming officials equip themselves […]

Remembering Loved Ones By Their Smell

Posted on by David Gelber

Nineteenth-century Bretons had their own distinctive obsession with death. When the novelist Prosper Mérimée visited Brittany in the 1830s, he was appalled to discover that it was usual to dig up the dead after a few years and rebury them in a lean-to next to the church. By the time they were unearthed the bones […]

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A Genial Man Despite His Humble Origins

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The opening of the Russian archives following the collapse of the Soviet regime has wrought the summary demise of much scholarly work on the history of the twentieth century. It is not in Soviet studies alone that the effect has been felt, however, as restored intellectual freedom begins to realise the vast range of treasures […]

Useful Occupations

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Pierre de Fermat (1601–1665) is on every list of great mathematicians. However, he had a day job as a judge in Richelieu’s France and his great theorems were scribbled, with little or no proof, in the margins of a book. About his Last Theorem he tantalisingly noted: ‘I have discovered a truly marvellous demonstration which […]

Human Cargo

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The frontispiece to this remarkable book reproduces an 1882 advertisement in a weekly evangelical magazine – a strip cartoon representing, consecutively, children in a doss-house, huddled together under a bridge, being led and carried away by a rescue worker presumably to a waifs-and-strays home, on a railway platform setting out for Canada, and meeting their […]

What is Philosophy?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A story is told of G. E. Moore, seated in his study, being asked, ‘What is philosophy?’ He replied, after a pause, with a wave of his hand at the bulging shelves, ‘What all these books are about’. Professor Rorty implicitly asks ‘What is philosophy?’ but explicitly, with a wave of his pen at many […]

The Triumph of Eros

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The White Hotel tells the fictional story of Lisa Erdman, the daughter of a Jewish Ukrainian grain merchant and a German Catholic mother. In her very early childhood Lisa witnesses two scenes of adulterous love-making between her mother and her uncle, the first of which also involves her mother’s twin sister. When she is five […]

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