Seeing Politics as a Sexual Exercise

Posted on by David Gelber

Leo Abse has done it again. At eighty-three, the Freudian ex-MP to whom we owe the reform of the laws relating to divorce, homosexuality, suicide and children’s rights has produced a book that is brilliant, disturbing and entertaining, at times bewildering, but always stimulating. His opening is characteristically provocative, informing us in detail of how, […]

They May Have an Emotional Hole

Posted on by David Gelber

Animals have become a problem, a zone of serious instability in our moral self-perception. On the one hand, we seem to be an unusually caring age – domestic pets are pampered as never before, people are upset about fox-hunting, they fear for the fate of whales and other endangered species and they demand the extension […]

Wait for my Version

Posted on by David Gelber

Some years ago I was seated at dinner next to an editor from Collins, Patrick O’Brian’s publishers. I could not resist asking how they viewed my stepfather’s seafaring novels. My neighbour responded that, while they were of an unquestionably high literary standard, they attracted a small and loyal ‘cult’ readership, whose numbers, Collins felt confident, […]

A Novelist at Last

Posted on by David Gelber

In any conversation about Will Self it is a fair bet that, to nods of assent, someone will remark: ‘Of course, his stories are better than his novels.’ I have been there and done that. I have made the remark, given the nod. But no more. From now on, whenever the Quality vs Quantity Theory […]

Parts of America Still Untouched by Progress

Posted on by David Gelber

Much of what Lucinda Lambton, as an English writer, has discovered for herself is what Americans raised on the East Coast have known all their lives: those enclaves of earlier cultures brought from the Old World and now better preserved in the New. For such natives, her lavishly illustrated book offers the pleasures of recognition. […]

Joyful Logorrhoea

Posted on by David Gelber

King of the City ends on a ringing note of affirmation, eulogising the sound of the bells of London: ‘A great celebration of our enduring blood, of our will to justice and equity. Of the power of love.’ Mercifully, although Moorcock may occasionally preach such platitudes, he doesn’t practise them. Instead, he has written a […]

Further Thoughts of a Funeral Director

Posted on by David Gelber

The Undertaking, Thomas Lynch’s last book, had him rolling around small -town Michigan in his ‘Dead Wagon’, dispensing funeral services to a couple of hundred local inhabitants and poetry to a slightly smaller number. In this companion volume, he emerges as more than an undertaking bard. Catholic, former altar boy, Rotarian, fisherman, ex-drunk, divorcee and […]

Looking Death in the Face Daily

Posted on by David Gelber

The bibliography of bullfighting is extensive and is littered with distinguished names: Lorca, Ortega y Gasset, Bergamin representing what one might call the home team; Hemingway, Tynan, François Zumbhiel from outside the Hispanic world. Placed alongside these, A L Kennedy’s contribution is modest, as she herself hints with a self-deprecating disclaimer in the opening chapter. […]

Naming the Guilty Men

Posted on by David Gelber

In an interview a few years ago I asked René Huyghe, Chief Curator of the Louvre in the Vichy years, exactly how he would define those in the French art world who had collaborated. Without hesitation he said that the collaborators had been the ones who had knowingly used the wartime situation to advance their […]

Out of a Bottle

Posted on by David Gelber

Blackberry Wine is going to appeal to all sorts of people: gardeners; owners of second homes in France; cooks and (in particular) people who brew their own beer; gourmets and the greedy; astrologers; aromatherapists; hypnotherapists; counsellors – all those innocent, artless souls who can’t quite cope with today’s demanding and rational world. If you are […]

Great Fun to Write

Posted on by David Gelber

Lewis Carroll lurks behind and between the lines of Kate Atkinson’s third novel, Emotionally Weird. His influence is evident in several of the characters, which include one ‘small as a dormouse and almost entirely spherical’, and in the dialogue, which is peppered sneezily with Carroll-like observations: ‘“everything’s got a moral,” I said, “if only you […]

Those Inky Scoundrels

Posted on by David Gelber

One test of a good or interesting critic is the ability to make one look afresh at a piece of writing that one knows – or thinks one knows – like the back of one’s hand. Very often this is achieved by pointing out something so obvious that one is left feeling stunned at one’s […]

Rather Like Margaret

Posted on by David Gelber

It seems to me that of all the persons elevated to sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, Joan of Arc must be one of the least worthy, unless you count among the saintly virtues courage, charisma, chutzpah, patriotic fervour and tactical military intuition. It is true that she was a lifelong virgin, a step towards […]

She is Editor of the Esteemed ‘Art Press’

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Catherine Millet is the girl who can’t say ‘non’. Editor of the highly-regarded Art Press, she has made it her life’s work to sleep with as many men as possible (she has always, she says, had a thing about numbers). Millet’s previous book was a scholarly study of contemporary art. This one is an equally […]

A New Human World

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Mirka Zemanova’s biography of Janacek is a painstaking account of a painful and unglamorous life. Zemanova has thoroughly researched the sources, and is scrupulously fair towards her subject, who, it has to be said, comes off as a result rather badly. Indeed, the reader is struck by the extraordinary dissonance between the composer and the […]

A Woman Sitting Alone

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Like the roll of flame-coloured silk given to Olivia Curtis on her seventeenth birthday and soon after transformed into a dress for her first dance, Rosamond Lehmann’s novel Invitation to the Waltz is high-keyed and intense. It charts a rite of passage. Although confined to only one week, the book ends with Olivia replete with […]

But What Was It?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

This provoking short book about aspects of George Orwell – provoking in both senses, as its author might say – sits somewhat uneasily in the territory between polemic, personal memoir, thesis and biography. It is not helped by a mysterious title. What exactly is Orwell’s Victory? Christopher Hitchens never tells us in so many words. […]

Because He Could

Posted on by Tom Fleming

When the Crown Prince of Nepal shot dead nearly his entire family last June, one journalist described it to me as the first genuine news event she could remember. September 11 was yet to come. Since I had written about India, and with India being close to Nepal, it was suggested that I might go […]

Colossus who Married His Best Friend’s Moll

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Here at last is a fascinating and compellingly readable but also scholarly and crisply written biography of the brutal, debauched and brilliant tsar who formed modern Russia. Lindsey Hughes, Professor of Russian History at the School of Slavonic Studies, is our greatest living expert on the life of Peter the Great. In many ways she […]

We Mean It, Ma’am

Posted on by Tom Fleming

It is only to be expected that the Queen, in her Golden Jubilee year, should enjoy the publication of a biography or two to commemorate her feat, especially since the music industry has decided more or less to ignore the whole event. There will be a couple of anti-Jubilee songs – one by Billy Bragg […]

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