Fatal Attraction

Posted on by David Gelber

Recent years have witnessed many Western politicians flirting with authoritarianism. Think of Farage, Le Pen, Orbán, Sarkozy and president elect Trump and their admiration for Vladimir Putin. The same goes for many of the people who post comments underneath online newspaper articles whenever Russia or China acts

Between Sky & Earth

Posted on by David Gelber

The Western Isles are often shrunk from the scale afforded the mainland of Britain so as to fit onto a page of an atlas. Love of Country should serve to restore spaciousness, air and attention to this intensely differentiated gathering of societies, set in the margin of the seas with the Atlantic Ocean at their backs. Many island communities are officially

Enfant Terrible

Posted on by David Gelber

It is almost half a century since the last full-length English-language biography of Jean Cocteau was published, and it has taken thirteen years for Claude Arnaud’s work finally to be translated from the French. There are, no doubt, sound financial reasons for this. Although the elderly Cocteau of the 1950s and early 1960s was famous from Germany to Japan and from New York to Lebanon, the only fragments of his large oeuvre much known in the Anglophone world these days are two feature films, Orphée and La belle et la bête, and a brief novel-turned-film, Les enfants terribles. Are we wrong to neglect him? We are.

She Gave Him a Son, He Gave Her Syphilis

Posted on by David Gelber

Someone pressure on Andrew Sinclair to give his biography of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria, a contemporary spin. At every conceivable point, including the title and cover blurb, the similarities between the nineteenth-century Empress and Diana, Princess of Wales are hammered home. Both women suffered from anorexia (although in Elisabeth’s case, it was called being picky […]

John Haffenden talks to Fay Weldon

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Author and feminist, funny and mordant, Fay Weldon is a compulsively readable anatomist of human relationships in the modern world. ‘Art’, she wrote in a recent article, ‘is invention and distillation mixed’, it is ‘fundamentally subversive’. She has written several highly acclaimed and best-selling novels including Praxis and Puffball, a volume of short stories, Watching […]

Ruddy Old Gore

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Speaking this summer at a Conference on Sir Walter Scott, I suggested that Gore Vidal, in his series of historical-political novels, was doing for the USA something like what Scott did for Scotland. An American academic was perturbed: ‘not Gore Vidal, please.’ He suggested Faulkner instead, as an American equivalent of Scott. Well, I am […]

Judging by the Cover

Posted on by David Gelber

Literary Review has a new look and we hope you’ll share our enthusiasm for it. Chris Riddell, who succeeded Willie Rushton as our cover artist in February 1997, will continue to provide us with his witty and colourful encapsulations of our lead review, but with a larger canvas at his disposal. The pages inside have […]

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Did This Man Really Win the Nobel Prize?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

There are hundreds of ways of writing about Venice. One can be lyrical and high-flown like Ruskin; fastidious and dismissive like Gibbon; melancholy and nostalgic like Proust; ghoulish and disapproving like Dickens; sensitive and almost unbearably precise like Henry James. One can write histories or guidebooks, disquisitions on the painting or the architecture, poems, descriptive […]

His Country’s Saviour

Posted on by Tom Fleming

More than of any other dead poet, England hath need of John Betjeman. This volume will be some compensation for his physical absence. By an act of editorial necromancy, Candida Lycett-Green has summoned her father to life again. Long before there was a gallery to play to, the Betjeman show was in full swing. That […]

All Done with Magnets and Pieces of String

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It is a pity that the author – or publisher – of this book decided to call it The Paranormal, which makes it sound like yet another mixed bag of anecdotes about ghosts, poltergeists, ESP and the rest. In fact, it is a bold and deeply impressive attempt to create a ‘new theory of matter, […]

Universal Uncle

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Film directors usually make the least promising subjects for biography. They tend to stay behind the camera and get on with making films, emerging only to make the odd promotional statement. Only rarely is a filmmaker’s public persona interesting enough to merit biographical interest, and some pay off the attention handsomely. What biographer could resist […]

Full of Lollipops

Posted on by Tom Fleming

John Mortimer’s volume is an enjoyable romp through the stories of bad guys in history, literature and legend: from the banality of evil in the form of Dr Crippen to its satanic manifestation in M R James’s Karswell, from tyrants like Mussolini to bullies like Judge Jeffreys and Flashman. This is not so much a […]

Not a Very Lovely Thing to Be

Posted on by David Gelber

That title is misleading, as is the identical declaration of trade on the poet’s tombstone. Larkin wrote, and wrote well, but he did not write for a living. Those of his generation (to my shock I wake to the realisation of senior membership) who call themselves writers practice all the genres and will write anything […]

Down with Hons

Posted on by David Gelber

As long ago as 1960 the prescient Malcolm Muggeridge wrote: ‘To survive in the new climate of ostensible egalitarianism the upper class and the monarchy have to become a soap opera. The Mitfords have made a considerable contribution towards showing how this can be done.’

Collecting Celebrities

Posted on by David Gelber

Although James Lord has no new interpretation to offer, no book about Picasso could fail to be interesting on some level. As for the inscrutable Dora Maar, painter, photographer and Picasso’s mistress, at the end of this book she remains as enigmatic and mysterious as ever. In fact, it is the author – the subject […]

Ethnic Cleansing Time

Posted on by David Gelber

Queen Isabel the Catholic is not to everybody’s taste nowadays. Pressure for her sanctification has markedly dropped off lately. Her emblem, the Yoke and Arrows, became the badge of the Fascist Falange. She was much admired by General Franco, for it was Isabel who forged the indivisible link between Catholicism and Spain’s identity and existence […]

An Unholy Alliance

Posted on by David Gelber

Two years ago, according to the newspapers, Britain was overrun with satanists performing ritual abuse on children. Hundreds of young children were untimely ripped from the womb of their homes, the air was thick with accusations, evangelical Christians and social workers monopolised radio interviews – and almost no one was prosecuted. An appalling amount of […]

Kings of their own Castles

Posted on by David Gelber

The scramble for Africa, that cynical carving up of the Dark Continent by European powers desperate for a place in the sun, has been told many times before and from every conceivable perspective. Frank McLynn, however, sets out to do something quite different; namely, to chart the age of exploration which immediately preceded that of […]

Carry On Up the Weimar

Posted on by David Gelber

At the beginning of this year The Times ran a fashion spread contemplating the revival of a 1970s-style maquillage. Amongst the close-ups of the pale moon faces with their tendrilled hair, rind-thin plucked eyebrows and sugary plum lips was a poster for the film Cabaret. With her shiny black helmet of a haircut, bead choker […]

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