Why I Hate the Country

Posted on by David Gelber

The country is vile because there are no servants, the central heating is pitiful and the food is suspect. It is full of sad houses circumnavigated by the invention of the electric blanket, deluded hostesses who consider marinated kippers the apogee of culinary sophistication and, worst of all, the country is full of neighbours. Having […]

Here’s To You, Mrs Hemingway

Posted on by David Gelber

I must begin by declaring a proprietorial interest in the subject of this book, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. My daughter is named after her. In that anticipatory period where the name takes on an exaggerated, talismanic importance, ‘Hadley’ seemed redolent of those early Hemingway heroines, beautiful, strong, poised. At the same time it had always […]

Dead-Pan Passion

Posted on by David Gelber

Peggy Guggenheim was absolutely stinking rich. Not quite as rich as she might have been if her father had not left the family business; not rich enough to collect Old Masters as Bernard Berenson wished she had done; but rich enough to indulge a whim for modern art which subsequently developed into a genuine passion […]

Holland House

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Holland House is a name rather more evocative and promising than, say, Transport House, and its attractions for ordinary readers as well as scholars have been considerable. For one thing, who today could resist Lady Holland, the ‘heroine’ as it were of Holland House? Born in the same year as Walter Scott (1771), Elizabeth Vassal […]

Ngugi

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In Ngugi wa Thiongo we have modern African writing – i.e., writing that is and reflects Africa in a real world of suffering and change. His book, Homecoming is must reading. It is solid, politically sound, artistically valid criticism of modern African and Caribbean literature. Novelists like Ayi Kwei Armah in his The Beautiful Ones […]

Women and Children First

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

John Grigg’s portrait of Nancy Astor is, in its presentation, attractive, extravagant, socially orientated and entertaining – a portrait of which one suspects Nancy Astor would have approved wholeheartedly. The fundamental contradictions in Nancy Astor’s temperament and philosophy, and the intrinsic tension between her life as a socialite and her life as a social reformer […]

Moral Thinking

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Imagine that human beings had been designed by a very talented but rather malicious half wit. Here we are, then, so made, rather nimble, quick fingered, quite bright, mortal and aware of it, with feelings we identify as of sorrow and compassion, whatever they are, built to kill and to manipulate, modify, smash up or […]

Letter from Amerika: Inversion in the Promises Land

Posted on by David Gelber

August 17, 1980 Anyone trying to discover which way the political wind blows in Amerika today has no farther to look than the sun-blasted grazing lands of the West. The front is occluded. Winds down to nothing. And the forecast calls for heat, high humidity, no precipitation, and little change. Even the radicals seem content […]

On the Vegemite Trail

Posted on by David Gelber

Somewhere deep in the archives of Brazil’s Police Intelligence Department there is a curious file about the highly suspect activities of a mysterious gringo. He stands about 5ft 10ins, is slim to the point of emaciation, he had a not very convincing beard, short fair hair, and all witnesses agree that his eyes had a […]

Endgame

Posted on by David Gelber

The years covered by this fourth and final volume of Samuel Beckett’s letters were creatively productive ones for him, even if his best-known works – plays such as Waiting for Godot, Endgame and Krapp’s Last Tape or the novels Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable – were behind him. In the mid-1970s Beckett disavowed any […]

Poet in the Making

Posted on by David Gelber

‘And is there honey still for tea?’ Rupert Brooke famously asked in his poem about Grantchester. There was for a while but not for very long. ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ was written in Berlin in 1912, in a mood of playful irony mixed with wistful lyricism. It was Cambridge remembered. That mood, that tone, that […]

The Latest Revolution

Posted on by David Gelber

The Parisian Left Bank is accustomed to rapid changes in intellectual fashion. Shortly after the Liberation, Catholics and Communists found themselves allied in their denunciation of the existentialist doctrines which had enthralled the youth of the capital, while in the early 60s phenomenologists and existential Marxists were in turn obliged to denounce structuralism as a […]

Sally Vincent on Freelancing

Posted on by David Gelber

When invited by The Literary Review to interview a writer of my own choosing I was initially stumped. The ones I long to meet like Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, Colette and Emma Goldman are, I firmly believe, lolling about in swansdown-cushioned hammocks wearing floppy straw sunhats to shadow them from the Lord’s eternal sunshine. They […]

Revaluation

Posted on by David Gelber

The last twenty years or so have seen a remarkable revival of serious interest in Scott the novelist. It is, however, what might be called an academic revival. It can hardly be said that Scott’s novels have recovered the mass popularity they once had. Scott was once a great popular novelist, and it was the […]

Degrees of Enchantment

Posted on by David Gelber

When is a children’s picture-book not a children’s picture-book? This is a question that may be raised by the new Sendak, Outside Over There. (Bodley Head £5.95). It is beautiful, spooky, weird, and fascinating; a fantasy set in dream-landscapes, reminiscent of various worlds of the artistic imagination: eighteenth-century seascapes; Italian old masters; pastoral landscapes, with […]

Poetry – the Place of the Will

Posted on by Marketing Manager

This book is not, as its title might suggest, a history of the Poetry Book Society, though it does contain a historical sketch of that organization; more interestingly, it is an anthology of the brief introductions written for the Society’s quarterly bulletin by poets whose books have been ‘chosen’ or ‘recommended’. Some 40 pieces are […]

On Reviewing

Posted on by Marketing Manager

Reviewers are universally reviled. It is alleged that they do not read the books they review (or that they read them blinded by envy because they are failed authors themselves). It is said they only review for the money (or alternatively that they get paid so little they cannot afford to take the time to […]

Social Smokers

Posted on by David Gelber

Nell Zink’s third novel to be published in two years opens with a primal scene: in ‘a landscape made almost entirely of garbage’ outside Cartagena, Colombia, a homeless thirteen-year-old girl herding pigs meets a middle-aged American in khakis. This is Norm Baker, author of The Cosmic Snake of Healing; he made his name in Brazil […]

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Mapping the Past

Posted on by David Gelber

Any author, celebrity notwithstanding, trying to produce a new panorama of the landscape of these isles faces a major problem as they set to work: the bibliographical prospect is already crowded with other fine books on the same subject. The origins of the genre are routinely traced back to W G Hoskins’s The Making of […]

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