End of the Road

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Being a rootless, precariously employed exemplar of the contemporary (with no office to call my own), I read much of the second half of Edward Docx’s new novel at a shared desk space that I occasionally frequent. I say much of the second half because I chose to stop at page 389, a lump rising […]

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Murder Most Foul

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In a high-profile speech at last year’s Brisbane Writers Festival, Lionel Shriver tackled with her usual candour the question of cultural appropriation in fiction. Her assertion that cultural appropriation is the fundamental business of fiction, that any story worth its salt is by necessity peopled with characters who are not the writer and who do […]

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A Matter of Record

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Hari Kunzru’s fifth novel is a ghost story, and the ghost is in the machine. Leopold Bloom, in Ulysses, mused on the resurrection of the voice that would be made possible by placing ‘a gramophone in every grave’; White Tears tells a story of blues music and race in which every recording is engraved with […]

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President Fracassus

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Is Donald Trump immune to satire? He must be one of the most widely and fiercely lampooned people of all time; indeed, his entire life can be seen as a one-man war of attrition against the forces of irony. His fortunes are not damaged by it. In fact it’s a war he keeps winning

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All the World’s a Stage

Posted on by Tom Fleming

This is a wonderful book about a miraculous journey. On Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, 23 April 2014, twelve actors and four stage managers left the Globe to pursue what Dominic Dromgoole, then its artistic director, calls ‘a daft idea floated in a bar’. Two years later, on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, they were back […]

Countryphile

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The misleading title of Tom Fort’s new book gives the impression that it’s yet another exposé of village life by an incomer who has found it – surprise, surprise – less than idyllic. But in reality The Village News is no such thing. In writing it, Fort has, in his own words, ‘studied village life […]

There Will Be Blood

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The past is not just a foreign country in David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: it is also a crime scene. Grann tells the story of the Osage Nation, a Native American tribe that struck oil in dirt-poor Oklahoma. By the 1920s, the Osage were reckoned to be the richest people on earth. They […]

Losing My Religion

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The French novelist and film-maker Emmanuel Carrère has tried to make sense of his conversion to Christianity and subsequent loss of faith by investigating the tumultuous events that brought the early Church into being. His hero and guide is Luke, the evangelist also credited with writing the Acts of the Apostles. Carrère combines that ‘official’ […]

The Great Hard Drive in the Sky

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Half an hour’s drive outside Phoenix stands the headquarters of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a business devoted to the cryogenic preservation of bodies. For $200,000, Alcor will keep your entire body frozen until science develops the tools to reanimate it. They’ll do your head – reverentially

Brainboxes & Brownnoses

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Is there any greater pleasure in life than watching clever people making fools of themselves? Perhaps the only thing to dampen the joy, as Paul Hollander reminds us, is that the enthusiasms of Western intellectuals are so often harmful. In his seminal Political Pilgrims (1981) Hollander explored the Western devotees of the revolutions in Russia, […]

Growing Pains

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Superfast Primetime Ultimate Nation provides a broad consideration of India’s present and future, judged against the prediction that India will outstrip China in population by around 2022 and in the process become ‘Number One’ nation in the world. Adam Roberts examines what India has to do to ensure that this predominance can be consolidated and […]

War without End

Posted on by Tom Fleming

South Sudan has two claims to distinction. It is the world’s newest country and it has pretty much cornered the market in dismal statistics. The possible connection between these two facts is the subject of Jok Madut Jok’s book Breaking Sudan.  Consider the bleak roll call. At the time it gained independence in 2011, this […]

First Leap Forward

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The past is emphatically not another country in China. Regaining the heights of the long era of empire is implicit in Xi Jinping’s pursuit of the ‘China dream’ of national rejuvenation and strengthening. The National History Museum in Tiananmen Square in Beijing conveys a single message about the country’s recent past: that only the Communist […]

Vested Interest

Posted on by Tom Fleming

‘The Libor scandal’ is a phrase that has lodged in public consciousness in the aftermath of the recent banking crisis without ever being widely understood. Libor is the London interbank offered rate, a benchmark based on the interest rates that leading banks would have to pay were they to borrow in any major currency from […]

Crash of the Titans

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The former editor of The Economist Bill Emmott has had the very good idea of diagnosing the ills besetting the West, though one should immediately note that his idea of the West also takes in Japan. The book will no doubt do very well, not least because of the anxieties arising from America’s ‘presidicament’.  Japan […]

Painting in Verse

Posted on by Tom Fleming

I was in transcendental mode when this book arrived. I was searching my mind for different meanings to my life, other tasks, other ways of fulfilment. Could there be subliminal purposes for us all? Ordained by whom? Agnostic that I am, I wondered if there really was some unimaginably different power or spirit out there, and […]

Warning to a Theme

Posted on by Tom Fleming

As if America does not already have enough problems, a Sinclair Lewis revival is going on. Within a week of the November 2016 election, Amazon had sold out of Lewis’s novel It Can’t Happen Here, first published in 1935. Senator Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Windrip, the novel’s protagonist, is a crass nativist who wins an election

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Whither the Snow House?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Today, Wanstead Park consists of 140 acres of pleasingly rough grassland and woods in the east London borough of Redbridge, a public amenity with a golf course and open-air theatre productions in summer. It borders Epping Forest and has a slightly wild air. The last time I visited was with a Welsh terrier club, when […]

Serving up a Treat

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Jonathan Meades is the Jonathan Meades of our generation. Okay, it was A A Gill who said that, not me. But I’m going to steal it anyway because it’s a perfect summary of the man, and this is a review of an ‘anti-cookbook’ that positively boasts that it’s full of plagiarism. There is no such […]

Choose Caerphilly

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The first question one asks on seeing this book is ‘why?’ The answer comes in the introduction: it is that there is now ‘another world of cheese’ beyond the boring old British and European ones we know and love. Those ‘age-old cheese traditions are now being embraced by US artisan cheese producers and, as a […]

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